Former congressman Dean Heller (R-Nev.) was sworn in Monday as the Senate’s newest member, succeeding John Ensign (R), who resigned last week amid an ethics committee investigation.

Heller said his first official action as a senator was signing onto the proposed balanced-budget amendment, already co-sponsored by the 46 other Republicans in the Senate.

“I think that’s probably the most important issue facing this country right now,” he said.

He reiterated that he plans to vote for House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget blueprint when it comes up for a vote in the Senate — he voted for it in the House — casting the Wisconsin Republican’s plan as the lesser of two evils.

“I just look at the alternative. The alternative, of course, is to raise taxes,” Heller said.

Felicia Sonmez