Republican Scott Brown, accompanied by wife Gail Huff, is sworn in to the… (Tim Sloan / AFP/Getty Images )
Reporting from Washington — President Obama and the Democrats relinquished a crucial Senate seat Thursday as Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts was sworn in to replace the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Republicans gleefully welcomed Brown, whose presence as the 41st GOP vote will make it much easier for them to delay or alter initiatives they oppose -- including the healthcare overhaul that has stalled ever since his upset victory last month.
"This was a high-profile election," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose power is enhanced because Democrats no longer have the 60 votes they need to avert a GOP filibuster. "Now it's time to get to work."
In a ceremony on the Senate floor sparsely attended by Democrats but packed with Republicans, Brown was accompanied by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Paul G. Kirk, the Democrat who was appointed to serve as interim senator after Kennedy's death. Brown was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden.
In a news conference afterward, Brown echoed the populist themes of his campaign.
"People are fed up," he said. "They are tired of the backroom deals. They are tired of the bickering."
He criticized President Obama's spending record and asserted that his economic stimulus bill "didn't create one new job." That contradicts the nonpartisan analysis of most economists that, while there was not a net job gain over the year, there is little doubt that the bill created jobs and dramatically stemmed job losses.
The effect of Brown's arrival may be felt quickly as the Senate faces votes on high-level Labor Department nominees whom Republicans have opposed. They have blocked the nomination of Craig Becker, a union lawyer, to the National Labor Relations Board, because they fear he will be too pro-union. Brown declined to comment on how he would vote.
Another controversial labor official was confirmed just before Brown was sworn in. The Senate on Thursday voted 60 to 37, along party lines, to confirm Patricia Smith to the department's No. 3 post of labor solicitor.
But even as Republicans welcomed Brown, they acknowledged that as a moderate on some social issues, he would not vote with the GOP lock step.
"It makes me sleep easier at night," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). "But he comes from Massachusetts. It's not an overly conservative state."
Brown initially had planned to wait until Feb. 11 to be seated, a three-week delay that drew some fire from conservatives who wanted him to push for swifter seating. Brown on Wednesday asked Massachusetts officials to expedite the certification of his election, saying he wanted to participate in upcoming Senate votes.