Scott Brown to be sworn into Senate on Thursday
Updated 4:20 p.m.
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Massachusetts Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R) will be sworn into office Thursday, a week earlier than expected, officials in Washington said Wednesday.
Brown's admission to the Senate will officially end the 60-vote majority Democrats have held for much of the last year and give Republicans enough votes to band together and block legislation as they choose.
Brown was elected Jan. 19 in a special election to replace the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. He had originally been slated to join the Senate on Feb. 11, but in a letter to Massachusetts' governor and secretary of state, he asked that his election be certified as soon as possible so he could participate in key votes. Brown did not detail which votes he wanted to take part in.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is expected to sign an election certificate for Brown on Thursday morning, and the senator-elect would fly from Boston later in the day to be sworn in.
Senate Democrats say the swearing-in is likely to happen at 5 p.m on Thursday.
Congressional Republicans said privately that seating Brown earlier could help them block Democratic nominees opposed by the GOP, specifically noting the nomination of Craig Becker, whom Obama has nominated to join the five-member National Labor Relations Board. Becker isan associated general counsel for the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO. A Senate committee is due to vote on his nomination Thursday, setting up a confirmation vote on the floor by next week.
Republicans blocked Becker's nomination much of last year, after complaints from business groups that he is too biased in favor of labor unions to serve on the NLRB. But the Obama administration renominated Becker to the post last month.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent heavily to attack Obama's health care plan, accused Senate Democrats of trying to "jam Becker's nomination through before Senator-elect Brown comes to Washington."
Democrats deny this claim, noting they agreed to seat Brown as soon as Massachusetts officials certified his election.
Brown's swearing-in comes as President Obama is increasingly pushing congressional Republicans to reach compromises with him on key legislation.
Democrats have held a 60-vote supermajority on most issues in the Senate since Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) defected from the Republican Party and joined their ranks last April. But Senate Republicans have used a variety of legislative tactics to slow much of the Democrats' agenda, requiring the majority to collect every one of their votes in favor to move forward with legislation.
With Democrats now holding 59 votes, then, key legislation and nominations will now require the agreement of at least one Republican.
Brown has said hinted that he will not vote in lockstep with the GOP, calling himself a "Scott Brown Republican" in a recent interview. But he has ruled out backing the health-care bill passed by the Senate in December.
Perry Bacon Jr.
February 3, 2010; 3:16 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Capitol Briefing
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