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Posted at 2:38 PM ET, 01/ 5/2011

Snapshots of the new Senate

By Shailagh Murray

The House of Representatives soaked up most of the attention Wednesday, but 13 new senators also were sworn in at noon, a crop that includes familiar faces and numerous younger lawmakers.

Many of the 95 new House members are proudly lacking in political experience, but the new Senate of the 112th Congress includes a number of veteran politicians who could quickly move into the spotlight.

Among the notables: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a former congressman, White House budget director and U.S. Trade representative under President George W. Bush; Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a former House GOP leader; Sen. Daniel R. Coats (R-Ind.), a former congressman, senator and top Washington lobbyist; and Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), a former congressman and president of the conservative group Club for Growth.

These seasoned freshmen milled about the Senate floor with the confidence of committee chairmen. Portman, a fiscal expert who is well-liked across the political spectrum, proved especially popular, greeting a parade of new colleagues who sought him out to wish him well. Blunt, who learned the legislative trade working alongside the savvy and controversial former representative Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), exchanged a few private words with Vice President Biden.

Other newcomers with less experience soaked in the new sights. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a former businessman who defeated Sen. Russell Feingold (D), opened the lid of his mahogany desk to explore the interior. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who also won her first election in November, scanned the packed visitors gallery for family members.

The Senate class of 2010 seems downright youthful, compared to many of the veterans of the chamber. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ayotte and Toomey are all under 50. Rubio, a star of the tea party movement, is just 39.

Retired senators milled around the chamber throughout the ceremony; VIPs included former vice president Dan Quayle and Paul Laxalt of Nevada, a former Republican senator and governor and one of President Ronald Reagan's closest friends. Laxalt escorted Sen. Harry Reid to the dais for Reid's swearing-in ceremony, underscoring the strong support Reid received from Republican voters in his defeat of arch-conservative tea party candidate Sharron Angle.

Absent from Reid's swearing-in entourage was Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who is battling an adultery scandal. Traditionally, senators take the oath in the company of their home state colleagues.

By Shailagh Murray  | January 5, 2011; 2:38 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency, Democratic Party, Joe Biden, Marco Rubio, Republican Party  
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Is Michael Bennet really part of the "Class of 2010," as listed here? He was appointed in 2009, much like, for example, Kristin Gillibrand. Yet he's listed here and she's not. I think only the new senators belong in this item, not Bennet.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter1 | January 5, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

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