Brown is sworn in as senator
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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and the Democrats relinquished a crucial Senate seat Thursday, as Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, sworn in a week earlier than he had originally planned, took over the position once occupied by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Republicans gleefully welcomed Mr. Brown, whose presence as the 41st GOP vote will make it much easier for them to delay or change Obama initiatives they oppose, including the health care bill that has stalled ever since Mr. Brown's upset victory in a January special election.
"This was a high-profile election," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose power is now enhanced, because Democrats no longer have the 60 votes they need to cut off a GOP filibuster. "Now, it's time to get to work."
The impact of Mr. Brown's arrival may be quickly felt, as the Senate faces votes on high-level Labor Department nominees who have been strongly opposed by Republicans. They have blocked the nomination of Craig Becker, a union lawyer, to be a National Labor Relations Board member because they fear that he will be too pro-union.
Another controversial labor official was confirmed just before Mr. Brown was sworn in. The Senate on Thursday voted 60-37 along party lines to confirm the nomination of Patricia Smith to the department's No. 3 post, labor solicitor.
Republicans reveled in the prospects of enhanced power, even though they acknowledged that Mr. Brown, a moderate on some social issues, will 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."
Mr. Brown had initially 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. Mr. Brown on Wednesday asked Massachusetts officials to expedite the certification of his election, saying he wanted to participate in upcoming votes.
Mr. Brown's swearing-in was sparsely attended by Democrats -- fewer than a dozen were on the Senate floor -- but Vice President Joseph R. Biden presided over the oath-taking.
First Published February 5, 2010 12:00 am