New senators take oath of office, expand GOP majority

January 3, 2019

The Senate heralded the start of a new Congress with old-school pomp and relative calm, as Vice President Mike Pence delivered the oath of office to fresh faces who will expand the GOP majority and reflect the increasingly blue tint of states out West.

Mr. Pence offered warm smiles and handshakes as he swore in eight brand-new senators six Republicans and two Democrats and incumbents who won another six-year term.

Republican Sen.-elect Rick Scott will be sworn next week, after he wraps up his tenure as Florida governor.

The Senate is an eye of calm amid the storm of battle between House Democrats and the Trump White House the main combatants in an immediate fight over a partial government shutdown and looming probes into Mr. Trumps campaign and businesses.

Unlike in the House, where power is shifting to the left, Republicans expanded their majority from 51 seats to 53 in the mid-term cycle.

A quartet of GOP senators who ousted Democrats Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Mike Braun of Indiana beamed as they were accompanied by senior senators from their states.

A new Democrat, Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada, was accompanied by senior Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, and freshman Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona Democrat, was accompanied by the Republican shell replace Sen Jeff Flake.

The Arizona senator who will assume the seat of late Sen. John McCain Martha McSally was joined by Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, and incoming Republican Sen. Mitt Romney was joined by his Utah counterpart, Sen. Mike Lee.

Returning senators also received a customary escort before taking the oath.

Sen. Ben Cardin, Maryland Democrat, was accompanied by new House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Mr. Pence smiled and waved to former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who joined the Marylanders near the rostrum.

The senators then headed down the hall for a ceremonial photo-op with Mr. Pence and their families.

Sen. Michael Bennet, Colorado Democrat, said it was a great day for the freshman and their families, though the chamber was waiting in the wings for word from the House, where Democrats would try to force the GOP-led Senate to vote to fully reopen the government.

He said the lingering shutdown was hard to ignore amid the pageantry and good vibes.

Hope springs eternal, but were in the middle of a government shutdown, and thats fairly pathetic, Mr. Bennet said.

Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat who represents many federal workers, urged Senate Republicans to vote to resume government operations and then fight over the wall separately.

If people are willing to punish folks unnecessarily, that will set a bad tone, he said. If theyre willing to focus the dispute on the area in dispute, it will be a positive.

Camera crews also camped outside the temporary basement office of Mr. Romney, who stunned the Capitol by penning a scathing op-ed about President Trump just days before the Congress gaveled in.

The Utah Republican on Thursday said he campaigned on working with the president on issues where they agree, but said he would speak out on areas where he thinks the president is wrong.

I look forward to having a trusting relationship with the president and with otters despite differences from time to time, he said.

Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.

Update hourly