Brown takes office, but still a mystery on some issues

Scott Brown of Massachusetts was sworn in to the U.S. Senate Thursday, becoming the 41st Republican senator and giving the GOP the power to filibuster Democratic legislation for the first time since former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, of Pennsylvania, switched parties 10 months ago.

Vice President Biden administered the oath of office to Brown, who in a surprise move decided to show up a week early in order to cast his vote on a controversial nomination that many in the GOP oppose.

“I wanted to get to work,” Brown said, when asked why he asked be seated sooner. “There are a lot of votes pending I'd like to participate in.”

Brown campaigned on his plan to vote against the Democratic health care bill, and his election sank the proposal that had been nearing final passage.

But he remains a mystery on other issues. Brown campaigned as “an independent thinker,” and calls himself fiscally conservative. His mostly Democratic Bay State constituency practically guarantees he will be a moderate on some issues.

“I have always worked across party lines to solve problems,” Brown told reporters Thursday.

Brown said he has not decided whether he will cast a vote with fellow Republicans to filibuster the nomination of labor union lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board, who Democrats were hoping to clear before Brown's arrival.

Republican senators on Thursday were excited about adding to their ranks and most of them showed up in the Senate chamber for the swearing-in ceremony. Just eight Democrats came to watch their 60-vote supermajority end.

Many in the GOP seemed comfortable with the idea that their new colleague might stray across the aisle on some issues.

“He is from Massachusetts,” Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., reminded a reporter. “But we already have a very big tent in the Republican Conference.”

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said Brown's arrival “makes me sleep easier at night, because I know we have a better opportunity to stop bad legislation.”

Chambliss said there is “no question,” Brown will vote with Democrats on occasion.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was instrumental in recruiting Brown to run, told The Examiner that expectations for Brown are “obviously high,” but that Republicans in the Senate understand Brown won't always vote with them.

McCain said he is hoping Brown, a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts National Guard, will serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

And he's not worried about the prospect of Brown being swayed on important legislation by President Obama in the same manner as Maine's Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have been.

“There may be pressure,” McCain acknowledged, “But one thing I know about Scott Brown is he does not often succumb to pressure.”

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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