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Senate’s First Day Relatively Low-Key

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Vice President Joseph Biden and Sen. Lisa Murkowski attend the Senate swearing-in.

After taking the oath on the floor, several Senators walked down the ornate hall on the second floor of the Capitol to the Old Senate Chamber, where Vice President Joseph Biden administered the ceremonial oath of office for photo purposes. This was the first time that Biden, who served seven terms in the Senate, administered the oath to Senators as vice president. He seemed to revel in the duty, hamming it up with Senators’ families and playing with young children who were present for the photos. 

Other Senators remained in the chamber to give tributes to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who became the longest-serving woman in Senate history by taking the oath for her fifth term. 

In his remarks on the floor, Reid reminded listeners of the successes of the 111th Congress and indicated there is more waiting for the 112th. 

“Many challenges and opportunities still lie ahead for this new Congress that starts today,” he said. “We have to do even more to help middle-class families, to create jobs, to hasten our energy independence, to improve our children’s education and to fix our broken immigration system.” 

McConnell also spoke of the challenges ahead, but he expressed confidence that bipartisan compromise could be reached on the important issues. 

“We will press the majority to do the things the American people clearly want us to do, and we will insist in every possible way that the voices of our constituents are heard, realizing at the same time that the best solutions are forged through consensus, not confrontation,” he said. “Fortunately, the Senate was designed as a place where consensus could and would be reached.” 

While the Senate did not have any votes on Wednesday, the chamber will remain in session in order to buy Democrats time to debate a series of rules changes dealing with the filibuster and secret holds, among other things.  

Reid plans to use a procedural maneuver that will allow him to hold open the first legislative day of the session until the Senate returns from a two-week recess on Jan. 24.

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