Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith was sworn in to the U.S. Senate on Monday, becoming the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress.
She took her oath of office as a member of the Senate at 3:04 p.m., with Vice President Mike Pence on hand to swear her in.
“I know I speak for senators on both sides of the aisle in welcoming our new colleague,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in his opening remarks to the chamber as it returned from a two-week recess.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant tapped Hyde-Smith, until recently the state’s agriculture commissioner, to replace longtime GOP Sen. Thad Cochran, who resigned April 1 amid continuing health problems.
Republicans hold 51 seats in the Senate, but the margins have been effectively even as Sen. John McCain continues to battle brain cancer back in his home state of Arizona.
Hyde-Smith’s arrival gives the GOP some potentially critical support as the chamber gears up to consider nominees to fill vacancies at the helm of the State and Veterans Affairs departments, and the CIA.
But even with Hyde-Smith’s support, the nominees for each position may not advance without some Democratic support.
Kentucky Republican Rand Paul has already signaled he will vote against both Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s pick to head the CIA, and Mike Pompeo, the current CIA head and Trump’s nominee for secretary of State. Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, the president’s personal military doctor and his pick to lead the VA, is a relatively unknown quantity on Capitol Hill and is also expected to face a difficult confirmation battle.
Hyde-Smith plans to focus her time in the Senate on military issues and rolling back federal regulations, she told a local news outlet. She plans to run in the November special election to fill out the rest of Cochran’s term, which expires in 2021.
The filing deadline for the race is April 24, and several other candidates have already declared, including Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who almost unseated Cochran in a 2014 primary, and two Democrats: former Rep. Mike Espy, who was Agriculture secretary under former President Bill Clinton, and Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton. All candidates will run on a single ballot, with the top two advancing to a runoff if no one takes more than 50 percent of the vote.
Watch: Cochran Bids Goodbye to Senate After Nearly 40 Years Representing Mississippi