POLITICS

Tim Kaine sworn in at U.S. Senate as crucial year looms

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Politics,Local,Congress,Virginia,Steve Contorno,Tim Kaine

Democrat Tim Kaine was sworn in Thursday as Virginia's junior senator, one of a dozen new faces in the upper chamber joining a Congress that has reach record levels of unpopularity.

While Thursday was a day of pageantry for Kaine and the rest of the 113th Congress, the celebration will likely be a short one. The 112th Congress punted on several critical decisions, including what to do about a trillion dollars in looming defense and domestic spending cuts and whether to raise the debt ceiling before the United States reaches its borrowing limit in February.

Kaine has already said he backs President Obama's hard line against Republican efforts to attach conditions during negotiations to raise the debt ceiling, and he won't vote for any measures that only temporarily avoid the federal cuts.

"I'm not going to be in favor of kicking it down the road anymore," he said.

Kaine believes the freshman class will play a critical role in the upcoming budget debate. Three more senators will be added in coming weeks to fill vacancies in the chamber.

"Even if we have different points of view, there's a sense that we need to be about action," Kaine said. "When you put 15 new people in a body of 100, it really changes the dynamic. It can shake up some rigidity of things that are kind of corroded."

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and now-retired Sen. Jim Webb stood alongside Kaine as he walked up the Capitol steps and again as he approached Vice President Biden in the Senate chamber to be sworn in. He took the oath while firmly holding a family Bible in his left hand, and waved to wife Anne Holton, seated in the gallery, after returning to his new desk.

Earlier in the day, Kaine was getting a jump-start on his campaign promise to work across the aisle and with senators from around the country. He chatted with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Al Franken, D-Minn., outside and got to know his seatmate, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Though he'll sit in the back of the room, Kaine is hopeful his experience as a governor will be handy as the Senate wrestles with major fiscal issues in the coming months.

"I am going to come to the table as a Democrat who had to make a whole lot of budget cuts," Kaine said. "You can approach the process without jeopardizing the economy."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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