WASHINGTON — It was a day of pomp and pageantry in the Senate as Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was sworn in Tuesday on the first day of the 111th Congress and a bit of free-wheeling fun in the House where the children and grandchildren of members sat in the chamber, fidgeted and even called out their relative’s choice for speaker during a roll-call vote.
Cornyn, accompanied, by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, joined 33 other senators in being sworn into office, in small groups, by Vice President Dick Cheney, who is the president of the Senate. Strict Senate protocol dictates that a senator being sworn in is escorted by his or her home state senator.
Of course, in the case of Hutchison, speculation continues to swirl around her departure from the Senate to make a gubernatorial run. Asked if Hutchison had told him she was running for governor, Cornyn paused and said, “I can’t remember if she actually said it. But I would be really surprised if she’s not.”
Hutchison has not formally announced her run and not indicated when she would resign her seat, although insiders have pegged late spring as her likely exit date.
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Cornyn, who was first elected in 2002, was accompanied by his wife to a photo-op re-enactment of the swearing in. "It feels great," he said of his new term. "I have a lot of anticipation and hope for a good working relationship with our Democratic colleagues."
In a telephone conference call with reporters, Cornyn said he was encouraged by early reports about President-Elect Barack Obama’s planned economic stimulus plan, which will include tax breaks.
Cornyn, who famously faced off with GOP nominee John McCain on immigration during the campaign, downplayed any differences with the Arizona senator. "I remain an advocate of comprehensive immigration reform," he said.
Cornyn, the new election chief for Senate Republicans, is also involved in the disputed Minnesota Senate race, which is now headed to court. "Not every vote has been counted yet," he said.
Republicans are down to 41 U.S. senators – with Minnesota and Obama's Illinois seat undecided-- and it will be up to Cornyn to elect more Republicans in 2010.
In the House, Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, took back the 22nd District for the GOP. The seat, held by former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, for years, was occupied for the last two years by former Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Stafford. Olson defeated Lampson in one of the most closely watched races in the country.
"It is a true honor to be chosen to serve in the House of Representatives," said Olson, "I look forward to the bringing the needs and interest of the people of the 22nd District of Texas to Washington."