The Washington Times - May 9, 2011, 03:45PM

Dean Heller was sworn in Monday afternoon as the new senator from Nevada, replacing fellow Republican John Ensign, who resigned last week amid an ongoing ethics investigation. 

Mr. Heller, who in January began a third term in the House, was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to fill out Mr. Ensign’s remaining 20 months in office.

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The newly minted senator said his first act in office was to endorse a measure for a balanced-budget amendment.

“I think the biggest threat to our country right now is our debt,” he told a gathering of reporters minutes after he was sworn-in by Vice President Joseph Biden.

Mr. Ensign’s Senate exit stems from his 2009 admission of an extramarital affair with a former member of his campaign staff. He also is accused of helping the woman’s husband, a former top Ensign aide, set up as a lobbyist after he found out about the affair.

Federal law bars former Senate aides from lobbying in the Senate for a year after they leave their congressional jobs.

Mr. Ensign’s resignation is expected to wind down the Senate Select Committee on Ethics’ investigation into the matter, though the panel may release more findings later.

Mr. Heller’s move to the Senate triggers a scramble for his House seat, which has attracted significant interest from members of both parties, including Republican Sharron Angle, who lost a Senate challenge last year to Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat.