Republican Scott Brown is poised to take over the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s long-held seat a week earlier than he had planned, ending the Democrats’ supermajority in the Senate and giving the GOP 41 votes they can use to block President Obama’s agenda.
A swearing-in ceremony was set for 5 p.m. Thursday for the little-known Massachusetts state senator who shocked the nation with his upset victory last month over a favored Democrat and put the 2010 midterm elections in play for a possible GOP takeover of Congress. Originally, Mr. Brown said he did not want to be sworn in until Feb. 11.
But in response to criticism from conservative radio hosts and newspaper columnists, he pressed Massachusetts officials on Wednesday to certify his election for the hurry-up swearing-in to fill the last two years of Kennedy’s term. One critic had dubbed his wait a “three-week victory lap” since the Jan. 19 special election in which Mr. Brown defeated Democratic state Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on Thursday morning certified the results of Mr. Brown’s upset win, clearing the way for Mr. Brown to take the oath of office.
Depending on how Democrats set the Senate’s calendar, Mr. Brown’s first vote could be against the confirmation of Craig Becker, a lawyer for the Service Employees International Union, to a seat on the National Labor Relations Board.
The NLRB is the federal panel that referees private-sector labor-management disputes, and it often has been caught in the Washington political crossfire, as Democrats with traditional organized labor backing long have dueled on business-labor issues with Republicans, who long have had closer ties to the business community.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved Mr. Becker’s nomination on a party-line 13-10 vote Thursday, sending it to the full Senate. Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat and the committee’s chairman, said Democrats would move a vote on Mr. Becker “as expeditiously as possible on the floor.”
Republicans have held up Mr. Becker’s confirmation for months, saying they fear he might use the post to make labor laws more union-friendly without congressional approval.
Sen. Paul G. Kirk, a former Democratic Party chairman, has been holding the seat temporarily on an appointment from Mr. Patrick.
Mr. Brown rode a wave of populist, anti-government sentiment to claim the seat Kennedy held in Democratic-dominated Massachusetts for nearly a half-century. Kennedy died in August from brain cancer.
His victory rocked Democrats, put a dagger in Mr. Obama’s health-care overhaul just as it was nearing the legislative finish line and catapulted Mr. Brown onto the national stage. He made a recent appearance on “The Jay Leno Show.”
Mr. Brown, 50, has promised to be an independent voice. He recently said he has told Senate Republican leaders they won’t always be able to count on his vote.