- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2010

Republican Scott Brown on Thursday took over the Senate seat long held by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts as lawmakers from both parties were cautiously optimistic that his supermajority-busting victory could lead to some bipartisanship after months of a politically bruising health care overhaul battle.

One of Mr. Brown’s first votes is likely to be cast in coming days on a procedural motion to start work on a jobs bill that could generate support from lawmakers of both parties.

The swearing-in was moved up one week at Mr. Brown’s insistence, once the vote tally was finalized in Massachusetts, and gives Republicans the 41st vote they need to block legislation.

“There are a lot of votes pending that I would like to participate in,” Mr. Brown, 50, said of his request, shortly after he was sworn in on the Senate floor by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“And even more importantly,” Mr. Brown added, these “are urgent times for our nation.”

Democratic leaders have not released the details of what the jobs bill would include, but Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee were working together on it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said early in the day Thursday that Democrats would pursue their own bill if they couldn’t come to agreement with Republicans.

“We do believe very emphatically that we are going to be able to have a bipartisan bill here Monday,” said Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat. “If not, we’re going to have one that we come up with ourselves.”

Democrats did not introduce a bill before they recessed for the weekend on Thursday evening, putting that timeline in question.

Nevertheless, Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Democrats have issued an “open invitation” to Republicans to work on a jobs bill.

“We think that we have three or four areas that most people agree will create jobs quickly - good-paying jobs right here in America,” he said.

The bill - or package of bills - is expected to include tax incentives to companies that hire and funding for infrastructure projects, among other measures designed to create jobs, as well a provision extending unemployment insurance.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and member of the Finance Committee, suggested that the bill could generate Republican support.

“I think my colleagues should support it,” he said.

Mr. Brown’s surprising defeat of Democratic state Attorney General Martha Coakley in Massachusetts - a longtime Democratic “blue” state - earned him the moniker of “41” from some of his party members. The new 59-41 balance means Democrats will need at least one Republican to support their procedural measures, giving the minority party the filibuster power it lost as a result of the 2008 elections.

The Brown election also served as a notice to many lawmakers that strengthening the economy and creating jobs - not the health care overhaul plan on which Democrats had been working for months - were utmost on voters’ minds.

Democrats have since put aside health care reform - a move they say is temporary - to work on jobs legislation, a subject that, in theory, both sides support.

Mr. Hatch called Mr. Brown’s election a wake-up call.

“I think that says to them, ‘Hey, we better get off our high horses and start dealing with Republicans,’ ” he said. “And Republicans got to get off their high horses, too.”

Mr. Brown replaces Sen. Paul Kirk, a Democrat who was appointed to the seat after Mr. Kennedy’s August death. Shortly before Mr. Brown was sworn in, Mr. Kirk, who did not run for the seat, pressed his colleagues to put policy ahead of politics as Americans face economic uncertainty.

“Their crises should not be dividing their Senate,” he said. “It should be uniting it.”

Despite the calls for bipartisanship, no Republican senators showed up in the Senate chamber for Mr. Kirk’s final speech and fewer than a dozen Democratic senators appeared for Mr. Brown’s swearing-in.

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