RALEIGH, North Carolina — Republican Thom Tillis was seated Tuesday in the U.S. Senate, his ultimate reward for narrowly winning an extensive and expensive campaign over Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in November.
Tillis, a former IBM consultant and outgoing North Carolina House speaker, was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden on the Senate floor for a six-year term. His arrival reinforced an increase in power and weight among North Carolina's congressional delegation, particularly for Republicans.
Tillis is one of a dozen new Republican senators arriving as the GOP takes control of the Senate for the first time in eight years.
"We're all restless and ready to get to work," Tillis said in a phone interview with The Associated Press following his swearing-in. He added that he and his freshmen colleagues want to move substantial legislation to President Barack Obama's desk. He cited a bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which the White House threatened Tuesday to veto.
In the Senate, Tillis joins U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, another Republican now expected to become chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence. Burr escorted Tillis to the base of the Senate dais for Tillis to take his oath from Biden. A ceremonial swearing-in occurred later with Tillis and his family.
Tillis, 54, is expected to serve on the Senate Armed Services and Veterans' Affairs committees, as well as agriculture and judiciary panels and a special committee on aging.
On the House side, GOP Rep. David Rouzer of Johnston County also was sworn in, succeeding retired Democrat Mike McIntyre in the 7th Congressional District. With Rouzer's arrival Republicans will now hold 10 of North Carolina's 13 House seats.
Retired 15-term Republican Howard Coble in the 6th District was replaced by another Republican, Rep. Mark Walker, a Greensboro pastor.
Veteran U.S. House members from North Carolina also have leadership roles in the 114th session of Congress. Tenth District Rep. Patrick McHenry is the chief deputy whip, while Rep. Virginia Foxx of the 5th District was previously re-elected secretary of the House Republican Conference.
Among Democrats, 1st District Rep. G.K. Butterfield of Wilson was sworn in Tuesday as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus for the next two years. Butterfield was elected in November.
According to his office, Butterfield used his speech Tuesday to outline caucus plans for the session, including efforts to protect safety-net programs for the poor and to restore a portion of the Voting Rights Act struck down in 2013 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We need to use political means, policy and legal means, to reduce racial disparities and move closer to the day when all African Americans will benefit from fairness and justice and realize the American dream," Butterfield said in a release.
Tillis announced his Senate candidacy in May 2013. The campaigns of Hagan and Tillis and outside interest groups spent more than $100 million, making it the most expensive Senate race last fall.
Tillis said hundreds of well-wishers came to Capitol Hill to celebrate his official start, including his wife, Susan, their two children, his mother and other relatives. Tillis, the House speaker from 2011-14, said he used the Bible from his 2009 state House swearing-in on Tuesday. Tillis also held a reception Tuesday in a committee room on Capitol Hill.
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