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Politics & Government

Former Astronaut Mark Kelly Is Sworn In As U.S. Senator

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly was sworn in yesterday, becoming the first of the newly elected senators to take the oath of office. Ben Giles of member station KJZZ in Phoenix tells us what to expect.

BEN GILES, BYLINE: With his right hand on a Bible held by fellow Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, Kelly swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, an oath administered by Vice President Mike Pence.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: And that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which you are about to enter so help you God?

MARK KELLY: I do.

PENCE: Congratulations, Senator.

(APPLAUSE)

GILES: Most senators won't be sworn in until January, but Kelly defeated Republican Martha McSally in a special election that determined who would finish the term of the late Senator John McCain. Kelly's Senate race was one of the most closely watched and most expensive campaigns in the country. It's the first time since 1953 that both of Arizona's senators are Democrats. Kelly's victory was also crucial for the party nationally as they seek control of the Senate. That will ultimately be decided by two runoff elections in Georgia next month. But Kelly sees no reason to wait to get to work.

KELLY: We have a crisis right now, and Arizonans and millions of Americans across the country deserve some relief from the economic impact of COVID-19.

GILES: Kelly was sworn in one day after a bipartisan group of senators floated a $900 billion coronavirus relief proposal. It's an attempt to find the middle ground between the disparate aid packages sought by congressional Republicans and Democrats.

KELLY: Hey, I am in favor, always in favor, of compromise. And I'm looking at the proposal. I've spoken to Joe Manchin about it just earlier today and are going to speak to my now new colleagues about it as well.

GILES: Kelly may be getting a head start on other newly elected senators, but he'll have less time in office before having to run again. There are two years left in McCain's last term, meaning Kelly will be up for reelection in 2022.

For NPR News, I'm Ben Giles in Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.