WASHINGTON — Arizona’s Mark Kelly was sworn in Wednesday as a U.S. senator, giving the state two Democrats in the Senate for the first time in nearly 70 years and reducing Republican control in that chamber to 52-48.
Kelly, a Navy veteran, astronaut and husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, defeated Republican Sen. Martha McSally in last month’s election. Kelly was sworn in ahead of the start of the next congressional session in January because he won a special election to complete the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain’s term, which ends in 2022.
Kelly’s win in flipping the Arizona Senate seat gives Democrats an additional vote in the chamber that could be crucial as Congress races toward year-end deadlines, including one by Dec. 11 to approve more funding to keep the government running. Talks also are continuing over some kind of economic relief package before year’s end.
It won’t be clear which party will hold a majority in the Senate in the next session until after votes are tallied in two closely watched Jan. 5 runoff races in Georgia.
McCain, a Republican, died in 2018, and McSally, a former Air Force fighter pilot, was tapped by Gov. Doug Ducey to temporarily fill that post. Her race against Kelly was the second time she had sought election to the Senate, after losing in 2018 to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat.
Kelly, 56, took his oath of office on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, with Sinema holding the Bible. Afterward, his new colleagues could be seen offering him elbow bumps and congratulatory words.
“It’s a great day,” Kelly said to reporters as he entered the U.S. Capitol with Giffords.
Giffords, also a Democrat, watched the ceremony from the Senate gallery, and could be seen walking with a cane, the result of her injuries from being shot in the head in 2011 at a Tucson meet-and-greet that she was hosting. She resigned from Congress in January 2012 to focus on her recovery.
After the shooting, Giffords and Kelly became national advocates for tougher gun control laws.
Before Kelly’s swearing-in, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.), welcomed the new senator, saying Kelly’s seat in the Senate “may not be the role he expected for himself earlier in his life.”
“As Mark likes to say, his wife Gabby was already the member of the family in Congress. But tragedy upended both of their lives, and changed so many of their plans,” Schumer said. “Everyone continues to be inspired by Gabby’s recovery, by Mark’s devotion, and the courage it took for their family to re-enter public life and public service.” Read more