Brown pushes swearing-in to today

Upcoming votes cited in sudden shift

By Matt Viser
Globe Staff / February 4, 2010

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After days of expressing little urgency about being sworn in, US Senator-elect Scott Brown abruptly changed course yesterday, demanding that state officials certify his victory so he can take office this afternoon.

The shift, outlined in a letter Brown’s lawyer wrote to Governor Deval Patrick and Secretary of State William F. Galvin, was an unexpected turn in what had been a generally quiet, orderly transition to power for the Republican lawmaker following his victory over Attorney General Martha Coakley in the Jan. 19 special election.

Once Senate Democrats said they would not push through a controversial health care plan before he took office, Brown had not pressed to be seated immediately. As recently as Tuesday, Brown said he planned to take the oath of office next week.

It was unclear exactly what prompted Brown’s change of heart. His aides said they were made aware of votes in the Senate in the next several days and decided he should assume office right away. State officials had already planned to certify Brown’s election by this morning, and thus had no objections yesterday to the new timetable.

Brown’s election gives Republicans a big enough bloc to thwart Democratic plans through filibuster. There is at least one controversial labor appointment slated for next week that some Senate Republicans hope to block.

“He has been advised that there are a number of votes scheduled prior to’’ Feb. 11, Daniel B. Winslow, a lawyer for Brown, wrote in his letter to Patrick and Galvin. “For that reason, he wants certification to occur immediately.’’

Winslow said Brown wanted the election results certified by 11 a.m. today. “As he is the duly elected United States senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he is entitled to be seated now,’’ Winslow wrote.

The change did not alter the plans of Patrick and Galvin, both of whom had already planned to complete the necessary steps in time to meet Brown’s new timetable.

Galvin completed his certification of the official results yesterday. Patrick, who had several events in Taunton yesterday, had, prior to Brown’s request, planned to sign the certification papers at a special meeting of the Governor’s Council at 9:30 a.m. today. Patrick aides say state law requires the governor to be in the presence of at least five of the eight councilors when signing the papers.

Aides to Brown and the Senate leadership say they expect Vice President Joe Biden to swear in Brown around 5 p.m.

“Once he gets the certificate in hand, he can be sworn in,’’ said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate majority leader Harry Reid. “We are working to swear him in as quickly as possible.’’

Senator Paul G. Kirk Jr., who was temporarily appointed to the seat following Edward M. Kennedy’s death in August, is slated to deliver his final address on the Senate floor earlier this afternoon.

A senior Senate Republican aide said GOP leaders have consistently urged Brown to seek to be sworn in as soon as possible after his election was formally certified by Massachusetts officials.

There are several votes on tap within the next week, including one approving nominees for top posts in the Department of Labor and the US General Services Administration.

A controversial vote could come next week on whether to confirm Craig Becker, a Chicago-based union lawyer who was nominated by President Obama to the National Labor Relations Board. Republicans have vigorously opposed Becker’s appointment.

A top Brown adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, said the senator-elect had not decided how he would vote on Becker’s nomination, saying, “He’d have to review the qualifications of the nominee before he decides.’’

Votes on major jobs legislation pushed by President Obama could also materialize.

In recent days, it was Brown who had suggested that he would be sworn in on Feb. 11, which was the date that officials in Massachusetts and Washington had been planning on. In an e-mail Tuesday afternoon, Brown’s spokesman, Felix Browne said, “Feb. 11 still the date, yes,’’ when asked if anything had changed or if he would try to be sworn in sooner. At 8:50 a.m. that day, Brown even posted on his Facebook page: “Scott Brown will be officially sworn in on February 11th at 12:45pm.’’

On a WTKK-FM radio show yesterday morning, Patrick said Brown was satisfied with the Feb. 11 date. “I think everybody feels like it’s moving apace,’’ he said.

Asked to explain the sudden demand to be sworn in immediately, Fehrnstrom said, “Feb. 11 was a tentative date. . . . It’s as simple as this: Scott Brown is the duly elected senator. And since the results of the election are now complete, Scott Brown would now like to take his seat.’’

Fehrnstrom also said that Feb. 11 was used “for planning purposes as an outside date by which we thought certification would be complete.’’

“The process moved quicker than we thought, and now Scott is ready to be seated,’’ Fehrnstrom said.

Brown did not have any public events yesterday, and he declined requests for an interview.

The demand to be seated was hailed by Republicans and conservative bloggers. Brown’s letter was immediately featured prominently on the Drudge Report, which generated so much traffic that it broke the link to the letter from Brown’s aides.

The sudden shift and the prospect that his first votes could be to block Democratic initiatives in bold fashion could further endear him to Republicans, but could, at the same time, diminish his self-styled image as a new, “independent’’ voice in Washington.

As for Kirk, his spokesman, Keith Maley, said yesterday that the office has been preparing to close down its operations.

“Senator Kirk and his staff stand ready to help Senator-elect Brown and his staff in every way possible,’’ Maley said in an e-mail.

Lisa Wangsness of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Viser can be reached at