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Hawaii's New Senator Steps Up to the Cliff

photo of Niraj Chokshi
December 27, 2012

Updated: Vice President Joe Biden swore Brian Schatz in as Hawaii's new senator Thursday afternoon, with welcome speeches from Majority Leader Harry Reid and retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii. 

Schatz arrived in Washington prepared.

Wearing a brand new overcoat shortly after stepping off of Air Force One, Schatz said he’s ready and eager to work toward preventing a year-end austerity crisis.

"Everyone seems to agree that we want to avoid this,” he told a White House pool reporter on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base. “There are some practical balanced approaches that have been set forth. And now it's time, and we're really running out of time, to negotiate a settlement, which I believe no one will be thrilled with. But the only thing worse than a solution to the fiscal cliff would be actually going over it."

Democrats were eager for Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie to appoint a replacement for Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, who passed away on Dec. 17. On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement that he urged Abercrombie to appoint a successor with “due haste.”

Schatz said he was told about his appointment around 1 p.m. on Wednesday and joined President Obama aboard Air Force One over night. Schatz said he spoke with Obama aboard the plane and both were eager to do something to avoid the totality of the year-end spending cuts and tax hikes that comprise the fiscal cliff.

“We're anxious to get to work, and see what we can to try to avert the fiscal cliff and I'll be looking forward to supporting the administration's priorities," Schatz said.

Abercrombie chose Schatz, Hawaii's lieutenant governor, to fill Inouye's seat. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa had been thought to be the favorite for the appointment -- in a letter written before he died, Inouye indicated it was his last wish that Hanabusa fill his seat.

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