Schatz, who was appointed less than 24 hours ago in a surprise move by Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D), told a White House pool reporter that he'd had a "brief chat" with Obama aboard the plane.
"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," he said.
"For Hawaii it's not just a matter of him being from Hawaii but we feel that he represents our values on the national stage. That's what I'm looking forward to supporting," he said.
The newly appointed senator rushed to buy a winter coat soon after the announcement, and is likely to be sworn in at 2 p.m. on Thursday. He didn't know at first that he'd be flying back with the president, who was returning from a short vacation in Hawaii, and the rest of his family was flying commercial to Washington, D.C., to be at the swearing-in ceremony.
Schatz sidestepped a question about whether he was surprised he was picked. Most had expected Abercrombie to select Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) to fill the seat left open by Sen. Daniel Inouye's (D-Hawaii) death. Inouye, in a deathbed letter, requested that Abercrombie name Hanabusa to his seat.
"No one can fill Senator Inouye's shoes, but we'll all try to walk in his footsteps together," Schatz said, echoing his comments on the matter from a Wednesday news conference. "His humility, his service to his state and his country, his kind demeanor — we'll all try to emulate that. But certainly no one can fill his shoes."