Sen. Paul Kirk (D-Mass.) was sworn in on Friday as Massachusetts' junior senator, filling the seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)
The ceremony officially gives Democrats in the upper chamber their full 60 seat representation as the body prepares to vote on healthcare reform, changes to financial regulations, and other high-priority legislation.
Friday also marks the first time since 1962 the Senate will be without a member of the Kennedy family.
Kirk, who used to serve as chairman of the Democratic National Committee was appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) yesterday after the Bay State's legislature overturned a law preventing the governor from appointing senators.
"Senator Kennedy always said that serving the people of Massachusetts in the United States Senate was the greatest honor of his life. He would be so pleased that Paul Kirk will also now have that honor," Kennedy's family said in a statement yesterday.
Kirk, who worked as a long-time aide to Kennedy, will serve until voters select a permanent senator in a January special election.
"Side by side they fought many battles for progress and social justice, and nothing could be more fitting than for Paul now to carry on that fight," the family added.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also expressed pleasure at Kirk's appointment.
"Paul Kirk embodies the values of Sen. Kennedy. He also has a long-standing appreciation of the issues that matter to the great people of Massachusetts," he said in a statement. " I look forward to welcoming Mr. Kirk as he works with Sen. Kerry to represent Massachusetts in the Senate."
Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to Kirk at a 3:15 p.m. ceremony on the Senate floor.
(Photo by Greg Nash)