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Johanns sworn into Senate

WASHINGTON (AP)--Sen. Mike Johanns, R-NE, said Jan. 6 he would work with his Democratic counterparts in the Senate, vowing to tackle the economic turmoil facing the country.

"These days, it's all about the economy," Johanns said shortly after he was sworn into the Senate.

The former Nebraska governor credited Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska's senior senator, and his staff for helping his office get settled during the two-month transition period following the election.

"It really is just a great start and a good working relationship," Johanns said.

Nelson accompanied Johanns as they entered the Senate chamber, along with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA. Harkin is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and worked closely with Johanns while the Nebraska Republican served as agriculture secretary in President George W. Bush's administration.

Johanns replaces Republican Chuck Hagel, who didn't seek a third term. Johanns defeated Democrat Scott Kleeb by a wide margin in November.

A fiscal conservative, Johanns has expressed hope in reining in federal spending. President-elect Barack Obama and majority Democrats in Congress are expected to develop an economic plan that is expected to cost about $775 billion to help the sputtering economy.

Johanns said he was reserving judgment on the plan, which is still being formulated, but he was not opposed to Congress making an attempt to jump-start the economy.

"I just need to know that it works--that it's actually going to stimulate the economy," he said.

Johanns said he has not yet received his committee assignments, but it was a "top priority" to receive a seat on the Agriculture Committee.

He was joined by his wife, Stephanie, and several family members at the ceremony and brought keepsakes of his late parents. Johanns said he carried his mother's rosary because "faith is very, very important, and that was something my mother wanted me to have."

The son of an Iowa dairy farmer, Johanns also carried his father's wrist watch in honor of his father's dependability. "It was just a good ol' Timex--and that was dad."

Date: 1/30/09

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