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‘There’s so much work to be done’

BY CHELYEN DAVIS

Virginia’s new U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine was formally sworn into office Thursday, and told reporters he’s ready to get to work on budget and spending issues.

In a conference call from Washington, Kaine said he hopes his appointment to the Senate’s Budget Committee will give him an opportunity to be “immediately helpful” as lawmakers focus on ways to cut spending while averting the unpopular package of “sequestration” budget cuts that have been called too harsh even by those who voted for them.

Kaine said, as he did during the campaign, that he had to cut the state budget while he was Virginia’s governor and thinks that experience will translate into helping find “smart ways to control spending” in Washington.

In the fiscal cliff deal reached earlier this week—before Kaine was an official senator—lawmakers postponed work on repealing the sequestration cuts, giving the issue a two-month extension. The cuts were to have taken effect in January.

Kaine said he won’t support another extension when those 60 days are up, favoring instead a real fix instead of “kicking the can down the road.”

“We’re past the time when generalities will suffice,” he said. “We’ve got to get specific.”

He said he would look for spending cuts “that don’t jeopardize the economy or shred the safety net.”

After his orientation last fall, Kaine said he was somewhat disheartened by the coolness he saw among more senior senators.

But on Thursday he said he’s optimistic for a more collegial, cooperative Congress.

“The kind of gridlock and obstruction and filibuster  can’t be the way” for the next Congress, he said.

Kaine noted that the Senate will have 15 new members, and he thinks they can make a difference in the body’s tone.

“Fifteen new people in a group of 100 can change the dynamic,” he said.

Kaine has also been appointed to the Senate Armed Services committee. There, he said, he hopes to work on issues of how to help active duty service members transition into civilian life and find jobs.

Asked by reporters about whether Congress should take any action on gun legislation in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, Kaine said he would support “appropriate limitations on combat-style weapons or high-capacity magazines.”

Those weapons could be restricted, he said, without jeopardizing Second Amendment rights to self-defense or to hunting.

Kaine said his swearing-in on Thursday was “pretty powerful,” and said he’s proud to be succeeding Jim Webb, who retired after one term. Kaine will now be Virginia’s junior senator next to Sen. Mark Warner.

“My goal is to be a worthy successor,” Kaine said. “There’s so much work to be done. Mark and I will be a good team for Virginia.”

 Chelyen Davis:  540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com

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