WASHINGTON — Edward J. Markey was sworn in as the junior senator of Massachusetts Tuesday, joining his new colleagues just as the Senate was attempting to extract itself from the throes of partisan crisis.
Even Markey’s official welcome encountered a bit of the turbulence. The Senate delayed his swearing-in, as majority leader Harry Reid came to the floor to announce an agreement to unwind gridlock over seven presidential nominees. Reid also blocked early tributes for Markey from fellow senators to prevent floor proceedings on the nominee agreement from stalling.
The ironies were not lost on Markey. He ran for the Senate because he said he felt stifled as a member of the minority party in the highly polarized House. When he arrived, he promptly experienced partisan warfare, Senate-style.
“My decision was to come to the Senate in order to be in the majority and to make government work for every family in our country,’’ Markey said in an interview before his swearing-in ceremony. “On the day that I arrive, we are having a debate over whether or not this institution can work for every family.”
Markey, 67, a 37-year veteran of the House, is now a rookie in the Senate. The Malden Democrat had been the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee and a leading advocate for policies to fight climate change.
As he entered the Old Senate Chamber for a ceremonial reenactment of his swearing-in, to accommodate photographers, Markey quipped, “Not since 1789 has Massachusetts had so little seniority.”
He was almost right. According to Senate recordkeepers, this marks the first year since 1803, when John Quincy Adams and Timothy Pickering took office, that the state has had two first-year senators. The state’s senior senator, Elizabeth Warren, took office in January.
Vice President Joe Biden delivered the oath to Markey, who was flanked by Warren and William “Mo’’ Cowan, who held the Senate seat temporarily after it was vacated by Secretary of State John F. Kerry, now secretary of state.
Markey won a special election on June 25, defeating Republican Gabriel Gomez.
Also on hand for Markey’s induction were Governor Deval Patrick; Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader; Markey’s wife, Susan Blumenthal; and several Massachusetts House members.
Markey said he has no regrets in taking the cut in seniority, due largely to his frustration with the House, which he said has become “dysfunctional.”
Though he knows the culture is different between the 435-member House and the 100-member Senate, he said he knows the rules and the issues and plans on “playing a role this year.”
Markey declined to say which Senate committees he’d like to join, but he said he planned to continue working on issues he pursued in the House, including climate and energy issues.
Reid asked senators to hold their remarks on Markey ahead of his swearing-in so that he could announce the tentative agreement with Senate Republicans on nominees.
“I know a lot of people want to say some real nice things about this good man, but they’re going to have to do it later,” Read said on the Senate floor. “We have a lot of things to do here. And as he will learn, the Senate is not always as punctual as the House.”