Bright takes oath of office as new congressman

New congressmen applaud as the swearing in ceremony begins.
New congressmen applaud as the swearing in ceremony begins.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama's newest Congressmen - Democrats Bobby Bright and Parker Griffith - were among 54 House members to take the oath of office today as the 111th Congress convened for a new session Tuesday.

Bright, a former mayor of Montgomery and Griffith, a former state senator from Huntsville, were among 54 House member to start their new lives on Capitol Hill.

Nine new senators were also sworn into office.

Besides the struggling economy, lawmakers also will face considerable work in reviewing President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet nominees.


The United States Senate today refused to swear in Roland Burris as he tried to claim Barack Obama's former seat from Illinois.

The Senate also refused to seat a new Senator from Minnesota until lawsuits over Al Franken's victory there are resolved.

It's a rough start to a session that Barack Obama wanted to focus on the economy.

A mob scene erupted outside the Senate as Burris arrived.

It's not what Democrats wanted to celebrate their new bigger majority, but day one of the new Senate was all about controversy.

Burris is claiming the spot vacated by President-elect Obama.

"I was advised that my credentials are not in order and I will not be seated on the floor," he told reporters after being turned away.

Burris was appointed by Illinois Governor Ron Blagojevich, who allegedly offered the seat for sale.

The allegations didn't involve Burris, but Democratic leaders will use a technicality to avoid swearing in any Blagojevich appointee.

The other controversy is Minnesota.

Democrat Al Franken won a recount there by 225 votes, defeating incumbent Norm Coleman.

Republicans note that contest isn't certified.

President-elect Obama wants the Senate to work on his stimulus plan, a $300 billion tax cut
and a half trillion in new spending.

Reaction from Republicans has been mixed.

"I'm a little concerned myself about the overall size of package," said House Minority Leader John Boehner.

Meanwhile, Democrats are concerned about Leon Panetta, Obama's pick to run the Central Intelligence Agency.

Panetta was Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff, but hasn't worked in intelligence.

The questions about his CIA pick and the fight over the two Senate seats are unwanted distractions for both Obama and the Senate as the new session starts.

(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press and NBC contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved.)