One day after appointment, Kyl sworn in to fill McCain’s Senate seat

Vice President Mike Pence (right) administers the ceremonial oath of office to Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, whose grandson Christopher Gavin holds the Bible in the Old Senate Chamber of the Capitol. (Photo by Imani Stephens/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Jon Kyl was welcomed back to the Senate with smiles, handshakes and applause Wednesday as he was sworn in to fill the seat of the late Sen. John McCain.

The brief swearing-in ceremony came less than 24 hours after Kyl, a three-term Republican senator from Arizona, was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey to replace McCain, who was buried only Sunday.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, accompanied Kyl to the front of the Senate chamber, where Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office in a concise, formal ceremony shortly before 1 p.m.

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After the two-minute swearing-in, Kyl was shown to McCain’s desk – just a few seats from where Kyl sat in his previous terms. Kyl will take over McCain’s old desk, as well as the late senator’s office and staff.

Kyl and Pence re-enacted the oath for cameras in the Old Senate Chamber of the Capitol before the newest member of the Senate joined fellow Republicans at their weekly policy luncheon – something he had not done since leaving the Senate in 2013.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the luncheon that he is looking forward to not needing to orchestrate as lengthy of an orientation process for the “new” senator.

“We had a chance at lunch to welcome back Jon Kyl to the Senate – a great choice by the governor of Arizona,” McConnell said. “We’re thrilled to have him back with us, adding another vote in our conference that we’ve not had since last December.”

December was the last time McCain was in Washington before returning home to Arizona for treatment of the brain cancer that claimed his life Aug. 25.

-Cronkite News video by Imani Stephens

One of McCain’s last votes was one of his most controversial – a dramatic thumbs-down on a GOP proposal that would have overturned the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Kyl, who was No. 2 in Senate Republican hierarchy before retiring, is expected to be a reliable GOP vote.

The first could come soon, as Senate Republicans are pressing for a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the October start of the court’s next term. Kyl was tapped by the White House in July to act as Kavanaugh’s “sherpa,” helping guide him through the Senate’s nomination process for the past two months.

It was not his first time playing a role in judicial nominations. Kyl sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he sat for four of the last five Supreme Court justice nominations in his previous terms.

In the five years since leaving office, Kyl helped guide Sen. Jeff Sessions’ appointment to be attorney general. He also lobbied for nominees: In 2017, Kyl’s law firm reported receiving $100,000 from the Judicial Crisis Network for work he and another lobbyist did to help with the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, according to Senate lobbying reports.

Although Kyl could hold McCain’s seat through 2020, he has only promised Ducey that he will stay through the end of this Congress, which ends in early January.

It is not clear what committees he will serve on for the next four months. McCain served on the Armed Services, Indian Affairs, and Homeland Security and Government Affairs committees, but McConnell’s office would only say Wednesday that Kyl’s appointments will be announced “at an appropriate time.”

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