3:04 PM EST, January 3, 2013
On the occasion of their separate swearing-in ceremonies Thursday, the area's two newest members of Congress both described being humbled by the opportunity to serve the people of Indiana.
“It is an incredible honor and extremely humbling to have the chance to serve the state as a U.S. senator,” Senator-elect Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, said during a conference call from Washington with reporters from around the state.
Speaking by phone moments later from her office in Washington, Congresswoman-elect Jackie Walorski, R-Jimtown, echoed that sentiment, stating, “I'm very humbled by the opportunity to serve the 2nd District.”
Along with other members Congress, Walorski and Donnelly took the oath of office Thursday, marking the start of a two-year term for the former and a six-year term for the latter, the area's first senator in more than 90 years.
Both face a looming fight over the debt ceiling and automatic spending cuts set to take effect in about two months as a result of the fiscal cliff deal approved by Congress on New Year's Day and signed by the president Wednesday.
Donnelly also faces a looming fight in the Senate over filibuster reform, with two competing proposals already circulating.
Noting that she had not yet been briefed on any of the issues that might come before the House, Walorski, for her part, declined to speak in specific terms about the upcoming fiscal battle.
“It's clear, obviously, that Congress is going to face some serious challenges, but I'm optimistic that the Congress that is being sworn in today can reach across the aisle” and do what's best for the country, said Walorski, who succeeds Donnelly as the state's representative to the House in the 2nd District.
Donnelly spoke in somewhat more specific terms Thursday, particularly in regard to the debt ceiling, which he described as "very, very dangerous thing to play with" in terms of the negative effect on the economy should the federal government default on its debt.
At the same time, he avoided taking any hard positions on matters that might come before the Senate, including filibuster reform.
Like Walorski, he said he is optimistic Republicans and Democrats can come together to solve the nation's problems.
"I can't control the behavior of others," the former member of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition in the House said, "but I've reached out to senators in both parties, and we're putting a pretty significant middle group together, and I'm hopeful the voices in that group will be heard by both sides."
Thursday was Senator Richard Lugar's last day, and the Indiana Republican left with one last act of compromise – he voted for Congress' fiscal cliff deal.
Lugar's final vote caps decades of working across party lines. That compromise helped lead to his ouster in last year's Republican primary by Mourdock.
Lugar cast over 1,300 votes in his nearly 40 years in Washington. That puts him 10th on the list of total votes by a senator. West Virginia's late Sen. Robert Byrd tops that list.
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