Mark Takai sworn in as new member of Congress - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Mark Takai sworn in as new member of Congress

Mark Takai Mark Takai
WASHINGTON D.C. (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The 114th Congress welcomed 71 new members on Tuesday, and one of them was Hawaii's Representative-elect Mark Takai (D).

"We put together a great team in D.C. and also in Hawaii, and I'm looking forward to working with my colleagues," Takai said in a phone interview on Hawaii News Now Sunrise. "I think this freshman class coming in will be able to put aside some partisan divide and really be bipartisan and really bring Congress together."

Fifty-eight freshmen were sworn into the House -- including 43 Republicans and 15 Democrats -- pushing the majority to 246 members, the most since the Great Depression, according to the Associated Press. In the Senate, 13 new members -- all but one of them Republican -- were sworn in, switching control of the chamber to Republicans.

Takai, who will represent Hawaii's 1st Congressional District, said he will keep Hawaii's best interest at the forefront of his agenda, focusing primarily on bringing home as much federal support as possible.

"Whether it's in the defense industry or whether it's for education -- lower and higher ed -- that's definitely going to be our priority," he said.

In fact, the House is set to vote on its first bill on the first day of the new Congress: the Hire More Heroes Act, a bill reintroduced from last year. The measure would exempt veterans already enrolled in healthcare plans through the Department of Defense or VA from being counted toward the employee limit under the Affordable Care Act. In other words, it's a bill that aims to encourage hiring more veterans.

The former state representative, who spent almost 15 years in the Hawaii National Guard, served nearly 20 years in the state Legislature, where he was chairman of the House Committee on Veterans, Military and International Affairs.

He will take the seat vacated by outgoing Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D), who lost to Sen. Brian Schatz (D) in the general election in November.

"Colleen has been a great Congresswoman for Hawaii for the last four years," Takai said. "I'm definitely going to keep in contact with her because she's been here for four years and I'm looking forward to working closely with her team who now work for me."

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