Senator Brian Schatz arrived on Air Force One with President Obama at around 6:30 a.m. Hawaii time. He hitched a ride in order to quickly get to Washington at the request of Senate leaders, who need his vote if a fiscal cliff deal is reached. While the president headed for the White House, Schatz, sporting a brand new winter coat, was taken by an SUV to the Capitol where his wife, children and parents awaited.
Schatz was appointed by Governor Neil Abercromie just yesterday to replace the late Senator Daniel Inouye who died from respiratory problems on December 17. The selection was made over Inouye's personal choice --Congresswoman Coleen Hanabusa.
Around 9:30 a.m., the Senate Chamber started to stir. Schatz was escorted to the front of the Senate Chamber by Hawaii's senior Senator for another week, Daniel Akaka. Vice-President Joe Biden, as Senate President, presided over the brief swearing in ceremony.
"...that you take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter so help you God?" said Biden. "I do," replied Schatz. "Congratulations Senator. Welcome," said Biden.
"While no one can fill the shoes of our friend, Senator Inouye, Brian Schatz is a young man, with a future full of promise and opportunity," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada who attended recent memorial services in Hawaii for Inouye.
"Senator Schatz will be a strong progressive voice for Hawaii in the United States Senate," said Senator Akaka. "Mahalo and thank you Brian for accepting this challenge. I'm here to help you in anyway I can."
Akaka praised Schatz for his work in Hawaii as Lieutenant Governor, a State House Representative, non-profit CEO and leader within the Democratic party.
"While there are other talented leaders in Hawaii who stepped forward who would also have been excellent appointees," said Akaka. "I know that my colleagues will join me and supporting Senator Brian Schatz for the good of Hawaii."
Vice-President Biden conducted a private ceremony shortly after to accommodate Schatz's family.
When Akaka retires in a week, the 40 year old Schatz will then become Hawaii's new senior Senator. Former Congresswoman Mazie Hirono will be the junior Senator when she succeeds Akaka when she's sworn in on January third.
It's a historic changing of the guard that Hawaii may not see again for decades to come.