Bennet takes oath, gives priorities

Michael Bennet was sworn in Thursday as the youngest member of the U.S. Senate, vowing to push an economic stimulus package in ways that help struggling Colorado municipalities, small businesses and homeowners.

Bennet said he expects jump-starting the economy to occupy most of the Senate’s time in the coming months and said it’s “critical that people in Colorado have their voices heard.”

Before taking the oath of office and beginning his first day on Capitol Hill, Bennet spoke with reporters in a conference call. He said money from President Obama’s $825 billion economic stimulus package should be used to stimulate small businesses and help homeowners fighting to keep up with their mortgages, “not left in banks in New York,” a reference to the $700 billion bailout of financial institutions approved late last year.

Bennet said he wants to ensure Colorado cities and towns have the lines of credit they need to build capital projects.

“For them to be a true partner in the stimulus, they need to be able to assure the buyers of their debt that they’re in good shape,” he said.

Although Bennet’s work experience lies in business, city government, education and law, he hopes to secure a seat on the Agriculture Committee because of its importance to the state.

“I’m going to travel the state and talk to people whose living, and whose family’s living, depends on our agricultural economy,” he said.

Sen. Mark Udall, who finds himself in the unique position of being Colorado’s senior senator in his third week on the job, said he doesn’t believe he and Bennet will have to scramble to compensate for their lack of experience in the Senate. While seniority is important, he said, the Senate operates on personal relationships, policy expertise and knowledge of procedural rules.

Udall touted Bennet’s previous tenures as Denver Public Schools superintendent and an executive at Anschutz Investment Co.

“Mike’s school reform background and his strong commitment to children will be a real asset here,” Udall said. “He has a very successful background in finance. ... He took a number of struggling companies and made them successful.”

Udall, who will serve on the Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources committees, said he and Bennet already are planning ways in which they can work together.

“If you look at the combination of experience and skills and perspective that we bring, I think we’re going to cover the state of Colorado very well,” he said.


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