WASHINGTON — Ted Cruz took the oath of office as a U.S. senator at midday Thursday, shedding his political newcomer status and becoming a new federal lawmaker who said he is "honored and humbled" to represent Texas.
Cruz was one of nine new U.S. lawmakers to represent the state for the first time in Washington, including two who represent portions of Tarrant County: Reps. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and Roger Williams of Austin.
"This entire day has been magical," said Cruz, the 42 year old former Texas Solicitor General who had never run for office before and upended state politics with his primary run-off win over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst last summer. Cruz succeeds former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison who retired.
Cruz, speaking to reporters, talked about his own American Dream and how his father, who fled the Castro revolution in Cuba and arrived in Austin with nothing, could watch him being sworn in from the Senate gallery using the father's bible.
"The incredible promise, the incredible opportunity this nation offers," he said. "This is the American Dream."
Cruz said his top priorities were to cut spending and the national debt, push for tax reform and advance regulatory reform. He is also going to be active in judicial appointments.
In an unusual step for a state, both Texas senators will sit on the Judiciary Committee. Cruz said the first day of the 113th Congress was head-turning in more ways than one.
"Anytime anyone addresses me as 'senator,' I turn my head, wondering who they're talking to," he said.
On the U.S. House side, there was a little bit of excitement over the election of the speaker. Although John Boehner, R-Ohio, won re-election, it was a tense roll call, as twelve Republicans - including two Texans - opted to vote for others or not vote at all.
U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, a tea party favorite who was a one-term congressman after the 1994 GOP revolution, voted "present" while U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, made the head-scratching decision to vote for former Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who was defeated in November.
In a statement, Gohmert said, "As this nation continues plunging deeper and deeper into debt every minute of every day, I could not cast a vote for 'business as usual.' With so many talented, brilliant members of Congress, it certainly seems that seven years after our current leader was elected Majority Leader and with our goals now even farther away, it is time for a change from 'business as usual.'"
Veasey enjoyed the big moment of being sworn in.
"Today's swearing-in ceremony marks a great milestone for the people of the 33rd congressional district," said Veasey. "I'm proud and grateful to represent the people who sent me to Congress, and I will be a tireless advocate in Washington. We have an office in Fort Worth and Dallas. We look forward to hearing from constituents about the issues they care about most and how my office can best assist them."