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CNN Today

107th Congress Convenes; Hillary Rodham Clinton Sworn in

Aired January 3, 2001 - 2:46 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The 107th Congress opened for business today, and it promptly entered the history books. This is the first time the Senate has been divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. And this is the first time a first lady has entered Congress as an elected member.

Hillary Rodham Clinton became "Senator Clinton" today. CNN's Jonathan Karl watched as Vice President Gore administered the oath.

We know where he is now. He hasn't been seen in a few days.

Hello, Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Natalie, yes. Certainly a day for the history books. It was Vice President Gore, just 17 days away from forced retirement, who swore in that new evenly divided Senate. The vice president is in charge. He casts the tie- breaking vote until Dick Cheney takes over when the new administration is inaugurated. That has touched off a fascinating behind-the-scenes power struggle over just how power will be shared in this Senate.

And of course, Hillary Clinton, as you referred to, Hillary Rodham Clinton sworn in as the junior senator from the state of New York. But as the first, first lady to take such a position, she is being sworn in as perhaps the most famous freshman, certainly the most high-profile freshman to take to the Senate. That was her Senate debut on the floor.

Up in the stands, away from camera view, Bill Clinton was on hand, and Chelsea Clinton watching the first lady getting sworn in. As the first lady walked back to her desk after getting sworn in, she got a big bear-hug from the Senate's elder statesman, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was not the only first lady who was sworn in today. There was also Jeanne Carnahan, the former first lady of the state of Missouri. Carnahan's husband, Mel Carnahan, was a candidate for, the Democratic candidate for Senate from Missouri. He was killed in plane crash just two weeks before the election. Two short to get another candidate in.

Carnahan actually won that election, despite the fact that he was decreased. The sitting governor of Missouri then sent his widow, Mrs. Carnahan, Mrs. Jeanne Carnahan, to the Senate to take his place. Yet another historic event without precedent in United States history.

Natalie, back to you.

ALLEN: And Jonathan, any comments from Al Gore today on what this -- what this felt like for him?

KARL: Well, Al Gore earlier in the day addressed the Congressional Black Caucus and gave a speech that was a fascinating talk about bipartisanship and the need for the new evenly divided Congress to get along. But Gore also made it very clear that he is calling on Democrats to stand on principle, saying this a time -- and he was talking to the Congressional Black Caucus, calling them the conscious of the House.

And here's -- what he said to them is, as the conscious of the House, you must know when it is important to cross party lines. You also must know when it's important to draw the line.

So Vice President Gore making quite a benediction here. Of course, many expect it not to his ultimate benediction. Expect him perhaps to once again run for president down the road some time -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Jonathan, thanks.

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