INDIANAPOLIS | Demonstrating the bipartisanship he's promised will define his tenure in office, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., was sworn in Thursday with two of Indiana's former U.S. senators — Republican Dick Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh — standing beside him.
Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to Donnelly, a Granger, Ind., resident who previously served three terms in the U.S. House.
"I'm the hired help," Donnelly told reporters on a conference call shortly before becoming a senator. "I work for everybody back home and my job is to try to make sure that our state is stronger and our nation is stronger for our children and grandchildren."
Donnelly said he's spoken with Lugar, Bayh and U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., several times since defeating Republican Richard Mourdock in November to win a six-year term in the Senate. The new senator said he plans to follow their examples as he represents Indiana.
"I'm not approaching this as a Democrat or as a Republican, but as a Hoosier," Donnelly said. "We have had just a tradition of being a state where the senators that represent us are not extremists but are ones who are looked to by the entire nation to bring our country together."
At the top of Donnelly's legislative agenda is reducing federal government spending.
"We cannot continue to run deficits; we need to balance our budgets," he said. "I'm very hopeful that together Republicans and Democrats can put spending ideas in place that bring down spending as a percentage of (the gross domestic product) and continue to move our economy forward."
Donnelly said he supports Senate filibuster reform and doesn't believe Congress should risk Hoosier jobs or the nation's credit rating by refusing to increase the national debt limit.
He's also helping organize a bipartisan group of moderate senators to propose policies Donnelly hopes will attract support from both sides of the aisle.
"The best way that we could start to improve the image of Congress is to forget about the political part of it and to do what it is common sense," Donnelly said.