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Mr. Vitter Goes To Washington

House Republican leaders welcomed a new colleague Tuesday: David Vitter of Louisiana.

Vitter replaces former Rep. Bob Livingston, the House speaker-in-waiting who resigned from Congress after acknowledging having had extramarital affairs.

Republicans now outnumber Democrats 223-211 in the House, with one seat held by an independent who votes with the Democrats.

Vitter said he was "honored, humbled, awestruck" to be in Congress.

"My goal in the years ahead is simply this, to become at ease and comfortable with you as I become a responsible colleague. To become at ease with they ways of the House as I become an effective Congressman but never to become so at ease that I lose these feelings of honor, of humility, of awe," Vitter said during a speech on the House floor following his swearing-in ceremony.

The 38-year-old former Rhodes scholar made a name for himself in Louisiana politics by pushing a term limits bill for state lawmakers through a reluctant legislature in 1995. He's also noted more for his ability to get under the skin of his fellow politicians than for a willingness to compromise.

Vitter entered the House on the same day that Speaker Hastert called on House Republicans to unite so they can begin passing parts of their stalled legislative agenda and retain their majority in next year's election.

"I joked with them during my speech and said 'I am landing in Washington on a calm, non controversial week.' It got a lot of laughs. But I am very hopeful that the Republican majority is going to do fine," Vitter said.

Vitter has said he is considering some advice that Livingston gave him about seeking a choice assignment on the House Appropriations Committee.

During the campaign, Vitter said he didn't think he'd have an immediate chance at landing a spot on that influential committee, which Livingston chaired during his last four years. But Livingston, now a Washington lobbyist, said the committee might add two seats, and pledged to try to help Vitter land one.

Vitter ran an anti-establishment campaign and, in a runoff last month, defeated the state's former Republican Gov. Dave Treen despite Treen's endorsements from several high-profile politicos, including Livingston and Gov. Mike Foster.

Livingston, the former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced his resignation as the House debated the impeachment of President Clinton. He has opened a Washington lobbying firm since leaving in February and returned to the House floor for Vitter's swearing in.

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