BOSTON — Scott Brown says he has already told Senate Republican leaders they won't always be able to count on his vote. The man who staged an upset in last week's Massachusetts Senate special election, in part by pledging to be the 41st GOP vote against President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that he staked his claim in early conversations with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip Jon Kyl.
"I already told them, you know, `I got here with the help of a close group of friends and very little help from anyone down there, so there'll be issues when I'll be with you and there are issues when I won't be with you,'" Brown said Thursday during the half-hour interview. "So, I just need to look at each vote and then make a proper analysis and then decide."
Asked how McConnell and Kyl responded, Brown said, "They understood. They said, `You can probably do whatever you want, Scott. And, so, just let us know where your head's at, and we'll talk it through, and just keep us posted.'"
The senator-elect did not elaborate on possible breaking points, though the Washington newcomer dismissed any suggestion he will relent once he starts working in the highly partisan capital.
"That's not pressure; pressure is what I'm going through right now," said Brown. He cited his efforts to complete a transition in 2 1/2 weeks, compared with the normal 2 1/2 months for regularly elected senators, while preparing to surrender his responsibilities as a state senator, become a Beltway commuter and resume his triathlon training.
He started Thursday with a one-hour bike ride and 1,500-meter swim.
"I'm trying to do it very well and be balanced and still get my workouts in," said Brown. "There's nothing wrong with having good conversation and debating. We do it here in our own caucus, at a smaller level. ... It's just a different building, really."
Brown beat Democrat Martha Coakley to win the seat held for nearly a half-century by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. The result rocked both the Democratic Party and the Obama administration, who viewed the seat as safe and Coakley as the pivotal 60th vote to preserve a Democratic supermajority in the Senate.
Obama responded to the voter anger expressed in the election by retooling his administration's focus from the health care overhaul to job creation. It was the focus on his State of the Union speech Wednesday night, which Brown watched.
"I thought it was a good first step," said Brown. "And I appreciated his sort of overtures to have more transparency and move involvement between the parties."
Yet the senator-elect said he was concerned some spending controls and other changes were not projected to take effect until 2011. He called for an immediate across-the-board tax cut and a reduction in payroll taxes.
"We need to move now. People are hurting now. The economy is hurting now," he said.
Brown expects to be sworn in on Feb. 11, after all absentee ballots are counted and Massachusetts has certified the special election results. Until then, he is trying to function amid a whirlwind.
His office has been besieged with job seekers. He is meeting next week with Education Secretary Arne Duncan as he tries to clarify his legislative priorities. He had to ask a reporter how much his new job paid; it is $174,000 annually.
Brown also is trying to determine how his election will affect his 30-year National Guard career.
He said he will most likely be blocked from active duty with his military legal team, since as a U.S. senator, he would be a more valuable target for the enemy. Brown is speaking with generals in Washington about how to best fulfill his responsibilities, which include duty one weekend per month and two weeks per summer.
"Maybe it's talking to troops, maybe it's working in the Pentagon," he said. "It's something I've been doing since I've been 19. I don't know what I'd do without it, to be honest with you."
Brown also said he hopes to use his newfound celebrity to achieve one personal goal: meet cyclist Lance Armstrong.
"I would love to go on a bike ride with Lance Armstrong, just for those few hours, just like to say hi, just to like hug him," said Brown.