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Hutchison takes office as senator

Kay Bailey Hutchison was sworn in Monday as a Republican senator from Texas, becoming the seventh woman currently serving in the Senate _ a record _ and one of only 22 women ever to have served.

Hutchison will complete the remaining year and a half of the term of Lloyd Bentsen, a Democrat who resigned in January to become treasury secretary.

"I just had probably the most exciting moment of my life," Hutchison told reporters after she was sworn in by Vice President Al Gore. "I had 532 friends from Texas who flew up this morning, who took part in this very historic occasion."

Hutchison's election was bad news for President Clinton as it cut the Democrats' majority in the Senate from 57 to 56, making it even more difficult for Democrats to bust Republican filibusters and pass Clinton's budget and spending proposals.

She easily defeated Democratic interim Sen. Bob Krueger in a special runoff election June 5.

Hutchison dismissed as "political" an Austin, Texas, investigation into charges of tampering with government records. A grand jury probing the allegations issued subpoenas Thursday for Hutchison's records and those of more than a dozen employees who had worked for her in the state treasurer's office.