Sen.-Elect Tim Kaine urged Republicans and Democrats to work together and build consensus, a day after he defeated George Allen for a crucial Virginia Senate seat.
During a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Kaine stressed the need to find a solution to to the government's financial woes before the end of 2012.
"I think there is a huge opportunity that has to be seized in Congress between now and the end of the year, to find a path forward so that we can avoid some of the catastrophic consequences of either deep sequestration cuts or willy-nilly expiration of all the Bush tax cuts," he said.
"If those were to happen because Congress couldn't find a path forward to working on a deal, it would send a very bad signal generally about our ability to work together, and also hurt the economy," he continued.
While Kaine won't take office until January, he said he'll continue to advocate for bipartisanship, and that he had tried to remain positive and focused on Virginia's future during a bruising campaign.
Voters "saw the targeting; they saw the negative ads but they wanted to embrace a positive message," Kaine said.
During his term, he said, will focus on building infrastructure, elevating small businesses, and "making America the most talented place on earth."
Economic power in the 21st century will be driven by education and immigration, he said. "If we do them right, they are the best guarantee of long-term economic success."
But to accelerate job growth, members of Congress are going to have to learn to cooperate. "I actually believe that the principal shackle around the American economy right now has been congressional dysfunction," he said.
On Tuesday night, Kaine -- who has served as governor of Virginia, chair of the Democratic National Committee, and mayor of Richmond -- added senator-elect to his list shortly before 11 p.m. as Allen conceded the race.
With 97 percent of the state's precincts reporting, Kaine led Allen 52 percent to 48 percent, a margin of slightly more than 172,000 votes.
An exuberant Kaine hit the stage to make a victory speech, but he had barely begun when he interrupted himself with even bigger news for the Democratic crowd, NBC4's Julie Carey reported.
"NBC just called the presidential race," he said, but his next words were drowned out by the crowd, which erupted in screams and cheers.
It was a moment that duplicated the history made four years ago, when for the first time in 40 years, Virginia voters selected a Democratic presidential candidate. They also picked a Democratic senator, Mark Warner, in 2008.
This year, with first-time Sen. Jim Webb (D) retiring, Republicans had hoped to put the open seat in GOP hands. Webb had defeated Allen in a similarly close Senate race in 2006.
"If anyone had the sense after 2008 that it was just a fluke, last night demonstrated that it was not," Kaine said Wednesday.
Many political observers saw the seat as key in swinging the balance of the Senate. Of the 33 Senate seats up for grabs in this year's election, 21 were held by Democrats, including the seat for which Allen and Kaine battled.
The win, Kaine said Tuesday night, sends a message: "Our victory tonight proves that it's the number of people who stand with you, not the number of zeroes behind a check, that define elections," he told crowds during his victory speech Tuesday night.
He struck a more moderate tone during his Wednesday press conference.
"Congress can seem to a lot of people now like, 'oh, what a horrible institution,' but the history of the Senate and the history of Congress is not a one-way path to dysfunction...." he said. "There have been moments of great service and function and then moments of great problems."
But, he said, "If you listen to the voices of the electorate, they are telling us over and over and over again to work together."
For the latest results in the race, click here.