The former NFL and University of Tennessee quarterback was sworn into office Thursday as a member of the 110th Congress, joining 41 other freshmen Democrats taking seats in the House during ceremonies in the nation's capital.
The pro-gun, anti-abortion politician ran on a platform of socially conservative and fiscally liberal values, both of which resonated in a religious district hit hard by the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs.
Shuler has become a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative Democrats who favor a balanced budget and fiscal discipline. He holds some views that starkly contrast those held by newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Several Republicans cheered when Shuler was sworn in, though he downplayed his differences with Pelosi after meeting with the liberal California Democrat on Thursday.
Shuler said he told Pelosi they would disagree on some issues, including gay marriage and abortion. But he said he supported raising the minimum wage and using existing embryos for stem cell research.
"I'm here to represent the people of my district," Shuler said. "She's here to represent hers. She said, 'If we vote against each other it's because we're voting with our districts.'"
In his first order of official business, Shuler planned to introduce a bill Friday on fiscal responsibility drafted by members of the Blue Dog caucus, said Shuler's district director Bruce Peterson. The bill is intended to mandate a "pay-as-you-go" approach to government spending and to control congressional earmarks.