Tillis settling in to Capitol Hill routine

Posted June 5, 2015 7:41 p.m. EDT

— Five months into his first term in the U.S. Senate, Republican Thom Tillis says he's still enjoying a honeymoon period on Capitol Hill.

"It's going great," the Republican said Friday while touring the Duke Cancer Center in Durham, where he spoke with doctors and clinical researchers. WRAL News caught up with him there for an exclusive interview.

After a bruising campaign against Democrat Kay Hagan, Tillis is trying to earn his stripes as a pragmatist in the Senate.

"I've spent most of my time reaching across the aisle," he said. "What I'm really trying to do is make sure I understand the priorities and how we can put the limited funding to best use."

Tillis has worked to expand worker visas for North Carolina businesses and preserve a fleet of C-130 cargo planes at Fort Bragg. But he has also opposed President Barack Obama on surveillance and health care issues.

While in the Triangle for the North Carolina Republican Party convention in Raleigh this weekend, he said he's still adjusting to the pace and processes of Capitol Hill, which he said doesn't move as fast as the General Assembly, where he spent the past four years as state House speaker.

"I've come to embrace the fact that we move more slowly for a reason," he said.

As he settles in to his first year as a U.S. senator, Tillis said he still gets chills about the enormous responsibility of the job.

"Every time I walk into the chamber, when I land at the airfield in Baghdad, I never forget what an incredible privilege it is, he said.