Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today to welcome the next Senator from Montana and to highlight the hypocrisy of Republicans' opposition to the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Today it is my pleasure to welcome the next Senator from Montana, Lt. Governor John Walsh. Lieutenant Governor Walsh will be sworn in prior to the weekly caucus meetings. I am confident that General Walsh will find his time here among the most rewarding experiences of his distinguished career.
John Walsh has spent his entire adult life serving the people of Montana and our nation. Lieutenant Governor Walsh served in the Montana Army National Guard for more than three decades. After enlisting as a private, Walsh rose through the ranks to lead the Montana National Guard as adjutant general.
He led 2,000 Guardsmen in the response to devastating wildfires in 2000. General Walsh also led 700 soldiers of the Montana National Guard's 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry Regiment in combat in Iraq. It was the largest mobilization of Montana guardsmen since World War II. The battalion was awarded the Valorous Unit Citation, and General Walsh received a Bronze Star for his service.
In 2008, General Walsh was appointed adjutant general of the Montana National Guard. He led the state's guardsmen until 2012, when he retired from the National Guard to continue his public service in a new capacity -- as lieutenant governor of Montana.
Both as adjutant general and as lieutenant governor, John has fought for access to education for veterans and for every Montana child. The Walsh family places great value in the power of education. Lieutenant Governor Walsh was the first member of his family to graduate from college. And his wife of 29 years, Janet, has taught in public school in Montana for 17 years. In fact, John and Janet met while they were both attending Carroll College in Helena. They have two children and one grandchild. The Lieutenant Governor went on to finish his bachelor's degree at the State University of New York in 1990. And he received his master's degree at the U.S. Army War College in 2007.
John Walsh possesses a true, independent Western spirit and a commendable dedication to the people of Montana. I have no doubt that he will continue to serve his state and our nation with distinction as a United States Senator.
In addition to General Walsh's swearing-in, I expect that this afternoon the Senate will adopt the motion to proceed to legislation to restore the earned pensions of military retirees. This measure restores cost of living adjustments for military retirees. And although no veteran will be affected until the end of next year, there is no reason to delay a solution. I will continue to work with my Republican colleagues to reach an agreement to process amendments and pass this important measure.
THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
On another topic, I was surprised this morning to hear Republicans howling over President Obama's decision to ease the transition for medium-sized businesses to providing health insurance for all their employees. Republicans have complained health care reform is a burden to employers. Now they're complaining that President Obama is trying to ease that burden and smooth the transition to the new system.
But this Republican duplicity should come as no surprise. After all, Republicans are the ones who invented the individual mandate -- a conservative idea that every American has a responsibility to seek insurance to cover their health care needs and the government has a responsibility to make that coverage accessible and affordable. But now Republicans are attacking their own brain child -- the individual mandate. And Republicans are willfully ignoring the fact that the Affordable Care Act creates a transition period for individuals to obtain insurance as well.
It's time for Republicans to stop talking out of both sides of their mouths. If they have legitimate concerns about the Affordable Care Act -- and not just political gripes -- they should work with the President and with Democrats in Congress to fix and improve the law. Otherwise, they should stop complaining and get out of the way.