WASHINGTON – Steve Daines was sworn in to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, vowing to work to end gridlock in Washington.
Daines, sporting a striped tie, was escorted into the Senate by fellow Montana Sen. Jon Tester. A smiling Daines stood on the Senate floor around 10:20 a.m. Mountain Time to take the oath from Vice President Joe Biden. Daines used a family Bible his grandfather received after getting confirmed as the pastor of a little Lutheran church outside of Ledger.
The House also swore in all of its members Tuesday, including Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, who was elected in November to replace Daines. Zinke is the lone Montana House representative and the first Navy SEAL in Congress.
“Montanans are tired of the gridlock. They are tired of the partisanship. They want to see results,” Daines said in an interview. “The people of Montana don’t want to see a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ behind our names, they want to see ‘MT.’ We are here first and foremost to represent the people of Montana.”
His ascension to Washington helped Republicans regain control of the Senate. With their majority in the House, they now control both chambers for the first time in eight years.
During a ceremonial swearing-in photo opportunity later in the old Senate chamber with Biden, Daines stood with his family, including his wife, Cindy, and four kids. The vice president introduced himself, shook hands and gave Daines some pointers on where to stand and hold his Bible. “Congrats,” Biden said, while praising Daines’ “beautiful” family. “This is a big day. It was for me, anyway.”
As the pomp and circumstance of the first day fades, lawmakers face a daunting list of issues, from the Keystone XL pipeline and taxes to transportation and the Affordable Care Act. The White House made it clear Tuesday that President Barack Obama will not sign a bill authorizing the pipeline that would pass through Montana, pointing out that a ruling on the pipeline is pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court, and a State Department review continues.
“I’m excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work. We’re starting that today,” said Daines, who earlier cosponsored a bill, the first in the new Senate, that would approve construction of the pipeline.
Tester, a Democrat, said he was looking forward to working with Daines and Zinke “to make sure Montana is well-represented in Washington.”
Daines will spend the next few weeks in Washington adjusting to the Senate’s peculiar traditions and formalities and awaiting a permanent location for his office, a decision that is expected later this spring because of his lack of seniority. For now, he’s operating out of a temporary office in the Russell Senate Office Building. He’ll be ranked 94th among the Senate’s 100 lawmakers.