HELENA - U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) was one of only 18 senators who voted “no” Monday on a deal to fund the federal government another 17 days and end a brief government shutdown.
Montana’s other U.S. senator, Republican Steve Daines, voted for the procedural motion that passed 81-18 to allow a vote on the deal, which passed the Senate and House Monday. President Trump indicated he would sign the stop-gap spending measure.
Daines noted that the bill includes a six-year reauthorization of federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), which provides coverage for about 24,000 Montana children in lower-income families.
He also said the shutdown of the federal government since early Saturday morning was “avoidable,” and that the “Democrat shutdown was pointless.”
Montana’s U.S. House member, Republican Greg Gianforte, voted for the deal Monday evening and sounded a similar note.
“This all could have been avoided,” he said. “I’m disappointed that Senate Democrats cut off government funding, troop pay and kids’ insurance for political games.”
The federal government shut down at midnight Friday after most Senate Democrats, including Tester, and some Republicans voted successfully to block a short-term budget patch.
Tester told Montana reporters Monday afternoon that he opposed the latest deal because it’s yet another short-term fix, which doesn’t include funding for community health centers and other programs.
“I believe that Montanans deserve better than a 17-day, short-term budget,” he said. “It is no way to run a household or business and is certainly not an acceptable way to run a government.”
Congress has now passed four “continuing resolutions” to keep the government operating, rather than approve a long-term budget for fiscal 2018, which began last October.
Tester joined 14 Democrats, two Republicans. and one Independent in voting against the deal on Monday.
Political opponents of Tester, including several Republicans vying for the party’s nomination to challenge his re-election this fall, ripped into Tester for his “no” vote Monday, saying he had sided with the “extreme fringes” of the Democratic Party that was trying to extract protection for illegal immigrants.
“Jon Tester’s vote … makes it clear to the people of Montana that he cares much more about illegal immigrants than our military families at home or our children who rely on CHIP,” said state Auditor Matt Rosendale in a statement. “(His) priorities are with the liberal, extreme minority of Democrats in the Senate unwilling to compromise.”
Tester said while some Senate Democrats might have been holding out for a bill to protect immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, his opposition was based on his belief that short-term budgets are harming the state.
“This was about putting pressure on leadership and get them to the table and quit fooling around with their budget, and put something out there that works, and works over the long haul,” he said. “If my opponents want to criticize me for standing up for Montana, they can do it.
“I am not wired to set back and say, `We’re just going to keep tolerating this nonsense day after day after day.”
Tester said he hopes the shutdown “got some people’s attention” and will lead to a longer-term budget that funds important programs for the rest of the fiscal year.
“No more Band-Aid budgets, no more kicking the can down the road, no more failure from leadership,” he said.