While Congress has another budget deadline approaching, Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines says he’s focused on longer-term economic and national-security issues – including fortifying the border against a tide of illegal drugs.
“Meth use is up about 400 percent in Montana,” he told MTN News. “That is destroying families and communities.”
Daines said he’ll be looking at various proposals to “combat this epidemic” of opioid and meth use, but that part of it comes back to “securing our borders and stopping the flow of these horrible drugs coming up, primarily, from Mexico.”
Daines talked with MTN News recently about his priorities for 2018, as the Republican-controlled Congress gets down to work in the second year of President Trump’s term.
He said he hopes Congress can iron out a federal budget for 2018 soon, but that he’ll be concentrating on items he says can help the Montana economy, such as energy development, forest management and infrastructure repairs.
On forest issues, Daines backs a bill that will streamline approval of logging projects on federal land and restrict legal challenges by “extreme environmental groups” to those decisions.
“I’d like to see more arbitration resolve those differences instead of having them tied up in … court,” he said.
Timely, active management of national forests can reduce the severity of wildfires that made western Montana a smoke-fest last summer, costing the tourism industry tens of millions of dollars, he says.
He said he’s also hopes the two political parties can stop feuding and work together on funding infrastructure, including more money to tackle a $10 billion backlog of maintenance in national parks.
“We need to take the temperature down in Washington, D.C., and, frankly, in the nation,” Daines said. “It’s time to inject some funds, some resources into our national parks. … It’s the right thing to do for our outdoor economy in places like Montana.”
When asked where Congress will get the money to fund infrastructure, Daines said he’d look first to money that is spent now on foreign aid to governments that are “not friends of the United States.”
But when it comes to immigration reforms, Daines is more in the hard-liner camp.
He said he opposes extending protection for the so-called “dreamers” – immigrants brought to the country as children – and wants to end “chain migration” and the Diversity Lottery visa program.
“We should move to more of a skill-based view (for accepting immigrants),” Daines said, calling for increased border security, including a wall along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border. “We need to … make sure that anybody who is entering our country is not a threat to national security.
“We need to have 100 percent confidence and assurance that we’re not allowing terrorists into this nation.”
“Chain migration” allows U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents in the country to bring some of their relatives to America, and the Diversity Lottery program allows immigrants from selected countries to apply for a visa.
In both programs, immigrants still must undergo background checks and vetting, and, in the case of “chain migration,” waiting periods often can be several years before immigration is approved.