Tester, Daines split vote on ending government shutdown

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Sens. Jon Tester, left, and Steve Daines cast different votes on ending the government shutdown.

Montana’s two U.S. senators split their vote on ending the government shutdown on Monday, with Republican Sen. Steve Daines blaming Democrats for the stalemate and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester calling the measure bad for Montana.

The Senate voted 81-18 to reopen the federal government in its mid-day vote, though the measure must still clear the House. The short-term bill funds the government through Feb. 8.

Tester joined a handful of Democrats in voting no in Monday’s drama, saying it was never about winning a Republican promise to address the fate of so-called Dreamers but rather, what was in the best interest of Montana.

“A short-term, 17-day budget is no way to run a household or business, and it certainly isn’t an acceptable way to run a government,” Tester said. “We are once again seeing a failure of leadership in Washington and I will keep fighting tooth and nail for a long-term budget that funds Montana’s rural health clinics, strengthens border security, and provides our military with the certainty they need to keep our nation safe.”

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Tester also introduced a bill to ensure service members are paid during a shutdown, and that Gold Star families receive assistance. But in breaking with red-state Democrats who went along with the majority vote to end the shutdown, Tester drew immediate condemnation from Republicans, including the Montana Republican Party.

“It’s absolutely wrong that he continues to pursue this hostage-taking strategy to protect illegal immigrants over our military, seniors and children,” the state GOP said in a press release. “He should be ashamed of himself for continuing to support a government shutdown.”

Tester, who is up for reelection this year, shrugged off the partisan criticism. He said the short-term budget patch didn’t include funding for Montana’s community health centers, nor additional resources for border security.

“While many people wanted to make this about immigration. This was always about Montana for me and I just won’t allow Washington to keep failing our state,” he said.

Daines said the Democratic Party was entirely responsible for the shutdown. The government funding bill includes a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and keeps the government open for the next 17 days.

“This afternoon Senate Democrats joined us and we were able to pass a bill to end the filibuster, setting us up to reopen the government and ensure our national security needs are met, and provide access to health care for 24,000 Montana kids,” Daines said in a statement. “However, this was avoidable. The Democrat shutdown was pointless.”

This article originally appeared on Missoula Current, an independent online newspaper, of which Martin Kidston is the founding editor.

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