Havre Daily News: Tester talks debt, immigration and TikTok

by Patrick Johnston

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., talked about national debt, immigration and bank failures in a rural press call Thursday where he also weighed in on some state issues, including the recently passed state ban on TikTok.

Tester said the biggest issue in Congress at the moment is obviously the ongoing negotiation and debate over raising the national debt ceiling, with congressional Republicans threatening to let the country default if their demands of the Joe Biden administration are not met.

He said a default like this would crash the U.S. economy almost immediately, destroying retirement savings, multiplying interest rates and sending inflation soaring as the nation’s supply chains collapse.

He said such a catastrophic decision would affect future generations and reduce the nation’s national security, emboldening their adversaries, China especially, and feeding an international political firestorm.

“It will be the biggest mistake that’s ever been made during my time in the United States Senate, by a lot,” Tester said.

He said he’s glad people are finally having some serious talks, but he said he’s not sure how successful they will be given how many House Republicans don’t seem to care what happens.

He said even if House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the administration come to an agreement, they have to get McCarthy’s caucus on board.

Tester said as far as he can tell, there are between 20 and 25 House Republicans that genuinely don’t care if they destroy the economy, as long as they get what they want.

He also talked about the ongoing fentanyl problem in the nation.

He said he’s leading a bipartisan effort to pass the FEND Off Fentanyl Act which will declare fentanyl a national emergency and give the Department of Treasury and law enforcement more tools to go after the organizations that provide the precursor elements used to make fentanyl and the cartels responsible for trafficking it.

When asked about the connection politicians often try to draw between fentanyl and immigration, Tester said illegal immigration is a serious issue, and so is fentanyl, but they are not connected when people actually look at how cartels get the drug into the U.S.

“They’re crooked business men, but they are businessmen nonetheless,” Tester said. “These drugs aren’t coming across in backpacks, they’re coming across in cars and trucks, they’re coming through our ports of entry.”

This is why, he said, they need to invest in technology that will allow the border patrol to scan vehicles for drugs.

He also praised the passage of a Montana law mandating two-year minimum sentences for anyone convicted of trafficking or intending to traffic the drug, something that could be replicated nationwide.

Tester said immigrants coming into the country illegally forfeit their rights and that is an issue that must be dealt with, but these are separate issues.

He said he supports the extension of Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allows migrants seeking asylum to be denied entry to the United States.

Tester said the policy was originally put in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic, but he still thinks it is a necessary tool to “secure the southern border.”

He said practically everyone on the call has ancestors who immigrated to this country, and the U.S. needs better immigration policy, but the issue has become so politicized that that is very difficult to address.

He also talked about the Invest to Protect Act which he is pushing in the Senate, which would create a special grant program to help local law enforcement agencies with fewer than 200 officers in communities, which means a lot for Montana departments.

He said he also wanted, as a member of the Senate Banking Committee, to provide an update on the bank failures that have been happening in the U.S.

Tester said it’s clear that bank executives and regulators have both screwed up and the case of Silicon Valley Bank is particularly heinous.

“It is clear that this was a case of gross mismanagement – not only by the CEO, but by their board of directors – which is why I’ve called for investigations into executive stock sales before the collapse, and it’s why I’m continuing to press regulators to claw back executive bonuses,” he said.

He said regional banks are vital to Montana and he wants to make sure regulators and executives are doing what they need to do and being held accountable if they’re not.

Tester was also asked about Montana’s recent banning of TikTok, saying the company is deserving of scrutiny and the state has every right and plenty of grounds to ban the app.

He said TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified before Congress and it was a “trainwreck” and he and the company should be held accountable through the courts for any “treasonous” things they have done.

Tester talks debt, immigration and TikTok – Havre Daily News