Sen. Tester: “It gives me some hope that it isn’t politics all the time”
Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said Friday the passage of a long-term budget was the first time in six months Congress did much of anything.
Tester met with the Chronicle’s editorial board a day after Congress spent a lengthy night debating a long-term budget bill while threats of another government shutdown loomed, this time coming from Republicans. Tester touted that the bill included rebuilding the military and funding things like infrastructure projects, community health centers, broadband infrastructure and physical infrastructure for the Veterans’ Affairs offices.
Tester also lambasted people who criticized the deal for spending too much money, and said that there wasn’t a peep out of them with the recent tax overhaul that added $2.4 trillion to the nation’s debt. He said there was no doubt that Congress, at some point, had to address the deficit the nation is facing by cutting some things.
“It’s an interesting situation,” Tester said.
He said you couldn’t fund things like health centers, the military, the VA and infrastructure for broadband without finding the money somewhere. He also criticized those who said they wanted to fund health centers in the state and didn’t support the bill that includes funding for them.
“The question is, how do you support them, if you don’t support them? That’s what’s really important,” Tester said.
Moving forward, he said, his priorities are a bill that gives the VA the tools it needs to provide veterans the services they need and hold the VA accountable; legislation for regulatory relief for community banks and credit unions in the state; finding an alternative solution that won’t spend $24 million a mile on a border wall; and working on getting broadband for areas of the state that have no broadband or slow broadband.
Tester also said that Congress needed to act soon on a solution for DACA recipients, commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” the program that gives temporary protection to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, and it needed to be done in a way that worked for them. America has got to be better than that as a country, he said, and that the White House played an important role in that decision.
“To do nothing, I think is very irresponsible,” Tester said.
But he said he is hopeful more bipartisan efforts in Congress, like the passage of the long-term budget bill, will happen. Tester said he was less concerned with the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., than he was three weeks ago, because both Senate party leaders decided to sit down and negotiate.
He said the two parties found out that they agree on more than they disagree on, and that’s how solutions are made. That’s what was good about last week, Tester said.
“It gives me some hope that it isn’t politics all the time,” he said.
As for the senator’s upcoming campaign season, Tester said he’s aware he has a target on his back. But he said that target has been there every time he’s run for his position.
“I feel good about my chances, but it’s going be painful,” Tester said.