Billings Gazette opinion: Infrastructure compromise deserves delegation's support

by Billings Gazette Editorial Board

The words “bipartisan,” “compromise” and “Montana” – all in one story – graced the Billings Gazette’s front page Friday.

The story: A deal was reached on a bipartisan infrastructure spending measure that would finance a variety of sorely needed projects in Montana and across the country.

Included, Sen. Jon Tester said, were long-stymied large-scale water projects, as well as airports, roads, bridges, and internet access initiatives.

Tester is to be commended for being one of 10 lawmakers from both parties involved in negotiating the compromise, which is, as per Thursday’s announcement, supported by President Joe Biden.

The bill “will help create good-paying jobs across the state,” Tester said.

Getting to yes was not easy for the negotiators over the past several weeks, and more than once, the deal looked dead on arrival. At $973 billion, the measure is about $1 trillion less than what the President initially proposed – but far more likely to attract Republican votes.

The water projects in Montana, which could amount to $1 billion, include the long-delayed Fort Peck/Dry Prairie Rural Water System.

The White House said the bill also included “the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system.”

All of this is excellent news for Montana, as far as it goes.

There’s still no guarantee the bipartisan deal will attract the 10 Republican votes in the Senate needed to prevent a filibuster – and indeed President Biden’s announcement that the bill would be in “tandem” with another spending bill was an unforced error and a regrettable complication. White House officials hurriedly tried to repair the damage late Friday. We trust this unnecessary, potentially deal-killing linkage will be withdrawn.

Nevertheless, Tester and the other senators from both parties willing to engage on this project have shown great leadership. We urge Montana’s entire congressional delegation to support this vital measure.

The Billings Gazette Editorial Board includes President and Publisher Dave Worstell, Regional Editor David McCumber, and Chief Photographer Larry Mayer.