Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Editorial: The Senate provides a breath of fresh air

by Chronicle Editorial Board

Ten U.S. senators, five Republicans and five Democrats, working with the White House, have put together a once-in-generations, $1 trillion infrastructure bill with the potential to boost the national economy to a new level.

A few of those senators are big names – Republicans Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Joe Manchin. But some were not, including Montana Democrat Jon Tester.

The 10 senators – just 10% of the upper chamber – weathered storms of criticism from cable TV talking heads, struggled back from declarations of certain doom and fended off efforts from former President Trump to sabotage the bill by threatening primary challengers to any Republican who supported the bill.

On the final Senate vote, 19 Republicans joined all the Democrats to push through the brick wall of the filibuster – an arcane Senate rule that forces the need for a 60-vote majority on almost all major legislation in recent years. Montana’s junior senator, Republican Steve Daines, voted against it.

With little fanfare, Tester toiled through it all to help craft this landmark legislation. Unless they’re policy wonks, most Americans wouldn’t recognize his name. That’s the stuff of true governing – the hard work done out of the limelight.

The bill still faces an uncertain future in the House, which is slated begin work on it this week. If it passes there, Montanans will reap the rewards of Tester’s effort. He estimates the bill will provide Montana with some $3 billion for highways and bridges and another $144 million for airports, including $21.7 million for Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, the state’s busiest. It also includes money for broadband in underserved rural areas as well as wildfire risk reduction projects.

In these times of deep ideological division, where we can’t seem to see eye-to-eye on the time of day, much less the best ways to battle a deadly pandemic, watching this legislation develop and pass out of the Senate was a badly needed breath of clean, fresh air.

All Montanans should be proud their senator was an integral part of that.