Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
With Congress about to head into it’s August recess, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said he is glad for the break from a busy and politicized session and the chance to touch base with the people of Montana. “We’ve had some knock-down dragouts,” Rehberg said in an interview this morning. “I think everybody’s going to be ready to reacquaint themselves with their constituents.” Several items directly impacting north-central Montana have recently been acted on or are about to be voted on before the session adjourns this weekend, including the agricultural appropriations bill, funding for Essential Air Service and Amtrak, and authorization of the St. Mary’s Water Project rehabilitation that will help repair the irrigation project that supplies much of the water to the Milk River every year. The ag bill will be discussed on the floor of the House today, Rehberg said. Rehberg was one of 19 Republicans who voted for the 2007 Farm Bill last weeked, which passed in the House last week 231-191. He said he supported it with reservations. One major item in the bill is mandatory country-of-origin labeling, which Rehhberg said he has fought for since 2001, and is opposed by major meat-packing and livestock industries, especially in Texas. “We’re going to see that they go down, Rehberg said. “We want to know where our products come from. I think we’re getting close to winning this one.” He said the bill provides many benefits to Montana farmers and ranchers, but at the last minute some urban legislators slipped in provisions that are separate from agriculture. “They shifted emphasis from the Farm Bill to the food stamp bill,” he said. He said he hopes that once it is considered by both the House and Senate in conference committee problems he has with the bill can be resolved. Another major issue worked on by Rehberg as well as Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Montana Democrats, is the authorization of the rehabilitation of the St. Mary’s Water Project. The rehabilitation of the system, first authorized in 1902, to provide water to the Milk River, has been organized on a grassroots level starting early this decade. Baucus sponsored a measure providing $153 million in authorization for the project, the first step in securing actual funding for it. That has passed from conference committee and now needs to be passed by both the House and Senate then sent to the president for his signature. Rehberg said this is the third water project for which he has worked closely with Montana’s senators. “We have done very well working Together,” Rehberg said. “ It’s tough with only three of us, but we have very successfully worked on these.” Rehberg and Baucus and Sen. Conrad Burns, who was defeated by Tester in the last election, worked together to get authorization for the Dry Prairie regional water system and the Rocky Boy’s-Northcentral Montana Regional Water System in previous sessions. The regional systems will provide water to reservations and and groups of communities near Fort Peck and and in north-central Montana. Rehberg also said funding for essential air service, which helps provide commercial flights to eight small airports in Montana including to Havre, and Amtrak funding have both survived the legislative process so far. “Historically, I have had to fight the (presidential) administration and those in Congress who don’t recognize the importance of subsidized air service in an area like Montana,” he said. He said he successfully found a way to add to the appropriation for EAS which allowed the appropriation to leverage another $15 million, and helped defeat an amendment that would have reduced funding last week. Amtrak funding also has passed out of the House and now needs to be reconciled with the Senate appropriation for the service, he said. Baucus and Tester worked together to help secure $1.47 billion for Amtrak in the appropriations committee, which is expected to be considered before the full Senate following the August recess, Baucus’ office said. Rehberg has sponsored eight bills or amendments so far this session, including one on mandatory country-of-origin labeling and another ordering federal recognition of northcentral Montana’s Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Tester sponsored 12 bills or amendments, including a Senate bill to recognize the Little Shell Tribe, and a bill to provide crop insurance and loan guarantees for farmers producing experimental biofuels crops and another to provide loans for producing synthetic gasoline using coal and feedstocks. Baucus has sponspored 51 bills and amendments so far this sesion.