MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer HELENA
U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg said Saturday that Democrats are using their big advantage in Washington D.C. to push through too much social reform. The Montana Republican, the last significant GOP officeholder in a state the party once owned, addressed a convention of the Montana Republican Party. He said Democrats are providing voters a true look at what the alternative looks like. "I couldn't ask for a better contrast in philosophies than we have seen in the first 100 days of this administration," Rehberg said. The Montana Republican Party met to choose a new chairman as it prepares for the 2010 midterm elections after a series of tough elections. Democrats control all five statewide offices from the governor on down and both U.S. Senate seats. But the GOP still believes state voters more naturally identify with the Republican message of limited government. The party notes that last year, despite facing a big money disadvantage, they were able to still carry the state for John McCain and pick up state legislative seats. The party hopes to build on that by focusing on the growth in government seen in Washington D.C. Rehberg said Democrats are ignoring a fiscal crisis and overspending at a rate never seen before. The state's sole congressman said minority Republicans must be a "check and balance" to the Democrats in an attempt to bring public scrutiny to ideas that go too far. Rehberg said he is advancing an energy policy that doesn't increase the cost of fossil fuels through "cap and trade" fees, and instead promotes the development of alternatives with incentives. At the same time, he said the country needs to build more nuclear plants. On health care, he said some ideas for decreasing costs without constructing a huge government-run system would be to promote insurance collectives or cooperatives and provide incentives for healthy living. "There are all sorts of things we could do other than just say 'We must have a government-run system,'" Rehberg said. Rehberg said Democrats have a big enough vote advantage in Congress that they can push their agenda in a way that Republicans were unable to do under President Bush. But the GOP must still try to offer alternative proposals, he said. "Do we know if we are going to be shut down? We don't know," Rehberg said. "We are not going to give up on that."