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By Tim Leeds 

Lawmakers still at odds on debt crisis


Montana's U. S. lawmakers continue to be on opposite sides of the fence on the compromise bill that just passed Congress, as well as the bills that previously passed the House that were shot down in the Senate and a Senate bill that the House killed before senators had a chance to vote on it.

After weeks of partisan scuffling over raising the nation's debt ceiling, including the Senate killing two conservative bills from the House and the House killing a Senate bill Saturday, a deal negotiated between the White House and top lawmakers passed today.

"For months, small business owners, seniors and veterans across Montana have been asking me to support a bipartisan agreement to avoid economic default and to make real spending cuts, " Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement this morning following the Senate vote. "The debate on this issue has shown the worst of Washington. But real problems require tough votes, not politics-as-usual excuses.

"This bipartisan agreement takes us in the right direction, but it is not the long-term solution Montana needs, " Tester added. "A long-term solution involves closing tax loopholes for millionaires and corporations that ship jobs overseas, and it will involve strengthening Medicare and Social Security so they don't go broke for future generations. "

Both Tester and Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg — opponents in the 2012 race for Tester's seat — took shots at the votes for or against the compromise bill that passed today and the previous bills defeated in Congress.

Rehberg, one of 66 Republicans and 95 Democrats who voted against the bill in the House, called it full of gimmicks, and decried its lack of requiring a balanced budget amendment to the U. S. Constitution.

"Unfortunately, today's legislation, while well-intentioned, is little more than business as usual for Washington, " Rehberg said in a release Monday after the House vote. "It contains more budget gimmicks, another commission, the possibility of tax increases and delay tactics to push the tough choices off until after the next election.

"But we simply cannot afford to wait any longer, " Rehberg added. "Before allowing Washington to add nearly $10,000 more to the tab of every man, woman and child in this country, let's do everything we can to prevent it from happening again. "

Tester took the opposite view Monday after the House vote.

"Montanans expect bipartisan solutions from their lawmakers, and I applaud the majority of representatives who understand that we cannot afford an economic default, seniors and small businesses, and Montanans deserve better, " he said in a release Monday. "A vote against this bipartisan bill is a vote against real spending cuts. "

Prior to the House vote, Montana's senior senator, Democrat Max Baucus, said he supported the deal.

"This compromise makes sure we can pay our bills now, start cutting spending right away and keep us working down a path to balancing the budget, " Baucus said in a release. "It's not the plan that any one of us would have written by ourselves. Like any compromise, there are things in this deal I support wholeheartedly and other pills that are tougher to swallow.

"But right now our number one priority has to be making sure our troops get their paychecks, our seniors get their Social Security checks and our small businesses and working families get the certainty they need to keep our economy moving forward — and that's why I support this compromise, " he added.

Rehberg again expressed his support for sending a balanced budget amendment to the states for approval.

"The only sure-fire way to stop the politicians from spending money we don't have is by passing a balanced budget amendment as part of the plan to increase the debt limit, " he said in Monday's release. "A balanced budget amendment is good enough for Montana and it ought to be good enough for Congress. "


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