By Tim Leeds 

Congress busy before Aug. recess


August 1, 2013

The members of Montana’s congressional delegation have been busy in the last few days before the nation’s lawmakers went into their August recess, including pushing on some signature bills.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., both saw some success Wednesday, with the recess expected to start today.

Commitees approved two of Daines’ bills, one to allow irrigation districts to develop hydropower on federally owned irrigation canals and another to reduce the paperwork and processing for timber harvesting on federal land and also reduce appeals and lawsuits over timber harvesting.

A Senate committee Wednesday passed a bill Tester sponsored in the wake of Edward Snowden leaking classified information about National Security Agency surveillance of Americans. Tester’s bill increases the Office of Personnel Management’s ability, using an already existing revolving fund, to investigate how background checks are conducted on people with access to classified information.

Earlier this week, Tester and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., both pushed on bills that have been stalled in the gridlocked Congress for the last few years.

Baucus’ Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act proposes a combination of ensuring current activities including grazing and existing mining while increasing the size of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and designating others with a special title, conservation management areas.

Baucus drafted the bill in 2011 after working with a variety of groups, ranging from conservation to agricultural groups, that had worked on the issue since 2007.

The same day, Tuesday, Tester lobbied for his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which he first introduced in 2009, which would require logging on some federal land while also designating some new permanent recreation areas and wilderness areas. Tester also wrote his bill in conjunction with the work of a variety of interests, including the logging industry, recreationists and conservationists, who worked out the compromise on which the bill is based.

Baucus and Tester each, also spoke in support of the other’s bill Tuesday.

In June, Baucus also won unanimous bipartisan support from a Senate committee for another of his long-standing bills, the North Fork Watershed Protection Act. That bill provides protection for the North Fork of the Flathead River, a project on which Baucus has been working for nearly 40 years. It is cosponsored by Tester.

Daines introduced his own bill to protect the North Fork in the House in June, a move applauded by Baucus and Tester.

Last week, Tester won unanimous approval from a committee for an amendment requiring a study on how U.S. Postal Service cutting certain delivery programs in rural states like Montana would impact residents and businesses. Tester has slammed a proposal from the Postal Service to cut Saturday deliveries, saying it would hurt rural residents and businesses.

A committee passed a Tester proposal to require senators to file their quarterly campaign finance reports electronically, and Baucus received the votes — including Tester’s — from a committee to continue funding for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, which Baucus cites as helping Montana law enforcement in Missoula, Flathead, Cascade, Lewis and Clark, and Yellowstone counties combat illegal drug use.


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