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Our View: Daines, Gianforte need to be straight up with constituents


April 27, 2020

Editor's note: This version adds additional background.

Two of Montana’s federal lawmakers need to start being straightforward with their constituents.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., both have been telling constituents what assistance is being provided by federal COVID-19 aid bills, without telling them some of that aid was added when Democrats delayed passage of the bills containing it to add to the bills..

Both Daines and Gianforte have blasted the Democrats in Congress for delaying the CARES Act that passed March 27, and the additional funding in the Paycheck Protection Program bill that passed Thursday.

What they aren’t telling voters is the bills may not have had the aid they are praising without the Democrats delaying the bills, and if the Republicans had agreed to the additional aid immediately, no delay would have occurred.

While the Democrats could have passed the aid proposed immediately, Republicans also could have agreed to add what the Democrats wanted immediately.

Democrats blocked bringing Senate President Mitch McConnell bringing his proposal -- the outline of the CARES Act -- to the Senate floo March 22 and March 23, and Daines and Gianforte both complained that the Democrats delayed the bill with partisan negotiations.

The vote would have put the bill on the floor for a maximum of 30 hours of debate including the chance to add amendments, with the Democrats refusing to allow that until they had more negotiations on the bill's contents.

The bill passed after 72 hours of negotiations. Not all of what Democrats asked for was included, but more was in the bill than the original draft.

Then both Daines and Gianforte praised funding in the bill that was added during the negotiations and may not have been there without the delay.

Daines, who worked on adding extra unemployment to the bill, voted unsuccessfully to limit one of the additions to the CARES Act, which provided $600 in extra unemployment payments to people who the COVID-19 pandemic sent home. Daines voted to limit the benefits if they paid the person more than they normally earned. He then praised the additional payments without noting that he had tried to limit what passed.

Gianforte also praised the relief funding in that bill — some of which was increased or added by the Democrats in their “unnecessary” negotiations.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. issued a press release, available at https://www.tester.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=7327 , listing some of what he said the bill had — including what he said Demofrats added to McConnell’s original outline.

The same is true of the PPP bill which passed last week. The original bill by Senate President Mitch McConnell would have provided $250 billion for the program — and nothing else.

The Democrats opposed passing the bill until additional funding for other programs was added, and due to concerns about oversight of the program

Both Daines and Gianforte bashed the Democrats for delaying passage of the bill, saying it needed to be passed immediately because PPP was out of funding, and the additional aid could be added later.

Then both praised what the Democrats delayed passage to add, including additional funding for the Small Business Administration’s Emergency Economic Injury Grant Program, additional funding for hospitals and additional funding for COVID-19 testing as well as increasing the PPP funding from $250 billion to $310 billion.

And Gianforte took the cake last week for touting additions caused by a delay he bashed.

“At last, we’re doing right by small businesses and workers today, but it’s overdue after being needlessly held up by partisan games,” a release from his office reported Gianforte said on the floor of the House before the vote.

Then the release touts the items added by the delay:

“The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act provides $310 billion for the PPP, $60 billion for the Small Business Administration’s economic injury disaster loans and grants, $75 billion to support health care providers and hospitals, and $25 billion to expand COVID-19 testing.”

Not only was the delay needed to add those funds — and the same in the CARES Act — if Republicans would have agreed to the changes immediately, the bills would not have been delayed.

If Montana’s federal lawmakers oppose what Democrats are trying to add, that is fine and they should tell their constituents about it.

But then taking credit for what the Democrats add is more than a little disingenous.

Come on, be straight with your constituents.


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