Tester talks shutdown, hunters education, military issues
Last updated 9/22/2023 at 12:17pm
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., talked about the prospect of a government shutdown, new military equipment for the Montana National Guard, and his opposition to the U.S. Department of Education's recent push to withdraw funding for bow hunting and gun safety programs in a press call Thursday morning.
Tester said the biggest thing on people's minds at the moment is the looming possibility of yet another government shutdown threatened by the Freedom Caucus, a group of hardline conservatives, in Congress.
He said a shutdown would be bad for everyone in this state and beyond, significantly disrupting the work of the federal government and wasting billions for a political stunt.
"Shutting down the government would be stupid," he said. "It would hurt our national security, it would embolden our foreign adversaries, particularly China. ... A shutdown would hurt our veterans and their VA benefits. A shutdown would be bad for Montanans, it would be bad for Americans across the board."
He said he agrees with many in Congress when they say the nation's debt is too high, but there is a process for addressing that.
He said the appropriations bills, over which this fight is happening were passed almost unanimously in the Senate, and if there were objections to be made then that should have happened earlier in the process, not at the 11th hour.
To those in Congress, the House of Representatives especially, Tester said, he has only one thing to say at this point: "Do your damn job."
As for military affairs, Tester said, he is happy to announce that the Montana Air National Guard has been approved to receive eight brand new cargo planes with increased cargo capacity, ones with state-of-the-art electronics that will help the guard fight fires, perform search and rescue operations and much more.
"In short, it will give one of the best Guard units in the nation some of the best equipment the U.S. has to offer," he said.
Unfortunately, he said, not all the military-related news is good as hundreds of military promotions continue to be held back by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.
Tuberville continues to object to a U.S. Defense Department policy that reimburses service-members' or their dependents' travel for reproductive health care - care that could, potentially, include an abortion - and he has resolved to block or delay as many promotions as possible until the policy is done away with or altered.
Tester said Congress has been able to bypass Tuberville to make a handful of very important promotions to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but there are still hundreds of promotions to address, and the ensuing lack of leadership within the military cased by this delay is a huge detriment to readiness and national security.
He said this hurts the military's recruitment efforts and is also disrupting the lives of the people in the military themselves, causing turmoil in their own lives as they are held in limbo wondering what their future with the military is.
Tester also talked about his opposition to a new policy by the Joe Biden administration to prohibit federal funding for school programs that teach bow hunting and gun safety and shooting sports, a measure he said displays ignorance of Montana's way of life and a disregard for Montanan's Second Amendment rights.
He said hunting is part of Montana's identity and if young people are going to hunt they should learn how to use bows and guns safely.
He said he is introducing a bill to direct the department to reverse course on this decision and he expects that it will get wide, if not unanimous, support from both parties given how self-evidently foolish the move was.
"I can't justify it, it was stupid," he said.
Another military matter he talked about was the continuing U.S. support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia's invasion.
Tester said there are people in Congress who want to see the U.S. pull its support for the ailing nation and he is absolutely not one of them.
He said the U.S. must honor its commitment to preserving democracy outside its borders, and if it doesn't that will only embolden the authoritarian regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"If the United States won't stand for democracy, then this nation has changed," he said.
If Ukraine loses this fight, which they will without U.S. support, he said, Putin will have a corridor to Poland, a NATO nation which, if attacked, must be defended with boots on the ground troops from the U.S.
By aiding Ukraine in its fight against Russia NATO nations are avoiding that scenario, Tester said.
Tester also commented on this year's Farm Bill, which he said he was hoping to see pass by the end of the month, though that looks very unlikely.
He said the sticking point for now seems to be trying to work in a raise in grain reference prices, which he said has not kept up with rising costs, and where to find the money to do that.
Otherwise, he said, it looks like a good bill so far, and as long as it gets passed by the end of the year there shouldn't be too many problems.
Before signing off he said he hopes everyone in the area has had a good harvest and that everyone enjoys the fall weather.