There are several Democrats who represent coal states in the United States Senate. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and of course Montana’s own Jon Tester.
But Tester is unique among this group. While those other coal-state Democrats have established a track record of working to protect coal jobs, Tester has consistently voted to support every Obama-era regulation designed to kill the coal industry.
Case in point is the Senate’s vote on the Orwellian-named Stream Protection Rule (SPR), which ostensibly protects water near coal mines. I say it’s Orwellian because the SPR doesn’t actually protect water near coal mines – we already do that through a plethora of state and federal regulations. The true purpose of the SPR is to kill coal jobs.
The SPR is not a law passed by Congress, it’s a rule promulgated by President Barack Obama. The Senate has the authority to continue or discontinue rules like the SPR, and this case pushed to eliminate the rule due to the extreme threat it poses to thousands of jobs in the coal industry – including in Montana.
In a bipartisan vote, the Senate did just that – it eliminated this Obama-era rule. And only one coal-state Democrat voted to keep it in place: Sen. Jon Tester. He sided with the Sierra Club over Montana miners.
It’s a calculated move on Tester’s part. He has an election coming up next year. He needs votes, no doubt, and the thousands of Montanans whose livelihoods are supported by Montana coal are an important voting block. But it’s become clear who is even more important to Tester: the big money, out-of-state environmental groups who bankroll his campaign.
Tester has always relied heavily on environmental organizations headquartered in California and Washington, D.C., as his primary source of campaign cash. But this takes it to another level. By blatantly voting to kill Montana jobs and undermine our economy, he’s made it clear that he’s willing to do whatever it takes, sacrificing any Montana interest, in order to keep his political power.
Tester’s lost touch with Montana. It’s time he come home to spend some time with the real people he’s voting to kick out of a job. If not, he might just wake up and find out those same people have voted to do some kicking-out of their own.
Sen. Doug Kary represents Senate District 22 in Billings. He is a member of the Senate Energy Committee.