Baucus, Tester: Energy and War Among Top Remaining Issues

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester said Tuesday they support “de-authorizing” the war in Iraq when Congress returns this fall, part of an agenda that includes more support for renewable energy and money to fight forest fires.

The two Democrats, traveling Montana while on break from Washington D.C., said President Bush needs to return to Congress and make the case for continuing the war.

“I think it’s time we draw it downward,” Tester said of the conflict.

Baucus said Montanans know the war in Iraq “is not working.” He said a strategy is needed that involves the cooperation of neighboring countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, and forces the Iraqi government to take over security of the country.

“We need to tell them they need to get their act together, we are getting out but we are getting out responsibly,” Baucus said.

Baucus said he wants to seek money to establish an $800 million federal trust fund for fighting forest fires. He said an increasingly bigger share of the U.S. Forest Service’s operating budget is getting spent on fires rather than the issues the money was intended for.

“I’ve never seen Montana with so much fire, with so much smoke as we have experienced in the past few weeks,” Baucus told reporters at a news conference.

He said he also wants tax credits that people can use to make their own houses more defensible against forest fires.

Both senators said they want to seek incentives for renewable energy sources like wind power, ethanol and biodiesel as a way to help wean the country off of foreign oil. They said the new energy sources would also help curb global warming.

Both touted accomplishments in Congress so far this year, such as an expansion of the Children’s Health insurance Program, new ethics legislation and an increase in the minimum wage.