Montana Democrats Respond to Baucus Criticism

By Beacon Staff

Last week, I linked to a column written by three Montana Republican lawmakers for the D.C. newspaper POLITICO. The piece criticized U.S. Sen Max Baucus and alleged that he is out of step with the “real Montana.”

This week, several Montana Democratic lawmakers responded with an editorial of their own. Mainly, they stand by Baucus and his “work to produce a bill that is fully paid for and reduces the federal deficit.” Here it is in its entirety:

There’s a lot of misinformation going around about health care reform, most recently the assertions in an editorial by a group of legislators from Montana.

As state legislators and Montanans, we are proud of the leadership demonstrated by our senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus and his colleagues in Congress to reform our nation’s broken health care system. Although Democrats in Montana do not agree with each other on every aspect of health care reform, one thing is clear: we stand with Senator Baucus in his effort to bring about monumental change to America.

We know Max has taken a Montana approach to solving one of the biggest domestic problems facing our nation. He has been fighting for over a year for a bipartisan, fiscally responsible plan that will reform our health care system and make quality health coverage affordable for all Montanans.

There’s a reason why Max won each of the state’s 56 counties in his last election– because Montanans know that he puts principles before politics.

Just like a rancher mapping out their plans for next year’s production, or the legislature using fiscal prudence to build a budget surplus during tough economic times, Max has held true to his “Montana Comes First” mantra as he works for common-sense solutions while fighting to preserve our right to choose what health plans we want in a free market system.

The bill Max wrote and helped clear the Senate Finance Committee earlier this fall focused on improving the quality and efficiency of the health care delivery system, reducing the skyrocketing health care costs for individuals and small businesses, keeping Medicare strong for Montana’s seniors, and preventing people from being denied health coverage because of health status or pre-existing conditions.

Under reform in Montana, 160,000 seniors would receive free preventive services; 24,200 small businesses could be helped by a small business tax credit to make premiums more affordable; 159,000 residents who do not currently have insurance and 79,000 residents who have nongroup insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange; and 93,200 residents could qualify for premium tax credits to help them purchase health coverage.

We are especially proud of Max’s work to produce a bill that is fully paid for and reduces the federal deficit. This means future generations of Montanans won’t be paying the bill.

Reading the facts and following the progress of the legislation in no way suggests a government take-over is in the works. To suggest as much is just partisan politics that won’t help fix health care any sooner.

The health reform bill being debated in the Senate will take control away from big insurance companies and restore decision-making to the hands of patients and doctors.

Max’s legislation does not increase the government’s budgetary commitment to health care, and recent findings from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office back up this fact.

Furthermore, our colleagues shouldn’t forget the 30-plus years Max has spent protecting Montanans from tax increases. Health reform will provide billions of dollars in tax cuts to help small businesses and working families afford quality health insurance of their choosing.

We write with confidence that Max will not compromise Montana values or the future of our families to finalize a reform bill.

And like the majority of Americans, we are looking forward to seeing the end result of Max’s efforts – expanded health coverage and reduced health care costs for tens of millions of American families.


Senator Gary Branae, Billings
Senator Kim Gillan, Billings
Senator Steve Gallus, Butte
Senator Bob Hawks, Bozeman
Senator Cliff Larsen, Missoula
Senator Lynda Moss, Billings
Senator Trudi Schmidt, Great Falls
Senator Dave Wanzenried, Missoula
Senator Carol Williams, Missoula
Senator Jonathan Windy Boy, Box Elder
Representative Anders Blewett, Great Falls
Representative Julie French, Scobey
Representative Betsy Hands, Missoula
Representative Cindy Hiner, Deer Lodge
Representative Margaret MacDonald, Billings
Representative Diane Sands, Missoula
Representative Jon Sesso, Butte
Representative Kendall Van Dyk, Billings
Representative Franke Wilmer, Bozeman