HELENA — U.S. Rep. Steve Daines said Monday that getting a pro-logging bill through the House was a big victory, and is hopeful of its chances moving forward.
The first-term Republican also said he wants to avoid a government shutdown as part of arguments over government spending and the federal health care law.
Daines told the Montana Association of Counties that the mandate for more logging on federal land will be a boon to local Montana businesses.
Supporters say the measure that passed the House last week will create jobs and improve management of federal forests. Critics argue it is a one-sided industry giveaway that will harm the environment. The White House has threatened a veto.
Daines, in an interview, said he hopes a compromise can be reached with Democrats, and said he hopes to enlist the backing of the state’s U.S. senators, Jon Tester and Max Baucus. Tester has had his own logging and wilderness bill languish in recent years amid partisan differences.
“So part of our job will be educating the White House as well as working with the Senate. And we’re in contact with Sen. Tester, and our staffs are collaborating and working together,” Daines said. “We will be working with the Senate to find a way to get this through.”
Daines said the two previously had been discussing Tester’s Montana-specific bill that aims to mandate some logging in parts of the state, while also expanding wilderness area. That measure is still currently in the Senate.
Some senators on both sides have agreed it is time for some type of forest management bill that would, at least in part, spur logging. Some environmentalists have opposed any of the measures to expand logging.
Tester’s office has made it clear that he prefers “balanced solutions built from the ground up,” like his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. It stalled last year amid partisan differences accentuated by his heated re-election campaign.
In July, Tester and Baucus pitched their plans to a Senate committee. Baucus is backing the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act that is billed as a way to protect current uses of that region.
Daines, who many believe is gearing up for a run at Baucus’ Senate seat, has so far not taken a position on those proposals.
Daines, addressing the battle in Washington D.C. over increasing the debt limit, said the demand to defund the Affordable Care Act is about seeking a deal that deals with debt and spending. But he also said he believes Montanans back the House effort to strike the federal health care law before increasing the debt limit.
“We do not want to see a government shutdown,” Daines said “We need to have a dialogue with the White House and the Senate that will reach a compromise that will keep the government running but also deals with the debt and spending we are seeing in this country.”
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