For those who haven’t watched Montana Sen. Jon Tester’s speech on the Senate floor from last week, it’s worthy of review. According to Tester, when President Donald Trump has asked for border security funding in the past, he has been provided it by the relevant committees, but the Senate failed to pass the same. Since POTUS lost his patience, he shut down the government for the sake of gaining leverage to obtain border security funding. I understand POTUS’ frustration. He asked for funding, and it was approved at the committee level, only to be rejected on final hearing in the Senate. Tester indicates he doesn’t know why the amount requested is necessary, as POTUS will not explain the full budget request of $5.7 billion. As a fiscal conservative, I agree every budget request should be justified, and if Tester cannot get the details of the budget request, POTUS should provide them. Tester argues that border security negotiations can occur without a government shutdown, but in light of the antics demonstrated over the course of the last two years, I am not convinced this assertion is true. I am convinced that 800,000 families should not be pawns in policymaking.
Tester’s statements unfortunately are not supported by Democratic Party leadership. By declaring border security “immoral,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi created a position she cannot deviate an inch from without being undermined by her own words. This is a tragic misstep on her part, and the credibility of the Democratic Party suffers for it. Simple logic dictates border security is necessary and both she and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer have said the same in the past. So now we have Democratic leadership condemning border security, while ignoring its own hypocrisy. And, while Pelosi is busy policing morality, she overlooks her colleagues partying in Puerto Rico, while 800,000 families are selling their household goods in order to pay their mortgages.
POTUS has indicated a willingness to negotiate. Perhaps Tester should be appointed by the Democrats to negotiate in good faith on the basis of the statements made in his most recent speech. Since Montana ranks No. 12 among states most affected by the government shutdown, Tester has a compelling need to find compromise.
In the meantime, all of us know Montanans employed by the Forest Service, Homeland Security, or the Park Service. During the shutdown, please keep in mind these folks don’t get a paycheck, yet some are required to work without pay. These folks have mortgages to pay just like the rest of us, and some cannot get a second job because their federal job restricts them from doing so. It’s incumbent upon us to help them out when we can, and thank them for their service.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.