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May 30, 2023

Tester supports debt deal, while Daines, Rosendale and Zinke vote against it

Montana's Democratic U.S. senator supported the debt deal that cleared the Senate late Thursday, while all of the Republicans in the state's congressional delegation voted against a bill to raise the federal government's borrowing limit for the next two years.

In the House, a bipartisan total of 314 representatives voted for the bill. Opposition was also bipartisan, with 117 opposed — a mix of 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats. The Senate vote was 63-36.

Democratic President Biden and Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy reached the deal earlier this week to raise the debt ceiling and make some spending reductions, among other changes like alterations to work requirements for those covered by some federal programs.

Congress needed to increase the debt ceiling to keep the federal government from defaulting on its bills. The threshold has been altered 78 times since 1960, according to the Washington Post, though in recent years the issue has become more politically charged.

Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester voted to raise the debt ceiling.

“Defaulting on our debts is not an option because doing so would crash our economy, wipe out Montanans’ retirement accounts, and raise costs on our state’s families and small businesses at a time when folks are already struggling with rising costs," Tester said in a statement emailed late Thursday. "So while this is not the bill I would have drafted myself, Republicans and Democrats came together to craft this agreement that invests in health care for veterans and cuts the deficit.”

Tester supports parts of the bill that preserve health care and benefits for veterans, but has concerns about the process in reaching a deal on the legislation. He also has questioned a limit on military spending. However, did not support amendments to the bill because of delays it could have caused in the legislation's passage.

Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines opposed the deal.

“Washington, D.C., has a spending problem and as a result, our country faces an existential crisis of a nearly $32 trillion national debt and record inflation. Solving this crisis will require real and meaningful spending reform. Failure to do so will result in terrible consequences for our children and grandchildren," Daines said in a statement emailed Thursday evening.

“I opposed the debt ceiling bill because it does not make enough progress toward stopping reckless Washington spending.”

Montana U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale posted a 20-second video to Twitter after the vote Wednesday night, calling it a "bad day" for America. "This is an insult to the American people," Rosendale said of the bill.

Unfortunately, we had a bad night for America. 149 Republicans joined 165 Democrats to add an additional $4 trillion to our national debt - an absolute insult to the American people! pic.twitter.com/WQSwRnrmyM

"The people of Montana did not send me to Washington to vote for a $4 trillion increase to our debt ceiling, which is why I will be voting NO on the Fiscal Irresponsibility Act this evening!" Rosendale said in a separate tweet.

Rosendale is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, which opposed the deal. In a letter Wednesday, the caucus went after Speaker Kevin McCarthy and said the bill "threatens to shatter Republican unity while, more importantly, it misses yet another critical opportunity to save Americans from fiscal ruin."

In a statement emailed Wednesday night, Montana U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke said he voted against the bill because it did not go far enough, though he did support some components.

“The bill was not all bad. It contained modest but needed work on permit reforms and negotiated spending reductions. The problem is that it is just not enough for Montana. We are faced with adding $4 trillion in debt. More has to be done to cut the budget and grow the economy," Zinke said. "Article I of the Constitution is clear — no money shall be withdrawn from the treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations made by law. I strongly believe we need to get back to that fundamental constitutional power."

🚨Why I am voting no to suspend the debt ceiling: pic.twitter.com/ESY6KLUQbl

Zinke also posted a video saying while he respected the people who brokered the deal, "at the end of the day it doesn't meet the bell" because it added $4 trillion to the debt and he felt it did not comply with the U.S. Constitution.

A divided US House of Representatives passed a bill to suspend the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling on Wednesday, with majority support from both Democrats and Republicans to overcome opposition led by hardline conservatives and avoid a catastrophic default.

Holly Michels is the head of the Montana State News Bureau. You can reach her at [email protected]

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Head of the Montana State News Bureau

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