Montana Sen. Jon Tester joined with a handful of lawmakers voting against reopening the federal government under a compromise deal Monday, while Republican Sen. Steve Daines supported ending the two-day shutdown.
Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., also voted to fund the government until Feb. 8. President Donald Trump signed the bill late Monday, ending the shutdown.
Tester and 17 other lawmakers in the Senate voted no. He said in a statement after the vote that the Senate plan to fund the government for 17 days was insufficient and that a long-term budget was needed. The last federal budget expired Sept. 30, 2016. Monday’s short-term funding extension was the fourth since last fall.
“A 17-day budget is no way to run a household or business, and it certainly isn’t an acceptable way to run a government,” Tester said in an email. “The 17 day budget does not include any funding for community health centers, which provide critical healthcare to 100,000 Montanans. The heads of these medical facilities have told me that if Congress doesn't act they may have to close their doors. And the budget we voted on today did nothing for them. Congress is starving them of essential resources and my vote today said 'not on my watch.'"
Over the weekend, the two-term Democrat from Big Sandy offered a three-day funding extension, which he said would give Congress time to craft a better funding bill.
"It was done because there was some real work being done on the floor, and I thought if we could continue that same kind of dialogue with that same kind of intensity with a three-day CR (continuing resolution) hanging over our heads, that it might encourage the folks, the leadership to roll sleeves and get together."
After the vote, which ended a Democratic filibuster and set up an agreement to keep the government open through Feb. 8, Daines called the shutdown avoidable and pointless.
The compromise to reopen the government also included a six-year extension of the Child Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage to 10 million children. CHIP funding was two months from running out in Montana, but was to run out in other states by month’s end.
“This afternoon Senate Democrats joined us and we were able to pass a bill to end the filibuster, setting us up to reopen the government and ensure our national security needs are met, and provide access to health care for 24,000 Montana kids,” said Daines. "However, this was avoidable. The Democrat shutdown was pointless."
Extending CHIP funding, which also expired last fall, was supposed to lure Democrats into supporting the continuing resolution to fund the government short term. That incentive fell flat, as Senate Democrats held out for protections from deportation for illegal immigrants brought into the United States as children.
Monday’s 17-day deal comes with an assurance from Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that immigration legislation will be considered in the next few weeks.
Tester in the past has voted against protections for illegal immigrants in the U.S. since childhood. He insisted throughout the shutdown that he wasn’t holding out for an immigration bill. However, he did say Friday that the immigration issue needed to be addressed.
Tester was immediately attacked for his vote by several would-be Republican challengers and conservative groups likely to be involved in Montana's U.S. Senate race.
"Jon Tester's vote against re-opening the government makes it clear to the people of Montana that he cares much more about illegal immigrants than our military families at home or our children who rely on CHIP," said Matt Rosendale, state auditor and Senate GOP primary candidate. "Jon Tester's priorities are with the liberal, extreme minority of Democrats in the Senate unwilling to compromise. He does not have Montana's best interests in mind. He has failed to represent Montanans."
However, Rosendale, of Glendive, supported the Republican-led government shutdown of 2013, in which House Republicans threatened to withhold support for funding the government unless the Affordable Care Act was repealed.
“Drastic times call for drastic actions,” Rosendale said at the time. “In order to find a solution, that’s why drastic measures are taking place — to force everyone to the table, to work on a solution and to address the budget and to address the debt.”
Russ Fagg, a GOP candidate from Billings and a former state district court judge, also accused Tester of putting immigrants ahead of Montanans.
"Jon Tester again sides with the most extreme liberal fringes of the Democratic party and puts illegal immigrants ahead of funding health insurance for MT kids and for our military. @jontester is playing a reckless game of politics and has lost touch with Montana. #mtpol #mtsen," Fagg tweeted.
Republican Troy Downing, of Big Sky, a Senate candidate and Air Force veteran, accused Tester of abandoning people in the military.
"The Senate just voted to end the #SchumerShutdown. Astonishingly, @JonTester voted to keep the government closed, and funding for our military & national defense closed off. He cannot be trusted to represent the values of #MT in Washington. #mtpol #mtsen," Downing tweeted.
There were 16 Democrats, two Republicans and an Independent who voted against the deal to reopen the government.