A wide ranging bill Montana’s junior senator says will help sportsmen and the federal budget stalled in the U. S. Senate Monday in what Democratic Sen. Jon Tester called a party-line vote.
“Along with 90 million sportsmen and women, I’m disappointed that Republicans and Democrats couldn’t work together today to pass this bipartisan bill, ” Tester said in a statement Monday. “Protecting our outdoor traditions and strengthening our outdoor economy shouldn’t be a partisan issue. This bill will create jobs and strengthen our small businesses, and I will continue pressing to get it through the Senate on behalf of every sportsman and woman around the country. ”
The bill failed to advance to a vote and was placed back on the Senate calendar for possible future consideration.
Tester combined a lengthy list of proposals from both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate in his bill, which received attention as the last bill considered before the Senate recessed for the election and as the first bill it considered when it returned to session.
Tester cites the Congressional Budget Office analysis that says the bill would decrease the federal deficit by $5 million by increasing recreational usage, and he says the bill would continue or improve recreation access and conservation efforts.
Tester and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., have pressed several issues since going back to Washington after the election.
One was to continue the push for approval of construction of a pipeline that would transport oil from Canada to Texas, with an onramp to pick up U. S.-produced oil including in Montana. The two senators joined 16 other Senate lawmakers in sending a letter to President Barack Obama requesting a meeting to talk about approving the pipeline.
The permitting of the pipeline became bogged down primarily due to environmental issues in Nebraska, where the proposed route went over an aquifer that provides water in several states.
In the letter, the senators say that with a new proposal for a Nebraska route nearly completed, they urged Obama to issue a presidential permit as soon as that proposal is finished.
The two also called on the Senate leadership to renew a military use of alternative fuels.
An appropriations bill passed by the House last spring eliminated funding for the military purchase of alternative fuels, something Tester at the time called a step backward and an attack on the biofuels research at Montana State University-Northern, with Baucus saying it was tying the military’s hands and preventing them from investing in U. S.-made fuel, including Montana production.
Baucus and Tester, along with 36 other senators, all but two Democrats, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urging that be stripped from the appropriations bill.
The two Montana senators also said they supported the Environmental Protection Agency rejecting requests to waive the Renewable Fuel Standard, which sets required levels of alternative fuel production. Governors from several states requested the EPA waive the standards due to the drought through most of the country raising the price of corn, saying the ethanol production requirements would increase the shortage and cause problems for ethanol producers and livestock feeders alike.
The EPA found that keeping the requirements would have no impact on ethanol production or the corn supply.
A spokesperson for Baucus said the senator supports opportunities like the renewable fuels standard that cut U. S. dependence on foreign oil and grow Montana jobs by supporting American-made fuels like Montana camelina, “and he’s watching closely to make sure it is implemented in the best way for Montana. ”
Tester also supports the standard, his spokesman Aaron Murphy said.
“(He) believes a renewable fuels standard should be part of a responsible, all-of-the-above strategy to strengthen America’s security by cutting our dependence on foreign energy resources, ” Murphy said.
Tester also continued his opposition to a proposal to move the national animal disease laboratory from Plum Island, N.Y., to Manhattan, Kan., citing concerns that an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease is quite likely if the lab is moved to Tornado Alley in the middle of cattle country, which he says “could decimate the domestic livestock industry, do irreparable harm to the economy, and jeopardize a critical component of our nation’s food security, ” doing as much as $50 billion damage to the economy.
Tester sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano urging her to consider his request “to assess alternative proposals that could provide the innovative research we seek in a manner that makes more sense for taxpayers and does not place our livestock industry or economy at risk — alternatives such as renovating the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to the operational and safety standards required by DHS to continue its research. ”