A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

25 January 2018 — 1548 mst


Tester cast a principled vote for community health centers —
but Montanans may think he voted to help illegal immigrants

Jon Tester’s vote to shutdown the government isn’t what’s getting him into trouble. It’s his principled, but politically risky, vote against reopening the government.

That’s because most news stories framed the issue as a vote on protecting the Dreamers, the young people who entered the U.S. illegally as children when their parents brought them into the country without proper authorization. Mostly from Mexico and Latin America, culturally they’re American, hard working, fluent in English, a big net plus for our nation. But unless Congress passes, and the President signs, legislation legalizing their presence here — something not likely to happen as long as Donald Trump is President and Republicans control Congress — they may be rounded-up by immigration agents and deported to the nations where they were born.

Protecting the Dreamers is an important object, but Tester didn’t vote to keep the government closed to protest Sen. Schumer’s deal to punt on immigration. In a 21 January email to Montanans, Tester wrote:

Some Democrats want to hold the budget hostage over immigration, but it was never about immigration for me.

I know we need to reform our immigration system, but we need to do more than just that.

We need to pass a budget that funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and prevents our community health centers from closing, provides long-term certainty for our military, and makes our borders stronger.

And now, because of failed leadership on all sides, the stalemate resulted in a shutdown of the government.

Schumer’s deal secured a six-year reauthorization of CHIP, but not the funding for community health centers that Tester sought. That funding is important for Montana, which is why Tester voted against the deal. His vote, to my mind, was as much a scream of exasperation from a man fed up with Congress’ inability to pass a normal budget as it was a protest against the deal’s adverse impact on Montana. Scream of exasperation or not, it was a principled vote.

But from now until election day, Republicans will accuse him of putting illegal immigrants before hard working, law abiding, Americans, and he’s going to have a very difficult time defending himself. Had I been advising him, I would have told him, “Vote to reopen the government, and issue a strong statement decrying the harm done to Montana by not suitably funding community health centers.”

Jon Tester doesn’t make many mistakes. This may have been one.