Nicole Girten

(Daily Montanan) Gov. Greg Gianforte said Montana would continue to send resources — referring to National Guard troops — to the southern border at an event Sunday in Texas alongside 14 other Republican governors.

Meanwhile, Montana’s U.S. senators said Monday they are split on how they’ll vote for a new immigration bill worked out between the White House and Senate, with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester critiquing the “irony” from those opposed to the bill, including Republican Sen. Steve Daines, and Daines criticizing President Joe Biden.

In a press call Monday, Tester said he found it ironic the politicians “blindly” opposing this bill in an election year “are the very same ones who said loudly for years that we need policy changes to secure the border.”

In a statement, however, Daines said President Biden could have resolved the border crisis on the first day of his presidency, but didn’t, “and the disastrous results speak for themselves.”

Gianforte said Montana “stands with Texas in this fight” during his visit during the weekend. The event in Texas was streamed via Facebook Live.

“Montana has had our soldiers here on the southern border for most of last year,” Gianforte said of the National Guard troops deployed. “And Governor (Greg) Abbott, we’re committed to stand with you and continue to provide resources so that we can protect the citizens of the United States and our country.”

Gianforte and the other GOP governors present criticized Biden’s response to the border crisis, which Gianforte said is to blame for a 78% increase of fentanyl in Montana communities in the last year.

“Our states are being invaded by the people crossing illegally,” said Gianforte, who did not offer more specifics at the event. “Our Constitution gives the states the right to self defense. That’s what Governor Abbott’s doing, and that’s why we’re here standing with him today. Biden is doing the exact opposite.”

The governor’s office said Monday Gianforte, who owns a private jet, personally covers the cost of his air travel, including his trip to Texas.

The $118 billion financial aid package unveiled Sunday includes funds for securing the U.S.-Mexico border as well as money for Ukraine, Israel and other foreign interests. Tester said he supports the package, while Daines is opposed.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, has said the bill is “dead on arrival” in the lower chamber.

Four months of bipartisan negotiations produced the immigration portion of the legislation, which would stop allowing migrants to wait in the U.S. for their case to be heard by an immigration judge and give more authority to the executive branch to immediately shut down the border if border authorities become overwhelmed.

Daines said in a statement Monday it makes “no sense” to bring the bill up for debate in the Senate if House Republicans are united against it. Daines also critiqued the Biden administration, saying the president could have “secured the border on Day One of his presidency” but didn’t, and the “disastrous results speak for themselves.”

“Reversing the effective policies of President Trump turned the southern border into one of the biggest national security risks in our country’s history with illegals streaming across who are on the FBI’s terror watch list as well as from countries that are designated as state sponsors of terror,” Daines said.

In the press call, Tester spoke to the bill’s potential to help with what he said was needed manpower and technology, like artificial intelligence, to ramp up enforcement on the border.

“It’s a strong, common-sense deal that would go a long way toward securing our border. No one gets everything they wanted, but that isn’t a reason to oppose it,” Tester said.

Tester also said Monday he’s seen Daines go to the border for years “talking about how the border’s broken.”

“It’s a little disturbing to see that he’s going to oppose it,” Tester said.

Tester said he thinks Biden “deserves some blame” and critiqued the administration’s ending Title 42, the policy the U.S. used to turn away migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic, without a plan in place.

Ultimately, Tester said, it’s up to Congress to “change our broken laws that simply aren’t working.”

Montana’s two Republican House members, Rep. Matt Rosendale and Rep. Ryan Zinke, have also spoken against the border bill.

Rosendale said on X, formerly Twitter, the bill was a “Leftist deal” and is “America Last politics. Zinke said on X last week Biden doesn’t need the bill to take action on the border.

“That should be a huge red flag for any conservative who cares about border security. The same authority Biden used to undo the policy that fixed the border under Trump, Biden can use to fix it!” Zinke said.

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