By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service
HELENA – As protesters chanted their disapproval, Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines expressed his support Wednesday for President Donald Trump and his nominees, including Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt and Neil Gorsuch.
His speech focused on a theme that Montanans know how to govern Montana best.
“There are those who believe the federal government knows better than the states. And better than the people. That view ended 33 days ago,” he told the assembled joint session of the state Legislature.
Daines said he was the first senator to present Trump with a “to-do” list that he says reflects Montana’s priorities. The first two points on that list were stopping the war on coal, and approving the Keystone Pipeline.
“This is yet another Montana solution that no one in yesterday’s Washington, D.C., wanted to listen to,” Daines said.
He said this “to-do” list came from a list of “D.C. regulations” that Montanans told him were stifling growth. The list was gathered by traveling around the state, and from emails, phone calls, and tele-town hall meetings.
He also said he’s regularly hosted these phone-in meetings with Montanans, and encouraged people to sign up for the next one.
“It’s pretty simple. Just text ‘SenatorDaines,’ one word, SenatorDaines to 828282. … I think I did 13 of these in the last couple of years,” he said.
A day earlier, hundreds gathered on the Capitol steps to ask Daines to stand up to President Trump’s policies on issues like immigration, LBGTQ rights, and health care. Others said Daines has not been listening to their concerns.
Daines was scheduled to speak to the Montana House of Representatives Tuesday, but postponed the appearance to Wednesday.
“You refuse to take our emails, you refuse to listen to our messages, and you refuse to meet with us. And today, when we show up to where you work, you decided not to work!” said one protester.
Although not as many as Tuesday, there were some protesters at the Capitol Wednesday.
In the House of Representatives Wednesday, Daines touched on how he sees Montana blossoming into a leader of high-tech job growth, and how he and his colleagues are currently on a “repair and rescue mission” with Obamacare.
He closed his speech by saying since he’s visited all 56 counties in the state, “from Eureka to Ekalaka, visiting schools, hospitals, small businesses, ranches, windfarms, coal mines, national parks, the list could go on and on. I’m honored to listen to folks all across our state. And I am so grateful for their gracious hospitality when we engage.”
Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.