Like the House and Senate, Tester and Daines in standoff over relief package

Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines

With the election just weeks away, the finger pointing over a stalled stimulus bill continued to intensify this week, with members of Sen. Steve Daines’ office accusing Democrats of playing games, and Sen. Jon Tester saying the “skinny” bill favored by Republicans lacks a number of necessities.

As the roughly $500 billion bill is currently written, Tester said Tuesday he wouldn’t support it.

“I plan on not supporting it, not because we don’t need the money, but because we need more than that,” Tester said during a Tuesday phone call. “We need money for educational units and local government, including counties. We need money to help unemployed working families. There’s a lot of things out there that are in a world of hurt.”

According to the Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has accused House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., of not negotiating in good faith. Pelosi denied the accusations and passed McConnell’s comments off as politics.

Republicans also have voiced concern that a stimulus deal this close to the election could “splinter the party” as it attempts to confirm a new Supreme Court justice.

“It doesn’t seem like anything is negotiated any more,” Tester said. “That’s our problem in the Senate.”

After talks stalled on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Daines’ office fired off an email to the Montana press with the subject line, “Schumer & Senate Dems Block Relief AGAIN…”

“Today, Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats, including Montana’s senior Senator, BLOCKED replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which has been critical to helping Montana small businesses keep their doors open and workers employed,” Katie Schoettler wrote. “It’s very unfortunate that the Democrats continue to play political games with the livelihoods of Montanans. There is no reason this funding should have been blocked – other than politics.”

Tester said he anticipates a lame duck session, as the federal government is only funded through mid-December. He said that could include a bigger package to deal with the pandemic.

“The economy is a long ways from being recovered,” he said. “We’re seeing COVID cases go up pretty dramatically around the county, and Montana has not been excluded this time around. We’ve got our challenges until we get a vaccine.”

Editors note: This story was corrected to reflect the $500 billion value of the “skinny” stimulus bill.