Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Montana's two U.S. Senators on Thursday took different views and opposite votes on a new spending package to fund the federal government well into the new year.

Tester said the bill included 12 provisions shaped by his office including funding to expand medical care and benefits for veterans, and to support the military.

“It’s our responsibility to take care of the men and women in uniform who took care of us in protecting this country—and that starts by ensuring access to the care and benefits they’ve earned with this bipartisan package,” Tester said in a statement.

Measures championed by Tester included in the bill cover resources for toxic-exposed veterans, along with bolstering programs for homeless veterans, rural veteran travel expenses, post-care cancer treatment, and veteran mental healthcare.

Tester's office said the bill also included targeted investments for the Department of Defense for enhanced border security. The later includes $80 billion for Homeland Security and $16 billion for Customs and Border Protection, including funding for border security operations along both the southern and northern border.

Other funding measures backed by Tester include earmarks for first responders, treatment courts, and drug trafficking indictment. Indian Country will receive funding for enhanced law enforcement, while programs aimed at energy development, reducing healthcare costs, and fueling more affordable housing are included.

“I am always going to stand up for Montana and fight for our local priorities,” said Tester. “I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to help craft this legislation, and am confident that it will deliver for Montana’s families and small businesses.”

Sen. Steve Daines took a different view in opposing the bill. Among other things, he said it fails to secure the southern border and will spur inflation.

Daines made no mention of the bill's alleged benefits to Montana, its funding for defense, or its overhaul of the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which will make it harder to overturn a certified presidential election.

“At a time when Montanans are already facing sky-high prices everywhere from the grocery store to the gas pump, I cannot support a $1.7 trillion package that was written behind closed doors, is packed with wasteful spending and fails to address the crises facing Montana families like the wide-open southern border,” Daines said.

The vote passed the Senate 68 in favor and 29 opposed. It continues a congressional practice to release large funding bills at the final hour and push them through both chambers. The result has led to criticism from some lawmakers who believe the process doesn't come with the transparency that it should.

Under former President Donald Trump, the government shut down three times without a funding package. The longest occurred when the GOP controlled both the House and Senate and it lasted for more than a month.

“Rather than getting Congress’ fiscal house in order, this giant bill will only fuel inflation and big government spending insanity,” Daines said. “Montanans deserve transparency and accountability from their government—not Washington’s broken budget process.”