HELENA — Montana’s congressional delegation — Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, and Rep. Steve Daines — all voted Wednesday for the deal that ended the 16-day federal government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling.
Each had a unique view of the shutdown, and what Congress should do going forward.
Daines, the delegation’s only Republican, had supported the GOP House majority’s earlier efforts to force “defunding” of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, before it would agree to a budget bill to keep government running.
Yet on Wednesday evening, he was one of 87 Republicans who joined all 198 Democrats in the House to support the deal that funds the government until Jan. 15 and raises the federal debt ceiling.
In a statement Wednesday night, Daines praised the deal for ending the shutdown but called it a “another Band-Aid” and a “missed opportunity to address our nation’s debt crisis and engage in a much-needed conversation about long-term reforms and real solutions that deal with our spending.”
He also said his future goals are still to repeal Obamacare, oppose any tax increases and curb federal spending.
Interviewed on Thursday, Tester said he’s hopeful Congress can collaborate on a budget-and-tax deal that can shave the deficit while maintaining programs like Medicare and Social Security.
But Tester said it’s entirely possible Congress will be back in a budget impasse three months from now, if hardliners who forced the shutdown undermine any compromise.
“If the guys on the hard right want to continue to hold government ransom for whatever reason, whether it’s health care or something else they might not like, we could absolutely be right back in the same boat,” he said. “These people wanted to basically sink the government, sink the economy and sink the country … to prove their political point.
“The only thing that makes me think this won’t happen again is that this wasn’t a particularly pleasurable experience for anyone.”
Baucus, in a Thursday interview, said the lack of certainty over America’s budget hurt the economy and the country’s international stature, and that it’s time for members of Congress to set aside “ideological purity” and work toward longer-term solutions on budget and taxes.
“You’re not here to strive for some ideological purity; you’re here to represent your people,” he said. “I may be a Democrat, but I represent all of Montana. … It’s important to keep reminding people in Washington, D.C., of that.”
Baucus said he’d like to see Congress craft a budget agreement that keeps the federal government running until at least 2015, slims down the deficit and revises the tax code, which he said was “more than 30 years out of date.”