Two senators — both from Montana — are taking very different approaches to last week's U.S. Senate showdown with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Sen. Steve Daines, who gaveled Warren into silence on the floor of the Senate, is using the moment as a fundraiser. Last week, Jon Tester didn't mention that Warren had come up at a White House meeting he attended in which President Donald J. Trump apparently referred to her several times as "Pocahontas."
The D.C. press is reporting a much more contentious meeting between President Donald Trump and red state Democrats than the one Tester described last week to home-state media.
Trump referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren more than once as “Pocahontas,” according to Politico, and told red state Democrats, including Tester, that he was glad Warren, a first-term senator from Massachusetts, was the face of the Democratic Party.
Warren came up as Trump discussed an episode on the senate floor earlier in the week in which the Massachusetts Democrat was gaveled down by Montana Republican Daines.
While Tester hasn’t mentioned Warren in the past week, Daines has done the opposite, making an anti-Warren appeal to Montanans for campaign donations.
The reference to "Pocahontas" is a slur intended to criticize Warren about her earlier claim that she was one-thirty-second Cherokee. The claim was proven false, prompting some to call her "Fauxcahontas" during her 2012 election campaign.
Tester’s version of the luncheon, told to the Montana press after the Feb. 9 meeting, was more subdued.
Asked what his impression of the meeting was, Tester replied, "Don’t take this the wrong way, but it wasn’t confrontational at all. It was just flat non-confrontational,” Tester said. “It was very open conversation, very, very much, very much an open dialogue. He (Trump) did more talking than everybody else and Vice President (Mike) Pence did less talking than everybody else. But everybody in that meeting had the opportunity to visit with the president directly, and I appreciate that."
The Gazette presented Tester on Monday with eight questions for this article. The senator answered none of them. His communications director, Marnee Banks, issued the following statement.
“This is a perfect example of why Washington is so broken. What matters most is that Jon used his opportunity with the president to raise specific concerns that Montanans brought directly to him. Jon left the White House with a personal assurance from President Trump that he will address Jon’s concerns to provide Montana seniors with better access to Medicare.”
In addition, Trump brought up his belief that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election. For weeks, Democrats have argued there’s no proof of widespread voter fraud.
Tester represents tribes from seven American Indian reservations in Montana. His is the former chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. He and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., are current Senate Indian Affairs Committee members and the only ones also among the six Democrats at the luncheon.
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The Warren discussion stemmed from a floor debate Feb. 7 concerning the confirmation of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. Daines was overseeing the debate and ordered Warren to take her seat after she began to read from a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King, in which the civil rights leader said Sessions had undermined the rights of black voters.
Warren was gaveled down under a Senate rule that prevents lawmakers from disparaging fellow senators, Daines told The Gazette.
The morning after the incident, Montana’s Republican senator posted a video clip of Warren being gaveled down.
Over the weekend, the Daines re-election campaign emailed Montanans asking for donations so he could “stand up to Elizabeth Warren.” In the campaign solicitation, Daines said Warren “took the Senate floor to spew hyper-partisan rhetoric to disparage a fellow senator and conservative champion Jeff Sessions.”
Tester might not be talking about Warren, while Daines mentions her often, but the two Montana lawmakers are on the same path, said Jason Thielman, of Daines for Montana.
“I think we’re on the same course recognizing the relative popularity or acceptance of the standard bearer of the Democratic Party,” Thielman said. “There’s hardly a person who is more out of sync with Montanans than Elizabeth Warren."
Thielman said Sen. Daines has real concerns about facing a political attack from Warren, “the liberal leader of the National Democratic Party who represents the activist leftist wing.”
Without a doubt, Montana’s American Indians would be offended by Trump’s use of Pocahontas, Thielman said. Daines is also a Senate Indian Affairs Committee member.
“They would find it objectionable,” he said.
There are at least three different conservative political groups with either TV ads, literature or billboards targeting Tester.
Right Way Initiative has issued mailers to Montana voters asking Tester to “Support the Trump Economic Agenda.”
The Judicial Crisis Network is pressuring Tester to support Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee put up two billboards in Billings on Monday morning calling on Tester to “Do Your Job” and confirm Trump’s nominee.