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Tester, Daines split votes on bills to end government shutdown
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Tester, Daines split votes on bills to end government shutdown

Montana’s U.S. Senators split their votes on Thursday's bills to end a partial government shutdown.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester voted against a President Trump-backed bill to reopen the government only if $5.7 billion were committed to building a southern border wall. The Democrat did support a wall-free second bill, which fully funded the government through Feb. 8 while border security talks continue.

Republican Sen. Steve Daines did the opposite, supporting the Trump bill and rejecting the wall-free funding bill.

Tester said in a press release after the votes that handing $5.7 billion to Trump with no conditions was not the answer. Despite several months of requests by Democrats for more information, Trump hasn’t offered any specifics about how the wall money will be spent, Tester said.

Specifically, Tester wants to know how the president intends to deal with eminent domain issues along the wall path. The wall often sits north of the border. In areas where the wall cuts through private property, how will American landowners access their acres south of the wall? Also, Tester questions what the plan is for dealing with immigrants sandwiched between the wall and the actual southern border.

Tester has also repeatedly said that the border can be secured with modern technology and manpower, much more affordably.

The bill also offered some short-term concessions for select immigrants, a move intended to leverage support by Democrats, but it didn’t work.

“The Senate had the opportunity today to reopen the government and get hundreds of thousands of people across this country back to work,” Tester said. “Instead, 800,000 hardworking folks, including 7,000 in Montana, will miss a second paycheck tomorrow. Too many of my colleagues are willing to give the administration a blank check for a border wall while leaving the very people who secure our borders, our airports, and our national parks out in the cold.”

Earlier this month, Tester gave a fiery speech explaining his opposition to Trump's $5.7 billion wall request and calling for the shutdown to end.

The government has been partially shut down since late December when Congress failed to approve short-term funding to keep the government open into February. The division then, as it is now, was Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion, intended to build roughly 200 miles of wall along the U.S. southern border.

After 34 days of either working for free or being furloughed, federal employees are about to skip payday for the second time. Federal workers in Montana told The Billings Gazette Jan. 9 of problems making mortgage payments and other basic bills. And, there are numerous food drives in Montana offering support to furloughed workers.

Daines said the bill he supported did more to end the shutdown than the one brought by Democrats. 

“Today I voted to ensure we secure our border and open the government. President Trump has offered a reasonable plan that Senate Democrats have supported in the past,” Daines said in a text message. “Congress must come together to reopen government, while securing our borders at the same time. The Democrats' alternative presented today simply kicks the can down the road with no resolution in sight.”

The Democrats' bill is similar to one offered by Republicans in December, which passed nearly unanimously by the Senate, though Republican senators have since backed away, responding to Trump protests and a year’s end push by House Republicans to deliver the wall money.

The House is no longer backing wall money for Trump. Democrats took the majority in House at the beginning of the year.

After Thursday’s failed votes, Daines’ staff said the table was set for a compromise bill to reopen the government, provided there was a "down payment” for wall funding.

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