House GOP’s Franken-bills target the poor, the elderly, and the children

by Jay Stevens

The Battle of the Budget has hit a new low. In today’s Gazette it was noted that House Majority Leader Michael Lange is threatening to cut $2 billion in federal aid for Montana in order to cajole radical Constitution Party member Rick Jore into voting for the six – no, eight House Republican budget bills.

That’s right. Two billion dollars.

Where, oh where was would the two billion be cut from?

The $2 billion represents two-thirds of the entire budget for the Department of Public Health and Human Services over the next two years. The federal funds make up large portions of the funding of programs that serve tens of thousands of Montanans. The programs include food stamps, energy assistance, Medicaid, mental health and the Children’s Health Insurance Program or CHIP.

The poor, the elderly, the children.

Let us contemplate.

First, if Representative Lange had aspirations for Max Baucus’ Senate seat, he may kiss his ambitions good-bye. Frankly, he’ll be lucky if he gets back to the state legislature after this stunt. Remember, the only reason anyone supported Conrad Burns in the 2006 Senate race was that he brought pork to the state. Pork that Representative Lange is threatening to lop off at one stroke.

Second, if passed – and there’s no way in h*ll the cuts would make it through the Senate or past the Governor – the cumulative suffering of seniors, children, and mental health patients would shatter radical conservative rhetoric on limiting government “entitlement” programs for a generation. Montanans are good people, and good people don’t like to see seniors and children suffer.

Third, this is the dumbest stunt I’ve ever seen. As I’ve said before this cut has zero chance to succeed. Frankly, it has zero chance to succeed in the House, unless Republican legislators all vote for it knowing it has no chance in the Senate. And if it passes the House, it will put a permanent black mark on the Montana Republican party. (Think how well energy deregulation went.) It’s obviously a bluff – a bad one, like pretending you have four aces at five-card stud game.

Oh, and the spending bills are proliferating, so now there are eight bills instead of one. How many will there be next week?

Jeff Mangan:

The recent budget controversy is challenging the credibility of that fellowship. The esteemed House is set to allow one person to dictate arguably the most important piece of legislation the House must steward, the State budget bill.
Comments this week from GOP leadership included, (paraphrasing) ‘it will be fixed in the Senate, as it always is’ ‘we just need to move it through the process’. Respectfully, that is not the case. It is not honorable to abrogate your duty. Waiving one’s legislative responsibility is not honorable.


While the Democrats are being stubborn on the issue of the bill, the behavior of House Republicans has been disjointed, childish, divisive. They’ve now wasted – how many weeks of the legislative session? When all is said and done, they’ll have to go back to HB 2. The Democratic party has the Senate and the Governorship and the right to frame the debate. The House Republicans, in a political game resembling nothing so much as playing Russian roulette with an automatic, are trying to force their policy on the majority and on the process. The result: a train wreck.

I say, let the Republicans pass their Frankenstein bills tailored to the most radical element of the state’s electorate. They deserve what they will get.


  1. Allow me to be an asshole for just a second here. I’ll get back to being my actual warm and wonderful self later.

    Why shouldn’t we seek to cut ourselves off from the federal teat? Montana gets approximately a buck-twenty for every dollar we pay into the federal coffers. Why shouldn’t we be more responsible with our spending, such that we cover our own expenses? The federal govt. makes demands on us, such that we “earn’ the input to our coffers. Isn’t this an opportunity to tell them to back off?

    NCLB is a a grossly underfunded program that makes innordinate mandates standing squarely against rural states. If federal funding is on the table, then so should NCLB be. Montana is tasked with guarding the largest northern border of the country (bite me, Alaska) ostensibly for national security reasons. Hell, Montana has little to fear. Cut those funds. The nation needs highway 2 along the highline (and the ag it supports) more than we need their mandates for highway control. Let’s tell them where to get off the short bus. Bozeman has a storied history of mental health care via Greyhound bus. We ship the ill to Missoula or Billings. That’s hardly ambitious enough. It would be far more cost effective in the long run to hike those folk on a bus to DC. Problem solved. We can replace millions in federal funding if we just tax the f#@k out of any energy leaving the state. They need hydro power more than we need corporate welfare.

    Okay, so I’m being tongue in cheek. But the result remains the same. The state Republicants want money, but they want to look good while taking it. It’s still a taking, and they know that. They are insulting our intelligence when they pretend that we don’t know that as well. We have a budget surplus, a rather large one in fact. They don’t want to keep that. They want it paid out for votes, and they can’t buy those votes if the spend out for what we need instead of offering cookies to the electorate. So they want to shift the focus to the fact that they will deny us federal socialist welfare. Fine. We’re not a state of socialists. So let’s find a method to pay our own way, and cut the fear mongering Rep dipsticks off at the knees.

  2. That’s not a bad debate to have, Wulfgar, but none of the federal programs you mentioned were part of the proposed cut. Instead the money that would be cut is, IMHO, vital and extremely useful. Montana CHIP is a wildly successful program. Medicare is a very good program.

    H*ll I’ve said NCLB is an abomination and it was the only bill of Jore’s that I thought we should at least consider.

    A point I had considered, but forgotten to mention in the post, is that people like good government programs. The inefficient ones should be fixed or cast aside. But the good ones…we realized, for example, how good FEMA was under Clinton, and how much we missed it when Katrina hit New Orleans.

  3. That was kinda my point, Jay. I do apologize for being obtusely theatrical about it. Blind cutting for the sake of cutting serves no one. And for Lange to suggest such is obviously idiotic. Let him proceed with this stupidity. We can make rational cuts to spending, but it is in the interests of the Rep-bunch to seem ‘he-manly’. Do or die, my way or the highway! Mikey focuses on the amount, but us folk really care about what gets slashed, as you more than adequately pointed out. Montanans will pay the price, and they will be angry.

  1. 1 House Republicans meet wall of disapproval with massive cuts to health and humans services « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] House GOP’s Franken-bills target the poor, the elderly, and the children […]

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