Archive for April 5th, 2011

by jhwygirl

I’ve been able to listen to some of the Free Conference HB2 budget hearing today and I have to say I’m thoroughly disgusted.

A short summary might be something like this: Dems Sen. Carol Williams and Rep. John Sesso make motion after motion to replace federal funding into the budget and every amendment was rejected. With little to no discussion.

This is money that Schweitzer has said will be one of the reasons for his promised veto of the budget: It is federal funding that will go to another state if we don’t take it.

The amount is upwards of $100 million, much of it for social services.

Today the committee sparred, with Lewis jovially leading the charge of not budging on any amendments that I heard offered by Williams or Sesso. There really was – again, I’ve only heard part of it – little to no discussion. Clearly, as this quick report on today’s hearing points out, the Republicans have no intent to negotiate this thing at all.

They want that veto. Keep in mind I use the word “jovially” to describe how today’s hearing played out.

Plainer wording is that the Republicans were downright disrespectful of the legislative process and their fellow legislators. It wasn’t hidden. It was unprofessional and unfitting of someone for whom I’ve expressed respect for in the past. Yet alone the rest of them.

Senator Carol Williams – goddess that she is – has more grace in her baby toenail than all the Republicans I heard joking and jabbing today in committee.

Here’s an idea: Maybe the 18 Republicans that are fond of federal subsidies for their agricultural business should signal to Sen. Dave Lewis (who is heading up the joint committee) that they are more than willing to allow the addition of the federal monies to the state budget.

Either that, or I suggest the hypocrites give their federal subsidy money back, just as they are forcing the disabled and poor of Montana to do.

Hell – Rep. Janna Taylor, a Republican out of Dayton could start the “give back” off with her $1,017,491.

Quite the welfare check, I’d say.

Then there’s a whole other bunch of tea party anti-federal money. Here’s some of the bigger hypocrites:

Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, $643,063
Sen. Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, $637,547
Rep. Lee Randall, R-Broadus, $507,674
Sen. John Brenden, R-Scobey, $497,291
Sen. Taylor Brown, R-Huntley, $473,563
Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, $380,160
Sen. Donald Steinbeisser, R-Sidney, $241,761
Rep. Daniel Salomon, R-Ronan, $223,865
Sen. Ron Arthun, R-Wilsall, $213,800
Sen. Terry Murphy, R-Cardwell, $188,427
Rep. Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, $141,770
Sen. Debby Barrett, R-Dillon, $123,378
Rep. Christy Clark, R-Choteau, $122,287
Sen. Rick Ripley, R-Wolf Creek, $89,847


This is a tough opinion to write. My goal here is not continually to bash Montana’s junior senator, but the buildup to the looming battle over the budget, complete with threat of government shutdowns and refusal to raise the debt ceiling, leaves me with no choice but to lay the political argument out on the table: what is the role of the U.S. government?

It is with this question in mind this morning when I awoke to Senator Tester’s new op-ed piece in my inbox. And of course, I was hoping that he would address the big question: what is it that we need from our government today? Particularly when Congress is so polarized between the conservative/teabagger alliance hellbent on tearing government down to an inefficient and meaningless puddle of tail-between-the-legs government employees propped up by the world’s greatest military, and a democrat rump party unable to craft a message about the appropriate role of government and a message to defend it and inspire people to value their government and rise up in opposition to this insanity.

I so wanted Senator Tester to live up to the promise that the Weekly Standard posed, in its front page cover and headline article asking the question of is Jon “The New Face of the Democratic Party?” Because the democratic party is in sore need of leadership able to craft a message and fight for the needs of Americans struggling to survive the Great Recession.

Turning to Tester’s op-ed, what are greeted with?

“Congress has an important decision to make this week: Either work together to responsibly cut spending and keep our government working, or refuse and let our government shut down.”

And with that statement, the battle was lost–them’s some real fighting words. Democrats, if Jon Tester is any indication, have already abdicated their responsibility, if this is how they choose to define the battle. And Denny Rehberg’s election committee must be laughing their asses off right about now. They won that round.

At a time when the GOP budget, as outlined by Rep. Ryan, has as its goal the abolishment of Medicare and Medicaid in 10 years what we need is a battle for the heart and soul of the democratic party, liberal policies, and progressive ideals. Instead democrats let the right define the terms of the battle, and the end goal: budget cutting at any cost.

There is nary a word in Tester’s words cutting to the right’s vulnerabilities in their quest, and they are multitude. Where the right gets away with labeling the Affordable Care Act as “Death Panels” democrats must be fine with the GOP proposing true death panels: turning the health care needs of the elderly, the disabled and the poor over to the private sector–which seeks only to profit off of their misery. Social Security privatization is right around the corner.

I could go on and on dissecting Tester’s op-ed, but my ulcer is already killing me. Suffice it to say that I view his words as opportunity lost, nothing more than a rearrangement of the chairs of the Titanic, that once majestic Great Society that has taken nearly 80 years to build, yet with one weakly challenged budget battle, will begin to unravel at breakneck speed.

Update: Paul Krugman just weighed in on this theme in “The Threat Within:”

“The great danger now is that Obama — with the help of a fair number of Senate Democrats — will kill Medicare in the name of civility and outreach.”

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