Tester urges bipartisan legislation instead of blowing up the filibuster

Senator said if compromises can’t be achieved, he may favor eliminating Senate rule

By: - June 11, 2021 4:51 pm

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana speaks at the Public Auction Yards in Billings about the Meat Packing Special Investigation Act which he’s sponsoring (By Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montnanan).

Sen. Jon Tester didn’t leave the farm in Big Sandy to do nothing in the United States Senate.

But with partisan gridlock and Senate’s filibuster rule, which has been invoked to stymie much legislation, Tester said there may come a time when his support for “Rule 22” — the Senate’s policy that allows a minority of Senators to stop legislation — will run out.

In previous interviews, Tester has been a strong supporter of the filibuster, opting instead to negotiate bipartisan deals that can gain the support of 60 Senators. In an interview with the Daily Montanan on Friday, the Democrat said that’s still the case. However, he said he’s growing concerned, especially because of recent gridlock on an independent investigation of the Jan. 6 riots in the Capitol; bickering about a massive voting rights overhaul; and an infrastructure bill that needs to get accomplished.

If those things aren’t resolved, he said then the time might come to eliminate the 100-year-old practice in order to get legislation pushed through and get Congress working again.

He said the lack of support for an independent 9/11-style investigation commission gave him serious pause. Tester said the latest report by the Homeland Security committee that raised questions about how intelligence was given to the Capitol Police and the delay in response by the National Guard need to be answered. That may not happen, though, he said, because Congress will not authorize a full investigation.

Meanwhile, Tester is among a group of Senators being courted by the White House to hammer out a giant infrastructure deal.

Far from being strictly partisan, Tester ranks No. 3 on a list of Senators who break with their party to vote differently. Only Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona part company with their own political party more often.

Montana’s senior Senator also said that he’s concerned about voting rights across the country and supports Senate Bill 1. He said that while there are differences between the two political parties in what should be included in large measures like the infrastructure bill or voting rights, he remains optimistic there’s still enough middle ground to hammer out a bipartisan agreement without resorting to eliminating the filibuster.

Yet Tester said he cannot stand by and do nothing on every piece of legislation.

“If all those things fall apart, then that changes the landscape,” Tester said.

He said he doesn’t believe the rule was meant to hold up every piece of legislation.

“It’s time for bipartisan legislation — either fish or cut bait,” Tester said. “I am not there yet.”

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming.