Daines, Bullock Debate Taxes, Coronavirus Response
Candidates for one of Montana’s U.S. Senate seats faced off Saturday night in their third and final debate hosted by MTN News. Both candidates framed the race as pivotal to high stakes issues like coronavirus relief and tax policy.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines and current Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock first traded barbs over the state and federal response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Daines said he wants to pass another relief package but is opposed to Democratic efforts to provide money directly to states.
“I don’t want to see Montana taxpayers footing the bill for these liberal states," Daines said.
Daines criticized the pace at which the Bullock administration has distributed $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act relief. The senator also reiterated the need to continue developing therapeutic COVID-19 drugs and a vaccine in order to move past the coronavirus.
Bullock said he’s opposed to reinstituting virus-related restrictions that he imposed earlier in the pandemic due to their economic impact. He said workers and small businesses would be left with nothing due to inaction by Daines and other members of Congress.
“Quit point fingers because Montanans expect more than that," Bullock said.
Throughout the debate, Daines warned that Bullock’s election would allow Democrats to pursue a progressive agenda characterized by gun control, police reform and rejection of timber and oil extraction.
Meanwhile, Bullock accused Daines of being in the pocket of corporations and special interest groups. He said everyday wages have stagnated for the benefit of the wealthy, including Daines.
Bullock indicated he may support a proposal from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to raise income taxes for those making more than $400,000 per year.
“The idea that those that are wealthy should pay a little bit more makes a heck of a lot of sense to me," Bullock said.
Bullock criticized the 2017 federal tax cuts as largely benefiting corporations and wealthy households.
Daines, who voted for the tax cuts, said they provided the average Montana family $1,200 in annual tax relief and garnered the support of small businesses.
“Why do you think they’re supporting my candidacy? Because it allows them to grow their jobs, hire more people, pay higher wages," Daines said.
On the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, Daines supports the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. He says she would preserve Montana values, like gun ownership.
Bullock has said the Senate should wait until after the January inauguration to fill the vacancy. He said he would consider ways to depoliticize the court, such as creating a judicial standards commission or adding justices to the court.
Bullock said Daines supports Coney Barrett’s nomination, in part, to give the court a better chance to overturn the Affordable Care Act shortly after the election.
Daines has voted several times to repeal the ACA, but said he’s ensuring protections for Montanans with pre-existing conditions through his support for the PROTECT Act, introduced by Republican senators last year.
Bullock said Congress should build on the ACA by holding drug companies accountable.