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Tester, Daines Split Over Infrastructure Spending

Montana’s U.S Senators split their votes on the $1 trillion infrastructure deal that cleared the chamber Tuesday. Jon Tester and Steve Daines have different takes on how the measure will be funded.

The bipartisan infrastructure plan sailed through the U.S Senate Tuesday on a 69 to 30 vote, with 19 Republicans joining Democrats backing the bill.

Voting with the majority was Montana Democrat Jon Tester, who helped negotiate the deal. Tester praised the bill when describing its impacts to Montana reporters Tuesday.

“In the end, truthfully, what it means is that this will bring the country and Montana into the 21st century,” Tester said.

Tester maintains it will do this by ensuring, among other things, the nation’s public works systems will be modernized, broadband internet expanded and the nation’s roads and bridges rebuilt, all while creating well-paying jobs.

He and other supporters claim that can be done without raising taxes, with the bulk of the funding coming from unspent coronavirus relief money.

“I will just tell you this unequivocally, whether it was through the joint tax committee or through the Congressional Budget Office, we got assurances this bill was paid for,” Tester said.

Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines doesn’t buy it. As promised, Daines voted against the infrastructure plan Tuesday, saying the CBO estimates the package will increase the federal debt.

In a statement recently released by his office, Daines is quoted as saying, “The package not only increases the debt, it increases it by $256 billion. This is absolutely unacceptable, especially at a time when Montana families are already dealing with soaring inflation and skyrocketing prices on everything from gas to groceries.”

The infrastructure package faces an uncertain future in the U.S House where some progressive Democrats have signaled frustration with what they say is its limited scope.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.