Tester Hit Over Last Minute Wilderness Push

Aaron Flint posted on December 10, 2010 11:59 :: 1341 Views

Well, after not getting any information back in response from the office of Senator Jon “Transparency” Tester (D-MT), it appears the wilderness bill he is hoping to pass in the waning days of the lame duck session has not yet been officially added to the “emergency” spending bill.  You would think someone wouldn’t have to result to using a question mark for a simple yes or no story, but apparently Senator Transparency only responds to a few select special people.  

Here’s a memo that was forwarded to me on Friday from someone else containing the latest information on the wilderness bill:

TESTER SPOKESMAN AARON MURPHY:  As he has said for weeks, Jon is exploring all legislative options to get the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act passed, and he hopes the Senate agrees to include this jobs bill as part of a larger bill.

However, Senate leaders are still piecing together a larger bill for possible consideration next week, and we have NOT seen whether the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act will be a part of it.

Leaving out the broad disagreement that continues over Tester’s wilderness bill, what is most telling in this report by The Great Falls Tribune, is what both sides are calling as “underhanded” tactics being used by Tester to push the bill during the lame duck session.

“It’s totally unfair to the people of Montana to bring this through as an attachment to a bill in the dark of night,” said Kerry White, head of Citizens for Balanced Use.

White said Tester’s bill contains provisions that White believes violate federal law, and if the measure is implemented, he expects it will be swiftly challenged in court.

“Let’s get this straight: Sen. Tester’s (Forest Jobs and Recreation Act) never made it out of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, never made it to the floor of the U.S. Senate and was never introduced in the U.S. House,” (Matthew) Koehler said. “It’s unfortunate that Sen. Tester is pursuing such a questionable, and some might say underhanded, tactic to pass this bill. Clearly, if this bill was as great as Sen. Tester says it is, he wouldn’t have to resort to this questionable 11th-hour strategy.” 

Meanwhile, Congressman Denny Rehberg’s spokesman e-mailed this statement in response to me Friday:

“Secret backroom deals in Washington, D.C. would be a fitting way for Senator Tester to force through a wilderness bill that he wrote behind closed doors with a handful of special interest groups.  This is a bill most Montanans haven’t read let alone had a chance to comment on, but that’s still not stopping him.  That’s not surprising though; we’re still waiting for him to respond to Denny’s request for a joint listening session in Montana.  Maybe Senator Tester ought to stop and ask if a bill that only has a chance in the last days of Nancy Pelosi’s reign as Speaker is really the sort of bill that will work for Montana.  Whether it’s earmarks or these kinds of backroom deals, this is exactly what’s wrong with Washington.  Montanans are fed up.”

– Jed Link, spokesman


If the reports I am hearing are true, Senator Jon Tester’s (D-MT) wilderness bill may have been added to the emergency spending bill floating in Congress known as the “Continuing Resolution.” 

That, combined with criticism of Tester from the Democratic Party base seen both on Left in the West and Montana Cowgirl, makes me wonder if that is the case- maybe Senator Tester is throwing in the towel for 2012, and handing the seat over to term-limited Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT). Given concern over spending and government overreach, it seems odd to me that new spending would be added to a last minute “emergency” spending bill, especially on a wilderness bill that clearly lacks support from key stakeholders in Montana. 

Matthew Koehler who blogs for Left in the West, and also runs a coalition of environmental groups opposing the wilderness bill, is hearing similar rumors and fired off this letter to Senator Tester’s Missoula office:


December 10, 2010

Senator Jon Tester
Missoula Office
130 W Front Street
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003

Hello Tracy,

Over the past 24 hours a number of sources from DC have confirmed that Senator Tester is attempting to place his mandated logging bill, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, on the upcoming Senate Continuing Resolution (CR) bill, which is a “must pass” bill that is required to fund the US Government through next September, 2011.

This is despite the fact that Senator Tester’s FJRA never made it out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Never made it to the floor of the US Senate. And never was even introduced in the US House.

Could you please confirm or deny if Senator Tester is attempting to place the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act on the “must pass” Senate Continuing Resolution (CR) bill?

Thank you for your response.


Matthew Koehler

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