Political Trough: 11 Dems Press Obama on Keystone

The campaign theatrics of Senate Democrats are wide out in the open, starting with the lead story in this week’s Political Trough.  Plus, Bullock talks climate change, yet sees burning coal for the “foreseeable future.” Promising news for jobs on the Front? And, “Veggie-U?”  What happened to “Moo-U?”  That and more is below…

First up, this is why I have been saying that the Keystone XL pipeline will be approved.  It should have been started years ago, but now Democrats will try and pretend that their guys (who magically face re-election in 2014) finally got it done. Here’s the latest from the WSJ.

Wall Street Journal: Eleven Democrats Push Obama to Approve Keystone

Nearly a dozen Senate Democrats, including five up for re-election this year, are pressing President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and they say they want a decision by the end of next month.

Most Republicans support the pipeline, but the 11 Democrats who wrote a letter to Mr. Obama urging him to approve the project deliberately made it a one party-effort. While a set of bipartisan signatures can be a powerful thing in the art of Washington letter-writing, these lawmakers clearly want to accentuate the pressure Mr. Obama faces from his own party on this issue.

“It’s really to turn up the pressure on the president,” said a Senate Democratic aide on the condition of anonymity. “We know where the Republicans are on this issue.”

If you think I’m just being cynical about the over-dramatization that has occurred over the pipeline, the politics were reported in plain view by The Washington Post and Politico earlier this week.

Washington Post: Democrats seek Obama administration’s help with agency decisions to boost reelection bids

In New Hampshire, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen would like the administration to help expand access to the new health-care law. In Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu has lobbied for help to keep open a federal call center. In Montana, Sen. John Walsh is fighting a decision to privatize land that could be used for hunting and fishing.

In the post-earmark era, using the party’s control of the federal bureaucracy to deliver local projects or delay new regulations that might stifle jobs has become a critical part of Democratic efforts to maintain control of the Senate. In close races, particularly in less populated states such as Alaska and Montana, incumbents are hoping that a few favorable agency decisions might secure the backing of key constituencies.

Then again, Walsh and Tester can’t even get the North Fork bill through the US Senate, while the GOP-controlled House has already acted.  Even The Missoulian editorial board called them out on that front:  

Unfortunately, when Walsh, a Democrat, attempted to pass the measure by “unanimous consent,” consent was not quite unanimous.

…Daines rightly wonders why Walsh doesn’t simply approach Democratic leaders in the Senate to bring the bill to the floor. Walsh and Sen. Jon Tester, also a Democrat, are doubtless pushing to bring the measure to the Senate floor – where three objecting votes won’t stop the bill from passing.

Walsh should be teaming up with Tester to convince their fellow Democrats in the Senate to bring the measure to a floor vote.

Meanwhile, if you didn’t hear much about Gov. Steve Bullock’s (D-MT) speech at the Montana Energy conference- that’s because there wasn’t much to it (other than the snickers over his climate change remarks apparently.)

Bullock continued to talk “climate change” during a Montana Public Radio interview, but added that we will be burning coal into the foreseeable future.

Promising economic news on the Rocky Mountain Front? 

From The Fairfield Sun Times: LGX Well Near Montana Border Shows Potential For Front Production

Southern Alberta Bakken operator LGX Oil + Gas reports that its first well in the play went on production in late January, and averaged more than 530 barrels of light oil per day over the first 30 days. As of mid-March, the well was producing 470 barrels per day. The well, in the Calgarybased junior’s Big Valley play just north of the Montana border in southwest Alberta, was completed with a 20-stage frack stimulation, and LGX reported that after the well flowed back for 136 hours in a 4.5-inch diameter frack string, it produced 9,230 barrels of 31 API degree oil, for an average of approximately 1,650 barrels per day. The well also produced 570 million cubic feet of associated natural gas per day.

The Southern Alberta Bakken play, often referred to as either the Alberta Bakken or the Bakken fairway, extends across southern Alberta and northern Montana. In Montana, the system reaches into Glacier, Toole, Pondera, Teton and as far south as Lewis and Clark counties.

The opportunity for more jobs due to energy development is exactly what we have been hearing from tribal leaders in Montana on a near consistent basis.  Crow Tribal Chairman Darrin Old Coyote has said his top three priorities are: jobs, jobs, and jobs.  But that hasn’t been the focus of Sen. Jon Tester since taking over as Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. Instead, he’s mainly focused on education spending….and even there- what’s the message? 

Flathead Beacon: Tester Tackles Education, Health Care as New Indian Affairs Chairman

Beacon: Reservation schools, especially tribal colleges, continue to struggle and, according to some officials, reservation colleges receive about $5,000 per student whereas state university get an average of $12,000 per student. What can be done to level the playing field?

 Tester: There is something we can do, you just have to get creative. They need a lot of health care professionals in Indian Country and there are grants out there that tribal colleges can get to train nurses, so let’s get some of those grants. You’ve got to look at opportunities to fill the skillsets they need. Do I look at it from a standpoint that, well this guy gets $5,000 and this guy gets $12,000 so we better find $7,000? No, I don’t. I look at how we can empower tribal colleges to fill their needs.

Tester is now in a key position to actually help tribal energy development. Will he step up to the plate? 

We’ve all heard the phrase “Moo-U” to describe Montana State University, but what is this whole “Veggie-U” thing?

MissoulaMom.com: Five Montana elementary schools attending ‘Veggie U’

Sustainable agriculture, healthy food choices, hands-on science.
It all adds up to “Veggie U,” which I learned yesterday is making its foray into fourth-grade classrooms in Arlee, the Gallatin Gateway, Helena, Lakeside and Wilsall. Students in the five-week program learn about growing food while tending their own gardens.

Since March 31, Ashley Davis’ fourth graders at Gallatin Gateway and Dan Ries’ fourth graders at Arlee have been learning the basic elements of planting, growing and harvesting a crop in their classroom with the aid of a Veggie U garden kit funded by PacificSource. The kit came complete with seeds, soil, flats, root view boxes, grow lights and even a worm farm.

I’ve got an alibi for this week’s Political Trough- this just in, the Baucus papers will be housed at The University of Montana.  


MISSOULA – Max Baucus, Montana’s longest-serving U.S. senator, has departed to become ambassador to China, but a significant portion of his legacy will remain with the University of Montana.

On April 10, Baucus announced he would donate his official papers to UM’s Archives and Special Collections. In addition, the Baucus Institute for Public Policy and Service will be established at the UM School of Law if approved by the state Board of Regents.

“As Mel and I considered where to place our papers and the work we hope to do after leaving government service, the University of Montana, located in the neighborhood where I first campaigned and home to the School of Law, rose to the top of the list,” Baucus said.

Baucus will donate $850,000 of his remaining campaign funds to the UM Foundation to cover the cost of archiving his papers.

“This is a proud day for the University of Montana,” UM President Royce C. Engstrom said. “Our relationship with Ambassador Baucus advances our goal of building a University focused on leadership and distinctive opportunities for our students, faculty and staff. Senator, and now Ambassador, Baucus’ contributions will form a strong basis for education and scholarship in the decades to come.”

Donna McCrea, head of Archives and Special Collections at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, said the Baucus papers will be an important addition to the library’s holdings.

“The significance of the acquisition of Ambassador Baucus’ papers cannot be understated,” McCrea said. “When combined with our existing collections, it brings together more than 100 years of U.S. congressional history at UM and makes it all available for students, faculty, staff and national and even international scholars. We are thrilled by his generosity.”

The planned Baucus Institute for Public Policy and Service will be nonpartisan and cross-disciplinary. It will be placed at the School of Law, where Baucus was a member of the board of visitors. Baucus, along with the entire Montana delegation at the time, was instrumental in securing federal funding for the school’s last building campaign. Baucus also has been a strong supporter of the school, including working with U.S. presidents of both parties to nominate many of its graduates to the federal bench.

The institute will be funded through private contributions. It will include the creation of a Baucus Fellows Program, open to both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as a new lecture series.

Baucus intends for the institute to continue the work of his Montana Economic Development Summits, which brought together more than 1,000 of the state’s economic development officials and business people in recent years. “The Montana Economic Summit is something that demonstrates what we can do as Montanans when we sit down and work together,” Baucus said. “I am excited about opportunity to work with the UM School of Business Administration and other units on campus to continue this important work.”

“The School of Law has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Ambassador Baucus,” law school Dean Irma S. Russell said. “From the Montana Tax Institute to our China summer program, this new effort holds real promise for the school as we continue to build a premier regional law school with a national and global reach.”

More details about the proposed institute will be announced in the coming months.



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