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Tester Blames Child Immigrant Crisis On U.S. House

Sen. Jon Tester
U.S. Senate

Senator Jon Tester says if the U.S. House would have passed comprehensive immigration reform, the United States would not be dealing with the humanitarian crisis unfolding along the nation's southern border.

Outlines of a possible compromise over President Obama's $3.7-billion-dollar emergency border spending request are emerging on Capitol Hill.

They involve making policy changes to allow the minors streaming to the border from Central America to be sent home more quickly.

Top House and Senate Republicans both said today they don't want to give the president a blank check and want to see the law changed to speed the children's deportations.

Immigrant advocacy groups and some Democratic lawmakers have opposed such steps. But the top House and Senate Democrats today left the door open to them.

According to Senator Tester, it's clear that something has to change:

"Do I think we have to have a sum of money to address this issue? I do believe that. I think it's Congress's job to make sure that that is what they need. And if they need less than that, adjust it down. I don't think they're going to need more than that. If anything, the dollars may be padded, but I'm going to let the agencies explain what the money is going to be used for...but make no mistake about it, if the House would have passed the comprehensive immigration bill that the Senate passed about a year and a half ago now, we would not be here."

Tester's a member of the Veterans Affairs Conference Committee which is tasked with fixing serious problems reported at VA facilities across the country. He hopes election year politics don't interfere in that process:

"There's a lot of things the VA has done right and there are some things the VA hasn't done right and we need to fix those things; we need to make sure the legislation fixes it so our veterans get the care they've earned. Hopefully this will not get bogged down in the political baloney that often happens back here. It never has before, in the past, but we're getting very close to an election and that's very concerning to me. Hopefully cooler minds will prevail."

The federal highway trust fund; the primary revenue source for America's highway system, is set to go insolvent next month. This could affect road maintenance and construction projects across the country. Tester says a long-term highway bill - not a temporary fix - is critically important. But he says that will not happen prior to the election. Tester says he will, in the meantime, give serious consideration to any temporary patch that lawmakers can cobble together.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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