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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Daines, Rosendale Oppose COVID-19 Relief Bill

U.S. Capitol

Montana’s congressional delegation split directly along party lines over passage of the $1.9-trillion COVID relief bill.

Matt Rosendale, Montana’s Republican Representative, says Americans get only one thing out of the bill.

"A hosing is what they’re gonna get."

Among the measure’s provisions: $1,400 stimulus checks to millions of qualifying Americans, extension of unemployment benefits and funding for COVID-19 vaccinations, testing, treatment and prevention.

But Rosendale says only 10% of the package is targeted for COVID relief, adding the plan’s price tag is too expensive.

"The people across the state of Montana did not send me up here to spend $1.9 trillion so that they can get some bread crumbs. This is not good for our children, our grandchildren. And it's just, long term, not good for the state of Montana."

The Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact found that it is accurate that less than 9% of the bill funds activities meant to directly combat the virus, however that doesn’t mean the rest of the bill isn’t COVID-related, including unemployment benefits and funding for school reopenings. PolitiFact gave the claim a "half true" rating. 

Montana’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester says his top priority is getting COVID-19 under control and the nation's economy back on track.

"And that is what this package is all about," he says.

According to Tester’s office, many of the relief package’s Montana-specific allocations are still being finalized, but Montana could see hundreds of millions of dollars for it’s higher education system and to help the state with its health and economic crisis response efforts. 

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the nation’s economic growth will exceed 4% this year without the rescue package. That’s a figure Republicans point to as evidence that the spending bill isn’t needed. 

Tester says, "It may take it five or 10 years to recover if we do nothing. But if we were to do this it'll recover much quicker."

Tester’s Republican counterpart, Sen. Steve Daines, opposed the relief bill during last weekend’s Senate vote. He says it’s an unnecessary expense.

"There's going to be, certainly, a shot in the arm for the economy, there's so much cash coming in, we're going to be running up the debt. But in the short term, I think it may put inflationary pressures on the economy. It's a concern by many."

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the COVID relief bill Friday.

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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