Montana’s lone U.S. House Representative Matt Rosendale attended President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s inauguration Wednesday, two weeks after objecting to two states’ election results in their favor on the basis of unidentified allegations of voter fraud. Rosendale spoke with Yellowstone Public Radio about the inauguration and who needs to be held accountable for the Jan. 6 seizure of the U.S. Capitol.
Rachel Cramer: Congressmen, do you mind just explaining why did you decided to attend the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris today, and what specifically stood out to you?
Matt Rosendale: Sure. It's, it's really, it's an honor to be there. I have tremendous respect for these institutions, and it was an honor to participate in, in this, representing the state of Montana. The peaceful transition of governance that has taken place in our country, for the 240 years is very, very impressive; to assemble the all three branches of government there, the legislative, the executive and the judicial, and, and see this transition of governance from not only one person to another but from one party to another is unlike any other nation in the world. And, and so I have witnessed it before but never in person, and I certainly wanted to, to be there and show again that I'm there to, to make sure that this legislative body works together going forward in the best interest of everybody across the country and certainly for everyone in the state of Montana.
When you say, what's the thing that stuck out to me, it was from Senator Roy Blunt and his, his quote really is what stuck with me and that is, "This event is commonplace and miraculous; commonplace because we have done it every four years since 1789, miraculous because we've done it every four years since 1789."
Americans have celebrated this moment during war, during depression and now during a pandemic. And that's the truth. And I was very, very honored to be a part of it.
Rachel Cramer: It's been a tough year. And so it's, like you said, it's interesting to keep that in perspective of history in the U.S. and, you know, I -- sorry, go ahead.
Matt Rosendale: And knowing that and watching it and obviously, so over the years I've watched the inaugurations and you watch the inagurations and you see the people, the huddled masses, you know, as it says, at the base of the, of the Statue of Liberty, you see the huddled masses there on the steps, on the west steps of the Capitol flowing out onto the lawn and then flowing out onto the, onto the mall, OK, the open grass area there and this year, I mean, it was quite profound that you have all this distance between everybody and, and the seating is spread out and the mall ground, they had closed off. So nobody was going to sit there, but they still, when you were up there close to the, to the Capitol and the, the flags and the Marine Corps band, it was still the inauguration. Make no doubt about it. You know, it was still the inauguration in the end, this transfer of governance from, from one to the other, and it's incredible to be there.
Rachel Cramer: So I want to move through some other questions real quick. Some of your colleagues in the House of Representatives say Republican members who disputed certified election results that favor Joe Biden should be held accountable, and after pro Trump supporters were cleared from the Capitol on Jan. 6, you voted to reject electoral results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Do you see yourself implicated in that call for accountability? Why or why not?
Matt Rosendale: No, the people that, that, rioted and broke into the Capitol will and should be held responsible for their own actions. They, they're the ones who perpetrated those actions and they need to be held accountable for that. I am an elected official, and I'm supposed to carry out my duties and my duties are going to be support and oppose a lot of issues over the next two years and whether people agree with that or don't agree with that.
No different than I have a process with, which I have to go through if I see a law that I disagree with, I can't just ignore it. I have to do my best to try and change it. And if, and if the general public sees something that they disagree with, then they have a process with which they can contact their elected officials to try and change it. That's what our country is. That's what these institutions provide us the ability to do. And it also gives us the ability, the First Amendment right to go out and speak your mind freely and to protest. But once you cross the line and you start damaging other people's property, private property, now you have, have violated someone else's constitutional rights and they have, they can, inducted criminal activities.
Rachel Cramer: I saw that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the mob was fed lies and “provoked by the president and other powerful people.” What's your response to this, and are you concerned that events like this could happen in the future?
Matt Rosendale: I would certainly hope that the events like this do not happen in the future, and I do not believe that that the, I certainly disagree with Mitch McConnell. The people that, that took those actions on that Wednesday evening were wrong. They were 100 percent wrong and I've denounced many times over any type of political violence. And I was very pleased that the leadership from the House and the Senate made sure that we were able to reconvene by 9:00 p.m. that same evening to go back in and finish up our duties. I was very pleased and proud of that.
Rachel Cramer: Before the mob stormed the Capitol, a lot of people were gathering at a rally with President Trump. He used a lot of language that, saying that people needed to fight and stand up. I’ve noticed in some of the tweets that you've sent out, you used words like ‘tyranny’ to describe House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. You’ve also called one of your Republican colleagues to step down from a leadership position after she voted to impeach former president Trump. And so, I guess what role do you and fellow elected leaders have in ensuring that an event like this doesn't happen again in the future in terms of language?
Matt Rosendale: Well, I think that the, the Speaker takes, some responsibility for the, House Speaker Pelosi, because the Sergeant-at-arms apparently had requested additional support and questioned her about what was the best way to provide additional security, and ultimately they're the ones that are supposed to keep the house chamber secure. I know that the security around the Capitol, they were distraught because they weren't able to get the additional support that they had requested for that day as well.
And these are, these are questions that need to go into the security departments, whether that's the Capitol Police or that’s Secret Service, whether that's National Guard, to make sure that their chain of command has the adequate security to keep people at a distance when they start seeing those types of events arising so that they are able to, to manage it and keep it under control.
Editor’s note: The New York Times reports the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms never let top Congressional Leaders know the Capitol Police had warned they might need National Guard backup on Jan. 6.
Rachel Cramer: With all due respect, what power do words have, especially from elected officials?
Matt Rosendale: I, again, people need to take responsibility for their own actions and, Rachel, we've seen comments made from Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi herself over the last, just like six months that were extremely aggressive and hostile. And I don't think we should be standing around at this point saying what they said was worse than what this person said. What we have to do is make sure that the people that perpetrated these actions are held responsible for their actions, and, and try to make sure that security and there's a big analysis that's taking place right now that the security that is responsible for protecting the capital and, and the members of Congress is put in a position that it does just that.
Rachel Cramer: There are a number of projects in Montana that depend on federal funding, which as Montana's lone representative, you're the sole advocate for Montana in the House. And I'm thinking of repairs and upgrades to massive irrigation projects, broadband, affordable housing grants. What are some of your priorities and what's your strategy as a freshman working in the minority for bringing them home to Montana?
Matt Rosendale: Yeah, I'd say, and I, and I've always been a strong, strong advocate for infrastructure, for our irrigation projects. Everything that comes into and out of Montana is, is freight; it's freight related. So we have to make sure that our highways are in good shape, and the bulk of our agriculture, it really does rely heavily, not the bulk of it, but the, but some of the top end products rely heavily on those irrigation projects.
We just saw the St. Mary's project this past summer had a major breakage and, and they were not able to get their irrigation act together again until late, late in the year. And this is, this is maintenance that has been deferred for many, many, many years, too long. And so I'm going to be working with the proper departments to make sure that we do have adequate funding for those things.
I think that when it comes to infrastructure, whether we're talking about highways or whether we're talking about broadband, that we have to take a little bit of a different look at it and try to find other areas to get revenue because there is such a deficiency there and also look at ways with which we can make sure that the permitting and the cost associated with developing those projects can be reduced as well. And so I've got a, a plan that I've already laid out to, to address some of those issues. And I'm going to be looking to, to, members that are in the committees that have control and jurisdiction over those issues to make sure that I can start building all those relationships to get that work done.
Rachel Cramer: And when you mentioned some alternative funding sources, what would be some of those sources?
Matt Rosendale: Well, that's what we have to start looking at. I want to put those things on the table and find out why, there's several things that I put forward already to reduce the regulations to actually go in. For example, broadband, and take advantage of construction that is already taking place on roadways and go in and install broadband right there to take the fees that are associated, the federal fees that are associated with installing that broadband and reducing those down.
There's, there's no reason to have those additional tax dollars. Because that's what they are. Fees, tax dollars placed into federal coffers when we could take those dollars and allow those companies to expand those, those lines out, even farther. Let’s do it when the roads are opened up so that we don't go back in when a road has been newly constructed, and then after the fact they get back up and, and put those, those lines in. There's a lot of different things we can do and help with permitting, but we will sit down and I am willing to sit down and try and figure out where we can find additional revenue to make sure that this gets done.
Rachel Cramer: Getting back to the inauguration today, President Biden was speaking quite a bit about unity and how we need to move forward, and these are things that you mentioned as well. How do elected officials help drive that forward?
Matt Rosendale: Well, when I was the Senate Majority Leader in the Montana legislature, I found common ground on issues of, of concern and, and basically I was able to work across lines and bring people together on things that were going to benefit us all. And so what I've got to do is find issues that are going to benefit other states and then go to those states and bring those representatives together to make sure that, that we can advance an issue.
I'll tell you something else, Rachel, that if someone else brings an idea forward, regardless of who it comes from, if it's going to benefit the people of Montana, then I'm going to support it, and I'm going to try and advance that agenda, regardless of who is the author of that initiative. And that's what we have to do. We have to focus more on policy instead of personalities, and that's what I've always been able to do.
Rachel Cramer: All right. Well, Representative Rosendale, thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Matt Rosendale: Sure, sure. You have a great evening.
Rachel Cramer: Thank you, you too.