The bipartisan congressional panel that will determine the fate of President Donald Trump’s demand for an almost $6 billion border wall holds its first meeting Wednesday. And Montana’s senior Senator, Jon Tester, has a seat at that table.
"What I hope happens is (that) the conference committee and the House and Senate does the work they should do and that is, don’t get dug in, talk, find compromise and come up with something that, quite frankly, really does secure the border,” Tester says.
The three-term Democrat is one of 17 congressional conference committee members who have until February 15 to hash out a border security package. At stake is a second partial government shutdown.
As reported by the New York Times this week, Tester said he’s not opposed to spending money for a physical wall.
However, he adds it will take a variety of measures to secure the southern border; including new technology and, “Detention beds," Tester says.
"It'll contain how many officers there's going to be, in both the ports and the border and ICE. It’s going to contain information on fencing and the amount of money for that. So really we’re starting at ground zero and working off that."
The border wall isn’t the only big-ticket item on Tester’s radar. He anticipates a public lands package that includes the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act and permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund will soon hit the Senate floor. Both measures failed in the final hours of Congress late last year.
“I anticipate this thing will pass by probably 95 to five, maybe even more than that. But I just want to get it passed, even if it’s by just one vote. I think it’ll be brought to the floor this next week. Hopefully, we can have a good debate, a vigorous debate, and vote on it and move it to the president’s desk."
Tester adds that other important issues including missing and murdered indigenous women and affordable housing are high on his radar for 2019.