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Dem Sen. Jon Tester Becomes Crucial Swing Voter

Jon Tester
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. (Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 06 March 2023 02:24 PM EST

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is becoming a crucial player for President Joe Biden's agenda in the Senate.

"He's not only a crucial swing vote but he's No. 25 in seniority in the Senate now, and he's got two key chairmanships. He's chairing the defense subcommittee on appropriations, and he's chairing [the] Veterans Affairs [Committee.] So those give him a bully pulpit and a chance to do some things," said David McCumber, a resident of Butte, Montana, who serves as the local news director in the Western United States for Lee Enterprises.

McCumber said Tester's going to buck Biden on some high-profile issues.

Tester is leading a Senate investigation into the Biden administration's handling of a Chinese spy balloon that floated across Montana and other parts of the country last month, The Hill reported.

The Democrats have a 51-49 majority in the Senate, but "Tester's vote is becoming more critical to the Biden agenda as fellow endangered Senate Democrat Manchin increasingly aligns himself with Republican colleagues," The Hill observed.

Tester could be the deciding vote on some of Biden's controversial nominees, such as Eric Garcetti, the president's embattled pick to serve as ambassador to India, and Phillip Washington, Biden's choice to head the Federal Aviation Administration, The Hill added.

Tester won't say how he's going to vote on Garcetti's nomination to be ambassador or the resolution to block the D.C. crime bill, which now is expected to pass the Senate with a large majority of votes after Biden announced Thursday he would sign it into law.

Biden's announcement last week that he will sign a GOP-sponsored resolution to block a controversial new D.C. crime bill gives Tester political cover to vote for it this week.

Tester may vote for another Republican-sponsored resolution that would block a rule from Biden's Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that expands federal jurisdiction over streams and wetlands, The Hill reported.

And he voted last week for a GOP-sponsored resolution to block a Biden Labor Department rule encouraging retirement managers to consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors when making investment decisions, The Hill noted.

Tester and Manchin were the only two Senate Democrats to vote to block the Biden rule encouraging retirement managers to weigh ESG factors. The passage of that resolution has set the stage for Biden's first veto.

Christopher Muste, a professor of political science at the University of Montana, said Tester has always had an independent streak but has tended to be "quieter" about it compared to higher-profile centrists such as Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz.

Tester, for example, tried to amend COVID relief legislation in March of 2021 with a proposal to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward without a presidential permit, The Hill reported. And he voted for a GOP-sponsored resolution in December of 2021 to nullify Biden's COVID vaccine mandate for private businesses, The Hill added.

"He's been someone who's used his leverage in the past to try to get more attention to issues that are relevant to Montanans," Muste said. "I expect him to do so fairly quietly on national terms."

Muste said Tester's willingness to buck his party's leadership will help thwart efforts by Republicans in Montana to link him to Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), The Hill observed.

Tester announced last month that he would run for a fourth Senate term. Tester faces a tough re-election race next year in a state that former President Trump won by large margins.

McCumber noted that "Montana by all appearances has turned hard right," but he thinks Tester "remains in a pretty good position" to win re-election.

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Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is becoming a crucial player for President Joe Biden's agenda in the Senate.
jon tester, senator, biden, agenda
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2023-24-06
Monday, 06 March 2023 02:24 PM
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