MISSOULA – With less than a month before Congress passes a budget for the next fiscal year, some Montanais are making a concerted effort to ask the senior senator from Montana to back a $ 3.5 trillion spending plan.
On Thursday, groups of Montanais led by the Montana Sierra Club visited Senator Jon Tester’s offices in six cities, presenting Tester staff with “care packages” and petitions calling on the senator to “be a hero.”
“The main message we are trying to send is that we want Sen. Tester to support investments in a just and liveable future,” said Sierra Club organizer Caitlin Piserchia. “He pleaded very hard for the bipartisan infrastructure bill to be passed by the Senate. And now that we have this $ 3.5 trillion plan for the budget reconciliation bill, we need to make sure it includes the right kind of investments to transform Montana and the rest of the county to get us out of here. the climate crisis. “
In order to continue to broadcast the rallies live on various social media platforms throughout the day, visits to the various cities were scheduled every hour between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
At around 2 p.m., 18 Missoulians gathered in front of the Tester’s Front Street office with their petition and their “care package,” a large basket of red, white and blue packages. Each package represented one of six priorities that the Montana Sierra Club and 350 Montana wanted Tester to insist on in the next reconciliation bill.
One box had a circle and slash across the words “Lead Pipes” while another had a circle and slash across the words “Fossil Fuel Subsidies”. They also want 100% clean energy, an abandoned mine and well cleanup, and the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps.
With only a week before the reconciliation bill is due to be fleshed out, there is no time to waste.
The first congressional infrastructure bill, which funds roads, bridges, railroads and broadband, was easily passed by the Senate in early August with bipartisan support, allocating $ 550 billion over the five coming years. He garnered 69 votes, which allowed him to overcome a threat of systematic obstruction. But it has yet to be considered by the House.
Meanwhile, some Democrats are pushing a second $ 3.5 trillion infrastructure bill that goes further by including support for families, expanded federal health care, and investments in technologies that reduce emissions. of carbon.
It could prevent obstruction in the Senate if it were part of the budget process where it could go through a process known as reconciliation. As a result, he would only need 50 votes to pass the Senate. But to do that, Democrats must complete the legislation by September 15 to get it through on time.
That’s why people were knocking on Tester’s doors and calling its offices on Thursday.
Max Smith drove to Missoula from his farm in the Bitterroot Valley to call in Tester.
“No farmer like Jon Tester, no small farmer like me or no one can do it alone. We have to act together and that is what we are here to do: signal a change and hope that it does the necessary votes to invest in the future.
Several of the people who spoke while Piserchia was broadcasting live mentioned the thick smoke blocking the sun over Missoula, saying it was getting harder to ignore climate change. Many have made emotional appeals saying this could be the last chance to make a change big enough to avert the worst effects of climate change.
While this is not the last chance, the sooner these changes can be made, the better.
“We are not the only city to come out today, but in Missoula we are committed to 100% clean electricity by 2030. I think it is likely that we will need policy changes to state and federal government to make it happen, ”Piserchia mentioned. “This city has defined its vision, but we do not have the policy to achieve it. Ditto for Bozeman and Helena.
Regional manager of the tester, Deb Frandsen, asked the group to enter the office and accepted the care package. She said the senator cares about climate change and knows it is affecting farmers in Montana. He now has to plant his crops a few weeks earlier than his grandfather, Frandsen said.
“He got it, and this summer has been tough,” Frandsen said. “Climate change is very important to him, and he will continue to work on these issues in both the infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation bill.”
Other towns involved in the event include Great Falls, Helena, Bozeman, Kalispell and Billings.