Senator Burns Demonstrates How Powerless He Is

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One of the major themes of the Burns campaign has been, and no doubt will continue to be, the argument that his seniority is too important for Montana to lose. That’s an interesting argument, given that Burns apparently is the least effective Senator in the nation, according to his own releases.

Still stinging from criticism of his attack on firefighters, Burns offered up a little smokescreen today to hide the truth about his disdain for the men and womyn who fight fires. What he revealed, though, is that he can’t get anything passed through the Senate.

From the release, which called all of these things accomplishments:

Item #1: Conrad cosponsored the “Aerial Firefighter Relief Act (S.989, 108th Congress) which would have extended public safety officer death benefits to certain aerial firefighters, including contractors, who serve a public agency.

What does a quick trip to Thomas reveal? That the bill had 4 co-sponsors, three of them Democrats, and made it as far being referred to the Judiciary Committe. No votes, no benefits, no accomplishment.

Item #2:He also introduced legislation to provide overtime to Forest Service, considered time and a half of their hourly rate. (S.1498, the “Wildland Firefighters Pay Equity Act of 1999” introduced during the 106th Congress).

And what does Thomas say about this bill? It made it as far as the Subcommittee on International Security. No vote, no overtime, no accomplishment.

Item #3: Conrad supported the Benjamin Franklin Memorial Fire Service Bill of Rights Act (S.1933 during the 101st Congress), which would have provided scholarship assistance to children of fallen firefighters, and would have provided assistance to firefighters for higher education in fire safety or protection.

Thomas? Well, he tells me that the bill was actually designed to issue commemorative coins for Ben Franklin, and a rhetorical committment to increased programs for firefighers. No money, no action, and this bill was passed by a voice vote in 1990, and held at the desk.

The fourth and fifth items? Resolutions that Burns co-sponsored calling a Day “National Firefighters Day” in 1992, and calling a week “National Police Officer and Firefighter Week”, also in 1992.

Surely, those passed, right? Well, not so much. One was indefinitely held in the Senate, and the other made it to House, where it died.

Finally, Item #6:Conrad also cosponsored the Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement (FIRE) Act (S.1941 during the 106th Congress) which would have allowed FEMA to make competitive grant awards to protect the health and safety of firefighters and the public.

This one made it all the way to hearings. No vote, no money, no achievement.

That’s Conrad Burns’ record on supporting firefighters. A thin collection of bills that he co-sponsored that died, many during Republican control of the Congress. What Senator Burns doesn’t seem to understand is that playing politics with the lives of firefighters is even worse than his insensitive comments the other day. The Kool-Aid drinkers are going to read Burns’ e-mail and decide that that liberal media is attacking poor ol’ Connie again, but it isn’t liberal bias if it’s true.

Conrad Burns can talk about how much he supports firefighters all he wants. The fact is, either he lacks the influence in the Senate necessary to make changes, or he just doesn’t give a damn. Either way, Montana deserves better.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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