Inspired by a conversation with JC on the never-ending swipe fee debate, in which it was suggested that Senator Tester was anti-labor, I decided to look into the reasons I support his candidacy for re-election in 2012. That support doesn’t mean I won’t continue to criticize bad votes and it certainly doesn’t mean that I have suddenly transformed into some kind of moderate, but looking into Senator Tester’s first term thus far revealed a candidate that I am happy to support for re-election.
Before I launch into the list of reasons (which is certainly not comprehensive) progressives should support Senator Tester, I do need to acknowledge a few key points. Senator Tester is not incredibly liberal; he’s a moderate-left Democrat who has managed to vote for and promote some issues that are critically important—all in a state that is moderate-right. Perhaps some of us would prefer someone like Senator Sanders from Vermont, but in the current polarized political climate and in a state in which we just watched reactionaries hijack the Legislature for ninety 90 days, I don’t think we can afford to not work out asses off for someone who has supported positions that are important to Montana and its people.
WORKERS, UNIONS, and CONSUMERS
- From the Montana AFL-CIO: “Montanans need quality, sustainable jobs. That’s the bottom line. Senator Tester has consistently been personally active and vigilant in promoting sustainable Montana jobs that pay wages that support a family and offer health insurance coverage and defined benefit pensions. He knows what it takes to create those jobs and we’re proud of the work he’s done,” said Jim McGarvey, Executive Secretary of the 38,000 member labor organization.
- Tester voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which protects the rights of workers to assert their rights when facing discrimination.
- Tester voted for the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
- Tester voted for the Lincoln Amendment to the health reform bill, which would have reigned in executive compensation.
- Tester received an “A’” from the NEA in 2009 and 2007 and has consistently supported education.
- Tester voted for and led the fight in the Banking Committee to pass the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act.
- Tester protected small farmer and food safety with his work on the Food Safety Modernization Bill. Two renowned experts on food quality, Eric Schlosser & Michael Pollan, said that “S510 is the most important food safety legislation in a generation.The Tester amendment will make it even more effective, strengthening food safety rules while protecting small farmers and producers.We both think this is the right thing to do.”
- Trout Unlimited supports his Forest Jobs and Recreation Bill: “At its heart, S. 1470 is a climate change adaptation strategy. By federally protecting the highest quality landscapes and then reconnecting them to adjacent areas through watershed restoration, S. 1470 will help to maintain abundant fish and wildlife populations while providing multiple benefits to human communities through good paying jobs.”
- The Montana Wilderness Association also supports it: “The FJRA is the product of compromise on all sides. But for the many thousands of Montanans who are rallying around this bill, it isn’t about winning or promoting an agenda – it’s about what’s best for Montana. What most of us want is to keep Montana just the way it is.”
- Tester voted against blocking the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.
- Tester supported the interests of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund 75% of the time in 2009 and 73% of the time in 2007-2008.
- Tester supported the interests of the League of Conservation Voters 100 percent in 2009 and 89 percent of the time in 2007/2008.
CIVIL LIBERTIES/CIVIL RIGHTS
- Tester has consistently spoken out in opposition to and voted against extension of the PATRIOT Act.
- Tester voted for federal hate crimes legislation.
- Tester voted to end the broken Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
- Tester has consistently supported a woman’s right to choose, getting 100% ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America his entire career.
- Tester has consistently supported the positions taken by the ACLU between 80-95% of the time.
HEALTH CARE/SENIOR CITIZENS
- Tester successfully increased mileage reimbursement rates for veterans, increased tele-health for the VA, increase mental health services for veterans, and incentivized hiring medical professionals to serve rural vets.
- Tester voted to end the Global Gag Rule, a vote which dramatically improved the health of women and children all over the developing world.
- When it would have been politically advantageous not to, Senator Tester voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
- Tester voted for the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
- Tester fought and voted for the expansion of S-CHIP, proving access to health care for thousands of Montana children.
- Tester supported and voted for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, providing more opportunity to affordably attend college.
No, Senator Tester is not the most liberal member of the Senate. He’s not always right. But before anyone starts throwing out the idea that he is “anti-labor” or more interested in big business than he is in average Montanans, I just hope they’ll look at this voting record–and do some thinking about how the other candidate for his job has voted or will vote on these issues.
In the end, Senator Tester’s done a lot for progressive causes while continuing to represent Montanans who may not agree with us on every issue. Isn’t that his job?