It’s easy to hold a press conference declaring your support for Community Health Centers; it’s easy to tell the media that you are committed to funding them; it’s even easy to vote for that funding when you know it’s just a placeholder vote.
If you are Greg Gianforte and Steve Daines, though, what’s hard to do is to actually vote for Montana communities and health care for one in ten Montanans when the vote actually matters.
In an increasingly dysfunctional Washington controlled by Republicans, the Senate cobbled together a budget deal ensuring two years of funding for community health centers, increasing funding for the military, and allocating disaster relief for states affected by wildfires.
So, after weeks of posturing and preening designed to convince the people of Montana that they believed in these vital community health centers, Senator Daines and Representative Gianforte were faced with a decision: would they vote for the only bill that would fund community health centers or would they vote against them?
And, to the surprise of no one, both men voted against Montanans and the community centers that serve them.
To judge their “no votes,” there’s no better place to look than at their own statements about Community Health Centers. From Senator Daines, literally three days before he voted against the CHCs:
“Community Health Centers deliver effective, efficient and affordable healthcare,” Daines said. “In Montana, we have 17 Community Health Centers across our state. There’s a tremendous return on investment with community health centers because we’re treating citizens who have issues earlier in that process, therefore getting well sooner, and that’s the important role that CHC’s provide.”
On the same day, Representative Gianforte issued the following statement:
“I’ve been a strong advocate for community health centers, which about one in ten Montanans rely on for their health care needs. Three months ago, I voted to extend this vital program, and I voted again today to provide continued, predictable funding for our community health centers. I hope the Senate will act to protect Montanans’ access to care,” Gianforte said.
Both Daines and Gianforte couched their votes principled opposition to increasing the nation’s debt, but that doesn’t pass the laugh test, given that both enthusiastically voted to massively expand the deficit to pay for tax breaks for themselves.
That’s the bottom line, people. For Gianforte and Daines, a massive increase in our nation’s debt is entirely justified when it lines the pockets of millionaires, but faux concern about that same debt offers cover for refusing to ensure Montanans have access to health care.
Gianforte and Daines are playing the same cynical game that has broken our nation’s governance and political system. While each has made statements affirming support for community health centers and even cast votes supporting them when they had no chance of becoming law, both men blinked and caved to the special interests in the anti-government wing of the Republican Party and their enablers. Faced with the one vote that matters, Gianforte chose the reactionary policy to appease those who score votes for outfits like Freedomworks rather than Montanans who need assurance they can get access to health care.
It’s just a bigger version of the old scam Denny Rehberg and Conrad Burns ran: voting against road projects and showing up to cut ribbons. And this time actual livesd were at stake.
And unless the press holds them accountable for this latest game of sleight of hand, they’ll get away with it again. Just last week, one Comms staffer for Gianforte was actually calling out the press and asking that they cover “doing something about health care.”
Let’s hope they do. And remember that only one member of our delegation, Senator Jon Tester, can be trusted to actually be a man of word and support all Montana communities.