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2020 Senate Race Featured Montana Politics Steve Daines

Daines Touts His Support for Law Enforcement at State of the Union Despite Repeatedly Voting Against Public Safety

Senator Daines announced last week that he would be inviting Jodi Moore, the wife of Broadwater County sheriff’s deputy Mason Moore, an officer tragically killed in the line of duty during a traffic stop in 2017, as his guest to the State of the Union address. While there is no questioning the appropriateness of the invitation and the sacrifice that Mrs. Moore has endured, it is hard to reconcile Daines’s decision to invite her with his voting record, one that shows a clear pattern of refusing to support first responders, those battling the opioid crisis, and programs designed to combat violence against women.

In 2014, as a member of the House, Daines voted against increasing funding for programs to combat violence against women and support community policing in the COPS measure. In that vote, Daines, also rejected additional funding for helping states and communities address the backlog of testing sexual assault kits, a pervasive problem here in Montana.

As Congressional Quarterly noted then, the amendment:

“would [have] increase[d] by $1 million each, funds provided in the [underlying appropriations] bill for Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution programs, grants to combat violence against women, State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance and grants to address backlogs of sexual assault kits. It would [have] increase[d] by $3 million each, funds provided in the bill for Community Oriented Policing Services and for hiring under this program.”

That provision about the backlog of sexual assault kits is especially damning. As Representative Gwen Smith noted then, the motion was a critical first step to reduce the backlog and get justice for sexual assault survivors:

The overwhelmingly scourge of backlogged kits require nothing less than a national commitment, Mr. Speaker, including a dedicated response from the United States Congress. I am pleased that the bill before us tonight fulfills the request from the Obama administration to provide funding for a new grant program to inventory and test rape kits, develop units to pursue new investigative leads, and offer support to victims during the process. The new investment through this bipartisan bill is an important first step.

Daines continued to vote against law enforcement and community justice as a member of the Senate. In 2017, he voted against an amendment that would have provided $2.2 billion dollars for vital services, including law enforcement grants and $242 million to fight opioid and heroin addiction.

Daines even voted against health care for 9/11 first responders in 2015. Even though the Senate passed the measure on a bipartisan vote, Daines voted against making funding for the 9/11 first responders permanent.

In 2018, Daines once again voted against law enforcement and crime prevention measures by voting against the FY 2018 Omnibus spending bill. In particular, the bill increased funding for programs to prevent violence against women:

“The agreement appropriates $2.4 billion for state and local law enforcement programs — $375 million (18%) more than the FY 2017 level and $965 million (65%) more than requested. The total for state and local law enforcement includes the following: [..] Office on Violence Against Women — $492 million as a transfer from the Crime Victims Fund for Office on Violence Against Women prevention programs and prosecutions.”

The bill, which also increased federal grants to law enforcement by $375 million dollars, also included a $3 billion dollar increase in funding to address the nation’s opioid crisis. From the Washington Post:

The bill increases funding to tackle the opioid epidemic, a boost that lawmakers from both parties hailed as a win. The legislation allocates more than $4.65 billion across agencies to help states and local governments on efforts toward prevention, treatment and law enforcement initiatives. That represents a $3 billion increase over 2017 spending levels.

And that money is sorely needed. Despite his vote against the additional funding, Daines himself told the Missoulian one month earlier that Montana is facing a crisis from the drugs:

For years, the opioids epidemic has been steadily growing and engulfing communities across Montana and the nation. In Montana, opioid overdoses have claimed the lives of 700 people since 2000. From 2013 to 2014, 42 percent of all drug-related deaths were caused by opioids. With easier access and a larger supply on the street, drugs are making their way into the hands of Montanans. This reality is tearing families apart, and devastating our communities.

All of which makes Daines’s decision to invite Mrs. Moore to the State of the Union address so frustrating. While he gives lip service to the needs of law enforcement, first responders, and those facing the opioid epidemic, Daines repeatedly votes against programs that will make our communities safer and efforts to improve the health and safety of those first responders.

It’s classic Daines. While he even seems to, at some level, recognize the need to fund vital government services, he’s more beholden to the corporate interests who elected him than the people of Montana who need him to represent us in Washington. While inviting Mrs. Moore to Washington rightly recognizes her loss and the gratitude of the people of Montana, it’s time for Daines to move past political theater and time for him to vote for real tools to reduce crime in our communities.

And someone should hold him accountable for that failure.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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