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Tester discusses issues impacting Montanans

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MONTANA — Senator Jon Tester held a rural press phone call recently, opening up discussion about concerns such as the national debt, bank failures, and the continued influx of fentanyl into Montana communities. 

Tester began by addressing “the elephant in the room,” the possibility of defaulting on the national debt. “I want to be perfectly clear – defaulting on our debt would crash our economy. And that is not an overstatement, that is a fact,” Tester stated. “It would make life harder for every single family, every single small business, every single family farm in Montana.” 

The House has been discussing defaulting on the national debt in recent days due to narrowly approving a bill to reduce deficits by $4.8 trillion over the next 10 years, including reclaiming unspent COVID funding, eliminating clean energy tax credits, and reversing the student debt forgiveness and repayment plan.

“The debt ceiling is simply about money that’s already been spent,” Tester said. “Money that’s already been appropriated, bills that have already been approved, and it’s no different than if you default on your car loan, or your house loan, or your credit card bill. Things get much more complicated financially and the same thing would happen to the country overall if we were to default.”

Moving on in the discussion, Tester addressed recent bank failures. As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, Tester said he’s been working to hold regulators and bank executives accountable. The recent bank failure of Silicon Valley Bank has been the largest bank failure since Washington Mutual in 2008. 

Former Silicon Valley Bank CEO Greg Becker was interrogated by the senate committee recently, and regulators are being pressured to claw back executive bonuses to individuals like Martin Gruenberg, Chairman of the FDIC Board of Directors. 

“It is clear that this was a case of gross mismanagement, not only by the CEO, but by their Board of Directors,” Tester stated. 

The conversation then moved on to the issue of fentanyl, the influx of which has impacted numerous families throughout Montana. Part of the new FEND OFF Fentanyl Act, to declare fentanyl a national emergency, Tester said the goal is to give both law enforcement and the Department of Treasury additional tools to pursue both Mexican drug cartels that traffic the drug and Chinese criminal organizations that provide the precursor elements of fentanyl. 

Tester who was part of the two-year extension of Title 42 provisions, which were initially put in place as a matter of public health due to COVID-19, despite the government largely considering the pandemic to be over. When asked about the purpose of the legislation, Tester stated the extension was simply to give the administration another tool to deal with immigration. He also acknowledged that the influx of fentanyl is not directly related to migration traffic. 

“(Drug traffickers) are crooked businessmen, but they’re businessmen, nonetheless. These drugs aren’t coming across in backpacks, they’re coming across in trucks and cars at our ports of entry,” Tester commented. “That’s why it’s really important that we get the technology where we can scan these folks coming through. The different issue is illegal immigration. They both deal with a single issue, border security … We need a good immigration policy and we don’t have it right now.”

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