HELENA — The last month has been busy for Montana’s two U.S. senators.
On Wednesday, Sen. Steve Daines was announced as the next chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign organization that is focused on electing Republican candidates to the Senate. Daines was elected by his fellow Republican senators to lead the group into the 2024 elections.
“We're going to fight for every seat and work hard to build a lasting Senate Republican majority,” he said in a statement. “The choice for Americans in 2024 will be very clear: a Republican Party that will secure a stronger, brighter future for America, and a Democrat Party that will take our country further down a path toward socialism. We will aggressively hold Senate Democratic candidates accountable for being out of touch with their constituents and giving unwavering support of Joe Biden's radical and woke agenda that has led to rising prices, an energy catastrophe and a southern border crisis that is hurting every state across America.”
Jason Thielman, one of Daines’ longtime top aides, will serve as the NRSC’s executive director.
This new position could put Daines in the position of recruiting and backing a challenger to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, whose term expires in 2024. During a call with reporters Thursday, Tester said he would wait until next year to decide whether to run for reelection. He said he applauded Daines’ selection and that any time a Montanan entered leadership, it was a positive thing.
Tester, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, also spoke about a recent trip he made to Europe. In the last week of October, he visited Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Denmark to meet with U.S. troops and talk to allies about the response to the Ukraine conflict.
Tester said lawmakers are currently in negotiations on a major omnibus spending bill, to be considered before the end of the year. He said aid to Ukraine will continue to be a large part of the discussions.
“I think we need to keep the Ukraine effort in mind, because I think it’s an effort worth supporting,” he said. “Now, does that mean we write them a blank check? No, it doesn’t. It means we appropriate money and make sure it’s being used for the right reasons, whether it’s militarily or for humanitarian needs.”
Tester said the U.S. government is also continuing efforts to support diplomacy in the Ukraine conflict.
Congress is currently in its “lame duck” session – its final meetings before newly elected lawmakers take office in January. One notable bill up for discussion during the session is the “Respect for Marriage Act,” which would put protections for same-sex and interracial marriages into federal law. On Wednesday, the bill cleared its biggest hurdle, as all 50 Democrats and 12 Republicans voted to close debate – surpassing the 60-vote threshold required for it to move forward. A final Senate vote is set for the coming weeks, after which it would return to the House.
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Tester said he’s supportive of the bill, and optimistic it will receive strong support and final passage.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I don’t think we should be discriminating.”
Daines was one of 37 Republicans who voted against cloture on the bill.
“Senator Daines believes marriage is between a man and a woman,” a spokesperson for his office said. “Daines believes the Senate should be working to address the inflation crisis, energy crisis and the southern border crisis created under President Biden’s administration.”