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Montana congressional delegation responds to Biden's State of the Union address

U.S. Capitol MTN
Posted at 11:04 PM, Mar 07, 2024

HELENA — President Joe Biden delivered his third State of the Union address Thursday night, an often fiery speech laying out his vision for the country and drawing sharp contrasts with his likely opponent in the 2024 elections, former President Donald Trump. The address got mixed reactions from the members of Montana’s congressional delegation.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, the lone Democrat representing Montana in Congress told MTN Thursday he approaches every administration, including Biden’s, as a mixed bag. In a statement after the speech, Tester said Biden had addressed some of the pressing issues for Montana, but more work needs to be done.

Every member of Congress is given one guest ticket for the address. Tester’s guest this year was Fred Hamilton, a Vietnam veteran from Columbia Falls who was exposed to toxins during his service and who is now receiving benefits through the PACT Act.

“We need to address workforce, we need to address the inflation issue, we need to address child care and housing – so there's plenty of things to address out there,” Tester told MTN. “But keep in mind this – and this is a fact: We are the greatest country in the world. We're the greatest country the world's ever known. A lot of that is due to folks like Fred Hamilton who served this country in the military. But the bottom line is, if we don't make good decisions in Washington, D.C., then we could lose that status.”

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines told MTN Thursday that he didn’t bring a guest to this year’s speech. He said he thought most Montanans felt the country is on the wrong track, and that he doubted they’d be interested to hear Biden’s framing of the issues. He blamed the Biden administration for “failure after failure.”

“Montanans see what I see – and that is the nation is in chaos, it's in crisis,” said Daines. “This president has the worst approval ratings of any president in our nation's history at this moment of time in the presidency. We've got an out-of-control border as a result of Joe Biden's reversal of President Trump's policies – literally an invasion going on with nearly 9 million illegals into our country. We're seeing the crime, the fentanyl.”

U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke was joined Thursday by Marvin Weatherwax Jr., a Blackfeet Tribal Business Council member, Democratic state legislator and chairman of the Coalition of Large Tribes, an organization that advocates for tribes which oversee large trust land bases. Zinke said the two shared concerns about border security and the impacts drugs are having in Montana tribal areas.

After the speech, Zinke accused Biden of inaction on key issues.

“You know, we're a border state, both physically and now feeling it from the south,” he said. “The economy is not great in every place in Montana, and Montana families are struggling. Energy costs are up. So a lot of issues – by the way, I haven't seen any issue that's not fixable.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale released a video statement on YouTube after the address. In it, he thanked his guest – Billings Gazette photographer Larry Mayer, whose photo revealed the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that flew over Montana last year – but criticized Biden.

“The rest of the speech, unfortunately, was filled with a bunch of very expensive promises, giveaways by the Democrat party and the Biden administration, and higher taxes for what he would consider the rich and wealthy,” he said. “This is the same scenario that they use time and time again and, to me, it was just a very good bedtime story, because it was just full of fairytales.”