Montana U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines had a war of words Tuesday over Republicans' failed attempt to block the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's win and the fallout.
In an op-ed published Tuesday, Tester, a Democrat, blasted the 13 Republicans who announced plans to challenge the presidential election because of unproven allegations of voter fraud during last week's certification.
Tester did not mention Daines by name, but the Republican was among that group. Daines changed course and voted in favor of certification after the riots at the U.S. Capitol. Other Republican senators did continue the challenge, which pushed certification into the early morning hours last Thursday.
A Daines spokesperson fired back, citing fiery rhetoric from Tester two years ago in an interview on MSNBC.
Here's Tester's full op-ed:
Last week, as I worked in my Senate office, I watched in horror as terrorists ransacked our nation’s Capitol, where I represent Montanans in the U.S. Senate.
The Capitol is a beacon of hope, which I share with colleagues, staffers, custodial workers, reporters, woodworkers and law enforcement officials, among thousands of other Americans.
In the aftermath of that armed insurrection, it is our duty to hold everyone involved accountable to our laws and history — not just President Donald Trump and the violent rioters he incited, but also the members of Congress who enabled him.
A few days before the violent insurrection, as the president pressured Georgia’s Secretary of State to find enough votes to overturn his election loss, 13 of my Senate colleagues took the shocking step [politico.com] of announcing plans to challenge the outcome of the election.
Maybe they did it because they believe it will help them in their next election. Maybe they did it to raise money, or because it’s much easier to follow than to lead. Whatever their reasons, blame rests squarely on their shoulders, and history will never forget who they are — no matter how much they try to explain it away now.
If traitors to our democracy aren’t held accountable, we will fall under siege again. And if that happens, it will unfold with better planning and even bloodier results.
Millions of Americans watched as armed terrorists marched from the president’s rally to Capitol Hill, then smashed their way into our nation’s foremost symbol of freedom and democracy.
After officers regained control of the Capitol, some of those 13 senators quickly changed their tune, condemning the outcome they provoked — without taking any responsibility for their role in parroting, protecting and enabling the disaster 16 blocks west of Capitol Hill for years.
For the past four years, this president has cheapened the institutions of our country, mocked our democracy, disposed of our allies and embraced dictators. He did it because too many politicians enabled his crusade for unchecked power, found an excuse for every lie, ignored every breathtaking tweet and pretended our fragile democracy wasn’t on the line.
On Wednesday, our democracy was on the line. Up close and on live TV for everyone in the world to see. The insurrection of the U.S. Capitol was domestic terrorism, plain and simple.
I represent a state whose early history was shaped by crooked, power-hungry politicians. More than a century ago, one of the wealthiest men on the planet, a mining magnate from Montana named William Clark [senate.gov], bribed his way to a seat in the U.S. Senate. In our state, a lot of powerful people looked the other way because they were afraid of him. But in Washington, the scandal was so concerning that the Senate initially refused to even seat Clark.
The people of Montana got fed up with all this unchecked power. Republicans and Democrats, and even socialists, teamed up to pass powerful reforms to put political power back in the hands of Montana’s people. This is history worth repeating.
Let’s declare war on unchecked power. Let’s demand courage, accountability and truth from our leaders. Let’s call phonies for what they are, including those who wrap themselves in flags before burning America down.
And to my colleagues who helped set off this tragic set of events: I urge you to take an honest look in the mirror and accept responsibility for the damage you’ve done.
The future of our fragile democracy depends on it.
Here's the statement from the Daines spokesperson:
“Senator Tester is no stranger to dangerous rhetoric when he suggested on MSNBC just 18 months ago his supporters need to ‘punch the President in the face.’ However, calling Senators and Congressmen traitors is inexcusable. His outrage is an effort to silence not the criminals who assaulted the Capitol but the vast majority of peaceful, patriotic supporters of President Trump, and strong majority of his own Montana constituents who just overwhelmingly elected Senator Daines and Congressman (Matt) Rosendale over his preferred candidates. Senator Daines believes it’s time to stop trying to score political points and come together for the future of our country.”
The spokesperson was referring to a 2018 interview Tester did with Joe Scarborough, days after he defeated Rosendale to win his third term.