At the start of the New Year many Montanans make New Yearís resolutions. Maybe itís to spend time with family, put more money into savings, or enjoy our world-class public lands a little more. As your Senator, my resolution is to continue to bring your input back from the Treasure State to the U.S. Senate.
This year, I joined the Senate Commerce Committee to fight for Montana small businesses. Along with my spots on the Banking, Veteransí Affairs, Indian Affairs, and Appropriations Committees I will be able to have a strong voice for Montanaís priorities.
Since President Trump came into office, I have been working with him to get ten bills signed into law. These laws improved accountability and accessibility at the VA, cracked down on government waste and fraud, and gave local fire departments across Montana the resources they need to keep communities safe.
In 2018, I hope to build on our success and continue to deliver for Montana. Whether that means protecting Social Security and Medicare, getting a Farm Bill that works for Montanaís family farmers and ranchers, protecting our public lands, cutting red tape for our community banks and credit unions, or replacing the broken VA Choice Program, I am ready to work with anyone to get things done.
As Congress looks for responsible ways to rein in our spending I will defend Social Security and Medicare from draconian cuts that would hurt Libbyís seniors. Montana seniors have paid into Social Security and Medicare all their lives and I will not allow Washington politicians to raid these important safety nets. We need to get our debt under control, and I will not let politicians leave Montanaís seniors out in the cold.
Social Security and Medicare arenít the only safety net Montanans need access to. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and we need a strong Farm Bill that prevents consolidation, invests in our rural communities, and helps families maintain profitability. As a dirt farmer from Big Sandy, I know how important the Farm Bill is to the rancher, farmer, or logger in Lincoln County. Thatís why Iíve held Farm Bill listening sessions across the state to find out whatís working and what can be improved in the next Farm Bill.
Outside of agriculture, Montana relies on access to public land and clean air and water to drive our $7 billion outdoor economy. Thatís why in 2018, I hope to get my Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act and the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act across the finish line. These made-in-Montana solutions are the result of on the ground collaboration and I will fight to ensure Montanaís public lands and the jobs that come with them are protected.
From Kootenai River to Montanaís Main Streets, Iíll be holding Washington accountable to deliver high paying jobs and stronger economies. The community bankers across Montana are more familiar with walleye than a Wall Street boardroom. So they shouldnít be facing the same regulations as the big banks in New York City. Thatís why I worked with local Montana banks and credit unions to write a bipartisan bill to spur economic growth, increase access to capital, protect consumers, and cut red tape for Main Street businesses. In the coming months, I will work with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents to get this to the Presidentís desk.
Finally in 2018, I hope to get rid of the disastrous VA Choice program and replace it with a solution that works for Montanaís veterans. Iíve heard from Veterans across Montana that Choice is just not working. As Ranking Member of the Veteransí Affairs Committee Iíve written a bipartisan plan to scrap the Choice Program and improve access to care for our veterans. My Caring for Our Veterans Act will end the Choice program as we know it and help get veterans in front of doctors quicker and in their communities. Our veterans earned these benefits and Congress needs to live up to our promises.
Itís an ambitious agenda, but with ten bills already signed into law by President Trump I am hopeful we can continue to get things done. In 2018, I hope to bring Lincoln Countyís voice back with me to the Senate.
Jon Tester is the senior Senator from Montana.