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Swamp Gas Politics

Last week’s astounding pronouncements from Montana’s Republican congressional members, Rep. Matt Rosendale and Sen. Steve Daines, left Montanans, including their fellow Republicans, wondering what planet these guys are living on. Both protested against the practice of designating specific projects for funding instead of giving a blank check to government agencies to spend as they wish. And both referred to Congress as “the swamp.” Given they are both supposed to be serving the people of Montana and the United States, their nonsensical comments amounted to little more than an odoriferous leaking of partisan swamp gas.

Right out of the chute, it’s almost impossible to read their comments without laughing. As Lee reporter Tom Lutey wrote in his excellent and in-depth article, Daines claims: “Earmarks are a swampy, corrupt D.C. practice that promotes pay-for-play behavior. This toxic culture does nothing but allow Washington elites to fund their pet projects on the Montana taxpayer’s dime, which is why I have introduced legislation to permanently ban this corrupt practice.” Meanwhile, although Rosendale refused to be interviewed, his office unleashed this gaseous bubble: “Rep. Rosendale campaigned on draining the swamp, not becoming a part of it.”

Mind you, this blather comes following four long years of the former occupant of the White House supposedly “draining the swamp.” Of course it’s rather common knowledge that no administration in recent history has contained as many swamp creatures as Trump’s, which was rife with industry lobbyists running agencies they routinely opposed for their corporate clients. But hey, no need to face the truth when it’s so much easier to just keep repeating the lies.

That said, Daines and Rosendale’s comments brought great consternation to their fellow Republicans who are actually trying to govern. For instance, take the comments of Bill Cole, Republican mayor of Billings, Montana’s largest town. “If we do not have anyone in the House to make requests to House Appropriations, the dollars that might have gone to Billings will instead go to Boise, Baton Rouge or Boston, and I doubt they’ll even send us a thank-you card.”

Juxtaposition that reality with the fact Rosendale, one of the 14 House Freedom Caucus members, has vowed to not participate in the process. Then consider that the majority of the 211 Republican House members voted to, in fact, support the earmarks. Who is out of step here do you suppose? Then again, maybe swamp gas has deleterious side effects on logic circuits.

Even Cy Jamison, Republican lobbyist and former head of the Bureau of Land Management with 40 years of experience in Washington, told reporters: “I always consider myself a conservative when it comes to fiscal issues, but you got to be very practical too. That’s where we’ve lost it.” Indeed, Sen. Lindsey Graham was even more blunt, saying: “Democrats do it; if we don’t do it, we’re stupid.” He also noted that Donald Trump supported earmarks.

What’s at stake here are billions of federal dollars for much-needed Montana infrastructure projects, across-the-board help for Montana’s families, businesses, health and educational systems. Yet Daines and Rosendale are inexplicably putting on some kind of theatrical performance that has absolutely no foundation in the reality of how our fellow citizens get the federal financial assistance they so desperately need and deserve.

Unlike our benighted and addled Republican congressional delegation, swamps actually perform beneficial functions. They hold and clean water by removing nutrients and pollutants while providing a vital niche in their ecosystems. And when they leak swamp gas, it’s simply part of doing their jobs. The same can’t be said of Daines and Rosendale.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

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