Montana's congressional delegation managed to broadcast one message louder than any other in 2011: They're good at wasting time.
Our state and nation are facing increasingly grim straits as we approach 2012. The U.S. has yet to solve its major financial problems. We'd like to believe that with a new year we'll see a renewed effort from our representatives to work toward a solution—but we're not holding our breath.
It's what our delegation has failed to do that gets under our skin. The Department of Justice roughed up numerous Montana medical marijuana providers this year, closing down small businesses through raids and offering the public no explanation. Where were Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus when our businesses needed defending and our questions needed answering? And why couldn't Baucus help break a partisan deadlock in the deficit reduction supercommittee?
Both senators were busy pulling strings—to get ESPN to air the Griz FCS playoff games in Montana.
Meanwhile, Rep. Denny Rehberg is too preoccupied protecting a five-foot-something statue of Jesus Christ at a ski resort to negotiate on health and education budgets in the House subcommittee he chairs. Avoid a government shutdown on Dec. 16 by working across the aisle to draft a $900 billion omnibus bill? Forget it. As a congressional aide told The Hill last week, Rehberg's running against Tester and can't be seen compromising with Democrats. Instead, he's riding out 2011 voting along party lines and strong-arming the Secretary of State into permitting the divisive Keystone XL pipeline.
Tester's been less than stellar himself in 2011, bickering with Rehberg over who originally proposed a wolf delisting rider this spring and refusing to give up on his languishing Forest Jobs and Recreation Act as the only hope for Montana's future. Tester's certainly been busier than Rehberg; he sponsored 44 bills in 2011 to Rehberg's 15. None passed, however, and declaring July 8 "Collector Car Appreciation Day" doesn't count.
Our delegation has done some admirable if inconsequential work in 2011. Baucus and Tester took time to propose awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Elouise Cobell, who passed away this fall. But that good work was overshadowed by constant distraction. No one appeared interested in closing our economic wounds.
So here's a New Year's resolution for our delegates: Stop wasting time with statues and football, and get on with business that actually matters.