Despite being characterized by various media outlets as a key moderate figure, Senator Jon Tester of Montana demonstrated strong support for President Joe Biden’s positions on legislation and nominees, aligning with them over 99% of the time during the 117th Congress, as per a scrutiny of his voting record. Tester, facing a challenging re-election bid, affirmed his candidacy for a fourth term in February 2023.
In the 117th Congress, Tester ranked second among red state senators in voting alignment with Biden, following only Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown. Notably, Tester backed 593 of Biden’s judicial and executive branch nominees, without a single dissenting vote. Out of a total of 723 votes on nominations and legislation, Tester diverged from the Biden administration’s stance only six times, as reported by FiveThirtyEight and CQ Roll Call.
Four of the six instances where Tester opposed the Biden administration were related to COVID-19 measures, including his vote to end the COVID-19 national emergency declaration in November 2022. Additionally, Tester opposed vaccine mandates for Head Start programs and small businesses.
Despite media portrayals of Tester as a moderate and pivotal swing vote, his voting record contradicts such characterizations. The Washington Examiner emphasized the significance of his vote, describing it as “crucial” and “do-or-die,” while The Hill referred to Tester’s support as “make-or-break” for Biden’s agenda. Despite this, a University of Montana professor highlighted Tester’s perceived “independent streak.”
During the 117th Congress, Tester supported Biden’s legislative position 91% of the time, even endorsing the abolishment of the filibuster to pass an elections nationalization bill. This shift in stance, Tester explained, was prompted by his belief that Republican senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, had “weaponized” the filibuster to impede democracy-saving measures.
Tester has not opposed any Biden executive or judicial nominee, missing only one vote out of 594. Notably, he supported the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning, a former staffer, to lead the Bureau of Land Management in 2021. Stone-Manning faced controversy over allegations of lying about her involvement in an eco-terrorism investigation. Tester defended her, dismissing the accusations as politically motivated.
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