Raymond Jon Tester (born August 21, 1956) is an American politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Montana, a seat he was first elected to in 2006. He is a member of the Democratic Party.
Tester was first elected to the Senate in 2006, defeating Republican incumbent Conrad Burns in one of the closest Senate races of that year. He narrowly won reelection in 2012 against U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg, and in 2018 against Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale. Tester was previously the president of the Montana Senate and worked as a music teacher and farmer. He became Montana's senior senator in 2014 following Max Baucus's departure and is the dean of Montana's congressional delegation. His official portrait was painted by Montana artist Mike Hamblin of Butte.
Tester presents himself as a moderate Democrat. In an interview with Rachel Maddow, he described himself as a moderate. A New York Times profile of Tester after his 2006 election described him as "truly your grandfather's Democratâ€”a pro-gun, anti-big-business prairie pragmatist whose life is defined by the treeless patch of hard Montana dirt that has been in the family since 1916." In 2012, USA Today noted that Tester had sometimes "split with Democrats â€” most recently in his support of construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast â€” but he has voted with Obama on the most critical issues of his presidency: the stimulus, the health care legislation and the Dodd-Frank financial services overhaul." FiveThirtyEight, which tracks votes in Congress, found that Tester voted with Trump's position about 34.0% of the time as of April 2019. CQ Roll Call reported that Tester voted with Trump's position approximately half of the time in 2017 and 2018.
Tester is often considered a moderate or centrist Democrat. According to GovTrack, he is the Senate's fourth most moderate Democrat, to the right of most of his Democratic colleagues and even Republican Senator Susan Collins. Tester has generally received high ratings from liberal groups and low scores from conservative groups. In 2012, he was given a 90% rating by Americans for Democratic Action and 86% by the League of Conservation Voters. Conversely, he received scores of 11% from the National Taxpayers Union and 4% from the American Conservative Union. The nonpartisan National Journal rated his votes overall as 55% liberal and 45% conservative.
In 2013, National Journal gave him a score of 51% on "Liberal on Economic Policy" and 48% on "Conservative on Economic Policy." In 2015-16, the conservative Center for Security Policy gave him a 13% rating. CrowdPac, which rates politicians based on donations they receive and give, gave Tester a score of 5.3L, with 10L being the most liberal and 10C the most conservative.
On December 18, 2010, Tester voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. While he opposed same-sex marriage during both his 2006 and 2012 campaigns, Tester announced his support for it in March 2013, citing concerns about federal government overreach. After the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling mandating that all U.S. states recognize gay marriage, Tester praised the ruling as protecting gays' "rights and freedoms."
Abortion and embryonic stem cell research
He supports abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.
Economy and jobs
On Meet the Press in 2006, he asserted that "there's no more middle class" because of Bush administration policies.
In 2011, Tester was one of two Democratic senators to filibuster the American Jobs Act. It was reported that he wasn't concerned about the surtax on some families to pay for the plan, but was unsure that the new spending would actually create jobs. "I've got more of a concern about a state aid package...and how the money is going to be spent and whether it's really going to create jobs," he explained.
In January 2018, Tester was the only Democratic senator from a Republican-leaning state to oppose a stopgap funding measure to end a three-day government shutdown and reopen the federal government.
In 2018, Tester became one of the Democrats in the Senate supporting a bill that would relax "key banking regulations". As one of at least 11 other Democrats, he argued that the bill would "right-size post-crisis rules imposed on small and regional lenders and help make it easier for them to provide credit". Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren vehemently oppose the legislation. Tester became the first Democrat endorsed by Friends of Traditional Banking, a political action committee that had previously endorsed Republicans.
In December 2010, Tester voted against the DREAM Act, which would have created a pathway to citizenship for the foreign-born children of illegal immigrants. He has said, "Illegal immigration is a critical problem facing our country, but amnesty is not the solution. I do not support legislation that provides a path for citizenship for anyone in this country illegally."
In 2017, he criticized President Trump for saying that he would cancel DACA in six months. "I don't support what the president did," Tester said. "I think it's ill-informed, I think it rips families apart, and it's not what this country stands for." Asked if he would now commit to voting for the DREAM Act, he said, "I support comprehensive immigration reform."
In January 2018, Tester and three other Democratic senators co-sponsored the Border and Port Security Act, legislation to mandate that U.S. Customs and Border Protection "hire, train and assign at least 500 officers per year until the number of needed positions the model identifies is filled" and require the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection to determine potential equipment and infrastructure improvements for ports of entry.
Tester supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, voting for it in December 2009. He voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
In 2017, he said that Democrats should consider a single-payer health care system. In July that year, Tester said that health care needed reform but that the latest GOP attempt at reform was a "train wreck" that would "strip health care away from millions of Americans." He said that Democrats should "work to fix what's wrong with the current health care system in a bipartisan way. And that means going through committee process, not doing it in a dark room with a select few, but going through the committee process and getting good ideas from everybody." Reminded that some Democrats "believe that compromise on this issue is not only unprincipled but unnecessary," Tester said the issue was "too important...not to try to help remedy the problems."
In August 2019 Tester was one of 19 senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar requesting data from the Trump administration in order to help states and Congress understand the potential consequences of the Texas v. United States Affordable Care Act lawsuit, writing that an overhaul of the present health care system would form "an enormous hole in the pocketbooks of the people we serve as well as wreck state budgets".
In October 2019 Tester was one of 27 senators to sign a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer advocating the passage of the Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence (CHIME) Act, which was set to expire the following month. The senators warned that if the funding for the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) was allowed to expire, it "would cause an estimated 2,400 site closures, 47,000 lost jobs, and threaten the health care of approximately 9 million Americans."
In April 2019 Tester was one of 41 senators to sign a bipartisan letter to the housing subcommittee praising the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 4 Capacity Building program as authorizing "HUD to partner with national nonprofit community development organizations to provide education, training, and financial support to local community development corporations (CDCs) across the country" and expressing disappointment that President Trump's budget "has slated this program for elimination after decades of successful economic and community development." The senators wrote of their hope that the subcommittee would support continued funding for Section 4 in Fiscal Year 2020.
Supreme Court votes
Tester voted to confirm Supreme Court nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. He refused to support Trump's nomination of Neil Gorsuch, writing that "Judge Gorsuch is a smart man but that doesn't make him right for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court." He explained that he could not "support a nominee who refuses to answer important questions," and said he feared that under Gorsuch "dark money [would] continue to drown out the voices and votes of citizens, the Court [would] stand between women and their doctors, and the government [would] reach into the private lives of law-abiding Americans." He criticized Gorsuch's rulings in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, in which Gorsuch "ruled that a corporation can have religious beliefs just like people," and in Riddle v. Hickenlooper, which showed that "Gorsuch believes campaign contributions deserve First Amendment protections." He feared that Justice Gorsuch "would threaten our access to a doctor and endanger the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens" and charged that while Gorsuch "is good on the Second Amendment, his views on the Fourth Amendmentâ€Šâ€”â€Šguaranteeing the right to privacyâ€Šâ€”â€Šshould be concerning to everyone."
Citizens United Supreme Court ruling
Tester opposed the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. The ruling allowed corporations and unions to donate unlimited amounts of money to third-party political groups. He proposed a constitutional amendment to reverse the decision, and argued that the ruling had a bad impact on American democracy.
Tester promoted the use of carbon-capture and sequestration technology to cleanly exploit Montana's coal reserves.
In May 2011 a Newsweek reporter who traveled with Tester in Montana said that the "desire to wrest control of wolves from D.C....was the only topic that came up everywhere he went: hotels, coffee shops, art auctions. 'What do you think about wolves?' a sixth grader asked during an assembly in Miles City. 'I think we should start hunting them again!' Tester said. The kids let out their loudest cheer of the afternoon." Tester tried to revive a bill that was meant to be a compromise between the conservationists and the timber industry. The bill would put 700,000 acres of wilderness aside for "light-on-the-land logging projects" with the intention of creating jobs in the flagging industry. It was noted that Tester was not "winning admirers on his side", with some liberal environmentalists saying that gives lumber mills control of the national forests.
In April 2019 Tester was one of 12 senators to sign a bipartisan letter to top senators on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development advocating that the Energy Department be granted maximum funding for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), arguing that American job growth could be stimulated by investment in capturing carbon emissions and expressing disagreement with President Trump's 2020 budget request to combine the two federal programs that do carbon capture research.
In September 2019 Tester was one of eight senators to sign a bipartisan letter to congressional leadership requesting full and lasting funding of the Land and Water Conservation Act in order to aid national parks and public lands, benefit the $887 billion American outdoor recreation economy, and "ensure much-needed investment in our public lands and continuity for the state, tribal, and non-federal partners who depend on them."
Tester is a gun owner. On gun rights, the National Rifle Association has given him an A- rating, but another group, Gun Owners of America, has given Tester a rating of F.
Tester supports efforts to loosen restrictions on gun exports, stating such an action would help U.S. gun manufacturers expand their business and would create more jobs.
In 2016, Tester voted against a Democrat-sponsored proposal that would have required background checks for purchases at gun shows and for purchases of guns online nationwide. He argued that the bill would "have blocked family members and neighbors from buying and selling guns to one another without a background check." Tester voted for a second Democrat-sponsored proposal to ban gun sales to individuals on the terrorist watch list. Both proposals failed.
In May 2018, Tester said that he would not support Gina Haspel's nomination to become CIA Director. The first Democrat from a red state to express opposition to her, he cited her role in Bush administration interrogation and detention programs, and said he was "not a fan of waterboarding."
As ranking member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Tester raised concerns about the nomination of Ronny Jackson to head the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. There were allegations against Jackson that he dispensed medications in a medically unethical fashion, was drunk on an overseas trip and drunkenly banged on the hotel door of a female colleague. Jackson denied the allegations but withdrew his nomination. In response, Trump called for Tester's resignation and said that the allegations against Jackson were false. According to CNN, four sources familiar with the allegation that Jackson drunkenly banged on the door of a female colleague confirmed it. The Secret Service said it could not verify any of the allegations. Johnny Isakson, the Republican chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, defended Tester, saying he had no problem with Tester's handling of Jackson's nomination.