The following is a transcript of an interview with Senator Jon Tester that aired Sunday, June 27, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”
JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION, one of the lawmakers who worked on that bipartisan agreement aimed at boosting the nation’s infrastructure was Senator Jon Tester, who joins us from Big Sandy, Montana. Good morning, Senator.
SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Good to be with you, JOHN.
JOHN DICKERSON: So before we get into the chopping up of the politics here, can we step back for a second? You were involved in a bipartisan agreement. What does bipartisanship look like in today’s politics?
SEN. TESTER: Well, it was in this case, five Democrats and five Republicans who sat down and then compromised and gave a little and I think ended up with a package that makes sense for the American public. And it creates infrastructure, creates jobs, supports businesses, and is historic in nature. And we argued, we fought, we debated. And in the end, we all agreed, all 10 of us agreed on every provision in this bill. And I think the result of that is people setting their differences aside and working together and helping build this country. Just as my ancestors did, we did it in that room. And now we’ve got another tough job and that’s getting enough votes on both sides of the aisle to get this through the process and get it to the president’s desk.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me talk about that other tough job, because good ideas cannot get anywhere if they don’t get the votes. So let’s start with the Republican side. You had five Republicans. You’ll need five more, if you hold every Democrat to get it through the Senate. How possible do you think that is? There was some heartburn when the president connected the bills together. A, is that heartburn gone among the ones who were working with you? And B, how- what do you think the chances are getting at least five more Republicans?
SEN. TESTER: Look, JOHN, I think that possibility is going to be great. I think we’re going to get a lot more than five more republicans. And I think we’re also going to see bumps in the road as this goes forward through the process. You know, every week there’s probably going to be another problem that arises. We’ll work through those problems just like we work through them in our gang of 10 folks. And- and I think we’ll get good support from both sides of the aisle. I think we’ll get far more than 60 votes. In the end, we’ll get this through the Senate.
JOHN DICKERSON: And on the Democratic side, there are a number of Democratic senators who said if it doesn’t include the environmental provisions originally a part of the president’s package, they’re not going to vote for it. Do you think that is the kind of line in the sand people draw during these things and then in the end they vote with you? Or do you think this could be something that loses some Democratic senators on the way to passage?
SEN TESTER: Time- time will tell on that. JOHN, I think this package does have some environmental- environmental programs to it, environmental policies to it. Whether it’s enough to- to satisfy the folks who are, you know, advocating for more and more things to be done in the environment, which, by the way, I don’t think is something that is wrong either. This just- this is where we ended up at. And, you know, look, if we do- when we do a reconciliation package, depending on what that package looks like, you know, it certainly could have some environmental, additional environmental parts to it.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me talk to you about that reconciliation package. This would be a big spending bill that would go- that would pass with Democratic votes only, presumably. A portion of that bill would likely be the president’s clean electricity standard. As we talked about it, some of your colleagues, Senator Smith of Minnesota, has said she won’t vote for a reconciliation package unless it has that standard which seeks to decarbonize the electricity by 2030, electric grid. You come from a state with a lot of coal production. Would you support the president’s clean energy standard in a reconciliation bill that Senator Smith says is necessary to vote for it?
SEN. TESTER: Well, look, I do come from a state that has a lot of coal, natural gas, a lot of oil, and I also come from a state right now that is under severe drought. And so I think we need to make common sense- common sense steps forward to deal with climate. And there has to be a transition. Anybody will tell you that. You just can’t shut off the spigot. You have to move forward in a commonsense way, so this economy continues to grow, but also deal with the climate issue. So, you know, that will be in the details, JOHN. We will take a look at it when it comes up. And if it is something that I can’t live with, then we’ll try to massage it through the process that we go through with reconciliation to amend and- and make it so that the whole country can live with them and actually expand our economy with it.
JOHN DICKERSON: I want to ask you as a farmer and- and you mentioned the heat. Montana has seen 100 year records in the last month. Half of the population is in drought areas. In California it’s just- it’s just crippling the farmers, the drought. Will- do you think that will lead to inflation on products that farmers produce in Montana? And then secondly, can farmers adapt in a- in a climate that keeps getting hotter?
SEN. TESTER: Well, we have been adapting in a climate that has been getting hotter. This has been going on for decades. I have been on this farm, which is the farm my- my grandparents’ homestead. This will be our 44th harvest for Sharla and I. This will probably be the worst harvest we’ve ever had because of the drought. But farmers continue to adapt. They continue to change. But one thing is for certain, the climate is very volatile and more volatile than it’s ever been since I took over the farm. And we do have to do some things and encourage other countries to do things to move us in the right direction on climate. If we don’t, I think some of the things you’re talking about, about food prices going up and possibly even food not being- not having enough becomes real and not only for the United States, but the entire world. So we’ve got a lot of work to do here, JOHN. We need to do it in a bipartisan way. We need to stop the fear mongering on climate change and start doing things that work for this country.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Senator Tester, thank you so much for being with us this morning. We look forward to having you back again. And we’ll be right back in a moment.