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Rep. Rosendale’s first year in Congress: Plenty of ‘no’ votes

HELENA — Montana’s only congressman, Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale, spent most of his first year voting “no” on every major Biden administration initiative – but said Friday he couldn’t support what he called “a lot of bad legislation” that would over-extend government power and spending.

He also said he’s confident Republicans will win majorities in the 2022 elections, after which he hopes to move some of his stalled efforts to reform immigration, Veterans Administration spending and natural-resource policy, to name a few.

“I do believe that the Republicans will take the House back, and it’s going to be by a pretty wide margin – based on the failures of this administration,” he told MTN News.

In a wide-ranging interview in Helena, Rosendale discussed his proposed bills and votes of his first year as Montana’s sole U.S. House member – as well as his views on the economy, handling the Covid-19 pandemic, the investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, and his non-relationship with the radical Oath Keepers group.

When asked whether President Biden deserves credit for record-high job and stock-market numbers and record-low unemployment, Rosendale said the president and his Democratic colleagues are responsible for record-high inflation and the difficulty of businesses to find enough workers.

He said vaccine mandates are partly to blame for worker shortages, and so are over-generous benefits for people who aren’t working.

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Mike Dennison-MTN News

U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., speaking to MTN News Friday.

“There are a lot of people across this nation who have discovered that good enough is good enough, and they are utilizing every benefit that the state government and federal government have provided them, so that they don’t have to go into work,” Rosendale said.

Rosendale, like nearly all House Republicans, voted against the American Rescue Plan and the federal infrastructure bill, which have brought or will bring several billion dollars to Montana for roads, bridges, water-and-sewer systems, irrigation projects, airports, rural high-speed Internet, child care, rental assistance, vaccines, school aid and other items related to the pandemic.

He maintained that the bills also contained huge spending on non-essential programs.

“It puts some deep-seated programs in place that are very difficult to unwind and costs the taxpayers of Montana millions and millions of dollars going into the future, and that’s not what they sent me up there to support,” Rosendale said.

When it comes to the pandemic, Rosendale said his role as congressman is to make sure anyone who wants to get a Covid-19 vaccine can do so – but he’s not personally encouraging anyone to get vaccinated. He also steadfastly refuses to say if he’s been vaccinated himself, saying it’s “nobody’s business” but his own.

What the nation needs now is more access to Covid-19 testing, so people can know if they’re infected, and access to therapies and treatment to fight the infection, he said. Rosendale scolded the Biden administration for its decision last fall not to buy 750 million rapid tests, and instead focus on vaccines.

Rosendale last year voted against and has been critical of House Democrats’ investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob attempting to reverse the 2020 presidential election results.

He told MTN News the investigation is ignoring failures of Capitol security, and whether House leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew in advance that there could be a problem and didn’t act to prevent it.

“Let’s go to the actual cause of the problem, which was a lack of security, instead of trying to figure out who happened to be on the Capitol that day, because it was tens of thousands of individuals just participating in a rally,” Rosendale said.

Rosendale also addressed a photograph showing him speaking in front of an Oath Keepers banner in Kalispell several years ago. The founder and several other members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group, were charged Thursday with seditious conspiracy, for their alleged role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

He said he has “never had any relationship with the Oath Keepers,” and that he was speaking that day at a pro-2nd Amendment rally, at the invitation of local Republican legislators.

Rosendale said he introduced 21 bills last year that focus on improving health care for veterans, developing natural resources, reforming immigration, reducing drug prices and other items.

Only one of them has advanced: A bill he co-sponsored with Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., that helps the Forest Service finance restoration projects on national forestlands. The House passed the measure last month, and transmitted it to the Senate, where it sits in committee.

“There are different bills that I’ve introduced that will take the Republican majority, before we are able to get them through,” he said.

Rosendale is running for re-election in Montana’s new eastern district, or District 2. Several Democrats are expected to get into the contest this year, but Rosendale is a heavy favorite in the Republican-leaning district.

And, he said he’s not going to endorse any Republican in the primary for District 1, the new open congressional seat covering western Montana – but will work hard to ensure that the GOP nominee wins, so Montana’s two members of Congress don’t cancel each other out with their votes next year.

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