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Jon Tester on Homeland Security

Democratic Jr Senator


Irresponsible to put two wars on credit card

Rehberg, the Republican challenger, once again aimed to connect Tester, the Democratic incumbent, to big government and the "failed policies" of President Barack Obama's administration.

Tester depicted Rehberg as an irresponsible spender during his 12 years in Congress. He described Rehberg as a politician who used a "credit card" to vote for a new federal prescription drug program and two wars, among other spending.

Source: Daily Inter Lake on 2012 Montana Senate debates , Oct 14, 2012

Build forces to fight terror cells; not take away our rights

Q: What do you think about Executive Authority with regards to warrantless wiretapping?

TESTER: It deals with the freedoms that so many people have fought and died for. If we want to get serious about the War on Terror, we need to make the investments to fight the war on terror. We ought not be taking rights away from honest citizens. If we’ve got terror cells around the world, then let’s invest in human intelligence. Let’s invest in our Special Forces. Let’s go after ‘em, and let’s be serious, and not get sidetracked by Iraq. Right now, we’re taking rights away from honest people. If they think you fall into their list, you’re a target. By the time they figure out there’s a terror cell, they can get a warrant. The Senator wants to let them have Carte Blanche. The government ought not be taking away our freedoms.

JONES: We’ve lost our Fourth Amendment rights; now there’s no protection to our privacy.

BURNS: The Patriot Act is a tool that is in place now for drug kingpins and organized crime.

Source: 2006 Montana 3-way Senate Debate at MSU , Oct 9, 2006

I don’t want to weaken the Patriot Act--I want to repeal it

Tester probably found a sound bite moment in response to a Burns charge that he is “soft on terrorism.” Tester, Burns said, “doesn’t understand this enemy” and would weaken the Patriot Act. “Let me be clear,” Tester shot back sharply. “I don’t want to weaken the Patriot Act. I want to repeal it.”
Source: Paul Driscoll, “Lobbying Questions”, in NewWest Missoula , Sep 24, 2006

Patriot Act has very little to do with the War on Terrorism

Q: What can ensure the safety of Americans, given that you don’t support the PATRIOT Act?

TESTER: The Patriot Act has very little to do with the War on Terrorism and a lot to do with why the terrorists attacked this country, which is to take away our freedoms.

BURNS: The Patriot Act gave our law enforcement people the same tools that they had to go after organized crime and drug kingpins. That’s all it is. Mr. Tester doesn’t understand this enemy. It is global. He wants to weaken the Patriot Act, and take away the tools from the people who work for our protection.

TESTER: Let me be clear--I don’t want to weaken the Patriot Act, I want to repeal it. It’s two inches think, and it does far more than what Burns said--it takes away your freedoms. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have fought and died for our freedoms. If we lose our freedoms, the terrorists will have won. We need to be very forceful against the terrorists, and get ‘em. We’re taking away freedoms--first!--and that’s ridiculous.

Source: 2006 MT Senate debate, Tester vs. Burns in Butte , Sep 24, 2006

Critical of President Bush on Patriot Act

[Regarding] the war on terror: Tester was very critical of President Bush regarding the reasons for the Patriot Act, wiretapping and a lack of consultation with our allies.
Source: Letter-to-the-editor about MT Broadcasters Convention debate , Aug 15, 2006

Voted NO on extending the PATRIOT Act's roving wiretaps.

Congressional Summary: A bill to extend expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 relating to access to business records, individual terrorists as agents of foreign powers, and roving wiretaps until December 8, 2011.

Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Smith, R-TX]: America is safe today not because terrorists and spies have given up their goal to destroy our freedoms and our way of life. We are safe today because the men and women of our Armed Forces, our intelligence community, and our law enforcement agencies work every single day to protect us. And Congress must ensure that they are equipped with the resources they need to counteract continuing terrorist threats. On Feb. 28, three important provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire. These provisions give investigators in national security cases the authority to conduct "roving" wiretaps, to seek certain business records, and to gather intelligence on lone terrorists who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group. The Patriot Act works. It has proved effective in preventing terrorist attacks and protecting Americans. To let these provisions expire would leave every American less safe.

Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Conyers, D-MI]: Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows a secret FISA court to authorize our government to collect business records or anything else, requiring that a person or business produce virtually any type record. We didn't think that that was right then. We don't think it's right now. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person's privacy. And so I urge a "no" vote on the extension of these expiring provisions.
Status: Passed 86-12

Reference: FISA Sunsets Extension Act; Bill H.514 ; vote number 11-SV019 on Feb 17, 2011

Voted NO on cutting $221M in benefits to Filipinos who served in WWII US Army.

Opponents argument for voting NAY:Sen. INOUYE. From the Spanish-American War in 1898, until the end of World War II, we exercised jurisdiction over the Philippines like a colonial power. In July 1941, we called upon the Filipinos to volunteer to serve the US under American command, and 470,000 Filipinos volunteered. An Executive Order in 1941 promised Filipinos if they fought for us, they could become citizens of the US and get all of the veterans' benefits. But in 1946, the Congress rescinded the 1941 act. Well, this veterans bill has a provision in it--a provision of honor--in which, finally, after six decades, we will restore our honor and tell the Filipinos: It is late, but please forgive us. Proponents argument for voting YEA:Sen. BURR. This bill is so much more than just a pension for Philippine veterans. It is $332 million in Philippine benefits, of which $221 million is devoted to a new special pension that does not exist [previously. Only that $221M would be cut]. Regardless of the outcome of my amendment, I support final passage of this bill. But we do have a difference as it relates to the pensions. I believe that there was not a promise made. We did not imply it. Those who made the decision on the 1946 Rescissions Act, they looked at the history very well.

Sen. CORNYN. The problem I have with this bill is that the US Treasury is not bottomless, and the funding that is being provided to create this new pension would literally be at the expense of US veterans. The $221 million that is addressed by Sen. Burr's amendment would actually go back in to supplement benefits for US veterans. And while we appreciate and honor all of our allies who fought alongside of us in WWII, certainly that doesn't mean we are going to grant pension benefits to all of our allies, [like] the British or the Australians. Vote for the Burr Amendment because certainly our American veterans should be our priority.

Reference: Burr Amendment; Bill S.Amdt. 4572 to S. 1315 ; vote number 2008-111 on Apr 24, 2008

Voted YES on requiring FISA court warrant to monitor US-to-foreign calls.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. FEINGOLD: The Protect America Act (PAA) we passed last year was sold repeatedly as a way to allow the Government to collect foreign-to-foreign communications without needing the approval of the FISA Court. Now, this is something all of us support, every one of us. But the PAA actually went much further. It authorized new sweeping intrusions into the privacy of countless Americans. The bill the Senate is considering to replace the PAA does not do nearly enough to safeguard against Government abuse. So this amendment would provide those safeguards.

[The PAA allows] acquiring all the calls and e-mails between employees of a US company and a foreign company, with no requirement to get a warrant and no requirement that there be some link to terrorism. So any American who works at a company that does business overseas should think about that.

OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. BOND: The purpose of this bill is, and always has been, to enable the intelligence community to act to target foreign terrorists and spies overseas.

The amendment, as it is drafted, will have a totally unexpected impact. It is difficult to explain, in an unclassified session, why this amendment is unworkable. There are only certain communications which the intelligence community is lawfully permitted to acquire, and which it has any desire to acquire, because to acquire all the communications from all foreigners is an absolutely impossible task.

I cannot describe in a public setting how they go about ascertaining which collections are important. But to say that if Osama bin Laden calls somebody in the US, we cannot listen in to that communication, unless we have an independent means of verifying it has some impact or a terrorist threat--That is the most important communication we need to intercept.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment Rejected, 38-57

Reference: Amendment to Protect America Act; Bill S.Amdt.3913 to S.2248 ; vote number 08-S012 on Feb 7, 2008

Voted NO on removing need for FISA warrant for wiretapping abroad.

Vote on passage of S.1927, the Protect America Act: Amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to state that nothing under its definition of "electronic surveillance" should encompass surveillance directed at any person reasonably believed to be located outside the US.

A modified version, S.2011, failed; it called for amending FISA to provide that a court order is not required for the electronic surveillance of communication between foreign persons who are not located within the US for collecting foreign intelligence information, without respect to whether the communication passes through the US or the surveillance device is located within the US.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. LEVIN: Both bills cure the problem that exists: Our intelligence agencies must obtain a court order to monitor the communications of foreigners suspected of terrorist activities who are physically located in foreign countries. Now, what are the major differences? Our bill (S2011) is limited to foreign targets limited overseas, unlike the Bond bill (S1927), which does not have that key limitation and which very clearly applies to US citizens overseas. Our bill does not. Now, if there is an incidental access to US citizens, we obviously will permit that. But the Bond bill goes beyond that, citing "any person." It does not say a "foreign person." We avoid getting to the communications of Americans. There you have to go for a warrant.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. LIEBERMAN: I will vote for the Bond proposal (S1927) because we are at war, & there is increased terrorist activity. We have a crisis. This proposal will allow us to gather intelligence information on that enemy we otherwise would not gather. This is not the time for striving for legislative perfection. Let us not strive for perfection. Let us put national security first. We are going to have 6 months to reason together to find something better.

Reference: Protect America Act; Bill S.1927 ; vote number 2007-309 on Aug 3, 2007

Voted YES on limiting soldiers' deployment to 12 months.

Vote on an amendment, SA2032, which amends HR1585, the Defense Authorization bill: To limit the deployment of a unit or individual of the Armed Forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom to no more than 12 consecutive months; and to limit Marine Corps deployment to no more than 7 consecutive months; except in time of national emergency.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HAGEL: The war in Iraq has pushed the US Army to the breaking point. When we deploy our military, we have an obligation to ensure that our troops are rested, ready, prepared, fully trained, and fully equipped. Today's Armed Forces are being deployed repeatedly for increasing periods of time. This is quickly wearing down the troops and their families, impacting the mental and physical health of our troops. Further, these deployments are affecting the recruiting and retention rates of the military. For example, the Army reached only a little over 80% of its recruiting goal for June. This is the second month in a row that the Army has failed to recruit the number of new soldiers needed to fill the ranks. And this is with $1 billion in large cash bonus incentives.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. KYL: Time in theater and dwell times should be a goal, rather than an absolute fixed requirement that becomes the policy of the US military determined by congressional action. By mandating a certain policy for deployment time or dwell time, the Congress is engaged in the most explicit micromanaging of what is obviously a function for the Commander in Chief and military commanders to perform. This is not something Members of Congress are knowledgeable about or would have the ability to dictate in any responsible fashion. It also would be unconstitutional. Clearly, the dwell times of troops or the amount of time in theater is an obligation of the Commander in Chief, not something for the Congress to determine.

Reference: Hagel Amendment to Defense Authorization Bill; Bill SA2032 to HR1585 ; vote number 2007-243 on Jul 11, 2007

Voted YES on implementing the 9/11 Commission report.

Vote on passage of a bill to implement unfinished recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission) to fight the war on terror more effectively:

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

One of the authors of the 9/11 Commission report said, the President's announced strategy should be given a chance to succeed. That is what I think we should do, give this plan a chance to succeed. Our troops in theater, our commanders, and the Iraqi leaders all believe they can see early signs of success in this program, even though it has just begun, and they are cautiously optimistic that it can succeed. I think it would be unconscionable for the Congress, seeing the beginnings of success here, to then act in any way that would pull the rug out from under our troops and make it impossible for them to achieve their mission.

Reference: Improving America's Security Act; Bill S. 4 ; vote number 2007-073 on Mar 13, 2007

Study & address suicides among veterans.

Tester co-sponsored studying & addressing suicides among veterans

Veterans Suicide Study Act - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs conduct a study to determine the number of veterans who have committed suicide between January 1, 1997, and the date of the enactment of this Act. Congress makes the following findings:

Source: Veterans Suicide Study Act (S.2899/H.R.4204) 08-S2899 on Apr 22, 2008

Repeal Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell, and reinstate discharged gays.

Tester signed HR1283&S3065

Repeals current Department of Defense policy [popularly known as "Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell"] concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces. Prohibits the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard, from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation against any member of the Armed Forces or any person seeking to become a member. Authorizes the re-accession into the Armed Forces of otherwise qualified individuals previously separated for homosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexual conduct.

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require the furnishing of dependent benefits in violation of section 7 of title 1, United States Code (relating to the definitions of 'marriage' and 'spouse' and referred to as the 'Defense of Marriage Act').

Source: Military Readiness Enhancement Act 10-HR1283 on Mar 3, 2010

Military spouses don't lose voting residency while abroad.

Tester signed Military Spouses Residency Relief Act

Source: S.475&HR.1182 2009-S475 on Feb 25, 2009

Other candidates on Homeland Security: Jon Tester on other issues:
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Brian Schweitzer
Steve Bullock
MT Senatorial:
Champ Edmunds
Corey Stapleton
John Bohlinger
John Walsh

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Page last updated: Dec 24, 2013