Happy to be home and able to finish the harvest on his Big Sandy, Montana wheat farm, Montana senior Senator Jon Tester admits he's frustrated with reports of harmful cost cutting measures at the U.S. Postal Service.
Tester told MTN News that he applauds Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's decision to testify next week before the House Oversight Committee, and hopes he'll do the same in front of a U.S. Senate Committee soon.
"We need to do the same thing in the Senate," said Tester. "Get him in, let him answer the tough questions, and get some accountability. Get some transparency, find out what was behind the decision making to cut overtime, do away with sorting machines, and to remove the mail boxes around the country."
Tester was referring to a move by the Postal Service to remove hundreds of mail box drop off boxes across the country. In Montana, dozens of mail boxes were in the process of being removed in Billings, Bozeman, Livingston and Missoula last week, before a public outcry prompted DeJoy to put the removal effort on hold.
"We have places you don't have internet, we have long drives to town," said Tester. "The fact is, getting mail out in the country, and being able to pick up mail at the post office is very, very important for Montanans all across this state."
Tester said he thinks Congress should work to make the Postal Service better, not to pull back on service, hoping people will still use it. He questioned the approach of cutting back on service to save money.
"I was always taught the customer is always right, you try to meet the needs of the customer and your business will be in a lot better shape," Tester said. "We need the post office for the election, and we also need it for prescription drugs, social security checks, birthday cards and all that good stuff."
As far as funding for the Postal Service, Tester said the Cares Act provided $10 billion, and he's also backing a separate bill that includes $25 billion in Postal Service funding. Tester, though, says he doesn't believe money is the issue.
"Quite frankly, I don't even know if the Postmaster even wants it, I don't even think he cares," said Tester. "That's why its important to get him in front of committees in Congress. Let's hear his side of the story, find out what's going on, and then lets make the improvements we need to make in Congress, to support the Postal Service."
Turning his attention to the nation's economy as the country tries to rebound from the devastating effects of the coronavirus, Tester said his biggest frustration is that the Congress should be at work trying to hammer out a solution.
"Folks aren't even at the negotiating table right now, there are alot of folks out there who are hurting," Tester said. "But Mitch McConnell is sitting at home. We should be back in Washington D.C. right now hammering this thing out. Whether it's the Postal Service or if its making sure small businesses have the support they need, or making sure working families can keep a roof over their head. We should do that, this economy is in really, really tough shape."
Asked about the prospect that revenue relief for the states may be included in the next COVID relief bill, Tester believes there is a chance that will happen.
"You don't want to get into the situation where municipalities can't provide the services people need, like water, sewer, police and fire protection," Tester said. "I think it's reasonable to have a conversation about what the level of support for those municipalities and tribal governments is. Let's talk about it, and let's try to pound something out. But right now, Mitch McConnell and his team are not at the table."
As for this year's wheat crop that Tester finished harvesting on Monday, after all was said and done, it turned out all right.
"Look, I'm a farmer, if I told you it was a good crop you would probably pass out right in your chair," joked Tester. "But we started getting rain the third week of June and it turned out to be an average crop. Considering it was in the tank in early June, for me, that's pretty damned good."
Tester took time out from behind the wheel of his tractor on his Big Sandy farm, to share his concerns over what's going on at the Postal Service.
"When the President said he doesn't want a vote by mail, so he's going to destroy the post office, I just think that's a bad direction to go," Tester said. "I think this is a time the three branches of government need to come into play and we need to hold the executive branch accountable. This is just not something I want to see happen."