Despite claims from several media outlets that he is a key moderate, Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester supported President Joe Biden’s position on legislation and nominees more than 99% of the time during the 117th Congress, a Daily Caller review of his voting record found.
Tester, one of the party’s most endangered incumbents, announced in February that he would seek a fourth term in the upper chamber. During the 117th Congress, he voted with Biden’s position on legislation and nominees the second-most often of any red state senator, behind only Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown. Notably, Tester supported 593 of Biden’s judicial and executive branch nominees, never voting against a single one.
Out of 723 votes on nominations and legislation, Tester went against the Biden administration only six times, according to vote tallies on FiveThirtyEight and CQ Roll Call. Four out of the six votes in which Tester opposed the Biden administration were related to COVID-19 measures, according to FiveThirtyEight. He voted to end the COVID-19 national emergency declaration in Nov. 2022, and opposed vaccine mandates for Head Start programs and small businesses.
Media outlets from across the political spectrum have portrayed Tester as a moderate and key swing vote, despite his record. The Washington Examiner described his vote as “crucial” and “do-or-die.” The Hill characterized Tester’s support as “make-or-break” for Biden’s agenda while citing a University of Montana professor who says the senator has an “independent streak.”
Tester voted with Biden’s legislative position 91% of the time during the 117th Congress, according to FiveThirtyEight. He supported abolishing the filibuster to pass an elections nationalization bill, despite publicly urging then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to keep the filibuster during the Trump administration. To justify his about-face, Tester claimed that Republican senators like Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri had “weaponized” the procedure to prevent Congress from “sav[ing] our democracy,” making changes necessary.
Tester has not voted against a Biden executive or judicial nominee, only missing one vote out of 594. Notably, he supported one of his former staffers for a key position, despite accusations that she lied about her involvement in an eco-terrorism investigation. (RELATED: Senate Confirms Alleged Eco-Terrorist Collaborator To Lead Bureau Of Land Management)
Biden nominated, and the Senate confirmed, former Tester staffer Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management in 2021. Stone-Manning, who worked for Tester from 2007 to 2013, allegedly lied about her involvement in a tree-spiking campaign. She testified that she was never the target of a federal investigation, but a retired Forest Service investigator informed the Senate Energy Committee that Stone-Manning received a target letter detailing criminal charges she would face for her role in the plot. She ultimately received immunity and testified against her former roommate, who was sentenced to 17 months in prison.
Tester defended Stone-Manning, claiming that the allegations against her were politically motivated.
“Unfortunately, members of this body have played politics with her nomination,” he said. “They have dragged a good person’s name through the muck in a cynical smear campaign by folks who would rather play politics than see a qualified competent woman run the Bureau of Land Management.”