Several Democratic senators up for reelection in 2024 are pushing back against a Biden administration policy rolling back shooting units in physical education classes, even though they all voted for the legislation that made the move possible.
The Education Department confirmed in late July that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, passed in 2022, allows it to block federal funding for archery, hunting and gun safety units in physical education classes. The legislation, supported by fifteen Republicans and all 50 Democrats, prohibits federal funding from going to programs that provide “training in the use of a dangerous weapon.” Three Democrats who supported the legislation have since spoken out against the move, which Biden administration told Fox News was required by law.
“Any reduction of federal support by the Biden Administration for these school programs is unacceptable,” Montana Sen. Jon Tester tweeted Aug. 2. He later submitted a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona saying that the department “misinterpreted” the statute. (RELATED: Despite Media Claims, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester Votes With Biden More Than 99% Of The Time)
Hunting and shooting sports are part of our Montana way of life, and our schools have long offered safety courses that play a major role in teaching personal responsibility.
Any reduction of federal support by the Biden Administration for these school programs is unacceptable.
— Senator Jon Tester (@SenatorTester) August 2, 2023
Independent Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who caucuses with the Democrats, and Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin also pushed back on the funding cut. A spokesperson for Sinema said that the Education Department ignored congressional intent, while Manchin blasted the administration’s “radical agenda” and “blatant disregard for the law.”
All three senators are facing challenging reelection bids. Manchin, considered the most-endangered incumbent senator, has not yet announced whether or not he will seek a third term representing a state that Donald Trump won by 39 points in 2020. Polls have shown Republican Gov. Jim Justice leading Manchin by as many as 22 points, and the Democrat has pointedly refused to rule out a primary challenge to President Joe Biden rather than returning to the Senate.
Tester, seeking a fourth term, is likely to face off against businessman and former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy, who has garnered support from the state’s Republican governor, Greg Gianforte; GOP Sen. Steve Daines, who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee; and GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke. Tester defeated Matt Rosendale, the then-state auditor and now congressman, by 3.5 points in 2018.
Sinema left the Democratic Party in Dec. 2022 after voting to maintain the filibuster and opposing key left-wing priorities like a $15 minimum wage. Democratic Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego announced his campaign for her seat in January. Pinal County sheriff Mark Lamb has already declared his candidacy on the Republican side, and 2022 gubernatorial candidates Kari Lake and Karrin Taylor Robson are also considering bids.