Tester’s record: Helping veterans, older Americans, bringing home infrastructure funding

Jon Tester

When Jon Tester first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006, he vowed to keep the nation’s promises to veterans, to back legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, and to protect Montana and its public lands. In his three terms in the job, the Democratic senator has played a key role in doing all of those things. 

With a narrow Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate and a House of Representatives stymied by infighting among members of its Republican majority, just 30 bills have become law since the 118th Congress began in January 2023. 

As the author of three of those laws, Tester has been statistically the most effective lawmaker in either chamber. 

One of the laws Tester sponsored authorized the Department of Veterans Affairs to construct and renovate its medical facilities; one extended the department’s programs and services for veterans; and one provided a cost-of-living adjustment to benefits paid to veterans with disabilities and their dependents. 

“I’m proud to have turned more bills into law than anyone else in Congress this year so that we can uphold the commitment we’ve made to our veterans, support our men and women in uniform, tackle Montanans’ most pressing issues, and keep this country the greatest in the world,” Tester said in a December 2023 press release. “There’s more work to be done in the new year to lower costs for working families and protect our Montana values – and just like with spring planting out on my farm, I won’t quit until the job is done.”

The nonpartisan Center for Effective Lawmaking ranked Tester the fourth-most-effective senator in the 117th Congress and cited him as the senator with the “longest streak of ‘exceeding expectations’” for efficacy in multiple congresses. 

Tester, who became chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in 2021, has authored numerous laws in his Senate career. Most of those helped veterans: ensuring their access to mammograms, cutting red tape for those who enroll in education programs, and improving the oversight functions of the V.A. inspector general 

He and Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran shepherded a bipartisan law through the Senate to ensure that veterans exposed to toxins during their military service are able to access health care and disability benefits.

Tester voted for President Joe Biden’s 2021 bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Under the law, Montana received funds for street safety in Richland County; for highway renovation in Mineral County; to expand Kagy Boulevard in Bozeman; and to improve sidewalks in Belgrade, Glendive, Hot Springs, Kalispell, Whitehall, and Yellowstone County.

He cast a deciding vote for the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which invested in health and climate infrastructure, allowed the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, and capped the cost of insulin and prescription drugs for the more than 250,000 Montanans on Medicare. 

At Tester’s urging, the Bureau of Land Management has approved funds from the law to restore public lands in the Blackfoot–Clark Fork Valley near Missoula, the Missouri Headwaters–Big Hole Valley in southwest Montana, and north of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge near Glasgow and Malta.

Republican Montana Sen. Steve Daines voted against both bills.