Tester, Rehberg exchange sharp words in Billings debate

2012-10-09T10:00:00Z 2012-10-27T20:17:39Z Tester, Rehberg exchange sharp words in Billings debateBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Missoulian State Bureau missoulian.com

BILLINGS – Democratic Sen. Jon Tester blasted Rep. Denny Rehberg at a debate Monday night as a do-nothing congressman, while Rehberg attacked Tester as a clone of President Barack Obama.

The two candidates agreed on virtually no issues at the debate, sponsored by the Billings Gazette and Montana State University Billings. A capacity crowd of 510 people – packed with supporters of each candidate – watched the debate at the Petro Theater. The debate was televised and broadcast statewide.

It was the second of four debates for the Senate candidates this year and the first since June, shortly after the primary election. The remaining debates will be in Kalispell and Bozeman.

“It was rock ’em, sock ’em,” said David Parker, a Montana State University political scientist who is writing a book on the race. “It was tough. They both stayed on their message.”

The two candidates greeted each other like old lost friends when they came onto the stage and shook hands, but were less effusive in their handshakes when the debate ended.

Tester took repeated jabs at Rehberg and the Republican-controlled House.

“Quite frankly, you have not stepped forward with ideas,” Tester told Rehberg.

He criticized the House’s failure to pass a Farm Bill this year, although Rehberg said he went against his party to support one.

At one point, when candidates asked each other questions, Rehberg asked Tester why he thought Obama should be re-elected.

“The point is, congressman, is you’re running against me. ... He can try to morph me into Barack Obama because that’s who he wants to run against, but look at the record.”

Tester cited issues in which he had disagreed with Obama, such as the senator’s support of the Keystone XL pipeline and legislation to remove wolves from the endangered species list. He said earlier that he puts Montana first in every decision he makes.

Rehberg shot back at Tester, saying: “I don’t need to morph you into Barack Obama. You did it to yourself.”

When it was Tester’s turn to question Rehberg, he brought up Rehberg’s 15 expense-paid trips to foreign countries where he had “eaten in castles” and boats and drunk in “gin bars.”

“What did the taxpayers of Montana get?” Tester asked.

Rehberg replied that he was honored to travel and give a keynote speech at Normandy in France. He said he learned about nuclear waste in France and the system that Australia uses as opposed to the Endangered Species Act in this country.

He told Tester that he obtained information from lobbyists, while Tester accepted their cash.

“You were the one who was a lobbyist, a paid lobbyist,” Tester replied.

Rehberg said he traveled on these foreign and domestic trips to learn about issues “rather than going back to my farm every weekend,” a shot at Tester, who returns to his farm to work every weekend.

Here were their stands on some other issues:

Taxes: Rehberg called for elimination of the federal estate tax, which he calls the “death tax,” while Tester advocated making permanent the current estate tax in which the first $5 million of an individual’s estate or $10 million for a couple’s estate is exempt from taxes, with a 35 percent tax rate on estates over those values.

Tester said the current exemptions would apply to nearly every farmer and rancher in Montana and should be permanent.

“The death tax should be zero, ” Rehberg said. “That gives certainty.”

Tester said he favored closing tax loopholes for big oil companies.

Rehberg said he opposes the kinds of tax changes advocated in the federal deficit reduction study, saying it would raise the federal gas tax by 15 cents a gallon and eliminate the mortgage interest rate deduction that homeowners can claim on the federal taxes.

At another point in the debate, Rehberg said he supports the enactment of a flat federal income tax, in which every taxpayer, regardless of income, pays the same tax rate.

Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”: Tester generally defended the 2010 federal health insurance reform act, while Rehberg vowed to repeal it.

Federal stimulus: Rehberg attacked Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill, while Tester supported it.

“The problem is it didn’t stimulate,” Rehberg said. “We could have lowered the corporate tax and lowered the payroll tax on employees and employers.”

Tester said the stimulus provided $500 million in tax cuts for Montanans, kept law enforcement and firefighters on the job and paid for construction of public works projects across the state that kept people employed.

“We were losing 800,000 jobs a month (nationally when Obama took over in 2009),” Tester said. “We were on the cusp of a financial meltdown.”

He said the job losses flattened out and jobs are now increasing nationally.

Rehberg said, “We have to grow and create jobs. You don’t do it by piling on more debts.”

Trade bills: Tester, a farmer, was asked why he had opposed a number of trade agreements with foreign countries.

“The trade agreements have to be fair, not free,” he said. “We cannot allow other countries to dump their products on us.”

Rehberg said he favored some and opposed others, adding: “I didn’t stand with my party. I stood with Montanans.”

Tester countered: “President Obama wanted those trade agreements. Congressman Rehberg, you stood with President Obama.”

Role of government: Tester told Rehberg that it’s small businesses that create jobs, “not multimillionaires like yourself.”

“Belts are going to be tightened in a big way,” Tester said. “Folks making millions and millions of dollars ought to be contributing (more) to the coffers.”

“Feed the beast,” Rehberg said. “That’s all they want to do.”

The third candidate, Libertarian Dan Cox of Hamilton, was not invited to participate in the debate. The Billings Gazette’s longstanding ground rule is that it only invites candidates who obtain at least 5 percent in the Lee Newspapers poll.

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(39) Comments

  1. Chuck Feney
    Report Abuse
    Chuck Feney - October 12, 2012 9:29 am
    YEA, Yea, yea -
    Denny sponsored this and Denny backed that... but nothing ever gets done!

    Denny has sponsored 4 bills thru to law in 12 years, and two were for commemorative coins! Denny is a bar stool lobbyist-in-training who can't put together a bi-partisan coalition for anything. He needs to join his kid at Gage lobbying firm.
    Denny's 2012 K Street Finish

    Denny once made a shocking confession
    That "lobbyist was an Honorable Profession".
    He said without mirth,
    That these scourges of the earth
    Aren't to blame for America's regression!

    Denny's son, A.J, was wet behind the ears
    Yet got a lobbyist job well beyond his years
    Seems they didn't have a phobia...
    Making him head lobbyist for Mongolia...
    It helps when Daddy's in Congressional spheres!

    When Denny loses Montana's Senate race
    He'll take a lobbyist job to save face
    At the end of his term,
    The Gage K street firm
    Will hire him to soften his disgrace.

  2. Chuck Feney
    Report Abuse
    Chuck Feney - October 12, 2012 9:06 am
    Deny's performance in the debate was disturbing and embarrassing for his staff.
    He looks like he needs some help - professional help..
    Dennyrium Tremens

    Denny showed for the Billings debate
    And the Truth is, he didn't look great
    Between his twitchin' and winkin'
    Like he needed some drinkin'
    He just couldn't seem to communicate.

    Denny's better in a casual bar setting
    With Spirits to stop profuse sweating.
    Next time they should meet
    In a tavernous retreat
    To imbibe during their candidate vetting!
  3. dsrobins
    Report Abuse
    dsrobins - October 10, 2012 1:40 pm
    It will sure be sweet to have Rehberg out of Congress after the election, and it will be very, very good for Montana.
  4. reality22f
    Report Abuse
    reality22f - October 10, 2012 6:08 am
    Denny was a sponser of House bill 6028 ..... Tester WAS not a sponser of the Senate equivalant s3919....


    Tester has actually pandered to the anti-hunters in wolf huggers clothing...... Chuck, where did you get so brain washed?
  5. Chuck Feney
    Report Abuse
    Chuck Feney - October 09, 2012 8:19 pm
    And Denny has accomplished WHAT on the wolf issue?.....
    That's what I thought - squat, nothing, nada, zip,zero, ungatz!!
  6. reality22f
    Report Abuse
    reality22f - October 09, 2012 5:48 pm
    bearpaws, is it true your prior name on these blogs was "beer"paws. Are you covering up for some sort of deficiency with all your brew talk! Were you the one that drove off the road (culvert) near park city putting up your OBAMA / Tester sign? Hope there wasn't to much damage to your SUV (with the OBAMA sticker on it) Classic!
  7. reality22f
    Report Abuse
    reality22f - October 09, 2012 5:43 pm
    Pistol you are correct.....good luck getting Rehberg sent to Washington!
  8. reality22f
    Report Abuse
    reality22f - October 09, 2012 5:22 pm
    Give it up Cats Like..... get a life! Most are actually saying he looks YOUNGER than 57.
  9. reality22f
    Report Abuse
    reality22f - October 09, 2012 5:18 pm
    If those voters are considering the rider for wolves they need to remember that Tester has yet to sign on to the bill that would remove the gray wolf from consideration under the ESA. When he attached the rider the state was about to revolt, the Governor was telling the ranchers to SSS and people were spitting made. The environmental obstructionist knew they were in trouble and tried to get their pet Judge molloy to go back on his 8/5 ruling. Testers rider was the best case scenario for all the bad publicity of the environmental wackos. He did it for them (environmental radicals) not the Montana sportsman or (especially) American public! Right now we have 9 law suits in the works for wolves! The rider he put in could have put the issue to rest & allowed states to manage their wildlife appropriately.

    Colorado - suing for wolves in the Small Rocky Mountain National Park.

    New Mexico - suing because allowing chronic depredating wolves to do their thing is more important than protecting private property & running ranchers off their private land is high priority.

    Oregon - sue so they don't have to follow the Oregon Wolf Management Plan for removing chronic depredating wolves.

    Wisconsin - suing to severely limit any kind of control sportsman have and will need to effectively control these vermin.

    Wyoming - suing because they need to sulk for they didn't get there way AND because the state has the correct management strategy that the local people want all while hoping to get activist Judge molloy to hear their case.

    Maine (New England) region - suing because the oversized coyotes they have aren't good enough to replace what sportsman are doing effectively.

    Minnesota - suing just for the fun of it - and because 3000 wolves isn't enough and killing 200 of the vermin yearly on the governments dime isn't enough!

    Idaho / Montana - suing because laws from congress aren't good enough and they think they have a ("separation of powers") leg to stand on.

    Alaska - suing because they want to know every wolf that is managed via "Aerial" management.

    I don't know how they stand on all the issues, But If wolves and abuse of the ESA are the issues your concerned about. Send Tester PACKING
  10. Chuck Feney
    Report Abuse
    Chuck Feney - October 09, 2012 5:18 pm
    Denny is still pissed that Tester got the wolves put under State control... All By Himself!

    Howlin' Mad Denny

    A Montana congressman who's an ineffective jester
    Has a boil on his record that's turned into a fester
    You see, Ol' Denny can't claim
    Any "wolf rule" changing fame
    Because it was all accomplished by Senator Tester!

    Denny fancies himself "ruler of endangered species"
    A Ted Bundy among the Saint Francis of Assisi's,
    But Montanans all know
    That it's never been so
    'Cause, as usual, Denny's spewing bull feces!

    But he's a champion at nighttime boat races!
    A veteran at filing frivolous court cases!
    But if it's legislation you want,
    Denny's record is real gaunt
    At legislation track, Denny's "runs in braces"!

    All this wolf arguing made Denny's mood sour
    But he'll get happy at the next happy hour!
    Like Ol' Conrad use to say
    "It's Senate happy hour all day!"
    Which made Denny want his Senatorial power!
  11. Chuck Feney
    Report Abuse
    Chuck Feney - October 09, 2012 5:11 pm
    Denny sure knows how to warm up the hometown crowd ... with a lawsuit!
    High Noon for Denny SilverSpoon

    A Montana Congressman named Denny
    Never once had to work for a penny.
    His needs were provided
    By his land, sub-divided
    And his wife filing lawsuits aplenty!

    But Denny made a critical mistake
    Even greater than the crash at the lake.
    He wanted lots of shillings
    From tax payers in Billings
    From a lawsuit, like a litigious snake.

    Denny's wife claimed damage unrepairable
    Resulted from a fire not too terrible
    Firefighters risked their life
    Then got sued by Denny's wife
    For scrub ground that's not even arable!

    After the fire was considered in hand
    The Royal Rehbergs wanted firemen to stand
    On guard so they could take
    Boat crashing practice at the lake.
    Do public servants guard private land?

    Wife Jan wants firemen to dance to her tune
    And they had best bring a virtual monsoon
    When they report to a fire
    Or they'll catch Rehberg's ire
    'Cause nature can't hurt Denny SilverSpoon!
  12. Chuck Feney
    Report Abuse
    Chuck Feney - October 09, 2012 5:08 pm
    Denny's shaking and twitching was distracting. He was jonesin' for a drink, no doubt!
    Actually, his staff should e grateful he didn't go into a full blown episode of the D.T.s, chasing little green men across the stage!
  13. Andy B Hammond
    Report Abuse
    Andy B Hammond - October 09, 2012 3:44 pm
    He is the one I was born and raised in. As is my parent's and grandparent's and great grandparent's Montana.
  14. The Marshal
    Report Abuse
    The Marshal - October 09, 2012 11:28 am
    Five new taxes are in obamacare. Tester says he ALWAYS votes the best for Montana. I don't think so!
  15. Cats Life
    Report Abuse
    Cats Life - October 09, 2012 11:23 am
    Rehberg looks much older than 57. Booze has that affect.
  16. Waltzing Matilda
    Report Abuse
    Waltzing Matilda - October 09, 2012 11:00 am
    The majority of Montanans oppose Obama Care. Tester was the deciding vote on Obama Care. That alone tells me that Tester is not representing the majority of Montanans.
  17. Tronski
    Report Abuse
    Tronski - October 09, 2012 9:19 am
    A few comments on the comments, as I did not see the debate. 1.) Obama is the President, he was elected by the people, working with and voting with him on issues is not being a traitor to Montana, that is how government works, and Rehbergs inability to compromise or find middle ground is why we are facing "fiscal" cliff in the coming months, it is why we had our debt downgraded and it is why he should not be elected. The republicans have simply been trying to obstruct and oppose Obama for political gain instead of doing what is best for the country. 2.) Anybody seriously thinking that their 2nd Amendment rights are in danger is not thinking rationally. This is a conspiracy theory which has no basis in fact or reality. We can still purchase and carry guns exactly the same as we did 4 years ago, and to claim that your guns are going to be taken away by Obama or the Supreme Court is a paranoid delusion. And on that note, American has more gun violence that any other industrialized nation, and if you think more people with more guns in the answer you are also not thinking rationally.
  18. Abonides
    Report Abuse
    Abonides - October 09, 2012 9:17 am
    I watched the debate and it was obvious Tester mopped the floor with Rehberg. Rehberg kept avoiding answering questions, instead turning to the typical propaganda he's been spewing for weeks. You'd have to be a fool to think he won the debate. At the end the crowd was chanting Tester's name, it was obvious who they thought won. Tester answered honestly and I was impressed by his performance. Also, you should watch PBS's post debate coverage, it does a great job explaining Rehberg's propaganda. All Rehberg had was "95%" and "56 counties", he looked like he needed a drink with all that twitching. Seriously, all the Republicans need to pull their heads from the sand and see Rehberg for who he is: a wealthy plutocrat who has been in DC for more than a decade and stinks of dark money. Fire him and he'll sell his ranch and become a lobbyist.
  19. JJam
    Report Abuse
    JJam - October 09, 2012 9:04 am
    Denny isn't the Montana I was born and raised in!
  20. Stan Reck
    Report Abuse
    Stan Reck - October 09, 2012 8:52 am
    For Tester being a farmer, isn't he a little fat?
  21. idiot state
    Report Abuse
    idiot state - October 09, 2012 8:35 am
    Sounds like ol' class warfare Jon Tester likes OBAMACARE. Which part, exactly, does he like? The part where an INDEPENDENT ADVISORY BOARD, made up of 15 technocrats, makes
    "recommendations" for COST/CARE REDUCTIONS to drs./hospitals (like not re-admitting Medicare patients twice for the same illness, even if they weren't cured/fixed the first time) which AUTOMATICALLY BECOME LAW on August 15th of each year? Does JON TESTER like the idea of an unelected bunch of bureaucrats rationing healthcare in America? Is that what Jon Tester likes about OBAMACARE?
  22. Waltzing Matilda
    Report Abuse
    Waltzing Matilda - October 09, 2012 7:43 am
    Tester better hope that Obama Care covers Ars Kicking because Rehberg kicked his Ars last night.
  23. Scoop
    Report Abuse
    Scoop - October 09, 2012 7:21 am
    Rehberg was much better spoken on the issues that effect Montana, particularly trade, spending, jobs and the role of government. Neither were particularly articulate and Tester was rambling and defensive in explaining why he voted to support the big government approach of Obama 95% of the time over the cries of Montanans. The bottom line is Tester betrayed our trust on the big issues like Obamacare, federal spending and EPA over reach and has to go.
  24. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - October 09, 2012 6:51 am
    If Tester really stood for Montana values, he never would have voted to confirm two far-left anti-gun U.S. Supreme Court justices - increasing the threat to our right to keep and bear arms. Evidently Tester regards Montanans as not being smart enough to notice.
  25. bearpaws
    Report Abuse
    bearpaws - October 09, 2012 6:48 am
    Denny sure blinked and twitched and looked over his shoulder a lot. Looked like he could've used a drink. And a good boat ride.
  26. Pistol
    Report Abuse
    Pistol - October 09, 2012 6:39 am
    I will vote for Rehberg for two reasons. First I had a mortgage issue with a large bank, and wrote both of them for assistance. Tester sent me a letter thanking me for my comments on health care. Rehberg's office followed up, and helped me get the answers I needed to resolve the issue. Second, there is a 50% chance inspite of the economy, and other issues OBama maybe reelected. We can't afford to have a senator from Montana who supports OBama 95% of the time. Third Tester voted for both of OBama's Supreme Court nominees, who both oppose gun ownership rights, one voted on OBamacare case even though she presented OBamacare when working for the president. Supreme Court is huge issue not being discussed.
  27. DoItRight
    Report Abuse
    DoItRight - October 09, 2012 6:12 am
    Judging by how shaky Rehberg was, I'm sure that he ran straight out of there for a a few quick drinks.
  28. Andy B Hammond
    Report Abuse
    Andy B Hammond - October 09, 2012 6:07 am
    Denny clearly won the debate. Tester is a Liberal, Obama supporting tool who does not deserve another six years. Denny is Montana. Tester is a Liberal radical.
  29. MTLiberty
    Report Abuse
    MTLiberty - October 08, 2012 11:05 pm
    Come on, Dan - don't you mean 23%? Distortion of facts or just a typo?
  30. Got concrete
    Report Abuse
    Got concrete - October 08, 2012 9:49 pm
    Well, I watched the "debate". Like watching two eighth graders. Tester debated hands down better than Denny Rehberg. But when I walk into my polling place the instructions are use one ballot, Rep. or Dem. and I will not watch this country be pilfered be socialists and Hugo Chavez supporters for one more day than it takes Mitt Romney to move his family into the White House!
  31. Dennis Lopach
    Report Abuse
    Dennis Lopach - October 08, 2012 9:30 pm
    Cong. Rehberg looked dazed and confused. Tester was crisp but should have mentioned kazahkstan and the tune inn.


    I don't want Denny to be the face of Montana.
  32. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - October 08, 2012 8:32 pm
    Thanks Missoulian for carrying the debate..great. Appreciate it...my response. Rehberg supports Citizens United ruling. Unlimited undisclosed money in campaigns. In other words not a Montana value. We got away from buying elections years ago. Tester is opposed to that ruling and that idea of funding elections and buying them. Of course Rehberg comes from the party of wealth if you will..of course he wants their money. Thats all I need to know..I am sticking with the guy who has real Montana vlues...like not wanting to buy elections!! Tester...case closed for me...and before you righties get on here and complain about the money Tester is receiving...it is the "dark money" the hidden money that Rehberg has an advantage with. Of course you don't want people to come in and help Tester fight this stuff...of course you don't! Get the beam out of your own eye before you start getting the splinter out of your brothers...hehe
  33. D'jour
    Report Abuse
    D'jour - October 08, 2012 8:29 pm
    I usually try top make an intelligently backed point about my position so as to open myself up to debate, but this time I can only simply say that Rehberg came across as the same total tool that Rick Perry came across as; such rehearsed oratory cliches, launching into answers after he had either reframed them to fit his practice points or to include a group he is behind in the polls with like "seniors", etc. After watching Senate debates in a couple of other States, this one was embarrassing and his style was an insult to my intelligence.
  34. Helen mo
    Report Abuse
    Helen mo - October 08, 2012 8:22 pm
    Thought Tester was excellent!! Clearly the best choice to represent Montana!!
  35. Tony Bynum
    Report Abuse
    Tony Bynum - October 08, 2012 6:18 pm

    Where do you find the debate live on Missoula.com?

    It's on Missoulian.com, right on the homepage. The first thing you see. Just click on it and you're there. The debate starts at 7 p.m.

  36. timbertiger
    Report Abuse
    timbertiger - October 08, 2012 5:11 pm
    Thank you Sherry.
  37. Tracker
    Report Abuse
    Tracker - October 08, 2012 3:47 pm
    That's my question, also.
  38. libertarian
    Report Abuse
    libertarian - October 08, 2012 3:10 pm
    The voters will be losers tonight since, they won't get to hear from all candidates in the race. dancox4senate.com Rehberg's a moderate who working to be more like Ron Paul. But there is very few votes that Paul and Rehberg agree upon. So folks will vote for Cox. Remember 32% of the Republican primary voters voted for an unknown.
  39. timbertiger
    Report Abuse
    timbertiger - October 08, 2012 2:41 pm

    Soooo, what time does it start???

    It starts at 7 p.m., with coverage live online at missoulian.com beginning at 6 p.m. Sherry Devlin, Missoulian editor

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