BILLINGS - U.S. Sen. John McCain strongly endorsed Rep. Denny Rehberg's campaign for U.S. Senate on Wednesday, promising big changes with a Republican majority.
"For the first time in four years, we will have a budget," McCain told volunteers gathered at the Republican Get Out The Vote headquarters in Billings. "We have been four years without a budget. Is there anybody here, family here, business here that doesn't get along without a budget? For literally four years we have done nothing."
The Senate passed its last budget resolution in April 2009 for the 2010 fiscal year, according to the Congressional Record. There has not been been a Senate budget resolution for the following three fiscal years. Democrats like to point to the Budget Control Act, which set spending controls for 2012 and 2013, but the act is a poor and incomplete substitute to a real budget, Republicans counter.
A Republican majority, made possible to by flipping a few, vulnerable seats like the one held by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., will get the budget resolutions rolling again, Republicans promise.
In addition, McCain said a Republican-led Senate can begin dismantling the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare on the campaign trail.
Republicans would also launch an investigation into the government's handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans died in the attack. McCain said the Obama administration's response before and after the attack showed its incompetence.
"The fact is, the president of the United States is either willfully deceiving the American people, or he is so incompetent he's not fit to serve as president of the United States," McCain said.
McCain, who campaigned with Rehberg in Great Falls in August, said on matters like Libya and the budget, things are not going to change as long as U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is majority leader. Tester not only assures Reid's position, McCain said, but the senator also votes with Reid.
But Tester voting with Reid hasn't been the campaign mantra of Rehberg's campaign, which has associated Tester with President Barack Obama at every turn.
"Let me ask you the question," Rehberg said to the volunteers. "What percentage of the time has Jon Tester voted with Barack Obama?"
"95 percent!" they roared in response.
"There you go. That's absolutely right, and he wants to dispute that, but that's a fact," Rehberg said.
The Tester campaign said Wednesday that the figure is inaccurate, derived from a small sample of votes scored by Congressional Quarterly.
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Rehberg went on to say that without Tester, America has a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court, fewer air quality regulations enforced on coal power plants by the Environmental Protection Agency and less government in the lives of its citizens.
And McCain has a position of leadership in a Republican-controlled Senate.
"He's truly an American hero, not just in the United States Senate, but certainly in the military, in his life," Rehberg said of McCain, who won Montana in the 2008 presidential election. "He's done some much for this country. He can do so much more in the majority if he's the chairman."
The excitement in the Rehberg campaign office is palpable. There are 20 volunteers making a seemingly endless number of calls to would-be voters whom data crunchers across the hall have identified as possible Republican voters with ballots still not cast.
Jake Eaton, a veteran campaigner for Montana's GOP, said each volunteer calls about 70 voters an hour. The calls are queued up by the data crunchers in the next room so the volunteers don't wast time dialing.
So far in October, the Rehberg call center has contacted 500,000 voters, Eaton said, a stark contrast to 2008, when the Montana Republican get-out-the-vote effort was admittedly lacking.
"Just last week, we did 99,000 calls. We were just shy of 100,000," Eaton said, expressing disappointment.
On the phones, the volunteers, cramped into small cubicles, not only ask for Rehberg votes but also line up commitments for all Republicans. The technology used allows the staff to know exactly who is on the down ballot of the voter being called.
"I know this is a close race, and you know this is a close race. So it's going to come down to guess what? Voter turnout," McCain said. "And that's where you come in. I don't want any of us to wake up on Nov. 7 and say, 'Gee, I didn't get that vote out.' We've got to get it out, that's what it's going to come down to."
Rehberg wasn't the only one welcoming McCain to Billings. Tester's campaign took out a full-page ad in the sports section of The Billings Gazette on Wednesday welcoming McCain back to Montana and pointing out that like Tester, McCain is an outspoken critic of the amount of unrestricted, anonymous money being poured into political races as a result of the U.S. Supreme Courts decision in the case of Citizen's United. The decision removed limits on corporate limits on political spending.
Rehberg has called the court's decision vital to free speech.
But there was no disagreement between McCain and Rehberg on Wednesday as they announced they would soon publish their own ad in response to Tester's. Rehberg said campaign spending isn't the issue of 2012.
"This election is about government spending, and don't mistake the two," Rehberg said.