WASHINGTON — As Wednesday rounds out the 26th day of the government shutdown, it continued to dominate conversations in Washington, D.C., including ours with Republican Sen. Steve Daines.
We had a bright and early start when we shadowed him Wednesday, just as we did with Sen. Jon Tester Tuesday. He took us on a personal tour of the Capitol building and even to the Senate floor, where no cameras are allowed.
From there, the Montana Coffee, where Daines was joined by Tester and Rep. Greg Gianforte, a one-stop delegation event held every Wednesday for Montana constituents.
“It’s a unique Montana experience, and it’s the way Montana wants to see their leadership work, working together,” Daines said.
A meeting with the Health and Human Services secretary canceled mid-morning, so he held staff meetings and called constituents for an hour. Over the noon hour, he sat in a private meeting with “Bear Den” members, other Republican senators close to him, like Sen. Deb Fischer from Nebraska. In that meeting, discussions over funding the border wall and the government shutdown.
“So here’s the issue — if the president says he’s going to veto it, it doesn’t make any sense, because it just becomes a show vote, and what we don’t need are more show votes. What show votes do, is they divide Washington, D.C., and both sides run and issue press releases, and it takes the temperature up. And we don’t need that. We need to take the temperature down,” Daines said.
We asked if he thinks they have enough to override a veto, and he said he doesn’t. Daines is also considering a bipartisan letter proposing a short-term funding bill that would fund the government for three weeks while negotiations continue.
“I’m reviewing it as we speak. Literally been on the phone here today with the White House, been engaged with some of my Senate colleagues, trying to find a way we can get both sides together to take the temperature down. It’s time to cool things off and focus on solving this problem,” Daines said.
A quick walk back to the Senate floor where he broke away from his party and voted to keep sanctions on three Russian businesses, an effort that failed.
We walked him to a Senate steering lunch in the Mike Mansfield Room with other senators like Mitt Romney. In the afternoon, Daines met with Tester and a director with the Bureau of Indian Affairs about the missing and endangered indigenous women epidemic in Montana. He says it’s closely tied with our meth crisis, and it worries him.
“It is destroying communities. I think it’s one of the under-reported stories in our state,” Daines told us.
Right after his sit-down with NBC Montana, a meeting with Army Secretary Esper, who couldn’t get enough of the Montana photos in Daines’ office. Then more staff meetings, a dinner break and ending his day at 10 p.m. right where it began, giving a Capitol tour to a group of students.
On Thursday, we’ll go behind the scenes with Gianforte, who gives us a glimpse into the House of Representatives.