Montana's Republican Senator Steve Daines held what he called a “tele-town hall meeting” Wednesday night. His political opponents have been strongly criticizing him for not holding any face to face meetings where he takes questions from the public.
Senator Daines says telephone conference calls like last night's allow him to interact with more Montanans because people don't have to travel to participate in them. He said that 10,000 to 25,000 people typically participate in his calls.
The Senator took 13 questions over 90 minutes, most of them from people who appeared to disagree with him. Three questions asked him to reconsider Republican plans to replace the Affordable Care Act, two asked for an independent investigator into the Trump administration's ties to Russia, and two questioned his support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos.
Daines opened the call by talking about his support for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
"His resume, for Judge Gorsuch is impressive," Daines said. "I had a chance to spend some time meeting with him here in my office. His jurisprudence is what makes him the right choice, I believe, to succeed Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court."
None of the callers who were able to ask questions brought up Gorsuch. One asked him to release all wilderness study areas in Montana. Daines said he supports evaluating them, and that some are appropriate to be protected as wilderness and that others should revert to less restrictive management.
One caller admonished Daines for silencing Senator Elizabeth Warren during a confirmation hearing for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Another questioned a recent Daines tweet, sent at 3:00 a.m., weighing in on Montana's special election for Congress in May. She was identified as Gwen from Helena.
"I’m just concerned about getting all these type of Twitter notifications. I’m kind of getting a little bit of a President Trump vibe, and I know that’s not presidential, and you’re not that type of unhinged," Gwen said.
"Yeah,” Daines replied.
“In listening to you come across and explain your ideas, even the ideas that I disagree with, you’re explaining them very eloquently and giving us your point. Is, the next 83, 82 days to the special election, are we going to be looking forward to these tweets constantly, about this election? That’s a concern of mine,” Gwen said.
Daines said he was up early to catch a 5:00 a.m. flight. Then Daines praised Rob Quist as a musician, but said the Democratic candidate is not a good fit to represent Montana in the U.S. House.
The people who asked questions who appeared to agree with Daines asked him to reform the Veterans Administration, and to remove Montana from the 9th U.S. Circuit courts. Daines promised to do more telephone town hall meetings in the future.
You can listen to a recording of the entire teleconference below, and find more Montana politics news anytime right here.