The following op-ed was written by Congressman Ryan Zinke and provided to KGVO: 

Yes; I voted for the 2,000-page spending bill which funds the government next year, known as the Omnibus. Yes; my staff and I read it. And yes; it was a difficult vote. I assure you, the easy thing to do in these situations is vote no. It’s easy to vote no. But before judgement is delivered, you deserve to hear the reasoning behind my decision.

Several Montana provisions that I’ve fought for in Congress over the past 12 months were included in the bill: LWCF, PILT, lifting the ban on crude oil exports, tax relief, etc. But the most important was my Constitutional duty to “provide for the common defence” at a time when this president seems hell-bent on doing everything he can to weaken our position around the globe.

I swore an oath to keep America safe, both here at home and abroad. This bill fully funds our military and helps prevent domestic attacks by Islamic terrorist who could exploit the loopholes in the visa waiver program. It is clear this president’s foreign policy is a failure, but he will not be in office forever. Congress needs to start laying the groundwork today for the next president to take over the strongest military possible and be ready to go day one.

Next year Montanans will vote for a new President. Regardless of whether that president is a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or, god-forbid, a Socialist, my job as a Congressman and former Naval Commander is to ensure our military is the strongest possible. I weighed it against the alternative, a continuing resolution, which would have underfunded the military by more than $22 billion, leaving the Persian Gulf without an aircraft carrier for the first time since 2007. It would also cost the military about 30,000 troops across four branches and put our readiness at risk. As it stands, only a small fraction of our brigades are combat ready.

I understand the argument that we cannot afford more debt, and I am adamant about fixing our nation’s finances. I support a balanced budget amendment, biennial budgeting, and denying members of Congress pay if they don’t balance the budget. I even voted against the Obama-Boehner budget earlier this year which raised the spending caps. But opponents in the Senate who claim the tax credits for Montana families, workers, farmers and ranchers are ‘too expensive’ don’t understand how hard the average Montanan works to earn their paycheck. Never once did we hear suggestions for spending cuts from them; I gladly welcome spending cuts. Let’s start with the EPA and IRS. Whether it’s stopping the medical device tax, renewing the Crow’s coal tax credit, or making the section 179 and research and development credits permanent, every single one of these tax credits means another dollar in the pockets of hard-working Montanans.

Congress needs to abandon the practice of creating artificial crises and rather get the work done on time. This massive bill is more than 2,000 pages. This is no way to govern. The House is far from perfect, but we passed most of the appropriations bills last summer well before the deadline, but the Senate Democrats filibustered and shut down regular order. If the funding bills had moved through the Senate in the first place, we would not be faced with this artificial funding crisis

Like all massive pieces of legislation, the Omnibus contains the good, the bad and the ugly; but LWCF, visa reforms, lifting the ban on crude exports and funding our troops are far too important to Montana and our national security to vote no. Those who know me know that I say what I’ll do and do what I’ve said. When I asked for this job, I told Montanans that I would put our national security first, develop our energy industry and conserve our public lands. That is what I said, that is what I did.
Ryan Zinke is Montana’s Representative in the U.S. House and serves on the Armed Services Committee. Ryan is a former State Senator from Whitefish and 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy SEALs.