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Tester Addresses Amtrak Board, Veterans’ Care Decisions During Montana Media Call

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., explained his dedication of keeping Amtrak properly serving rural America during a conference call with Montana’s media members last week.

Tester noted that he formally blocked President Biden’s nominees to serve as members of the Amtrak board of directors last week. The senator made the decision because five of the nominees were from northeast corridor states.

Tester explained having that many nominees from northeast corridor states violated provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to ensure full geographic representation.

“I think it’s very important when it comes to the success of Amtrak,” Tester said of different regions being represented. “The board should represent all of America and not just one region.”

The senator added, “And I won’t stop pushing back until rural America gets a seat at the table.”

During the press conference, Tester said he feels the Empire Builder and Amtrak are both doing reasonably well.

Tester feels that if the voice of rural America is part of the board, then Amtrak’s future is put at risk.

“The Empire Builder has been serving northern Montana for nearly 100 years, and it’s critical that someone on the Amtrak Board is familiar with the unique needs and challenges of long-distance rail in rural America,” Barry Green, council representative for Montana at the Rail Passengers Association, said in a press release. “Long-distance rail in Montana is an entirely different ballgame than the urban coastal commutes, and we’re delighted to have Sen. Tester standing up for the people who rely on Amtrak in our part of the country.”

During the press conference, Tester also expressed disappointment of Republicans blocking the Veterans Program Improvement Act.

Benefits of the act would include making VA’s Native American Direct Loan program accessible to Native American veterans living on trust land, expanding access to home and community based care programs for veterans and establish a grant program to expand the work of county veterans service officers who provide critical outreach and assistance to veterans.

The act also included expanding cannabis research into other factors related to veterans’ health such as improvements to mood and/or social functioning, impacts on other substance use, and changes to overall quality of life.

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