Congress is on a break now and will be until September. According to the Senate’s calendar, the next few weeks are set aside as a “State Work Period.”

Let’s hope Montana’s senators and congressman take that suggestion to heart and make themselves available for face-to-face townhalls where all their constituents have an opportunity to question them on issues that concern them most.

That doesn’t mean “telephone town halls” in which questions are screened. That doesn’t mean “roundtables” where participants are carefully selected to participate. We’re talking face-to-face meetings where all participants and questions are welcome.

This is important. The congressional delegation is the only conduit by which Montanans can voice their concerns about what’s going on in Washington. And free and open access to members of the delegation is essential.

Montanans want answers on issues like the escalating trade war with China that’s costing the states ag producers dearly, and proposals to expand gun purchase background checks following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. They want to know where their representatives stand on the rise of white supremacy rhetoric in our national dialog.

Sen. Jon Tester has conducted these town halls regularly. Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte have been remiss in this area. As Republicans, Daines and Gianforte will undoubtedly be asked to justify their support for President Trump’s inflammatory words and policies to some constituents who oppose them. But that’s part of the job.

Daines is seeking re-election to the Senate next year and Gianforte is running for governor. If they want to earn the votes of Montanans for those offices, they need to make themselves accessible in transparent and unfiltered settings.

All members of the delegation are urged to use this “State Work Period” to connect with their constituents in meaningful ways. And open, face-to-face town halls are the best way to do that.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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