The Republic: Stalled tax-cut deal and eastern Montana pipeline stokes heated Tester-Rehberg Senate race

Year-end congressional votes and wrangling over payroll taxes and an oil pipeline project through eastern Montana are stoking the heated Senate race between incumbent Jon Tester and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg as it heads into 2012.

Rehberg, a Republican, pressed Tester last week to vote for legislation passed by the House to extend a middle class tax cut and force a quick decision on the Keystone XL pipeline — a provision Rehberg himself had helped get into the legislation.

But Tester is turning the tables after the House Republicans and Rehberg rejected a Senate compromise backed by Tester that also includes the Keystone project.

The Democrat called Rehberg’s vote “crazy” as he attacked on two issues that can loom large in Montana: tax cuts and resource development. Tester argued that House Republicans are missing a chance to reach a deal.

“I just think that once again, in this particular case, the party bosses told them how to vote, and Rehberg voted. I think it was mistake,” Tester said. “I think you have to do what is best for Montana, and not best for your party.”

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