Schweitzer served as Governor of Montana from January 3, 2005 to January 7, 2013.
During a January 2014 interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," host Mika Brzezinski asked Schweitzer if he would run for president. He replied, "I haven’t decided that. It would ruin my life. Take a look at what has happened to the president. …I have a pretty good life in the private sector right now." Seventeen governors have served as president.
In June 2014, when Time Magazine's Michael Scherer asked Brian Schweitzer if "he would be a better president than Hillary Clinton," Schweitzer replied, "Well, I think so, of course. I think I have a background and a resume that isn’t just in government. But the time I was in government, I was a chief executive. And as I said to you before, you can go around Montana and ask people what they think of me and they will say, 'Well I didn’t always agree with him, but I always knew where he stood and he was good with money.' That’s what they will say to a person. And I think there is one thing we all can agree on: they are not good with money in Washington, D.C."
In June 2014, National Journal's Marin Cogan asked Schweitzer if he was interested in running for president. He replied, "I think I could change the world, and I think I could change it in a way that other people out there aren't willing to do. There are some tough things that need to be done."
In 2011, Brian Schweitzer signed Senate Bill No. 372, which reduced the tax on business equipment. According to the Cato Institute, "The bill reduced the rate from 3 to 2 percent on the first $2 million of equipment owned."
According to the Cato Institute's 2012 report, The tax cut was "a good reform, but Schweitzer has blocked larger tax reforms proposed by the legislature, including full repeal of corporate income taxes and property taxes on business equipment."
In October 2006, during an interview with The New York Times, Brian Schweitzer said, "I was a critic of Nafta, I was a critic of Cafta and I’ll be a critic of Shafta. Why is it that America supposedly creates the best businessmen in the world, but when we go to the table with the third world, we come away losers?"
Brian Schweitzer received a fiscal policy grade of "C" from the Cato Institute in 2012. According to the report, "Montana general fund spending grew rapidly during Schweitzer’s first few years in office, but spending has been fairly flat in recent years."
Schweitzer received a fiscal policy grade of "B" from the Cato Institute in 2011. According to the report, "State spending exploded during Governor Schweitzer’s first few years in office. General fund spending rose 52 percent between FY05 and FY08. As a result, the governor scored poorly on the 2008 Cato report card. However, spending has been falling recently, and Schweitzer’s proposed budget for FY11 is 11 percent below spending at the peak in FY08."
According to an April 2013 Huffington Post article, "Schweitzer is an advocate of expanding Medicare to all Americans, and even sought a waiver from the Affordable Care Act to allow his own state to pursue single payer. Schweitzer explained his support for Canadian-style single payer health care like so: 'Imagine if you went to a gas station, and you looked over at a car with a Canadian license plate. They were paying $1 a gallon for gas, and you're paying $2. Wouldn't that make you mad? That's exactly what's happening. I'm mad for all the people in the country.'"
In 2011, Schweitzer requested "federal permission to sell cheaper prescription drugs in his state through the federal Medicaid program."
In 2010, Schweitzer proposed a pilot program to privatize Medicaid. He asked "companies to bid on a contract to manage Medicaid, the state’s $900 million health care program for the poor, in a five-county area," according to The Flathead Beacon.
During a 2011 interview on "PBS Newshour," Schweitzer explained that he prepared Montana for the economic downturn by negotiating with state employees. He said he "negotiated no increase in salaries for the next two years, no increase in benefits, no increase in their insurance benefits. They agreed. And here was the deal. I praised them for doing the work that matters in Montana. I praised them for going first. I cut my own salary by $11,000. And then we started cutting the rest of government."
During the same interview, Schweitzer explained his position on collective bargaining. He said, "I think, if you eliminate the ability to collectively bargain for our public employees, then they are effectively negotiating one person at a time. And that’s why we created collective bargaining in this country. It is true that some states don’t have collective bargaining for their public employees, and some do. It’s working very well in Montana. And part of the reason it works in Montana is I say that it is a shared responsibility. And when we get into tough times, I ask them to share the responsibility. And, in Montana’s case, it’s worked. We’re running balanced budgets. We have a budget surplus. In fact, we have $328,474,612 in the bank today, partly because our state employees are doing more with less."
During an interview with Slate in January 2014, Brian Schweitzer discussed the Iran nuclear deal. He said, "The Iranian deal makes sense. We linked up with the Saudis before and after World War II. Look, unlike virtually every member of Congress, I have a pretty good firsthand knowledge of the Middle East. The day after I got out of graduate school, after I defended my thesis, I went straight to Libya. I was there for a year; I was in Saudi Arabia for seven. I learned to speak Arabic. I can explain to you, in a way that almost no one else in the country can, the difference between a Sunni and a Shia. I can explain to you who and what the Wahhabis are in Saudi Arabia. I can talk to you about why we, the United States, initially got involved with the Saudi royal family, what we got out of the deal. I can explain to you why we knew Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. We knew, because we supplied chemical weapons to him so he could poison the Iranians. The Iranians are Persian, not Arab; they haven’t got along for several thousand years. So we’ve had a bad history with Iran because of what we did in 1953, replacing an elected official with a dictator. If we can build a relationship that’s a little more even-handed, if we can get them to back away from their nuclear ambition—let’s face it, their neighbors don’t even like that—if we were to step up and said we’re no longer just going to take the Saudis’ position all the time, you don’t have to worry about us attacking you from Afghanistan or Iraq, if you agree to back away from your nuclear ambitions, we’ll be neutral."
Military preparedness and budget
In December 2013, when asked if he was "anti-war," Brian Schweitzer said, "No, I believe that we ought to have a strong defense system. I just don’t think we should be the world’s police. … For the last number of presidents, unfortunately, we were the world policeman," according to The Des Moines Register.
In December 2013, Brian Schweitzer commented on the Iraq war. He said, "I didn’t vote for that war, and I didn’t think it was a good idea. When we were attacked at 9/11 by 17 Saudis and two Egyptians who called themselves Al-Qaeda, who weren’t welcome in Iraq, and George Bush got a bunch of Democrats to go to that war, I was just shaking my head in Montana," according to The Des Moines Register.
In 2010, Brian Schweitzer appointed Judge Michael E. Wheat to the Montana Supreme Court. According to a 2012 Stanford University study, Wheat has a liberal leaning ideology. In the study, he received a campaign finance score (CFscore) of -1.16, which was more liberal than the average CF score of -0.87 that justices in Montana received.
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Brian Schweitzer criticized the Citizens United ruling during a June 2012 interview with Esquire. He said, "Now, what the Supreme Court is saying is, 'Yeah, you can bribe an American official.' What we're saying in this country now is that if you're an American corporation and you want to bribe an official somewhere in the world, do it in America, where it's legal. And then they say, you know, 'Free speech. Money is speech.' No, money is power. Don't screw around here. Let's just tell it the way it is: They're buying power. You'll see guys that have a business, and they employ a thousand people and they think they're pretty big stuff, and they'll say, 'Yeah, this ought to be okay, a corporation is a person. We want to function as a full person.' So they say, 'Yeah, Citizens United, that's a good thing.' 'You are a dumbass, sir, and I'll tell you why you are. Because the pharmaceutical companies and the military-industrial complex, and the insurance companies, they'll step on you like a big. The $500,000 that you can afford to put into the kitty to induce someone to vote your way? You are a piker.' That's the equivalent of buying someone one drink and thinking you're gonna sleep with them. It doesn't work that way."
Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
In 2011, Brian Schweitzer vetoed HB 271, which would have allowed all law-abiding individuals to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
In 2009, Schweitzer signed HB 228 into law. The law protects "the right of Montanans to defend their lives and liberties, as provided in Article II, section 3, of the Montana Constitution, and their right to keep or bear arms in defense of their homes, persons, and property, as provided in Article II, section 12, of the Montana Constitution."
According to The New Republic, "In his 2008 run, Schweitzer was endorsed by the NRA with an 'A' rating and a personal visit by Wayne LaPierre for a campaign rally. Schweitzer signed an array of NRA-backed bills into law, including a 2009 'stand your ground' bill that the NRA called a 'victory.'"
Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
According to The Weekly Standard, "[I]n 2009, Schweitzer signed a law that exempts Montana-made firearms from federal regulations. 'It’s a gun bill, but it’s another way of demonstrating the sovereignty of the state of Montana,' he said after signing it."
In 2010, Schweitzer supported "leasing of state-owned lands in southeast Montana for coal mining," according to The New York Times.
On November 19, 2007, Brian Schweitzer announced that Montana would become part of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), "a joint effort to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. ...Under the agreement, by 2008 the member states and provinces will establish a cap-and-trade system to aid in meeting their regional greenhouse gas emissions target of 15% below 2005 levels by 2020. The participants will also set up an emissions registry and tracking system," according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
In 2011, Montana, along with five other states, left the WCI and joined North America 2050, a "Regional Plan Association's national infrastructure planning and policy program, providing leadership on a broad range of transportation, sustainability, and economic-development issues impacting America's growth in the 21st century."
During a January 2014 interview with Slate, Brian Schweitzer explained how he would reform the healthcare system. He said, "No. 1: You pass national health insurance laws that say you can’t discriminate against women, charge them higher premiums than men of the same age, you can’t discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, you can’t have annual caps. Then you allow insurance companies to compete wherever they want, in any state. Boom. The second thing is, you say to every citizen in the United States, now you have the option to buy into Medicare. We just need to act like capitalists, not socialists. We need to negotiate to buy medicine. Now, what’s interesting is that the detractors hear that and say—this is like socialized medicine. No! Are you kidding me? France, the United Kingdom: They negotiate like capitalists to buy their medicine. The United States? We say to the pharmaceutical companies, how much would you like this for? We continue to pay them three times what they sell the same medicines for all over the world. Right after the bill was passed, big pharma was running ads for all the Democrats who voted for this thing. Even in Montana. What’d they get out of it? They now have a lot more money."
In 2011, Schweitzer signed SB 125, which prohibited Montana from "administering federal health insurance purchase requirements."
According to Associated Press reporter Matt Gouras, "Schweitzer has criticized the federal health care law as an insurance industry giveaway. But he also advocates a single-payer health care system like Canada's."
"Governor Brian Schweitzer's Thoughts on Immigration."
In 2008, Brian Schweitzer said, "Families who want to come to America, work in America, raise families in America ought to be welcome because that’s the thread that has made this blanket so warm in this country. We need to have a system that allows people a path to citizenship. That’s the way we’ve done it for the last 150 years."
According to The Missoulian, "Under Schweitzer, state funding for public schools and the university system increased substantially after years of neglect, full-day kindergarten was implemented statewide and teachers’ student loans were repaid by grants of up to $12,000. Tuition at state universities has been frozen for at least half the years during his tenure."
During a 2013 interview with The Daily Beast, Brian Schweitzer said, "I believe that two people who love each other ought to be legally married ... given the opportunity to support people of the same gender getting married, I do."
During a January 2014 interview with Slate, Brian Schweitzer commented on legalizing marijuana. He said, "Each society has to make choices about what’s against the law. You have a large percentage of the population that’s already using this. The war on drugs is another war that appears to have been lost. This experiment with prohibition of marijuana doesn’t seem have to been working. Colorado might have it more right than the rest of us."
On The Issues Vote Match
Brian Schweitzer's Vote Match results from On The Issues.
On The Issues conducts a VoteMatch analysis of elected officials based on 20 issue areas. Rather than relying on incumbents to complete the quiz themselves, the VoteMatch analysis is conducted using voting records, statements to the media, debate transcripts or citations from books authored by or about the candidate. Based on the results of the quiz, Schweitzer is a Moderate Liberal Populist. Schweitzer received a score of 45 percent on social issues and 37 percent on economic issues.Note: We are working to resolve inaccuracies with this information. Thank you for your patience.
During his 2008 campaign, Brian Schweitzer "said he would follow his 2007 budget example by setting aside one-third of any budget surplus for tax relief and a 'rainy day' savings account the state could use during tough economic times," according to The Missoulian.
In 2009, Schweitzer vetoed SB 503, which proposed creating a variety of tax credits and deductions.
According to The Weekly Standard, as governor, Brian Schweitzer "deviated from his party on energy and guns, understandable given Montana’s economic reliance on mining and energy production and its rural landscape. He strongly supported the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, referring to those debating the project in Washington as 'jackasses,' and pushed for more development of coal. And in 2009, Schweitzer signed a law that exempts Montana-made firearms from federal regulations."
According to StateIntegrity.org, "Questions of cronyism and favoritism have dogged" Brian Schweitzer's administration.
In 2009, Schweitzer was criticized for hiring his college roommate to run the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
In 2006, Republicans accused Schweitzer of granting a "political favor" to former state Sen. Sam Kitzenberg, who switched from a Republican to a Democrat, because he gave him a job in the state Revenue Department.
Politico reporter Manu Raju wrote that Brian Schweitzer's "gregarious personality and folksy style made him a hit with voters."
According to National Journal's Marin Cogan, at times, Schweitzer has been "unable to hold his tongue."
After Sen. Dianne Feinstein accused "the CIA of spying on congressional staffers investigating the agency's treatment of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration," Schweitzer said, "She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees, and now she says, 'I'm a nun,' when it comes to this spying! I mean, maybe that's the wrong metaphor—but she was all in!"
After former Rep. Eric Cantor was defeated in the 2014 Republican primary by David Brat, Schweitzer said, "Don't hold this against me, but I'm going to blurt it out. How do I say this ... men in the South, they are a little effeminate. They just have effeminate mannerisms. If you were just a regular person, you turned on the TV, and you saw Eric Cantor talking, I would say—and I'm fine with gay people, that's all right—but my gaydar is 60-70 percent. But he's not, I think, so I don't know. Again, I couldn't care less. I'm accepting."
Past speeches and interviews
"Brian Schweitzer Remarks at 2012 Democratic National Convention," September 7, 2012.
CNN, "Ralph Reed on CNN with Anderson Cooper & Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer," April 24, 2012.
Brian Schweitzer lists "the zenith of energy development in Montana" as one of his accomplishments. During his tenure, Montana became a center for the wind-power industry, a coal mine was built and he increased leases for oil and gas.
According to The Missoulian, "Schweitzer says he’s especially proud of bringing Indians into his administration and spending time listening at tribal council meetings throughout the state. He pushed for passage, and funding, of the Indian Education for All law, which requires schools to teach all Montana students about Native Americans and their heritage. Indian Country Today, a national newspaper, said, 'It’s hard to argue that any governor, anywhere in the country, has been more responsive to tribes than Schweitzer.'"
During Schweitzer's tenure, Montana had budget surpluses every year. He left office with a $400 million surplus.
During his tenure, Brian Schweitzer had a difficult relationship with Republicans. In 2011, he hosted a "veto branding party" and used a branding iron to veto dozens of bills sent to him by Republicans in the legislature.