Calling every death to COVID-19 “a tragedy” on Monday, U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber continued to stress a desire to open Minnesota further than it is and let people decide where they want to go.

“I believe that Minnesotans are responsible people,” Stauber said. “Those people that are allowed to go out. If they don’t want to do that, nobody’s going to force them to go to restaurants or hair salons or the mall.”

Stauber, a Republican from Hermantown representing the 8th Congressional District, spoke to the News Tribune on Monday after a busy, COVID-related week.

Stauber voted against a $3 trillion relief package that passed the House of Representatives. According to widespread national reports, the bill seemed destined to fail in the U.S. Senate or, barring that, be vetoed by President Donald Trump.

Stauber also sent a tweet in response to Gov. Tim Walz’s relaxing of stay-at-home restrictions that seemed to conflict with the governor's pace of reopening.

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“I know many other businesses, like restaurants and hair salons, are also hoping to safely reopen and I believe they should be able to do so as well,” Stauber tweeted shortly after Walz agreed to phase in retail shopping.

Stauber said he trusts business owners and customers to adopt safe practices and adhere to guidelines.

He objected to the News Tribune asking if Republicans were ignoring the pandemic by following the president in their focus on restarting the economy. Trump tweeted Monday: "REOPEN OUR COUNTRY!"

“I object to that,” Stauber said. “The pandemic is a priority for this entire nation. The health and safety of the American public is a priority.”

The country has more information and data now than when COVID-19 reached American shores in late winter, Stauber said.

“We need to make sure that we use the data and the science that has been given to us, and, I think, on a parallel path, keeping those most vulnerable safe, and allow them to follow guidelines, and then allow Minnesota to open up responsibly,” he said.

Asked about the country being on path to have 100,000 dead due to COVID-19 by June 1, Stauber said: “That’s a tragedy — every single death is a tragedy.”

In news releases last week, the congressman called the HEROES Act he voted against “a massive progressive wish list." He was critical of the way Democratic House leadership delivered the 1,800 pages of stimulus without soliciting input.

“A pandemic that impacts everyone and our entire way of life calls for a bipartisan response,” Stauber said. “The prior four pieces of legislation that were COVID-related were all bipartisan."

There were things to build on in the package, he said, including aid to state and local governments, along with money to bolster rural broadband.

But the bill also left out one of the protections Stauber is seeking most of all.

“The major thing that was missing in my mind and all of the Chamber of Commerce's minds is the liability immunity for our businesses when they open up,” said Stauber, co-owner of a hockey equipment store in Duluth. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that’s their biggest concern for the small businesses across this nation. The liability and immunity for COVID-related issues is extremely important for our small business.”

Asked about the forthcoming reelection bid, Stauber said it wasn't a priority right now.

"I am laser-focused on getting and helping our district, the state, and the nation through this pandemic," he said.