Minnesota Eighth Congressional District Rep. Pete Stauber wouldn’t commit to acknowledging President-elect Joe Biden or taking a COVID-19 vaccine during an interview this week.
On the topic of a COVID-19 vaccine, Stauber praised the scientific operation that appears to have yielded multiple COVID-19 vaccines within a year of the pandemic’s arrival.
He called it “great news for our nation,” but said he’d have to talk with his wife and children first before deciding whether to take it himself.
“We will see,” the Republican congressman from Hermantown said. “I can say this, even in the bills, there’s going to be no mandate for any American to take it.”
When asked why that was important, Stauber said: “It’s a freedom — the freedom of choice. I’ve always said parents make the best decisions for their kids and, of course, themselves. It’ll be a personal choice for every American.”
After speaking with Stauber, the News Tribune asked Katie Albert, a public health planner with St. Louis County, about a vaccine, the first of which is up for approval this week in the United States.
"A lot of people realize that a vaccine is our way out of this pandemic," Albert said, later addressing the importance of influential people showing confidence in the vaccine. "It's hard to say. If somebody did it on live television — if the president got the vaccine — I don't know if that would sway people or not. It wouldn't hurt for politicians to promote it. But with vaccines, people usually have their minds made up and often that can be hard to change."
In declining to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden, Stauber continued to be part of a legion of Republican lawmakers remaining loyal to President Donald Trump.
In a Washington Post survey last weekend, only 27 congressional Republicans acknowledged the upcoming Biden presidency. Stauber declined to take the survey.
Stauber told the News Tribune it was important to allow President Donald Trump time to go through a recount and litigation process — one that has failed dozens of times already in federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, to validate Trump’s allegation of a rigged election.
“Right now there are some questions of validity in certain states,” Stauber said. “The president is within his right to look into these allegations of irregularities and request recounts under the law or whatever he and his campaign team decide to do.”
Stauber cited ongoing congressional recounts in Iowa and upstate New York, as well as Vice President Al Gore’s court challenges in the 2000 election. Gore’s challenge centered on Florida and a recount of the thin margin there.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Florida’s recount unconstitutional for lacking standards, but also swung the election to George W. Bush in a separate ruling that said there was no longer enough time to remedy Florida’s election while Bush led the recount.
“I’m confident our legal system is going to resolve any recounts or litigation and we will soon reach a resolution,” Stauber said, referring to Trump’s election challenges.
“What’s frustrating for my constituents and some of the media is that the media, such as yourself, and others don’t elect presidents,” Stauber said. “The voters do.”
Stauber added that “Americans deserve to know every legitimate vote is counted,” and that integrity of U.S. elections was of utmost importance.
To that end, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has said there is so far no evidence of widespread election fraud, and Christopher Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, was fired by Trump after describing the election as the most secure in U.S. history.
Despite those details, Biden’s nearly 7 million vote advantage and commanding Electoral College lead, Stauber continued to refuse to acknowledge a Biden presidency.
“We will have an inauguration on Jan. 20, which I will attend,” Stauber said.
Stauber also addressed COVID-19 relief.
The business Stauber owns with his brothers, Duluth Hockey Co., received $44,750 from last spring’s paycheck protection program. The sporting goods outfitter has continued to struggle with youth sports being sidelined at least until later this month by a Gov. Tim Walz order.
“My brothers and I were finishing our 30th year — it’s a passion for us, the game of hockey,” Stauber said. “It’s pretty disappointing for us. It’s been an extremely tough year, so I can relate and empathize.”
Stauber said he and his brothers have also “reached into (our) own back pockets” to help the business.
Stauber was asked about the possibility of another COVID-19 relief package before the end of the year. A $900 billion package has been gaining steam, and Stauber said Congress is being brought back next week to cement legislation.
“This targeted relief package we know is needed across America to keep our employees paid,” Stauber said.
He was critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Bernie Sanders, both Democrats, for walking away from an earlier White House coronavirus relief offer of $1.8 trillion at a time when Democrats were seeking more than $2 trillion.
“This pandemic has hit us all and we need a bipartisan bill,” Stauber said. “We’re working towards that. It’s unfortunate we had to wait. As you know, Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Sanders, they delayed this until after the election, which is unconscionable.”
Finally, Stauber praised work being done in Minnesota since approval last month of the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline. It comes at an important time, he said, given the economic hardship brought on by COVID-19.
“I supported this project from the beginning,” he said. “It’s a process. It’s got to follow the science and when it has met the strict criteria that we require, it ought to be able to go through. Especially during this hard economic time, it’s going to provide good-paying jobs.”