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DFL Chairman's View: Stauber's infrastructure vote was typically partisan

From the column: "It is a shame Stauber couldn’t bring himself to support a bipartisan infrastructure bill that invests in Minnesota jobs, Minnesota workers, and Minnesota’s economic growth. But I am not surprised."

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Jeff Koterba / Cagle Cartoons

“No one wants an infrastructure bill more than me.”

That’s what Congressman Pete Stauber said when announcing his vote against President Joe Biden’s once-in-a-generation bipartisan infrastructure deal, a $1.2 trillion investment in roads, bridges, broadband, and clean drinking water.

This might seem bizarre if you take Stauber at his word, especially since 19 Republicans in the Senate and 13 Republicans in the House actually voted with their Democratic colleagues to pass this historic investment in America. It is hard to imagine how Congressman Stauber could want an infrastructure deal more than the lawmakers who actually delivered one for their constituents.

My mentor used to say that you should never separate the life you lead from the words you speak. Unfortunately, Stauber has done just that. He says one thing and does another. With the bipartisan infrastructure deal, Stauber did what he always seems to do, which is talk a big game about bipartisanship and then, sometimes in the dead of night, vote whichever way Republican power brokers seem to want him to vote.

As its name implies, the bipartisan infrastructure deal is not some hyper-partisan bill. After all, there are no Democratic roads and Republican roads, and the fact of the matter is that our infrastructure desperately needs an upgrade. The American Society of Civil Engineers, the folks who know infrastructure like the backs of their hands, gave Minnesota’s roads and bridges a C on their state report card.

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We can and must do better, which is why the bipartisan infrastructure bill invests $4.5 billion in repairing Minnesota’s roads and $302 million in repairing our bridges. This promises to boost our economy by making it easier to move goods around while creating countless good-paying jobs for Minnesotans. This is a fantastic deal for all Minnesotans, regardless of which political party they support — which makes Stauber’s vote against creating jobs and investing in our state feels like partisan politics at its worst.

In addition, the bipartisan infrastructure deal will invest $100 million to expand broadband access to people across the state. In Greater Minnesota, this will help students learn, businesses compete, and families enjoy uninterrupted the occasional Netflix marathon. A stable internet connection is just a necessity in this day and age. This investment will help all communities, big and small, have the tools they need to stay connected in the global economy.

Stauber himself regularly talks about the need to improve broadband. In 2020, he bragged about a $3 million grant from the Department of Agriculture to expand broadband in his 8th Congressional District in Northeastern Minnesota. However, when President Biden put forward a deal to deliver a $100 million investment in Minnesota broadband, Stauber turned it down.

According to Stauber, he voted against the bipartisan infrastructure deal because he does not like a separate bill focused on climate change and child care, and Stauber said that opposing the infrastructure deal would make it harder for the other bill to pass.

This reasoning is politics at its cynical worst.

If Stauber actually wanted an infrastructure deal like he claimed, he could have just voted for the infrastructure bill, then voted against the other, separate bill. That’s presumably what some of the 32 Republican lawmakers who actually helped pass the infrastructure deal will do. Instead, Stauber tried to sacrifice the needs of his district in some bizarre game of three-dimensional chess.

It is genuinely baffling that Stauber voted against creating jobs for folks in northern Minnesota because of the slim chance his vote might one day help stop another, unrelated bill.

It is clear to me that Stauber’s excuse for not voting to pass the bipartisan infrastructure deal is just that, an excuse. One seemingly without merit or substance.

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It is a shame Stauber couldn’t bring himself to support a bipartisan infrastructure bill that invests in Minnesota jobs, Minnesota workers, and Minnesota’s economic growth. But I am not surprised. I learned a long time ago that if you want to know what Pete Stauber is going to do on any given issue, your best bet is to ignore the words that come out of his mouth and instead ask yourself what a typical Republican politician who cares more about his party than his district would do.

At the end of the day, Stauber is not working to protect “our way of life” in northern Minnesota, as he often claims. He’s working to protect his way of life in Washington, D.C.

Ken Martin is chairman of the Minnesota DFL Party. He wrote this for the News Tribune.

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Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin

Related Topics: PETE STAUBERJOE BIDEN
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