Behind the political noise blasting daily from D.C. — the impeachment hysteria of late, Trump’s tweets, and worse — there actually are “commonalities (that) far outweigh our differences,” Eighth Congressional District Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican from Hermantown, said he has realized in his first year in office.
Stauber spent a half hour with the News Tribune Editorial Board this month. Sure, there were digs at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former President Barack Obama, and other Democrats. But Stauber spent far more time plugging political cooperation that’s sadly too rare in our nation’s capital. He urged “legislating between the guardrails” and “not in the left ditch or in the right ditch.”
“If we legislate in between, there’s a whole bunch of things we can do,” he said.
A more-bipartisan approach seems to be working so far for Stauber. He’s the only Republican freshman from Minnesota to have a bill pass the House this Congress. He’s actually had two: One calls on the Federal Aviation Administration to establish a task force regarding a flight operations notification system, and the other would give partial payments to contractors when the terms of their deals with federal agencies change. The latter, the Small Business Payment for Performance Act of 2019, was co-sponsored by five Democrats.
That hasn’t been uncommon for Stauber. He also worked across the aisle this year with Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, a fellow freshman from Minnesota. Aboard a train as part of orientation during their first days in office, the two realized they both were parents of children with special needs. So they collaborated, Stauber told the Editorial Board, on legislation to compel the federal government to provide, with 10 years to get there, the 40 percent of special-education funding it promised decades ago it would provide.
“They’re not even close,” Stauber said. “Angie and I, we’ve lived it. We get it.”
Stauber was able to tick off other examples of bipartisan work and his commitment to working that way. While it may not sound like much, he votes against his party about 13 percent of the time. That actually puts him “among the Republicans that buck their party most often,” as MinnPost reported this month.
“This has simply been a blessed opportunity in my life to serve,” said Stauber, a former professional hockey player, Duluth police officer, and elected St. Louis County commissioner. “We have the ability to do wonderful things in this country, and I want to be a part of that and part of representing all the people, knowing full well we’re going to disagree on things. That’s OK. As long as everybody’s at the table and the conversation has been had, great legislation can come about. …
“I’ve taken hundreds of votes now, and every time I’ve voted it’s not just another vote. I look, how does it affect Minnesota Eighth, Minnesota in general, and the nation?”
Stauber also has fielded hundreds of questions about President Donald Trump, a member of his party. He shared a stage with Trump while campaigning but since being elected has quite intentionally resisted issuing unsolicited statements about the controversial things Trump says, does, and tweets. He’ll answer if asked, but his aim is to be above that, he said.
“The people didn’t send me to Washington to be a commentator. They sent me to legislate on their behalf, and that’s exactly what I’m doing,” Stauber said.
Pushed specifically about the impeachment process now underway, he said, “I think it’s a really big interference. … When you have people so focused on (Trump), it’s frustrating, because there’s so much more that this country needs to be working on.”
And working together on. Republicans and Democrats together.
“We can lead the way,” Stauber said of Minnesota’s representatives in D.C.