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Guessing where Kurt Bills stands on the issues

Where does state Rep. Kurt Bills stand on the issues he would face if he was elected to the U.S. Senate? Beats me.

State Rep. Kurt Bills

Where does state Rep. Kurt Bills stand on the issues he would face if he was elected to the U.S. Senate?

Beats me. I’ve only been waiting three weeks for an interview so I could ask him.

Bills, of Rosemount, a high school teacher and freshman legislator, is rumored to be the frontrunner for the Repub endorsement heading into this weekend’s convention in St. Cloud. That’s based on the belief that he is a Ron Paul acolyte and that the Paulites have played an inside game to get a lot of delegates slots to the convention.

The other guys seeking the endorsement dispute that Bills will prevail, and I wish them all the best of luck. I just think Rep. Bills ought to tell Minnesotans where he stands on the basic issues he would face if he beats incumbent Amy Klobuchar and becomes a U.S. senator. Bills’ chief rival, former soldier Pete Hegseth, answered my question the week he announced for the Senate, and I was tough on him. But he gets points for explaining his issue positions.

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So I’ve been asking for an interview with Bills. I know his campaign manager Mike Osskopp got my emails, because he replied to some of them and said he would look for a time to get me on the phone with the candidate. But he never did, and now he’s ignoring requests even though I told him I would have to write about his candidate’s unwillingness to answer basic substantive issue questions.

I could take it personally, or flatter myself that it’s my fearsome interview style. But as far as I can tell, Bills isn’t giving many substantive interviews that I can find. There’s one quote from him in this Weekly Standard piece:

Bills says he aligns with Paul predominantly on economic issues. “We’re all Ron Paul fans on economics,” says Bills’s campaign manager, Mike Osskopp. When it comes to talking about foreign policy, Bills says, Israel is an important ally and America ought not retreat from the world stage, contrasting himself from some of Paul’s well-known foreign policy stances. But, Bills adds, Republicans have to campaign in 2012 on issues regarding federal spending and the economy, not world affairs.

“That’s not what we win on in November,” Bills says. Osskopp puts it more bluntly.

“Nobody cares anymore,” he says. “We’re all a little weary of war.”

At least one Bills critic has tried to hang even that little remark (which, you’ll note, didn’t even come directly from Bills) around Bills’ neck, calling him the “nobody cares anymore about national security candidate.”

That’s just silly. But it would be well worth knowing how much of Ron Paul’s general denunciation of recent wars and excessive military spending Bills shares.

Now, in the absence of an interview, if I really wanted to know about Bills’ issue positions, I suppose I could go to the “issues” page on his campaign website.

The very first section is his ideas on the federal budget, which is appropriate. Here’s the whole statement:

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Federal Budget — The United States Senate should pass a budget; they haven’t since April 29, 2009, which is over 1,000 days. Our national debt now exceeds $15 trillion and is the direct result of unsustainable spending. If we want our children and our grandchildren to live with the same liberty and prosperity that we have, we must reverse this trend. Federal spending per household has grown more than 150% since 1965. The answers are straightforward. As your next U.S. Senator, I will work with fellow members to pass a budget, along with focusing on lowering spending. Unsustainable spending can be curbed by the federal government focusing on what it was designed to do as defined by the constitution.

This is purt near pitiful. For starters, can we stipulate that every member of Congress and everyone running for either house of Congress agrees with Rep. Bills that Congress should adopt a budget. Trouble is that with the House and Senate controlled by separate parties, and the Dem Senate majority being well short of a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority, the question is can the two parties compromise their very significant divisions over the relative roles of tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit.

The question that Bills, and Klobuchar, and anyone else running for either house of Congress should answer is: What kind of compromise would cut across party lines?

In general, Republican unwillingness to agree to any deal that includes higher taxes on very high-income families and/or very profitable corporations has rendered progress on budget/deficit/debt issues very hard to achieve. There was that moment during one of the Repub presidential debates when every one of the candidates – each of whom claims to be horrified by the growing debt – said they wouldn’t make a deal that included tax increases and spending cuts (each of which would reduce the deficit) even if the deal was $10 of spending cuts for every $1 of tax increase.

So if Rep. Bills would take a question or two on his budgetary thinking, I would ask him if would make a $10-for-$1 deal or even a (gasp) $2-for-$1 deficit-reduction deal.

Take a peek at Rep. Bills’ issue statements on Social Security and health care. He claims to have big ideas for improving them, but he doesn’t specify the ideas.  I think you might have a few follow-up questions.