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How Rep. Pete Stauber — a GOP freshman in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House — has managed to get some bills passed

Rep. Pete Stauber
MinnPost photo by Walker Orenstein
Rep. Pete Stauber votes against the GOP position about 13 percent of the time, putting him among the Republicans that buck their party most often.

Why would a freshman Republican congressman work with one of GOP’s primary targets for 2020?

U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber has not tried to buck his party on pivotal issues like health care or immigration. But unlike his two Republican colleagues in the House, the Eighth District congressman has worked closely on legislation with Democratic Rep. Angie Craig. Craig, who represents Minnesota’s Second District, is a top target for House Republicans in 2020.

Also unlike his two Republican colleagues, Stauber is the only Republican in the Minnesota delegation this Congress to have a bill pass the House.

Bipartisan bills

The way Craig tells it, the partnership with Stauber sprang from a chance meeting on a train.

The two were traveling to the U.S. House retreat for freshman members when they met. Quickly, they learned they had something in common: both have school-age children with special needs.

Rep. Angie Craig
Rep. Angie Craig
That connection inspired a bill: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Full Funding Act. Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which became law in 1990, schools were promised federal funding to cover 40 percent of the cost of services for special education students. The government has never lived up to that promise, and current projections place IDEA funding in Minnesota sometimes at just 8 percent of costs per student. Stauber and Craig’s bill would force the government to meet that obligation.

But that’s not the only issue on which Craig and Stauber have found common ground. Craig is one of two co-sponsors on Stauber’s Clarifying the Small Business Runway Extension Act, which would require the The Small Business Administration to revise certain requirements for prescribing the size standards for small business.

Stauber’s willingness to work with Democrats has yielded some results: This year, two pieces of Stauber’s legislation have passed the House.  The Notice to Airmen Improvement Act of 2019, which was cosponsored by California Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, requires the Federal Aviation Administration to establish a taskforce on an essential flight operations notification system called Notices to Airmen; and the Small Business Payment for Performance Act of 2019, which has five Democratic cosponsors, would provide partial payments to small business contractors requesting an adjustment due to a change in the terms of a contract with federal agencies. Both are awaiting a vote in the Senate.

Overall, Stauber votes against the GOP position about 13 percent of the time, putting him among the Republicans that buck their party most often. Even so, he has many positions that match up with the Republican orthodoxy, on everything from abortion to the president’s border wall spending.

But Craig said that still leaves a lot of room for them to agree. “We may disagree on 15 to 20 percent where we can’t find common ground,“ Craig said. “But if you talk to someone long enough, you can find something that you agree on and you can commit to work with them in the future.”

The Eighth District

When it comes to explaining his approach to legislation, Stauber uses hockey as a metaphor: “I believe coach Herb Brooks was the best college hockey coach in our nation. He said: ’The name on the front of the jersey means more than the name on the back. If we all walked on the House floor with jerseys that said USA on the front, no name or label on the back, we could move mountains.”

Mountain-moving aside, Stauber’s willingness to work with Democrats may stem from a more basic consideration: survival. Prior to Stauber, Minnesota’s 8th District has been represented almost entirely by Democrats. While Republicans have been making gains in the district over the years, Cook Political Report, a non-partisan group that rates the competitiveness of House races, still calls Stauber’s seat competitive in the 2020 cycle.

Timothy Lindberg, a professor of political science at University of Minnesota, Morris, says that having an established record of bipartisanship makes a difference on election day. “There are incentives for members to work across party lines because partisans are increasingly unlikely to vote for even incumbents of the opposite party,” he said. “This means that there are fewer swing voters in most districts to potentially influence. In moderate districts, however, there tend to be more of these types of voters and their support is more likely to make the difference between winning and losing an election.”

“These swing districts, which are increasingly rare nationally, create important incentives for incumbents to claim they aren’t just following blindly what the president or congressional leaders want.”

Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Andy Briebart on 11/11/2019 - 01:30 pm.

    Then he should be re-elected!

    • Submitted by ian wade on 11/11/2019 - 04:56 pm.

      and do you feel the same way about Craig?

    • Submitted by Richard Steuland on 11/13/2019 - 03:54 am.

      Pete is my rep in Congress. He is not worthy of his office. He has violated his oath of office. He swore to protect this nation from all enemies foreign and domestic. He vote against impeachment trial of Trump. His campaign was big on his service and law enforcement career but little was said about his loyalty to the Trump. By now it’s very obvious that we have a dishonest conman with ties to Putin that have lessened and damaged American interests. For this so called law and order man to fully support the criminal in the White House shows he has no interest in Law and Order. I hope he is done after his first term. What a poor example is he.

  2. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 11/11/2019 - 01:50 pm.

    Well, this is refreshing, and a bit surprising.

    • Submitted by Dave Carlson on 11/11/2019 - 04:23 pm.

      Rep. Stauber was one of only two from the Minnesota delegation to vote against the bipartisan Natural Resources Management Act which nonetheless was overwhelmingly passed earlier this year 363-62 in the House (and 92-8 in the Senate). This Act specifically benefits Minnesota parks and trails (including the North Country Trail in Stauber’s own district) as well as providing protection for many public lands and reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (established in 1965) which is a main source of funding for the National Park Service. Much of this funding has come from offshore oil and gas leasing used for conservation projects, not the mainstream budget. I can understand why Rep. Hagedorn, one of the most rabid conservatives with little to no interest in public lands or clean water or bipartisanship, voted against it… but was very surprised and disappointed a legislator representing the beautiful Northwoods and its wildlife and abundant recreational activities, would vote against this popular legislation. So much for bipartisanship in this case.

  3. Submitted by Bill Mantis on 11/11/2019 - 02:15 pm.

    If you, as a Republican, want to pass legislation that most House Democrats favor, you’re likely to succeed in 2019. Getting it through Mitch McConnell’s Senate, however, is a whole ‘nother thing.

  4. Submitted by Carl Brookins on 11/11/2019 - 02:20 pm.

    A useful and enlightening article. Thanks for this. It shows some politicians are just as interested in improving the nation as they are in supporting their party positions.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 11/11/2019 - 03:00 pm.

    Lets retain our focus lest one gets too caught up in this miniscule “bi-partisanship” thing, the essence of which is personal. Stauber votes 87% of the time with Trump’s regressive agenda. Remember that at election time.

  6. Submitted by Chelle Stoner on 11/11/2019 - 03:28 pm.

    Representative Stauber is also a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus in Washington as was his predecessor Rick Nolan. So whats with the 8th? Maybe this is a way thru some of this mess. Working together . . . what is old is new again.

    Representative Stauber, Representative Phillips (3rd) . . . lead the way.

  7. Submitted by Paul Yochim on 11/11/2019 - 04:18 pm.

    Why does a Republican who is willing to work with his (or her) Democrat colleagues bring praise where a Democrat willing to work with his (or her) Republican colleagues bring scorn?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/12/2019 - 09:23 am.

      Well, look at the comments and author of the article. The author may be “praising” but the rest of us are not so impressed.

  8. Submitted by Alex Schieferdecker on 11/11/2019 - 04:30 pm.

    Always has been pretty clear that this guy is a sharper blade than Hagedorn.

  9. Submitted by Michael Hess on 11/11/2019 - 07:58 pm.

    Let’s see how open minded he is during the impeachment process and vote. If he isn’t willing to adhere to his oath of office that would be important for his district to weigh.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/12/2019 - 09:38 am.

    I don’t mean to be cynical but two lawmakers discover a common issue that effects them both personally and they decide to work together? I’m not saying they shouldn’t work together, or that this is a bad idea, but the fact that the Fed’s have been squelching on their funding for DECADES regarding special needs requirements. This is not something these two just discovered, and I’m pretty sure it’s not the first time a funding bill regarding this has passed in the House and died in the Senate. But I could be wrong about that, I just know this issue comes up every now and again and never gets resolved.

    How many of these “bi-partisan” House bills have got by the Senate?

    Isn’t the actual passage of these bills simply a product of Democratic control of the House rather than Stauber’s votes? Did they actually need Republican votes to get this through?

    I’m not condemning or criticizing their cooperation, but I think we need to keep it in context and perspective. I tend to see it as a barely meets minimum expectations rather than a beacon of light. It’s not a “bad” thing, but let’s not celebrate mediocrity. A vote to fund special education isn’t exactly a courageous stand, its more of a: “duh”.

    • Submitted by John Hoffman on 11/17/2019 - 08:26 am.

      As long as Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, KY-R is running the show, nothing good will happen. He’s hell bent on stifling any and all things that could help people in this country.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/12/2019 - 09:44 am.

    By the way, not only should the Fed’s be delivering their full share of 40%, but that should be raised to at least 60%. In poor states even a 40% boost won’t cover the costs.

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/13/2019 - 08:53 am.

    I guess it feels kind of wanky but the idea of treating a vote for taking care of children like it’s a courageous leap across Party lines leaves me feeling a little depressed. It really just reveals how far our political regime has sunk.

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/14/2019 - 12:59 pm.

    Because Democrats are the party of making government work. That’s why there will always be Democrats willing to work with Republicans. The problem is finding Republicans who are willing to work with Democrats. Stauber is in a sweet spot. His seat isn’t safe enough that he can ignore Democrats, but he isn’t an easy primary target either.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/16/2019 - 09:19 am.

      “Because Democrats are the party of making government work.”

      This is an example of circular absurdism. The search for Republicans that don’t exist has yielded decades of increasingly dysfunctional government and a regime of failure. The Party that delivers decades of failure cannot be the Party that declares itself to be the one that makes government “work”.

      Sure, we can say the Democrats are better at running the government than Republicans, but that only works when Democrats take control, it’s not because they find Republicans willing to work with them. And as often as not Democratic initiatives are block by fellow Democrats as often as they are by Republicans because Democrats refuse to embrace liberal initiatives.

  14. Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/14/2019 - 02:08 pm.

    Even Bernie Sanders got some post offices renamed.

  15. Submitted by Dr Rin Porter on 11/16/2019 - 11:40 am.

    Rep. Stauber voted to take wolves off the ESA, to allow them to be hunted. He voted against impeaching Trump. He voted to let the Tongass Wilderness in Alaska be drilled for oil and mined, to allow motorized vehicles in the Boundary Waters, against the moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico, etc. He is NOT a friend of the environment, parks, public lands, or wildlife.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/17/2019 - 08:38 am.

    I guess it’s hard to see an article like this as little more than an attempt to rehabilitate “bi-partisan” mediocrity that has been failing for decades.

    Instead of trying to celebrate Stauber for casting a decent vote once and while we need to replace politicians like him with ones who cast decent votes more often than not.

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