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Amid Tea Party discontent, Emmer stands firm on his early record

In an interview he said, “I think when people look at this they should look at the forest, not just a couple of the trees.”

Rep.Tom Emmer, far left, addressing a group at the Edina Country Club. Emmer's father, Tom Sr., and his mother, Patsy, are to his immediate left.
MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer is facing a discharge of conservative discontent for the votes, alliances and choices he’s made in his first six months in office. But he’s not apologizing.

In fact, at a Republican social event in Edina on Friday, Emmer fed the group policy wonk tidbits, not red meat as he explained his votes for the Trade Promotion Authority and funding for Homeland Security, and offered humorous anecdotes of his friendship with John Boehner, for whom he voted for Speaker of the House.

These are the issues, and more, that drove the leadership of the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance to devote a podcast to a discussion of Emmer’s conservative failings.

“When Tom went there and he cast that vote for Boehner, I felt like I lost somebody that I look up to and trust,” said Jack Rogers, the Tea Party Alliance president said on the July 7 podcast he co-hosts with Tea Party Executive Director Jake Duesenberg. “He’s not doing what we want him to do.” (Neither Rogers nor Duesenberg replied to a request for an interview.)

TPA is high on their list of sins

What Rogers and others in the Tea Party movement want is for Congress to deny President Barack Obama any additional authority or autonomy. The Trade Promotion Authority is high on their lists of sins because it gives the president authority to negotiate international trade agreements that Congress can approve or disapprove but not amend or filibuster.

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“The TPA is a good thing, based on what we’re doing,” Emmer told his Friday audience, which included his father, Tom Emmer Sr., and mother Patsy, Edina residents. “It’s not fast-tracked. It will slow it down. Now you and I will have the opportunity to study any proposed trade agreement in detail.”

In an interview later, he said, “I think when people look at this they should look at the forest, not just a couple of the trees.”

Emmer struck the same wait-and-see tone about the Iran nuclear arms agreement, even while he made it clear he may well vote against it.

“What the president is doing, if I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, he’s listening to the people, so they’re going to have this vetting of this agreement,” he said. “If I’m suspicious of it, I think the president is looking at this as – ‘You know what, I’m not going to be able to take this directly to the U.N., I’m going to have to follow a process in order to make it legitimate.’ The question is, how is that going to work through in the next couple of months.”

Duesenberg and Rogers and many of their supporters aren’t interested, though, in congressional politics or process.

Talk of an endorsement challenge

“The vast majority of these guys – and Tom Emmer has shown he’s one of them really – don’t care about the average folks,” Duesenberg said in the podcast, adding, “He has to worry about an endorsement challenge.”

“What he has to do is prepare for it,” Rogers replied.

Emmer shrugged when told of the podcast. “Those comments are miniscule compared to what I’m getting in positive feedback,” he said.

And he suggested that Tea Party criticism has an element of self-service. “You can’t get people to listen to radio, they don’t want to watch TV, they don’t want to give money,” he said. “Unless there’s some kind of fight going on somewhere.