Stauber: ‘Divisiveness must stop’
DULUTH — Calling from his new office in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Jan. 9, Rep. Pete Stauber continued to strike a chord for cooperation roughly one week into his term serving the 8th Congressional District.
The Hermantown Republican attended a bipartisan retreat last weekend in Williamsport, Pa., sponsored by the Congressional Research Service, which supplies members of Congress with impartial policy and legal information.
“I’m meeting a lot of great people on both sides of the aisle,” Stauber said. “We think the 116th Congress can be a game-changer. We’ve agreed this divisiveness must stop. The American people deserve better, and we’re all going to play our small part and see how it goes.”
As part of the GOP minority in the House of Representatives, Stauber has been saying since his election on November that he was eager to be cooperative in pursuit of legislative solutions.
Indeed, a Facebook post on Tuesday did not mention the word “wall” in advance of President Donald Trump’s televised Oval Office address on the topics of immigration, border security and the proposed wall on the southern southern border with Mexico.
When asked if he supported the wall, Stauber seemed to open to a wider variety of solutions.
“It’s really semantics,” he said about the wall and border security. “The experts are telling us that for certain portions the most effective way is to put up a physical barrier or wall.”
Trump’s proposed $5 billion wall is at the crux of the federal government shutdown affecting 800,000 employees and a growing list of services. Earlier in the week, Stauber said he would donate his pay during the shutdown to the Domestic Abuse Intervention Program in Duluth — a move that was widely praised on social media by people from across the political spectrum. U.S. representatives make $174,000 per year, or $3,346 per week.
In his phone call, Stauber acknowledged, as he often does, “Immigrants built this country.”
He went on to say as important as stopping illegal immigration is halting the flow of illegal drugs into the country.
“Heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, synthetics — and also stopping human trafficking, which happens several times a day,” he said. “It’s unacceptable if even one individual is brought across the border for trafficking. We have the ability to make official ports of entry the way to go, so that other people understand we are a nation of laws.”
Further addressing the opioid crisis was among the bipartisan solutions Stauber forecast would be upcoming in 2019.
“It’s a huge concern across the entire nation,” said Stauber, a retired Duluth police officer. “I’ve spoken with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. This is a crisis that’s killing our children and disrupting our communities, and there is absolutely something we can do about it.”
Stauber described being busy familiarizing himself with Washington, D.C., and his new job. He called it a humbling and surreal orientation, and one he’s learning more about every day. He seemed particularly impressed with the Congressional Research Service and said he would consult it often, along with his staff and other sources of expert information.
“For me it’s about asking direct questions that I need to have answered before I can make informed decisions,” he said.
Stauber said he will offer up legislation as soon as next week that would secure a land exchange between PolyMet Mining Co. and the U.S. Forest Service — one of the lingering hurdles on the way to bringing copper-nickel mining to northeastern Minnesota.
“We want to keep the economy moving,” he said.
Stauber offered another potential economic boon he believed has bipartisan support.
“Increased broadband is important throughout the 8th District,” he said. “It’s not a luxury anymore to have reliable broadband. It’s become a necessity for schools, for businesses.”
Like his predecessor Rick Nolan, Stauber said he plans to fly home on weekends. He is in the process of opening four offices throughout the district — in Hermantown, Brainerd, Cambridge and Chisholm.
“Constituent services is a priority — veterans or senior citizens securing benefits, how people navigate difficulties in any of the federal agencies” he said. “It’s a big part of our job.”