The U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District spent time talking politics with constituents Saturday at Bella Caffé in Park Rapids.

Republican Congressman Pete Stauber and two members of his staff joined a local father and son for the “Congress on Your Corner” event, along with a visitor from the Moorhead area who decided to attend after a golf outing near Duluth was rained out.

“I’m very happy with a lot of the conservative policies that have happened over the last three years,” said Ramsay Trix, a constituent of Rep. Collin Peterson (DFL-7th Dist.). “I’m horrified by Donald Trump, the way he has treated the office of the presidency.”

Trix said he wanted to ask a Republican lawmaker, “Is there life after Trump? Do we have to have this sort of nastiness, pettiness in the Oval Office to get our policies through?”

Drawing an analogy to college hockey, Stauber quoted Coach Herb Brooks saying, “The name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back. I think if everybody had that for a saying, we could absolutely move mountains.”

“My jersey that I wear says USA on it,” he said. “When I go through the double doors on to the House floor, I want to do what’s best for Minnesota, for the country.”

In contrast to the partisan gridlock that often slows the works of Washington, D.C. politics, Stauber stressed that he is part of the “Problem Solvers Caucus,” composed of 24 Republicans and 24 Democrats.

“We helped get the government back from shutdown, and we help with the humanitarian aid at the southern border,” he said. “That’s where I sit – to move legislation forward.”

Regarding the conflict the Trump administration and Democratic leadership, Stauber said, “We’re better than that…For me, when legislation comes forward, I don’t care what side of the aisle it comes from. If it’s good, we want to put it forward.”

Duane Wallace, who attended with his son, Iain, wanted to discuss drug pricing, the 340B Pharmacy Program and DIR fees (direct and indirect remuneration) as well as rural issues such as broadband and environmental stewardship.

“That’s the really difficult thing, trying to understand the complexity of that pricing structure for drugs,” said Wallace, who owns a pharmacy. He said he sometimes has to dispense drugs at a negative profit margin, even selling prescriptions as much as $150 below his costs.

Wallace stressed that access to discounted medication is important for critical access hospitals.

Stauber said he always intends to do the right thing. “I will never blindly follow any political party. I will always do what I think is right with the information that’s presented. And I do that. I ask questions of the pharmaceutical industry, how we can do it – how we can make drugs more affordable and healthcare more accessible.”

Asked how he feels about Minnesota’s chances of losing a congressional seat after the 2020 Census, Stauber said, “We want everybody counted, especially in the rural parts of the state.”

He expressed optimism that the state will show enough population growth to keep its representation. “It’s critically important for the state,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN 8th Dist.)
U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN 8th Dist.)

Asked about challenges to Trump’s reelection in 2020, Stauber noted that the economic news is a strong endorsement of the administration. “We just got an unemployment report: 50-year low. That’s wonderful for us. Those are good things – lowest unemployment for Hispanics and African-Americans. More women own businesses. Optimism for small business is at an all-time high. Building up our military, which was decimated. Those are things that people are seeing.”

He also cited the USMCA trade deal with Mexico and Canada and Trump’s trade pact with Japan.

“It’ll pass in the House, it’ll pass in the Senate, and it’ll become law,” Stauber said of the USMCA, calling it good news for farmers, manufacturers and small business owners. He added that these trade deals also strengthen the U.S. negotiating position with China.

Regarding the recent calls for the president’s impeachment, Stauber said Congressional Democrats have wanted to impeach Trump since he entered office.

“A very well-respected Democratic Congressman out of Texas, Al Green, was caught on tape saying, ‘We need to impeach the president, otherwise he’s going to get reelected,’” Stauber said. “It’s very unfair, what’s happening right now… It’s like throwing the indictment out there and then trying to gather the facts for it.”

Acknowledging the divisiveness of this moment in national politics, he concluded, “In my small sphere of influence, I want to be able to help change that direction every day that I am given the privilege to serve.”