Minnesota’s Third Congressional District has an admirable history of electing bipartisan legislative leaders like Bill Frenzel and Jim Ramstad, who reached across the aisle in order to craft — and pass — laws aimed at tackling vexing problems. Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen has demonstrated some of the same ability as an effective representative of his district, and we hope voters will return him to Washington for a fourth term.
Paulsen’s thoughtful, temperate approach would be beneficial in the next Congress, which likely will have more Republican members. GOP gains might mean some representatives interpret the election as a mandate for inflexibility on essential issues, such as keeping the U.S. government solvent. Paulsen should use his seniority and serious approach to lead his caucus toward compromise with Democrats in Congress and the White House.
Paulsen has already identified several key issues where bipartisanship is essential. These include reforming the tax code, which is so uncompetitive that it leads firms like Medtronic to pursue “inversions” in order to avoid America’s high corporate tax rate. Despite President Obama’s lame-duck status, issues like this cannot wait until after the 2016 presidential election, which may not offer any additional political clarity.
We disagree with Paulsen on the medical device tax. He seeks repeal, while this page has argued that the tax is necessary to fund the Affordable Care Act and that medical device firms will benefit from more people having insurance under the ACA. But Paulsen’s expertise in health care legislation generally positions him well to consider fixes to the ACA.
On foreign policy, Paulsen rightfully calls on Obama to ask Congress for authorization to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the terrorist movement that has captured broad swaths of Syria and Iraq. He’s also wise to not categorically reject a U.S. combat role, should conditions merit.
But Paulsen also correctly acknowledges that other tools need to be employed to increase U.S. diplomatic leverage. These include selling liquefied natural gas to Europe in order to curb Russian aggression, as well as considering free trade pacts from a foreign policy perspective as well as an economic one.
Indeed, politics should not derail the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. But since neither will pass without so-called “fast-track” legislation, Paulsen should remind his Republican colleagues of the GOP’s longtime support of free trade.
In perhaps his most notable legislative success, Paulsen pushed through bipartisan legislation to combat sex trafficking. Based on a “safe harbor” Minnesota model, the Stop Exploitation for Sexually Exploited Youth Act is an example of how to work through gridlock in order to protect young lives.
After a career in business, Paulsen’s DFL opponent, Sharon Sund, is a self-described community activist. She was often indefinite on critical issues in her interview with the Star Tribune Editorial Board, but her pronounced issue “commitments” include strengthening Social Security and Medicare, improving the ACA, and investing more in education. Sund showed promise and should stay involved in issue advocacy. But she did not present a compelling case to unseat Paulsen, who should use his fourth term to prod members of both parties to find bipartisan legislative solutions.