Republicans and Democrats in Minnesota’s congressional delegation found reasons to hope for bipartisan collaboration and compromise in President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech.
Democratic Sen. Tina Smith was encouraged by his calls to improve the nation’s infrastructure and lower prescription-drug prices.
Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican who represents the Eighth District, also liked references to infrastructure and combating the opioid crisis.
But there was wariness on both sides of the aisle about whether comity can exist in a divided Congress that represents a divided nation.
“His actions need to match his words” if he wants to accomplish those mutual policy goals, Smith said. “This is a person who hurls insults from the first thing in the morning until late at night.”
Stauber is “very optimistic” that progress is possible, but said Democrats must join the effort. Republican First District Rep. Jim Hagedorn said Trump put “out a challenge to both parties, but mainly to the opposition. I was encouraged.”
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a Democrat who was Smith’s guest Tuesday, also applauded talk of improving infrastructure, calling it a top priority for her and Gov. Tim Walz. She also liked Trump’s promise to invest in health care.
Trump’s comments “about finding opportunities to work together were important words and I hope they’re followed up by action,” she said.
But Flanagan lamented what she did not hear: a commitment from the president to avert another shutdown.
Norm Coleman, a former Republican senator from Minnesota, said that Trump “gave everybody something.” For Democrats, he offered pre-existing conditions coverage, eliminating HIV, ending childhood cancer; for Republicans, “moral clarity” on late-term abortions and other topics.
“I’m not sure if anything can change the tone,” he said, “but it was a worthy start.”
Rep. Tom Emmer, a Republican from the Sixth District, detected a more conciliatory tone from Trump — a shift he said he’s been waiting for.
“I love the fact that he said … we all have a choice: greatness or gridlock,” Emmer said. Whether progress follows “is kind of up to [Democratic House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi,” he said. But the speech could be a pivot point, he said. “I’m very hopeful.”