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Minnesotans in Congress mostly reserve judgment on budget deal

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  • December 11, 2013 - 5:24 PM

The federal budget agreement going up for a House vote Thursday is expected to change little besides avoiding another government shutdown next month, which may be why Minnesotans in Congress who have deigned to comment on it so far have had little to say, good or bad.

None of the three Republicans in the Minnesota delegation uttered a public word about the deal, which has the support of House GOP leaders but has come under assault from a number of conservative and Tea Party groups.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, described it as a small step forward:  “The American people are sick and tired of the gridlock and political brinkmanship in Washington,” she said in a statement. “While this agreement is not perfect and I would have preferred a larger deal, it is one step forward in the effort to come together and focus on bipartisan budget solutions to reduce our debt and move our country forward, rather than lurching from crisis to crisis.”

Meanwhile, fellow DFLer Al Franken reserved judgment: “I’ll continue to study the details before I make a final judgment, but we cannot keep moving from budget crisis to budget crisis: it hurts our economy and prevents us from focusing on the work we were sent here to do,” he said. “While I’m glad that we could break through the gridlock and reach this deal, like any compromise, it has elements I like and don’t like. I’m glad that it undoes some of the sequester's extreme, across-the-board budget cuts—though I've been pushing to replace those cuts altogether—but I’m disappointed that it doesn't include an extension of critical emergency unemployment insurance."

In the House, Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison was one of the first to question the proposed cuts to federal workers and pensions. “Federal employees work every day to inspect our food, deliver Social Security checks and ensure our loved ones arrive safely at airports around the country,” he said. “Our thanks to them over the past few years has been a series of pay freezes, furloughs and reckless government shutdowns.”

Despite similar misgivings, fellow DFLer Betty McCollum said she will support the deal. She issued a statement praising the hard-won bipartisanship in the deal:  “This budget agreement is a bipartisan compromise which puts the needs of the country ahead of the politics of shutdown and governing by crisis.  Sequestration is blunted, cuts to mandatory programs that serve children, seniors, people with disabilities, and vulnerable families were avoided, and regular order in the appropriations process will be reestablished. All of this means stability for our military, the economy, and families.”

Another Minnesota Democrat, Rep. Rick Nolan, said in an interview that while “there are plenty of reasons to vote against it,” the prospect of budget truce that avoids a government shutdown has some appeal. But he said he remains undecided.

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