Rep. Paulsen says government shutdown is irresponsible

Congressman Erik Paulsen
Congressman Erik Paulsen during a debate with State Sen. Terri Bonoff on Aug. 17, 2016.
Jim Mone | AP 2016

The House of Representatives will be watching Monday's Senate vote that could break a Democratic filibuster on a short-term funding bill. That vote is scheduled to take place at noon.

Meanwhile Monday is the first full day federal employees are off the job after an impasse that led to a government shutdown Friday.

Democrats are demanding protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally in exchange for passing a spending bill. Minnesota Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen says he supports protections for so-called "Dreamers," but it doesn't belong in a spending bill. He spoke with MPR's Cathy Wurzer.

Comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Is there a budget agreement in sight that lasts a little longer than a few weeks?

We'll wait to find out when that vote takes place. Of course, I had been hopeful that we would have had the vote over the weekend because now it's the first day of the week when workers are expected to come back to have an open government. It's kind of irresponsible to be in this position, but the Senate did filibuster this first time around and hopefully that won't happen the next go around.

What would you support in regards to immigration?

I do support DACA reform, but I think it's irresponsible to shut down the government. That's a separate issue, so it's most important to make sure the military is getting paid, and there's this authorization for the children's health insurance. There's even a provision in this spending package to keep the medical device tax suspended, which is a big deal for a state like Minnesota.

It's interesting to me that nobody is opposing any provisions that are in the bill. They're filibustering the bill for what's not in the bill, and that's never really happened before other than when we had a shutdown when Sen. Ted Cruz and some others did this back in 2013. It doesn't work. It doesn't make sense. We should deal with the DACA issue when that deadline is approaching. We have time to do that.

There's a lot of blame to go around. What do you say to constituents who want to know why can't things get done?

Well the good news is the House did vote back on Thursday to keep the government open and to provide the funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, and it was a bipartisan vote. I think some of us were surprised in the Senate that it didn't take place. The challenge, I think, is that the Senate, because it does require 60 votes, more Democrats have to go along with it. I think there's some tension with the Democratic leadership where some of their members want to push the envelope on some other issues that are extraneous and not included in this bill. That's a challenge they're going to have to work through, but again, I think it's irresponsible to filibuster these bills.

Do you find it odd that the president, who calls himself the master dealmaker, hasn't really been seen anywhere this weekend in terms of any negotiations?

I was hoping when the president met with Sen. Schumer late last week that we would have this resolved. It's not the president's fault. I do think it is important for everyone to keep sitting down, to keep talking, to compromise, to be at the table. That's what's been missing in this process as we went through the weekend. So hopefully cooler heads will prevail. Common sense will take place, and we'll have this resolved right away.

Is the House prepared to go along with whatever the Senate agrees to?

That's my gut. The House did this once, and I think we were very surprised the Senate kind of got caught in this minutia and ended up in the shutdown. My instinct is that the House will ratify whatever the Senate is able to pass and then you know we'll have this resolved and behind us. That shouldn't take away from the fact that we do need to deal with DACA — that's going to have to be bipartisan also.

Some members of Congress say that they will forego their salary as long as the shutdown lasts. Would you consider that?

Yes. I am instructing the official office in the House that does payroll to withhold my pay until this is resolved.

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