Editor’s note: Welcome to Capitol Retort, our weekly review of issues in state and national news, with a rotating cast of political people in the know. Answers have been edited for length and clarity. Any instances of agreement are accidental.
Question 1: At Fredrikson & Byron’s annual legislative preview last week, four leading lawmakers — including new Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka — played nice for more than an hour as each spoke of bipartisan cooperation and finding “common ground” in the coming biennium. Encouraged?
Jennifer DeJournett, conservative political operative: Yes. I think it’s good. I think it’s good when people work together and hopefully they are going to work together to reduce taxes and regulations on the average person and business.
Jeff Kolb, Crystal City Council member: No. I mean, I think that’s the game — we pretend to be bipartisan in the beginning.
I think the Legislature never misses an opportunity to disappoint. While I would love to think that we are going to be bipartisan, especially with the governor’s office and the track record that [Gov. Mark Dayton] has of kind of feeling as if the Republican Legislature is somehow illegitimate despite the fact that they keep winning, I think we will probably quickly devolve.
Abou Amara, public policy director, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change: I think time will tell. We are in a place now where I think people are figuring out how they are going to approach the session. And with the Senate being so closely divided, I think that Senator Gazelka is realizing very quickly that he may need some Democrats on some things to get things done. So I think that makes sense to strike that tone this early, but we know how sessions always play out. Dividing lines will show, and it will be interesting to see how that progresses — if those words are still true come May.
Question 2: The CIA has informed members of Congress and the Obama administration that the Russians pressed their thumbs on the scales of the U.S. election by hacking and releasing Democratic National Committee emails, all to help Donald Trump win. What do you think Congress should do?
DeJournett: I think they should let the intelligence agencies fight it out. The FBI says there isn’t any conclusive report. The office of the Director of National Intelligence [James R. Clapper] also has questioned it, and that is also an Obama appointee.
That office actually is the one that is supposed to be coordinating all of the intelligence between the different intelligence agencies, and they have said that there is no conclusive proof. So this is an intelligence agency fight, and those experts should fight it out before everyone starts leaking stuff and making accusations against countries before anybody actually knows anything, and when nobody is on the record for anything.
Kolb: I think everybody just needs to wait and see and calm down a little bit. If there is smoke there, then should they investigate? Yes. But I think that there have been a lot of things that have been overblown since this election that have sounded really bad, but when you dig into them they are not really as bad as they seem.
Amara: To me this is bigger than party. This is bigger than Democrat or Republican. This is fundamentally about the self-determination of the people of the United States. And so I think that Congress, in a bipartisan way, should look at this as far as the facts will go. And I think that anybody who opposes an investigation needs to ask some deep questions about their belief in our democratic principles.
Question 3: The holidays are closing in. What chores have you been procrastinating on?
DeJournett: Putting up my Christmas tree. I can’t believe it is almost Christmas. I mean, this election season was so long and it felt like it would never end, and then it ended and I realized, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s November!’ And then Thanksgiving showed up. And now, like, it’s Christmas? Time was moving so slow, and now all of a sudden it is speeding up so fast.
Kolb: I’ve been procrastinating on everything. My wife’s due to give birth any day now, so basically I have just been pacing for the last seven to 10 days, just ignoring all responsibility. Just waiting.
Amara: Oh, God, all of them. I haven’t even gone Christmas shopping yet. I still have to clean the house. I have yet to put up a Christmas tree — hopefully that will happen this weekend. I think I am still in a daze after the election and I still have to get back into my normal routine.