Editor’s note: Welcome to Capitol Retort, our weekly review of issues in state and national news, with a rotating cast of legal and political people in the know. Answers are edited for length and clarity. Any instances of agreement are accidental.
Question 1: GOP legislators are unimpressed with Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal, and House Taxes Committee Chair Greg Davids, R-Preston, has pledged not to move one of the plan’s keystones—extending a 2 percent provider tax to fund a new public option. Does Dayton have the leverage to push back and get his way?
Kim Hunter, managing partner, Kim Hunter Law; immigration defense attorney: I would say yeah, potentially he does. And the reason is that Minnesotans need health care. There is a mandate in place and, like it or not, there is going to have to be some sort of agreement in order to continue providing health insurance—or there will be hell to pay.
Floyd B. Olson, former senior assistant Hennepin County attorney: I think Dayton always has leverage, because at some point Republicans are going to want something that he can veto. I don’t know what that might be, but I am sure that Dayton will figure that one out. And then a trade-off arises. So yeah, I think he has leverage.
Annette Meeks, conservative political analyst: Of course, the governor always has the bully pulpit. The question is how much energy is he willing to expend to raise another tax when we continue to run huge budget surpluses and most people think we are already taxed plenty in this state. I think that is a real tough sell for him. He can use the bully pulpit to rally people, but I don’t think there are a lot of people on his side.
Question 2: After former President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination was scotched last year by a GOP Senate reinterpretation of the Constitution’s “advise and consent” clause, Democrats are lining up to resist new nominee Neil Gorsuch. How far should they take this fight?
Hunter: I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that we have a constitutional crisis brewing. And in order to try and restore some genuine balance to our system of democracy, I think the Democrats should filibuster, delay, do everything they can to drag this out as long as humanly possible.
I would also note that since the Republicans did not want to allow any consideration for Obama’s nominee because he had less than a year left in his term, some of us are hopeful that the same logic will apply to the current president. He shouldn’t have any nominees considered, either. Because we sincerely hope that this is the last year of his term.
Olson: This puzzles me, because all the claims are that [Gorsuch] is the most brilliant guy who ever walked the earth. The fact is that, from all of the discussion of his opinions, he really has a cultural point of view that probably doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the law. And so, this notion that he is a strict constructionist is really another form of judicial activism, from a different direction.
I think the Republicans changing the rules at will means that they really wouldn’t have much of a case to make him a Supreme Court justice. And my feeling is that the Democrats have every right to give back what they got.
Meeks: Not very. The difference here is that President Trump nominated a remarkably qualified jurist who passed Senate muster 11 years ago, unanimously. It’s pretty hard for some of those same people, like Sen. Chuck Schumer, to now wage an all-out offensive on somebody that they voted to confirm within their lifetimes. That’s tough, especially given the fact that most people are just tired of the hyper-partisanship and want to get stuff done.
Question 3: A new reality TV show airing on the Destination America channel has opened up a ridiculously grim debate: Should we kill Bigfoot? Which side of that line do you fall on?
Hunter: Sadly, I am a soft-headed environmentalist. So I wouldn’t advocate the killing of Bigfoot were he to be discovered.
Olson: I tell you, as an old person I have searched most of my life for reality. So I try to avoid taking sides on absurd issues.
Meeks: You’re asking the wrong person. I’m the person who always has to ask what the Yeti is much less if Bigfoot really exists.
That’s a tough call for me. I’m not much into the supernatural myth that has persisted for years. I don’t think I read enough science fiction when I was a child, that’s all I can ever chalk it up to.