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: Some congressional Democrats seem to be stuck in a paradox. Many feel that if they don’t impeach the president, they’ll be letting him off the hook for high crimes and misdemeanors related to 2016 election misdeeds. But if they do, they’re playing into his hands electorally for 2020. What should they do?
Mike Freiberg, DFL House member, attorney: I think if he committed crimes, I think he probably should be impeached. It sounds like [congressional Democrats} are overthinking it to me.
Amy Koch, former GOP Senate majority leader: I think they should do whatever they think is the right thing to do. I happen to disagree with impeachment. I understand it. I remember the Starr Report, I remember President Clinton and I remember Republicans taking action. And I remember the fallout of that. They should do whatever they feel their constituents have them there to do. But, most certainly, electorally, they’ll have to face that. That’s the point.
Jennifer DeJournett, president, Voices of Conservative Women: They should get on with the business of governing. If you’re having to consider whether it’s a political decision, then it is a political decision. So you are not doing the people’s business then.
Scott Dibble, DFL state senator: They should keep proceeding, if for no other reason than to compel the Trump administration to produce documents and other information that pertains to already well known and fairly well-disclosed misdeeds on the part of the president, in his campaign and his administration.
Question 2: Talks between the governor and legislative caucus leaders were to restart Sunday after these interviews were conducted. For all we know, they’ll have a deal by the time readers see this. But what do you think about their five-day cessation of talks, right in the middle of conference committee season?
Freiberg: I think it’s unfortunate. I can understand why it’s happened. The Senate Republicans haven’t come forward with a reasonable offer and the House has. The Speaker put it in colorful language to describe it and she is certainly not wrong. I think until the Senate shows some willingness to not just move money around but to negotiate new targets, I am not sure it would be that productive to meet.
Koch: It makes it very difficult for the conference committees to do anything. They get to a standstill. Five days is precious when you come down to the end. We’re going to be facing one week left and these bills still have to go through committee hearings, Finance, the floor and all of that debate. I’m all for taking some breaks, getting a breather and letting people have a day or two. But five days is a lot, especially when you just don’t have that much time left. There is a certain amount of time that processing the bills just takes, there’s no other way around that. Five days costs you a lot.
DeJournett: I don’t think we’ve hit full meltdown yet at the state Legislature. So obviously, we still have a long way to go. When we hit full meltdown then the parties will get down to the business of actually governing and doing things. We’re still days away from a pure meltdown. But maybe, we’re starting to see a little burbling at the top of the volcano. But it hasn’t exploded yet so everyone is still just kind of goofing around.
Dibble: I think that the responsibility lies squarely with Senate Republicans. The House and the governor have provided a significant, good faith offer that represents significant and substantial movement on both finance and policy. And the Republicans have offered literally nothing in response. And so the governor and the House rightly said bring a responsible and responsive counteroffer and then we can proceed with the negotiations.
Question 3: “In Minnesota,” the state’s recently unveiled Amazon bid tells Jeff Bezos, “the seasons change with unambiguous vigor. No half-hearted shifts from warm to cool and back to warm again for us. We do hot. We do cold. And we do everything in-between.” Yikes. Did we just learn why Minnesota lost its bid?
Freiberg: Is that really what it says? [Laughs.] I don’t know. It would have been appealing to me. But maybe that’s why I am not CEO of Amazon.
Koch: Feels like there’d be a better way to say that. Also, it’s not only ambiguous, but also obvi. Do we really need to highlight that? I mean, I know we’re trying to embrace the weather, but let’s settle down. Not everybody’s embracing it. [Editor’s note: Apparently this word “obvi” is how the kids are saying “obvious” these days.]
Dibble: I like “unambiguous vigor,” I think that’s a new hashtag. Or maybe that’s a new band name. We’re looking for end-of-session band names. The other good end-of-session band name that we came up with was the “The MNLARS Pivot.” But in seriousness, not joking: I think one thing that hasn’t been discussed about the Amazon bid is our region’s utter failure to invest in transit in the metropolitan area. Absolutely, I believe that was a factor.
DeJournett: Yes, obviously! I mean, first of all I don’t think we have technically seen spring yet. So fake news on that proposal.