Splitting From Republicans A Risk For Miller

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By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

For the first time since he started serving in the Minnesota House in January 2016, Republican District 17A Rep. Tim Miller is going to be in the minority party – and by choice, a minority of the minority.

Democrats regained the majority in November when they took 18 seats previously held by Republicans to gain a 75-59 advantage.

District 17A includes all of Swift and Chippewa counties, all but two townships in Renville County, and the four southern Kandiyohi townships of Edwards, Holland, Roseland and Lake Lillian.

With that control, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party now sets the agenda for bills in the House. New House Speaker Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park controls who serves on what committee and whom the chairs and subcommittee chairs will be starting in a few weeks.

Republicans will still have their say, but their voices will be muted. With Republicans still holding a razor-thin 34-33 majority in the state Senate, there will have to be some compromise on the legislation proposed by House Democrats. However, with Democrat Tim Walz becoming the state’s new governor, his party clearly has the advantage.

Miller’s status as a minority member of the House became even weaker last Friday when he and three other Republicans announced that they were forming the “New House Republican Caucus” and breaking from the main caucus.

“I have come to the conclusion that the attitudes and actions by the HRC (House Republican Caucus) leader and some of his supporters have become too hostile toward me and has made it impossible to properly serve my district first and the State of Minnesota second,” Miller wrote to fellow Republicans. “Those are my priorities.”

 “As we move into session my hope is that all of us Republicans will work together to defend the people in our districts from radical liberalism,” he wrote. “I for one will certainly not be working against any of you.”

Miller told the Monitor-News Monday that the reason for the split had to do with the leadership style in the House under current Speaker Republican Rep. Kurt Daudt of Crown. Daudt will become the minority leader in January, but will still head his party in the House.

Miller said that the differences with the current Republican leadership had nothing to do with issues. It wasn’t about party stands on taxes, healthcare, infrastructure spending, or social issues. He is still on the same page with his party on those topics. And, it isn’t about a split on rural and urban issues, he said.

While the split might be a big deal at the Capitol in St. Paul, Miller says that his constituents won’t even notice it during the session. But we have to wonder how damaged Miller’s input will be during the session with Republican House leadership not pleased with his recent action.

He won’t have the resources of the main Republican Party staff working for him. He won’t be included in critical Republican strategy sessions on legislation. When conference committees meet late in the session to work out differences on bills, he is unlikely to be named as a member of one those committees. And, the damage is unlikely to be short term.

Should the Republicans regain control of the House in two years, leadership is not going to forget who broke away and didn’t stand by them. Should Miller be entering his fourth term in the House in 2020, he would very likely be in a seniority position that would earn him a leadership appointment. Now that might not happen, robbing us of a potentially influential voice for the constituents from the district.

Miller also has had aspirations of running for the U.S. House. He filed last year to run against Democrat Collin Peterson in the 7th District but then withdrew in favor of seeking a third term in the state House. His chances for endorsement by the Republican Party in the 7th District have now been weakened.

Miller says there is still a possibility of the splinter group reuniting with the Republican caucus during the session. That likely won’t be a very amicable reunion. We will see.

Miller says he will still be able to work with Democrats on issues that are important to the district in getting his bills passed. Those bills will have to align with the Democrat’s agenda to get heard.

While we have significant differences with Rep. Miller on his very conservative social issue stands, the majority of work he does for constituents in the district has little to do with those topics. Most of what he does focuses on rural economic development, helping our schools, working for the reopening of the Prairie Correctional Facility, helping cities and counties with funding priorities, and working with farmers on policies the state has some say in.

Sometimes your principles require you to take a stand despite the adverse consequences. That appears to be the case here. We just hope that by splitting from the Republican caucus in the state House Miller hasn’t damaged his ability to work for District 17A.

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