Emmer shows common sense streak in early days in Congress

Tom Emmer greets the crowd after winning the 6th Congressional District seat on election night. File photo: Courtney Perry / For MPR News
Fairly quietly, Rep. Tom Emmer, the Republican who replaced Michelle Bachmann as the congressperson from Minnesota’s 6th District, has distinguished himself as the practical kind of politician people insist they want in Washington.

In just two months in office, Emmer has proven you don’t have to give up your principles to serve with a helping of common sense.

Last month, for example, he angered the extremists in his party when he voted for funding for the Department of Homeland Security in a showdown with the Obama administration over his immigration policy. In Washington, few people notice the absurdity of linking the two issues.

The St. Cloud Times’ editorial board noticed, saying Emmer “showed some good Central Minnesota common sense.”

“Forcing Members of Congress to choose between battling the president’s unlawful action and protecting our country is wrong,” Emmer said of his vote, speaking truth to power.

That earned Emmer plaudits in a Star Tribune editorial today:

The rap against Emmer when he sought the seat was that the fiery former legislator and conservative radio host would be another Bachmann, a founding member of the U.S. House Tea Party caucus known more for her outrageous statements than good sense.

Unlike his unsuccessful, gaffe-prone gubernatorial bid in 2010, Emmer ran a quiet but serious campaign for the congressional seat. He won by focusing on economic development and the needs of this rapidly growing suburban and exurban district.

Emmer has continued that pragmatic approach in Congress. Right after taking office, he supported Rep. John Boehner for House speaker, while radical members of his party sought out firebrands long on ideology but short on skills needed to serve in that critical position.

Emmer showed an independent side over the weekend that went little noticed. He went to Selma, in stark contrast to Republican leaders in the country who treated the marking of a moment in the country’s march to civil rights as if it was a third rail. He joined about 100 other members of Congress.

Photo via Rep. Tom Emmer on Facebook.

Emmer’s decision to go to Selma angered the Tea Party in Minnesota, not so much because of the commemoration, but because he’d agreed previously to speak at a weekend gathering of the party.

“Why would you go to Alabama when you had people in your own (district) accommodate your schedule unless there is reason you do not want to respond to your voting record so far,” Jack Rogers, president of the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance, said, referring to Emmer’s refusal to shut a portion of the government down.

Emmer is a pretty smart politician; we have little doubt he was sending a message with his weekend activity choice.