WASHINGTON, D.C. - As he prepared to cast his vote Wednesday for the bill to fund and re-open the federal government and raise the federal debt limit, Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat who represents the 1st District, sounded frustrated, but hopeful that Congress will start coming back to the politics of negotiation and debate policy issues in the proper forum. And he hopes that the new conference committee on the farm bill he is serving on will show the way.
"It's the vote I've been asking for for weeks, the vote we had asked to be taken before we got into this situation, in this totally reckless, avoidable and manufactured crisis we found ourselves in," said Walz in a conference call press conference Wednesday evening.
The 16-day battle over linking a funding cutoff for the Affordable Care Act to funding government operations and raising the debt limit "accomplished nothing except bringing pain to the American public. It cost $24 billion, according to Standard & Poor's, and .6 percent off the growth of the fourth quarter (economic) numbers," Walz said.
Rep. Tim Walz voted in favor of the deal to end the shutdown and avoid default.
"I hope there's no one patting themselves on the back that we did the very basics of what government is supposed to do, keeping those functions open and paying our bills," Walz said.
Walz said he looks forward to the negotiations spelled out in the deal hammered out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The deal calls for negotiators to be appointed for the House and Senate to come up with a deficit reduction deal by Dec. 13, before the short term budget and debt limit deals expire in January and February.
Walz said it would be "negotiating the proper way," in dealing with legitimate differences Democrats and Republicans have, dealing with how the budget should be done." He said he hoped the negotiations on the farm bill would help set an example of bipartisanship for the rest of Congress.
Walz was named this week to the farm bill conference committee. The committee's work will begin shortly, by the end of the month.
"We have been asking and asking, and finally got what we asked for. We have a conference committee that is moving into the final stages of reauthorization of the farm bill. I am certainly proud and honored and glad to be on that conference committee," said Walz.
The four main members of the committee started meeting today, and the congressional staff are being updated.
"We fully expect to engage in a great tradition of bipartisanship on a very important piece of legislation that will reach compromise and eventually close to consensus. I am somewhat hopeful that the timing of this gives the opportunity for a traditionally bipartisan piece of legislation to restart the way we should be doing business here," Walz said.
Walz said there is certainly reason to be skeptical about Congress' ability to reach agreement on issues like spending cuts and tax increases in the deficit negotiations. The last such negotiations in 2011 by the so-called congressional "Supercommittee" came up empty, resulting in the implementation of the sequestered cuts that everyone thought were too severe to be allowed to become reality.
But Walz said he was an "eternal optimist," and would approach negotiations on issues like the farm bill, deficit reduction and the Affordable Care Act with an open mind, as long as the discussions came in the proper forum.
He said the possibility of repealing the Medical Device Tax, a part of the Affordable Care Act that is despised by many in Congress, is one such legitimate policy issue that may come up. "It's an issue that gets broad bipartisan support," Walz said.
He said he would entertain the possibility of voting to repeal the tax, as long as there was a proper pay-back to make up for the lost revenue.