Video: Our first extended interview with Congressman Tim Walz
I recently got the opportunity to sit down with Tim Walz, a 5-term congressman representing Minnesota's 1st District. He met with us during a stop in Preston, where he was promoting conservation efforts by fishing on a restored creek.
This was a day of firsts for the Med City Beat. Not only was it the first time we've interviewed a member of Congress, but it was also the first time we ever conducted a video interview on location.
I want to thank Mr. Walz and his staff for arranging the interview; Jim Fricker of North Coast Productions for filming and editing; and all 96 backers of the site's Kickstarter for investing in this project.
Partisanship in Congress:
Context: Congress has become increasingly polarized over the past decade and, as a result, fewer bills are getting passed. The worst part: things that used to pass with bipartisan support are now getting resistance — most notably from the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party.
And there is, perhaps, no better example of the ineffectiveness of our legislative branch than its unwillingness to agree on a long-term infrastructure plan. Last month, Congress passed a 3-month extension on the highway funding bill; it was the 34th time since 2009 that lawmakers have opted to punt the ball rather than come to terms on a comprehensive plan.
“It’s past time to have the tough conversation about how we’re going to fund and fix our crumbling infrastructure system," Walz said at the time. The congressman served on the House Transportation Committee for eight years before making the move earlier this year to the Armed Services Committee.
Context: Walz, a 24-year veteran of the National Guard and the highest enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, spends a good chunk of his time in DC working on veterans' issues. In fact, a recent study analyzing speeches made by lawmakers on the House and Senate floors found that Walz's most used word is, indeed, "veterans."
His most recent effort is a piece of bipartisan legislation that would require the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs to undergo a biannual, independent audit by a non-governmental entity. He told me, "I have to be very skeptical about information put out to me by the VA. And that's why to put people to rest, let's get that 3rd-party, independent eye on it."
Context: Earlier in the summer, Walz voted in favor a House bill that would ban states from requiring businesses to place labels on products that contain genetically modified organisms. The measured passed with overwhelming support. However, less than a quarter of the 183 House Democrats joined Walz in voting in favor of it.
Opponents of the legislation say it's an infringement on the public's right to know what's in their food. They accuse lawmakers of bowing down to the food industry, which spent an estimated $30 million lobbying for the bill.
But Walz points out that the bill would actually set up GMO labeling guidelines at the federal level, creating a uniform system for companies wanting to label their products GMO-free.
So what's the science say on GMOs? A recent poll by Pew found 88 percent of scientists believe genetically-modified foods are safe to eat, compared to just 37 percent of the American public.
Watch the full interview:
We also touched on topics ranging from high-speed rail to Pres. Obama's legacy. The entire extended interview is broken up into eight separate clips. You can click the "playlist" tab on the top left corner to toggle between subjects.
About Sean Baker: Sean is the founder and editor of the Med City Beat. Under his direction, the site has transitioned from a small news blog to one of the most widely-read publications in the city. Prior to launching the site in 2014, Sean spent about two years producing television news in Green Bay and Rochester. His office is above a brewery, so please excuse any typos. Twitter.
(Cover photo: North Coast Productions)