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Congressman Erik Paulsen finally does something good

Erik Paulsen stuck his neck out. So... props?

Erik Paulsen stuck his neck out. So... props? Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Congressman Erik Paulsen’s year has not been ending on an inspiring note.

After holding his seat in Minneapolis’ western suburbs for five terms, the Eden Prairie Republican geared up for his midterm battle with Democratic newcomer Dean Phillips by vocally distancing himself from President Donald Trump. The reason: Trump had become anathema in the suburban communities Paulsen represents.

That presented a problem, because according to FiveThirtyEight, Paulsen votes with Trump 97 percent of the time.

Paulsen tried to declare himself a lone, reasonable conservative -- someone who would stand up to the president when it mattered, according to his folksy, canoe-paddling campaign ads. But in November, he still lost his seat to Phillips. By a mile.

Yet it’s now time to give credit where credit is due. Paulsen was one of the few House Republicans to stand against Trump on one of the president’s favorite grievances: funding for a wall on the United States-Mexico border.

Last week, the House debated a temporary funding bill in an attempt to stave off a partial government shutdown, which included a keen $5.7 billion for a wall. Paulsen was one of only eight Republicans to vote against it.

Not all of them were principled stances against building a monument to the degradation and rejection of suffering families seeking shelter in the Land of the Free. Some, like Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, opposed it simply because he thought the bill included too much “big government” spending.

Paulsen didn’t respond to interview requests, so it’s impossible to say what was on his mind. But the fact is, he has been against Trump’s wall for a long time -- even while otherwise being “about as risk-averse a congressman you’ll find on Capitol Hill,” as MinnPost put it.

Did putting his foot down ultimately matter? Yes and no. The bill still passed 217 to 185. And his reward seems to be little more than being roundly dismissed as a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) by the MAGA crowd.

But even after voting for tax cuts that would raise the national debt by $1.5 trillion, refusing to hold a town hall meeting for six years, running his campaign mostly on corporate and out-of-state money, and his overall voting record -- in which he attempted to defund the Minnesota AIDS project, ban same-sex marriage, create a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, and strip multiple environmental protections -- he stuck out his neck for this one humanitarian issue.

Unfortunately, it may have been a little too little, and a lot too late.