What Kurt Daudt's mute button is covering up

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The politicians keep talking, even when Kurt Daudt cuts their microphone.

Last summer, Minnesota learned that House Speaker Kurt Daudt had sneakily installed a “mute button” in the House chamber.

The device allows Daudt to unilaterally silence all microphones in the room except for his, making the House less fair, deliberative, and democratic, but a much better place to sleep.

City Pages has gone undercover to learn what constituents are missing. What follows are overheard utterances on the House floor. Names have been withheld to protect the not-at-all innocent:

Aging Twin Cities metro representative, DFL: “Mr. Speaker, I have been representing my district since before some members in this chamber were born. In all my years, I do not recall legislation of this type ever coming before this august body. Frankly, I’m having trouble recalling much of anything. Where is the bathroom?”

Well-meaning rural Republican: “I’m worried. What are we going to do to help farmers?”

Soulless rural Republican: “Farmers Insurance Group? God, I know. We’ve got to protect them from the scurrilous lawsuits of the rubes who bought car insurance. Some of these ingrates have even started reading their contracts!”

Well-meaning rural Republican: “No, I mean… farmers. Like, families that have cows.” 

Soulless rural Republican: “I don’t get it. Are we protecting them from lawsuits from… the cows?”

Suburban Republican back-bencher: “Mr. Speaker, a point of personal privilege, if I may? I want to announce that students from Frankin Delano Roosevelt High, in my district, are joining us in the gallery today. I would like to ask first that we recognize them with a round of applause. And second, that you be very subtle about it when you’re telling me what this next bill is about and how I should vote.”

Ambitious Minneapolis Democrat: “Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of my bill, which is deeply and personally important to me. I ask that members support this bill, and I ask, especially, for the support of the television cameras recording this session. I’m about to declare that I’m running for governor next year, and it’s imperative I get some decent speech highlights to use in TV ads if I’m ever going to make it out of this hellhole.”

Well-meaning suburban Democrat: “Man, I’m torn on this Sunday liquor sales vote. How are you handling it?”

Soulless suburban Democrat: “Oh, it’s easy for me. I need the support of the Teamsters union, so I’m always a ‘No.’ Besides, I hear if you vote against it six times, they’ll tell you where Jimmy Hoffa’s buried.”

Right-wing suburban Evangelical Republican, to Rep. Ilhan Omar: “Representative Omar, I oppose every single one of your positions. I resent your presence in this chamber and, frankly, in this country. However, it turns out my kids saw you on something called Buzzfeed and they think you’re cool, and have asked me to get you to autograph a few things.”

DFL policy wonk: “Mr. Speaker, as a member of the minority, I realize I cannot stop the majority from denying healthcare for pregnancy, cancer, HIV, and any other condition more extreme than golf-induced elbow pain. I am, however, seeking a compromise: an amendment providing for 500 extra printed copies of the bill, which will be mailed to each of these churches you all won’t shut up about attending.”

Universally disliked exurban Democrat: “The abuses of these publicly run suites at the Vikings stadium are crony government at its worst, and an outrage. Two trays of shrimp cocktail, four shrimp each, and we’ve run out of Johnny Walker Blue by halftime? This would never happen in the private sector.”

Freshman rural Republican: “Look, no one likes this Trump ‘drain the swamp’ thing more than me. But in my district, we’ve got a couple polluted lakes where the Department of Natural Resources says becoming a swamp is an absolute best-case scenario.”

Spineless Democrat: “As my colleagues on the other side of the aisle know, this bill has come up in the past, and I have always taken a principled stance against it. That said, if the author of the bill is absolutely certain it’s about to pass, I would ask that she wink, or give some sort of hand signal, so I have enough time to find a new principled position and still be on the winning side.”

Republican healthcare wonk: “I’m not saying the lawmakers who are trained medical professionals should not have come to Governor Dayton’s aid when he fainted during the State of the State. I’m just saying, would it have killed them to ask, before administering treatment, if his collapse was related to a preexisting condition?”

Powerful, deal-making Republican, on cell phone: “I’m sorry, let me call you back, it’s my wife.” (Clicks button.) “Hi honey, I can’t talk right now, I’m on the phone with a lobbyist.” (Pause.) “When will I not be on the phone with a lobbyist? Later. Like, June.” (Pause.) “Look, if you’d just registered as a lobbyist, like I told you to, then I’d have a lot more time for you. Anyway, tell the kids — oh shit, I’ve got another call. Just read the kids one of my press releases.”

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