EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — US Rep. Dean Phillips picked up a key endorsement Thursday in his quest for a third term in Congress.
The US Chamber of Commerce, which more often than not endorses Republican candidates, gave the nod to Phillips, citing the 3rd District Democrat's work on bipartisan bills that help small businesses.
"He was instrumental in the Paycheck Protection Fairness Act, which provided some much important flexibility to those small business owners who took PPP loans," John Kirchner, who heads congressional and public affairs for the organization, told reporters.
He said party affiliation isn't a factor in the US Chamber's endorsements. He also pointed to Phillips' support for the bipartisan CHIPS Act and efforts to help older workers remain in the workforce.
"It has nothing to do with party. It has everything to do with what he’s done for small businesses, what he’s done in his time in Congress, his willingness to work across the aisle."
The news conference was hosted by Fat Pants Brewing Company, which had just barely gotten off the ground when the COVID pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. The Eden Prairie business received almost $200,000 in PPP loans which were both forgiven.
Elizabeth Schmidt, the operations manager and daughter of the brewery's owners, said Phillips helped the family cut through red tape to get all the licenses they needed.
"By the grace of Congressman Phillips office we are here today. He helped us get our paperwork through."
The 3rd District, which covers a huge part of the Twin Cities west metro suburbs, was dependable Republican territory for decades. But in 2018 Phillips flipped it to blue, defeating five-term incumbent Erik Paulsen.
Phillips serves House Small Business Committee, and co-chairs the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of representatives that work to forge a middle ground on contentious issues.
"It's about the inspiration and the invitation to everyone in our country to set aside the nonsense, and get together, sit down at the table, get to know each other," Phillips told reporters. "Because if we do, we can get a lot done."
Opponent cites inflation
One who's not impressed by Phillips's record in Congress is Tom Weiler, the Republican newcomer trying to unseat him.
"Congressman Phillips has voted in support of over $4 trillion worth of spending since President Biden took office, and that excessive government spending clearly contributes to the inflation problem we're at today," Weiler told KARE.
The Eden Prairie native spent 20 years in the Navy commanding submarines and ships and would likely still be out at sea if not for a Parkinson's Disease diagnosis. He believes US dependence on foreign oil and excessive government spending have fueled the inflation that has taken a toll on Minnesotans in the past year.
"Too much government spending -- giving away more and more free money, forgiving college loans, giving $7,500 to a family that wants to by an $80,000 electric SUV -- are all ways the government is throwing money into the economy," Weiler remarked.
"I will definitely be a check to the reckless spending of the Biden agenda. Congressman Phillips is not."
Phillips acknowledged that inflation is hard on families and businesses, but he pushed back against the idea that government spending bills that roll out funding across the next decade are the root cause of soaring prices.
"A lot of the monies that were spent were the very dollars that saved businesses like this one and thousands in Minnesota and countless thousands around the country, saving millions of jobs."
Weiler and Phillips are set to debate Sunday night on WCCO Radio.
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