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Other views: Independence gets Cramer noticed

An emerging coalition of "pragmatists" could be key to Washington governance, said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., last week.

Many of them hail from the Midwest, the geographic center of the nation that also has tended to favor practical politicians.

In Minnesota, Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson would be counted in this group. As residents of northwestern Minnesota know, Peterson puts country and district ahead of party and ideology. In practical terms, this means that when push comes to shove, he'll break with the majority in his party to vote with the Republicans, if he thinks the GOP has the better argument.

In the best-known example, Peterson voted against the Affordable Care Act, joining 33 other Democrats and all 178 Republicans in doing so.

Not coincidentally, Peterson won his re-election bid later that year, surviving the 2010 Republican landslide. His North Dakota counterpart, Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy, voted for the act; and in November, the landslide swept him away.

All of which leads in to this:

A new National Journal analysis is good news for Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., because it lists him as a member of "the House GOP coalition that could break the gridlock."

"The tea party has been charting the course of the House of Representatives," the story reports.

"But a smaller group of House Republicans reasserted its influence in Wednesday's vote to end the government shutdown, highlighting a possible path toward a more productive Congress."

This smaller group starts with the 87 Republicans who joined all 198 Democrats to end the government shutdown.

And within that group is an even smaller number: Some 30 Republicans who "have now gone against their conference to pass three separate pieces of major legislation this year."

Besides voting last week to restart the government and raise the debt ceiling, the 30 "also took this course in supporting aid for Hurricane Sandy recovery and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act earlier this year," National Journal notes.

Cramer -- alone among Republicans from surrounding states -- is listed among the 30. Many of the others hail from New York, New Jersey, California and other states where Mitt Romney got less than 55 percent of the vote. (In North Dakota, it was Romney with 58 percent vs. Obama with 39.)

"Multiple times this year, this unusual coalition of some Republicans and most Democrats has come together to pass legislation through the House," National Journal reports.

"There is precedent, from an earlier era of divided government, for major legislation passing without a majority of the House majority. Most notably, a coalition of conservative Democrats and a near-unanimous Republican minority combined to pass President Reagan's budget in 1981, against the wishes of a majority of House Democrats, who then controlled the lower chamber.

"House Democrats also provided the passing votes for Reagan's tax-cut package that year, again joining nearly every Republican."

There are barriers to this approach today, including the fact that the House leadership seldom lets these Democratic-supported measures even come to the floor. But Cramer should recognize that North Dakotans, like northwestern Minnesotans, traditionally have liked this independence on the part of their representative; and he should accept his membership in the National Journal 30 with pride.

The Grand Forks Herald's Editorial Board formed this opinion.