Walz, Klobuchar and Smith mum as Biden slams door on reopening border with Canada

It’s been a long 16 months for Minnesota businesses and families that depend on reopening the border with Canada as they try to survive a second consecutive summer season under lockdown. Their hopes were raised earlier this week when Canada announced vaccinated U.S. citizens could resume crossing the border as of August 9. But within 48 hours President Joe Biden killed any thought of a late summer comeback by unilaterally extending the ban on Canadians visiting the U.S. for at least another month.

You’d never know Minnesota is one of the states bordering Canada from the silence on the part of Minnesota’s top elected officials in the coverage following Biden’s devastating decision. But reaction from leading politicians on both sides of the aisle in other northern border states was swift and blunt in the DC publication The Hill.

The American extension on restrictions came as a surprise to members of Congress who had been pushing to ease the lockdown, several sources on Capitol Hill said. They felt caught off guard by an announcement that is all but certain to doom some businesses who will now lose a second straight summer of cross-border economic activity.

“I’m deeply disappointed in the Biden administration’s decision to unilaterally extend the Canada-U.S. border closure another month. This means further suffering in our border communities in Whatcom County & elsewhere,” Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) wrote on Twitter. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who has pushed to reopen the border for months — especially to residents of Point Roberts, Wash., an isolated community whose only access to the mainland is by driving through Canada — called himself “extremely disappointed” in the decision.

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), who represents Buffalo and Niagara Falls and who co-chairs the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group, said in a call with reporters that the Biden administration was misleading Americans.

Neighboring North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, (R-ND), also lambasted Biden’s largely unexpected extension in no uncertain terms.

“After months of harmful and unnecessary delays, these border restrictions have now crossed the line from precautionary to preposterous,” Burgum said. “Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination rate has surpassed our own, yet the Biden administration continues to stand in the way of a long-overdue reopening of the border with our closest ally and trading partner. Even the co-chair of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus – a member of the president’s own party – called this decision ‘illogical’ and noted that the administration has failed to deliver on its promise in January to provide a border reopening plan within 14 days.”

Elected officials rarely miss the opportunity to see their name in print. Yet there’s no official response listed on the websites of Minnesota’s top elected officials — DFL Gov. Tim Walz, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minn.), or Sen. Tina Smith, (D-Minn.). In fact, none of Minnesota’s congressional delegation appeared to have officially commented on Biden’s border bomb as of this writing.

But the AP’s coverage included strong rebukes from Democratic and Republican officials of other border states, such as New Hampshire’s chief executive.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, on Wednesday called the U.S. decision to extend the border closure “absurd.”

“It harms our small businesses and families, and does not follow the science,” he said in a statement. “Canada has announced they will open their borders to fully vaccinated Americans, and it’s time the United States follows suit.”

Oddly, Smith and Klobuchar issued optimistic statements earlier this week when Canada appeared to remove the main obstacle to reopening the border in August. It’s almost as if they were out of the loop, leaving the impression the onus was on Ottawa.

“Since the pandemic began, border restrictions have resulted in serious disruptions for so many close to the border,” Sen. Klobuchar said in a July 16 statement. “I have been working with both Canadian and U.S. officials about the need to safely reduce border restrictions as soon as possible, and Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments make clear that cross-border travel between our two countries will soon be back to normal.”

Yet Walz has been largely AWOL on the border closing’s impact on the lives and livelihoods of northern Minnesotans from the start, a governor evidently more in step with Washington than his peers along the border and the science he cited in reopening Minnesota weeks ago.