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MPR: Rep. Dean Phillips speaks on Israel war, House Speaker election

A man sits in a U.S. Congress meeting room, listening.

Minnesota 3rd District Rep. Dean Phillips has been one of the more vocal members of the state’s delegation in recent weeks: He's issued strong condemnations of the Hamas attacks in Israel, he's railed against dysfunction in the U.S. House and he's flirted for several months with the idea of challenging President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat. 

Phillips told MPR News he believes an urgent selection of a House Speaker is key to the U.S.’s response to the war, as the lack of leadership is barring lawmakers from conducting business. Congress also faces a government shutdown deadline of Nov. 17 without a spending agreement. 

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries is Phillips’ top pick for speaker, but he acknowledges that Democrats wouldn’t succeed in electing Jeffries without Republicans crossing the aisle. 

“I would support a principled Republican if he or she would make some concessions to Democrats around issues of importance to us,” he said. “I think we've got to set aside politics, put forward principle and get to work and it could be a historic opportunity if — and only if — there's a Republican willing to work with Democrats. I think that’s a responsibility, not an option” 

Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, the House Republican majority whip, has an opportunity to move up in House ranks. Republicans endorsed current House Majority Leader Steve Scalise to become speaker, meaning Emmer could slide into that second-in-command spot. Phillips said he’s on board not only for Emmer to become Majority Leader, but potentially speaker. 

“I would love to see a Minnesota speaker of the House if Mr. Jeffries is not going to be that person. I think Mr. Emmer could be the bipartisan bridge to the future,” Phillips said. “As of now, none of us have received outreach from [Emmer] or others. But should that occur, I’ll be first in line to have that conversation.” 

Phillips encouraged Americans to support the people of Israel while remaining empathetic to “the plight of the Palestinians.” 

“We need a two-state solution. We need peace and prosperity and opportunity for both Palestinians and Israelis living side by side. But right now it is black and white,” Phillips told MPR News. “We need the United States to continue to support Israel. We need to eradicate Hamas. And we need to encourage Palestinians to elevate a leadership that can sit at the table with principle with good character, and with the intention for peace.” 

Rep. Dean Phillips speaks on Israel war, House Speaker election
October 12, 2023 - MPR