WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Al Franken is in "good shape for re-election" 18 months out from Election Day 2014 with approval ratings above 50 percent and a big leads over all of his potential opponents, according to the Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling.
In a survey of 712 Minnesota voters from May 17-19, the firm found that Franken drew more than 50 percent support against all of his potential GOP rivals. The poll's margin of error is 3.7 percent.
Franken won office in 2008 with a slim 312 vote margin and Republicans have long argued that he will be vulnerable in 2014. Still, the GOP has struggled to recruit a high profile candidate to run against Franken.
So far, no Republicans have officially declared their candidacy though businessman Mike McFadden appears closest to launching a campaign. The GOP's highest-profile potential recruits, U.S. Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen, have both declined a Senate bid.
"Al Franken has proven to be a pretty popular Senator," said Dean Debnam, the firm's CEO. "Add to that a relatively weak Republican bench in Minnesota and he's looking like a clear favorite for re-election."
PPP works for Democratic candidates (in fact, the firm polled Minnesota's 6th District on behalf of DFLer Jim Graves and his bid against Bachmann earlier this week) but generally has a reputation for accuracy.
The firm polled Franken against McFadden, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, talk radio host Jason Lewis, state Sen. Julianne Ortman, state Sen. Julie Rosen and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. With the exception of Bachmann, most of those potential candidates had limited name recognition with the public.
Two potential candidates who pulled their names from consideration early were former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (who was defeated by Franken). PPP's poll suggests why neither ran: both were viewed favorably by less than 40 percent of those polled.
Minnesota is not the only state where the GOP is struggling to recruit strong candidates. The AP recently reported that Republicans in Iowa and Michigan were having similar problems in the face of open seats currently occupied by Democrats.
Franken's fellow U.S. Senator from Minnesota, DFLer Amy Klobuchar, continues to have a very high job approval rating of 61 percent. Klobuchar was re-elected by a landslide last year.
PPP says it will also release polling results about Gov. Mark Dayton tomorrow.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will begin marking up the immigration overhaul bill. Both of Minnesota's Democratic senators sit on the committee and plan to offer amendments in what could be a long and contentious debate.
Here's a quick summary of some what they're trying to add to the bill:
E-Verify: One of Sen. Al Franken's amendments would keep small businesses with 14 or fewer employees from being covered by the electronic verification system to prove the legal status of employees unless the system's accuracy improves. Franken has taken on this cause in the past few weeks, claiming the Minnesota dairies would be particularly harmed by the bill's requirement that all employees submit to E-Verify checks. He also has a handful of smaller E-Verify amendments.
STEM Education: Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to increase the fees charged to companies that bring in foreign workers by $1,000 and use the proceeds to fund science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in the U.S.
Domestic Violence: Klobuchar has introduced an amendment to make it easier for victims of domestic violence and elder abuse to apply for permanent residence in the U.S. Franken has an amendment that would give battered immigrant women access to public housing assistance.
Child Protection: Franken also has an amendment authored jointly with Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley to take care of children whose parents have been detained for immigration violations. The amendment would allow parents to make phone calls to arrange care for their children and allow children to visit their parents in custody.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - "Glacial" tends to be the adjective used about the pace at which Congress works. Not this week. Faced with several days of negative stories about flight delays brought on by the automatic spending cuts both political parties agreed to in 2011, Congress raced to reduce waiting times for airline passengers (and truth be told, members of Congress themselves) before going on a week-long break.
Three members of Minnesota's delegation, U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison, Rick Nolan and Tim Walz, were among 41 no votes on the bill. The measure passed with 361 aye votes, including the votes of the state's other five House members. U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken supported the Senate version of the bill.
Identical bills passed by the Senate on Thursday and the House on Friday shift some money from an account used for airport improvements to pay for fully-staffing air traffic control centers through the end of this fiscal year. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.
While many media reports focused on angry passengers and flight crews, the airline industry is also a significant donor to members of Congress and had been lobbying furiously to avoid flight delays. Until it was merged with Delta in 2010, Northwest Airlines was based in Eagan and Delta continues to operate a hub from MSP.
An MPR News review of contributions by airlines, their employees, airports and the air freight industry shows more than $283,000 in donations from those sources to Minnesota's members of Congress between 2009 and 2012. The two biggest recipients of the industry's largesse are no longer in Congress, former U.S. Reps. Jim Oberstar and Chip Cravaack. Oberstar, a Democrat, chaired the House Transportation Committee which has jurisdiction over the airline industry. Cravaack, a Republican and former airline pilot, defeated Oberstar in 2010 only to fall to Democrat Rick Nolan two years later.
DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who received $39,000 in industry contributions, helped broker the bipartisan agreement to shift money from other parts of the FAA's budget to air traffic controllers.
While the traveling public may now experience less inconvenience due to the swift congressional action the impact of the across the board budget cuts, known as sequestration, continue to affect scores of lower-profile federal programs. Federal rent subsidies for poor families in the Twin Cities will be reduced by at least 5 percent, leading to as many as 500 families not receiving housing assistance.
UPDATE: This post was updated to include the vote totals in the U.S. House.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Two donors from Minnesota gave $325,000 to pay for President Obama's second inauguration in January, making up the vast bulk of the $364,570 donated by residents of the state, according to data released Monday by the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation.
The single biggest donor by far is an unfamiliar name in Minnesota politics: Johannes Marliem of Wayzata, who contributed $225,000. According to the web site of the Marliem Marketing Group where Marliem is listed as founder and CEO, he's a graduate of the University of Minnesota and previously worked for Best Buy. A search of campaign donations also shows that Marliem gave $132,500 to Obama's campaign and various state Democratic parties during the 2012 election cycle. There is no evidence Marliem made political contributions before 2012.
The second biggest contributor is a much more familiar name, Alida Messinger, who contributed $100,000. Messinger has helped fund the liberal group, Alliance for a Better Minnesota and is the former wife of Gov. Mark Dayton.
Overall, individual and corporate donors gave more than $43 million. No Minnesota-based companies are listed as contributors to the inauguration.
A couple of other familiar names that popped up on the donor list include DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who gave $305.
One surprising entry is Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, who also gave $305. Paulsen's most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission also shows a payment for the same amount from Paulsen's campaign committee and records the entry as a ticket to the inaugural ball. A campaign aide did not respond to a request for more details about Paulsen's contribution.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Al Franken's re-election campaign announced that the Democratic Senator brought in just a hair less than $2 million in the first three months of 2013 as the 2014 Senate election cycle begin in earnest.
In an unusual move, Franken's campaign made the fundraising announcement in a video, embedded below, that's being sent out to supporters.
Franken raised a significant sum from online donors who give in small amounts. The video says over the past three months a quarter of the campaign's draw was donated online. Among the strategies the campaign used to lure online donors was a giveaway for one donor to attend a fundraiser at late night comedian Conan O'Brien's house in Los Angeles.
The campaign noted that it had 19,000 new donors this quarter who accounted for 54 percent of the total donors.
The campaign has slightly more than $2 million in the bank even as no Republican has officially announced a run for the seat. On Wednesday, Twin Cities businessman Mike McFadden told MPR News he was considering challenging Franken as a Republican.
Candidates have until April 15 to file their fundraising numbers with the Federal Election Commission. So far, Franken's total puts him toward the front of the Senate fundraising pack. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats, announced raising $1.9 million while Republican John Cornyn of Texas brought in $1.85 million as he attempts to intimidate potential primary challengers.
Franken, a former comedian, won election in 2008 by the narrowest of margins and for much of his term has been considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents by political observers in Washington and Minnesota. But with the absence of a high-profile challenger and open Democratic seats in Republican-friendly territory, Franken's been considered less vulnerable in the past few months.(0 Comments)
Party delegates today elected former state Rep. Keith Downey of Edina as chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party.
The vote came at a meeting in Bloomington. Downey, who won on the first ballot, defeated three other candidates to win the position. He said he wants to unite Republicans who have squabbled over the party's direction in recent years.
"The key to our support is to have a united group of Republicans speaking the truth and getting out in front of the people of Minnesota," Downey told party delegates. "That is how we're going to win in 2014. I believe that in my heart."
Downey served in the Minnesota House from 2009 until last year. He lost a bid for the state Senate last November. Downey has the difficult task of leading a party that is more than $1.5 million in debt and is divided over the best direction for the future.
He takes over as chair from Pat Shortridge, who did not seek a second term.
Downey said Shortridge did an excellent job of rebuilding the party after Tony Sutton abruptly quit as party chair in 2011. A detailed internal audit found that the party was nearly $2 million in debt at the time.
Shortridge told reporters after the event that he is leaving the party in better shape than when he was elected. For his part, Downey isn't making any promises on how fast they'll erase the party's debt, but he said he hopes he can persuade donors to start giving again.
"There are a lot of people, and they are major donors and they are minor donors who have been sitting on the sidelines," Downey said. "I hope with the positive momentum that we've got, we can go out and execute a plan across all levels and restore giving to the party."
Republicans are looking to end a political drought for statewide office. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is the last Republican to win statewide office and that was in 2006. Democrats also control both chambers of the Legislature.
One Minnesota U.S. Senate seat, all of the constitutional offices including governor, every seat in the U.S. House and every seat in the Minnesota House are on the ballot in 2014.
Several potential gubernatorial candidates, including Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, state Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie, state Rep. Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove and state Sen. Dave Thompson of Lakeville, were at the Bloomington meeting talking with delegates.
No candidates have yet announced that they intend to challenge DFL Sen. Al Franken or DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
Delegates also re-elected Kelly Fenton as deputy chair of the party and Chris Fields as party secretary.(0 Comments)
The Minnesota Taxpayers League announced today that Grover Norquist, with Americans for Tax Reform, will headline the annual Taxpayers Rally at the State Capitol on April 27.
Norquist is best known for fiercely opposing tax hikes on the federal level. His "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" asks candidates for U.S. House and Senate oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes. The Taxpayers League says all but 16 Republican members on the House and six Republican Senators have signed the pledge.
"The Taxpayers League of Minnesota is excited to have an individual with such great national identity and inside knowledge of DC politics speaking at our rally," said Phil Krinkie, President of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.
The annual Taxpayer Rally is meant to protest government spending and high taxes.
Former presidential candidate Herman Cain headlined the rally last year.
Photo: Mark Zdechlik
Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken heard about the high cost of higher education from college students and administrators during a round table discussion at St. Paul College on Tuesday. The two Democrats said students are graduating with too much debt and that federal and state aid to help people go to college needs to be increased.
The amount of debt college students take on now is a far cry from what it was a generation ago, according to Dayton.
"When I was an aide to then Sen. Walter Mondale in 1975-1976 education was one of my areas of responsibility," said Dayton. " And back then federal student financial aid was one-third grants, one-third loans and one-third college work study. Now it's 2 percent college work study, 18 percent grants for the poorest students, and 80 percent loans, which means for most students and their families it's loans, loans and more loans."
Dayton noted that Minnesota student aid programs have not been updated in more than a decade and said the state needs to do a lot of catching up.
The average Minnesota college students graduates with $29,000 in debt, said Franken.
"This is the trend we're seeing and it's not good. I don't think it's good for America," said Franken. "It's certainly not good for young people who are going to be saddled with debt."
Franken said although federal Pell grants have increased, they are nowhere near as large as they should be. He said he's pushing legislation that would require clear, standardized financial aid letters to help students better understand what they're being offered.
DFL Sen. Al Franken has hired Matt Burgess, who most recently managed Democrat Maggie Hassan's successful campaign for governor in New Hampshire. Hassan is the only Democratic female governor in the nation.
Burgess also worked in the political department of EMILY's List, a group that works to elect Democratic women to office, and the Service Employees International Union.
"I'm very excited to have Matt join our team," said Sen. Franken in a statement. "He has a wealth of experience that will help us build a strong grassroots campaign and also allow me to keep my focus on the best job I've ever had: serving Minnesotans and fighting for our values in Washington."
Burgess will manage a campaign of a candidate who won a razor thin recount in 2008 but at least so far has no viable Republican opponent lining up to run against him. Just this week political handicapper Stu Rothenberg ranked Franken's race as "Safe Democrat" because he has no challenger.
That's a tricky balancing act, since donors and the party faithful may get complacent heading into 2014.
Burgess said in a statement that he was looking to build on the the campaign's infrastructure.
"I'm honored to help build on an already-strong grassroots organization to re-elect Senator Franken in 2014," Burgess said.
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, U.S. Rep. John Kline, state Sen. Julie Rosen and conservative radio talk show host Jason Lewis have all been mentioned as possible candidates to challenge Franken in 2014. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann also didn't rule out a run when asked by reporters last week whether she was interested in challenging Franken.
WASHINGTON - Al Franken's going back to his comedic roots as he ramps up his re-election efforts. The former Saturday Night Live writer's campaign announced today that late night comic Conan O'Brien will host a major fundraiser for Franken in Los Angeles next month.
Taking a page from President Barack Obama's successful fundraising playbook last year, Franken's campaign said in an email to supporters that one online donor would be picked randomly to attend the fundraiser in person at O'Brien's home.
"Imagine how much fun it would be to hang out at Conan's house," said the fundraising email. "And then stop imagining and start clicking -- because a contribution of any amount will automatically enter you to win (airfare and hotel included!)."
Obama's campaign offered small donors the chance to mingle with celebrities such as George Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker as a potential reward for donating online. Tactics such as those allowed Obama to bring in $483 million from donors giving less than $200, the majority of his fundraising.
Franken similarly relies on small donors to power his campaign coffers. According to Federal Election Commission records, Franken raised nearly $2.9 million in the past two years with $2 million coming from donations under $200.
Although Franken won in 2008 by the narrowest of margins, so far no Republicans have entered the race to take him on in 2014.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - In a 10-8 party line vote with both of Minnesota's Democratic senators voting with the majority, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved the final elements of the most broad-ranging gun control proposals to receive congressional attention in nearly 20 years.
The bill approved on Thursday includes a ban on many assault-style weapons and would also limit ammunition magazines for semiautomatic weapons to 10 rounds.
"I think that what we've seen in these mass murders of late is the use of these assault weapons, and I think that this will save lives," said DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken after the vote.
Franken said he didn't "disparage" owners of those weapons, many of whom he described as veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were simply comfortable with the guns, but "this is about going forward" to prevent gun massacres such as the December shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last December in which 26 students and teachers were killed.
While the legislation would ban the sale, manufacture and importation of assault-style semiautomic weapons and large ammunition clips, those currently in possession of those weapons and clips could still keep theirs.
Franken conceded that with so many weapons in circulation, future mass shootings were still possible.
"Are we going to see these mass murders go to zero? No, we're not. But I think if we can save one life or a few lives by doing this, then I think it's worth it," said Franken.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor along with a set of other gun control bills the committee approved in the past two weeks to expand background checks, make it a federal crime to traffic guns and expand school safety programs. No time has yet been scheduled for the full chamber to debate the legislation, which is likely to face stiff opposition from many Republican lawmakers.
Should the bills pass the Senate, the Republican-controlled House will also have to take them up. Franken believed the House might approve the expanded background checks, gun trafficking and school safety bills but said that the assault weapons ban would face "a very difficult uphill climb" in the House.(2 Comments)
MPR News reporter Brett Neely recently wrote a story examining the federal employee workforce in Minnesota and the potential affects of the automatic budget cuts (called sequestration) that were triggered March 1.
Here's an interactive graphic we made to go alongside Neely's story:
Note: *Veterans services and Social Security are exempt from automatic cuts. Postal employees are not counted because USPS is independent of the regular budgeting process Source: Office of Policy Management(3 Comments)
WASHINGTON - A Minnesota native already runs the White House staff. Now another will become the top national security aide to Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden named Jake Sullivan to be his new National Security Advisor on Tuesday. Sullivan, who's from Minneapolis, comes to the White House from the State Department, where he served as the head of the highly influential Policy Planning Department and also worked as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's deputy chief of staff.
Sullivan also worked on Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and served briefly as U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's chief counsel. Before entering politics, Sullivan was a Rhodes Scholar in the United Kingdom and worked as an associate for the Minneapolis law firm Faegre & Benson while teaching classes on the side at the University of St. Thomas Law School.
Last month President Obama named Stillwater native Denis McDonough as White House chief of staff.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's subcommittee plans to hold hearings next month on the impact of the latest airline mega-merger and has asked the Department of Justice and Department of Transportation to look into the effect past mergers have had on competition, prices and service for the traveling public.
Klobuchar was recently named the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee. She and the panel's top Republican, Mike Lee of Utah, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Tuesday calling for an economic analysis of the planned merger between American Airlines and US Airways.
Such government analyses are common for mergers of this size so the request is not much of a stretch for the agencies. Klobuchar and Lee sounded a slightly skeptical note about the merger's touted benefits.
"It will likewise be critical to determine whether the airlines have realized the efficiencies they claimed as the basis for the mergers," the pair wrote.
The hearings will take place on March 19th.The airlines hope to complete the merger by the end of September.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - The automatic across the board federal budget cuts that were never supposed to happen kick in a week from today and airports in Minnesota are among the first to learn about how the government plans to handle the potential disruptions.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that air traffic control facilities at a series of small airports in Minnesota could be closed if the agency is required to cut $600 million from this year's budget.
The agency lists air traffic control at St. Cloud Regional Airport, Anoka County-Blaine Airport, Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie and Crystal Tower in Crystal as being targeted for closure if the automatic budget cuts known as sequester begin on March 1. Additionally, the FAA could end overnight air traffic control at the Duluth Airport.
In an appearance before the White House press corps Friday, outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the agency would likely have to furlough all of its nearly 47,000 employees for one day a pay period until the end of September in order for the agency to meet its share of the $85 billion in cuts that will affect large swaths of the federal government.
"Obviously, as always, safety is our top priority, and we will never allow the amount of air travel we can handle safely to take off and land, which means travelers should expect delays," said LaHood.
LaHood said the closures would not happen right away but would probably begin around April 1, giving Congress and the White House some breathing room to work out a potential deal.
These cuts are the result of two years of fiscal firefights between Republicans in the U.S. House and the Obama Administration. The sequester mechanism was created after Republicans refused to permit an increase in the nation's borrowing limit in mid-2011 without deep spending cuts. Both parties hoped the pain of the sequester, which affects both domestic and defense programs, would force a negotiated settlement though that hasn't happened.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Minnesota's two Democratic Senators and five DFL U.S. House members are lobbying President Barack Obama to name former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar as the next Secretary of Transportation to replace the current secretary, Ray LaHood, who is retiring.
Oberstar certainly has chops in the field of transportation policy. He chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 2007 until early 2011. After serving 36 years in Congress, Oberstar was defeated by Republican Chip Cravaack, who was himself defeated two years later by current U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan.
In a Feb. 8 letter to Obama, the delegation's Democrats called Oberstar "a preeminent leader" in the field of transportation issues and touted his "practical, bipartisan approach to public policy."
Nolan's office released the letter and said it was part of a "behind the scenes" effort to secure the job for Oberstar.
Last month, Oberstar told Politico he was interested in serving as Transportation Secretary if the job opened up.
Still, Oberstar's road to nomination faces some potholes. At 78, Oberstar would be nearly a decade older than the next oldest member of Obama's cabinet, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, 70. Oberstar also clashed with the White House over his 2009 proposal to bring forward a $500 billion highway bill that would have required a politically unpopular gas tax increase. Under pressure from the administration, that bill was shelved.(0 Comments)
Republican Congressman John Kline says looming across-the-board federal spending cuts could cost as many as 4,000 jobs in Minnesota. The cuts, known as sequestration, are scheduled to take effect on March first unless President Obama and House Republicans reach a different deal to fix the federal budget.
At a press briefing with reporters, Kline gauged the likelihood of the cuts occurring as "better than even."
He says House Republicans hope to cut $1.2 trillion in federal spending over the next ten years but he's opposed to doing it across-the-board.
"The trouble with sequestration is that there is no ability to set priorities," Kline said. "They just cut and so you can have very, very good programs that take a cut and a poor program that is executing poorly right next to it takes the same cut. We would rather have the ability to adjust those."
President Obama and House Republicans agreed in 2011 to the across the board spending cuts as a way to force an overall deficit reduction plan.
Since then they have failed to reach a concensus on the idea.
WASHINGTON - Congress is in the early stages of considering major changes to the nation's immigration laws, changes that would affect not just the status of the 11 million people who arrived in the country illegally but also hundreds of thousands of foreign students and high-skill workers who want to settle in the United States.
One bill, introduced by DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would expand the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers and make it easier for foreign students studying at U.S. universities in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) disciplines to apply for work visas in the U.S.
"We make changes to student visas to encourage students who get degrees here to stay in this country so that we don't just say 'hey, go back to India or China or some other country and start the next Google over there.' We want you to start it here," said Klobuchar in a speech on the Senate floor introducing the legislation on Jan. 29.
But Klobuchar's assertion is based primarily on anecdotal accounts. The data that exists on foreign STEM students suggests a considerable proportion of PhD graduates, especially those from China and India, do stay in the United States after graduation under the existing immigration system. Comparable information on graduates with bachelors and masters degrees is unavailable.
A 2012 study funded by the National Science Foundation by Michael Finn of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education appears to be the best source for finding out how many foreign STEM PhD graduates remain in the U.S. following graduation.
The study found that two thirds of the foreign STEM PhD graduates in 1999 were still in the U.S. a decade later, a figure that includes graduates on both permanent and temporary visas. Breaking out the numbers for temporary visas, which would be affected by Klobuchar's legislation, the study found that 62 percent of the 2004 PhD graduates remained in the United States as of 2009, a number that Finn said had gradually risen over time.
Contrary to Klobuchar's implication that Chinese and Indian graduates were particularly burdened by visa requirements and forced to head home after their studies were complete, Finn's study shows that 89 percent of Chinese and 79 percent of Indian PhD holders remained in the U.S. five years after their graduation in 2004. Chinese and Indian graduates made up nearly 40 percent of the study's sample.
"I don't see much evidence that the current visa situation is holding back the stay rate," said Finn in an interview with MPR News.
To back up her statement, Klobuchar's office cited conversations the senator has had with Minnesota business and educational leaders. Klobuchar's office contested the validity of the NSF-funded research, saying a study of 2004 graduates was out of date with the current job market and pointing to a 2012 letter to President Obama and congressional leaders signed by many of the nation's university presidents that said, "Every year, arbitrary immigration caps force approximately one-third of the 50,000 foreign-born STEM graduates from our universities to leave the country."
According to her office, Klobuchar believes the 62 percent stay rate for 2004 graduates is too low and that a higher percentage of PhD graduates should be able to remain in the U.S. The senator's office also said that because the study only covers PhD holders, the most coveted graduates, rather than the broader population of foreign STEM graduates with bachelors and masters degrees, it is not representative.
Klobuchar's office said the senator learned about the issue from speaking with university presidents in Minnesota, including Earl Potter, the president of St. Cloud State University.
Potter agreed in broad terms that foreign bachelors and masters STEM students had a difficult time getting work visas in the U.S. even when employers were eager to sponsor them. Some of St. Cloud State's foreign graduates who did not get jobs in the U.S., Potter said, have returned to their home countries where they have launched successful businesses. But Potter said the university did not have data on the issue.
"I don't have statistics, I have anecdotal information. It's one of those things that's hard to track and we have not put those systems into place," said Potter in an interview.
Ultimately, this issue appears to come down to assertions and anecdotes made by Klobuchar and other advocates of easing visas for foreign workers versus solid but incomplete and aging data that focuses solely on the most elite group of foreign STEM graduates, those with PhDs.
The researcher responsible for that data, Michael Finn of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education agreed no good source of information on bachelor and masters students exists, making it difficult to determine how alike the different groups of graduates are when it comes to staying in the U.S. He plans to update the study of PhD students next year.
While careful to avoid policy-specific discussions, Finn expressed frustration with comments from politicians and pundits on the topic, such as Klobuchar's.
"Whenever I see these things, I try to look to see if they have some data to back that up that I didn't know about and I haven't yet found any," said Finn.
That lack of data results in an inconclusive rating for this PoliGraph test.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, "Klobuchar Introduces Immigration Bill to Boost High-Tech Innovation," Jan. 29, 2013, accessed Feb. 12, 2013
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, "Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities, 2009", by Michael G. Finn, January 2012, accessed Feb. 11, 2013
Interview, Michael G. Finn, economist Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Feb. 14, 2013
Interview, Earl Potter, President, St. Cloud State University, Feb. 15, 2013
Email correspondence and phone calls with Brigit Helgen, Communications Director for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Feb. 14-15, 2013
Letter from university presidents to President Obama and congressional leaders, Partnership for a New American Economy, accessed Feb. 15, 2013
WASHINGTON - The newly-announced merger of American Airlines and US Airways will get some scrutiny from a Senate subcommittee on antitrust policy chaired by DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Klobuchar recently took the gavel of the influential subcommittee. A hearing held by that committee in 2011 helped scuttle a planned merger between mobile phone companies AT&T and T-Mobile.
"During my time in the Senate I have worked hard to keep the airline industry competitive to make sure companies retain jobs, maintain service levels and keep prices low for travelers," said Klobuchar in a statement.
If approved by federal regulators, the merger would create the world's largest airline.
Klobuchar may come to the hearing with her views colored by Minnesota's experience after Delta Airlines merged with hometown Northwest Airlines. That union has led to job losses and service cutbacks in the Twin Cities.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Minnesota's members of Congress say they want to work with President Obama, even if they disagree with policies outlined in his State of the Union address.
One of Obama's harshest critics in Minnesota's delegation, Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, said while the speech didn't break new ground, she hoped his call for renewing the nation's infrastructure would mean federal funds to help widen I-94 in her district.
"Where I think maybe we can work together for the good of the people in Minnesota was on infrastructure projects," said Bachmann.
DFL U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar noticed a shift in tone among fellow members of Congress compared to last year.
"I didn't think you saw the negativity in the chamber. It's post-election, it's time to move on and get working and there were a lot of positive moments where everyone stood together," said Klobuchar.
Some, such as DFL U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, thought Obama made a rhetorical slam dunk.
"I just thought it was a tremendous, just a tremendous, outstanding speech. Maybe the best I've ever heard on a State of the Union speech," said Nolan, who served three terms in Congress between 1975 and 1981 and was in the House chamber for former President Jimmy Carter's final State of the Union.
Obama's proposal to tackle the looming automatic budget cuts that take effect March 1st didn't strike long-serving DFL Congressman Collin Peterson as feasible. The plan involves overhauling how Medicare pays medical providers to reduce costs. It also cuts tax breaks.
"I don't know, I mean he can say this is paid for but I don't see how," said Peterson. "I was sitting with the Republicans - this was not going over. So I don't see how you get anyplace."
One issue on the minds of many lawmakers was gun control. Obama brought Democrats to their feet after he invoked the names of victims of gun violence and said "They deserve a vote."
Echoing Obama, St. Paul Democrat Betty McCollum said, "We deserve a vote on it, we need to find the common ground on it, I'm not going to give up."
"I was really honored that he demonstrated real commitment to making change because the people who don't want change are committed but the President's also committed," said DFL U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who invited 17-year-old Sami Rahamim as his guest.
Rahamim's father was killed by a gunman last year during a workplace mass shooting in Minneapolis.
Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen brought along Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek as his guest to the speech. Stanek has been part of a group of law enforcement officials consulted by the White House as it developed its gun proposals.
Paulsen has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association but his suburban district also voted for President Obama in the last election. Paulsen said he could possibly support some of the administration's ideas around tightening background checks for gun purchases.
"Making sure we listen to practitioners and understanding that there are holes in the current background system, making sure that accessibility for those who are mentally ill and unstable and aren't going to have access to guns is probably the top priority we should be focusing on," said Paulsen.
Obama's proposal to create universal access to preschool education across the country found strong support among the delegation's Democrats.
"The fact of the matter is this isn't just about a feel-good to get kids into playing with blocks or something, this is about getting kids ready to learn, ready to get into kindergarten," said U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a former teacher.
But Republicans, especially Bachmann, were leery about the plan's potential costs and impact on local control of schools.
"I don't believe in the federal government coming into Minnesota, taking our state money and telling our teachers what to teach, how to teach, what to test," said Bachmann.
Foreign policy issues didn't come up much in the delegation's response to the address. But DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken noticed one point the president made. Franken signed a bipartisan letter asking Obama to reveal more about the legal basis for attacks made with unmanned drones. He was relieved to hear Obama say he would keep Congress better informed about secret counter-terrorism operations.
"I was glad to hear him talk about that," said Franken.
WASHINGTON - Minnesota Republicans appear to have definitely lost U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen as a candidate to take on DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014 (see update below).
Paulsen's name has long been floated as a candidate. In January, he told MPR News he was not interested in running. Shortly afterward, he told The Hill newspaper that he hadn't ruled out challenging Franken.
Now Paulsen has ruled out a run again, this time telling University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs he planned to continue representing his suburban Twin Cities district rather than mounting a Senate campaign.
Jacobs was in Washington with a group of public policy students meeting with various elected officials. When the group met with Paulsen, Jacobs asked him about his political plans at the start of a meeting.
"He said he's devoted to serving his district and isn't running for Senate," said Jacobs in a brief phone interview.
The students also asked Paulsen about his intentions and again he said he was not a candidate for Senate.
Jacobs tweeted out the news not long afterward (although he misspelled Paulsen's name in the tweet).
#policyfellows Rep. Paulson: not running for US Senate against Franken. Devoted to District— Larry Jacobs (@larryrjacobs) February 6, 2013
Paulsen's campaign manager John-Paul Yates writes to add another twist in this tale. He says, "Representative Paulsen is solely focused on representing the Third District, but has not ruled anything out related to 2014."
WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Al Franken is one of a bipartisan group of senators who have sent a letter to President Obama that asks for more information on the legal basis for the administration's claim that it can kill American citizens as part of efforts against terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.
On Monday, NBC News unearthed a memo from the Department of Justice arguing that the United States government has the legal authority to kill American citizens despite a ban on assassinations that has long been U.S. policy.
The memo came to light ahead of the confirmation hearings of John Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The letter, signed by 11 senators from both parties including the top members of the Judiciary Committee, asks for Obama for the "secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations."
"It is vitally important, however, for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority," the letter continues, "so that Congress and the public can decide whether this authority has been properly defined, and whether the President's power to deliberately kill American citizens is subject to appropriate limitations and safeguards."(7 Comments)
WASHINGTON - A new Congress usually means a game of musical chairs with committee assignments and this time, DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has come out holding the top slot on the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee.
In addition to overseeing the work of the Department of Justice's antitrust enforcers, the subcommittee also oversee the Federal Trade Commission and reviews the state of competition in various industries.
Before this subcommittee, Klobuchar had chaired another panel with oversight over the federal court system.
High-profile hearings in the last Congress helped scuttle a planned merger between AT&T and T-Mobile.
Fellow Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, also a Democrat, keeps his top slot on a subcommittee that looks at the relationship between law and technology.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - A major overhaul of the nation's immigration system seems possible after a bipartisan group of Senators released their blueprint Monday for creating a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants in this country.
As part of that process, DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is set to unveil legislation that would give the business community something that's it has wanted for a long time: more visas to bring in highly-skilled foreign workers.
Klobuchar touted the proposal as an economic win-win, especially a provision that removes any visa limitations on foreigners with advanced degrees from American universities.
"We are literally shutting the door to people that would come here and invent products and then they would hire more people," said Klobuchar.
While it's likely the proposals to offer permanent residency and citizenship for illegal workers will likely draw more attention in the coming days, Klobuchar's proposal, co-authored with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), represents a big change for engineers, software developers and other skilled workers hoping to work in the U.S.
Currently, 65,000 foreign workers are granted H1B visas every year. Under the Klobuchar-Hatch legislation, that number would jump to 115,000 right away and then rise by 20,000 every year, reaching a cap of 300,000 workers a year. The legislation would also allow those visa holders to change jobs more easily.
In addition, Klobuchar and Hatch's bill would increase visa fees charged to immigrants by $1,000 and use the proceeds, likely around $300 million per year, to fund science, technology, engineering and math education and worker retraining programs in the U.S.(2 Comments)
WASHINGTON - After a narrow victory in 2008, Republicans have long assumed that DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken would be vulnerable in the 2014 elections, but a new survey suggests the state's junior senator has solidified his position in the state.
The survey of 1,065 Minnesota voters by Public Policy Polling found Franken with a job approval rating of 52 percent. Franken's work in the Senate received a thumbs down from 41 percent of those surveyed. Approval ratings above 50 percent tend to suggest a relatively safe position for incumbent lawmakers.
Franken also bests a wide field of potential GOP challengers in a series of hypothetical lineups including former Sen. Norm Coleman, U.S. Reps. John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Michele Bachmann. The closest any of them comes to Franken is Coleman though he still draws just 44 percent support compared to Franken's 50 percent. Coleman has also ruled out a rematch against Franken in interviews with MPR News and other outlets.
PPP also polled a subset of 275 Minnesota Republicans about their preferences for the party's nominee and found that Bachmann was the overwhelming favorite should she decide to run. The four term congresswoman has the support of 45 percent of the GOP voters polled which was far ahead of any other potential candidates. But Bachmann polls badly against Franken in a general election setting, drawing 40 percent support compared to Franken's 54 percent.
So far, Bachmann has been mum on future plans and shows little sign of positioning herself for a Senate run.
Some caveats: PPP is a Democratic-friendly firm that uses automated phone surveys, which are generally considered less accurate than live interviews. However the company's polls had a track record of accuracy in last year's elections.
The poll, conducted between Jan. 18 and 20, has a margin of error of 3 percent. The Republican subset has a 5.9 percent margin of error.(4 Comments)
DFL Sen. Al Franken says he supports a ban on assault weapons - one day after the Rochester Post-Bulletin reported he was undecided on such a ban (the paper has now updated the story).
In a statement today Franken said he supports an assault weapons ban in principle but wants to see the specifics of any legislation.
"I also support the principle that we should reinstate a ban on assault weapons, and I will carefully review any proposal to do that," Franken said. "We need to make sure we don't have weapons out there that are really designed for the battlefield, and not for hunting."
Franken also wants to ban large ammunition clips and spend more money on mental health treatment.
Franken, who is up for re-election in 2014, may have to walk a careful line on any legislation involving guns. Minnesota has many voters, including rural Democrats, who support gun rights. But there are many Democrats in urban communities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, who want to see tougher gun regulation.
Here's Franken's full statement:
"My heart is heavy over the tragedy that occurred in Connecticut and my thoughts are with those who are grieving. I've always supported the Second Amendment rights of Minnesotans to own firearms for collection, protection, and sport. But I also think we need to find a balance between those rights and the safety of our children and our communities. I co-sponsored legislation to ban large clips like those used in so many mass shootings. I also support the principle that we should reinstate a ban on assault weapons, and I will carefully review any proposal to do that. We need to make sure we don't have weapons out there that are really designed for the battlefield, and not for hunting. In the days and weeks ahead, I'm going to consult closely with all of the affected communities in the state - and that includes people like hunters, educators, parents, and other elected officials - about the best path forward."
WASHINGTON - Minnesota Republicans are looking for a candidate to take on U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014.
They can count out former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, who was narrowly defeated by Franken in 2008. In the past, Coleman has kept open the possibility of staging a rematch against Franken.
Coleman first ruled out a bid in an interview with the National Journal.
In a follow-up interview with MPR News, Coleman did leave open the possibility of challenging Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014.
"I would certainly love to be focused more in Minnesota but I haven't made any decision about my political future other than making it very clear I'm not going to be running for Senate in 2014," said Coleman.
Coleman talked up the prospects of U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen and John Kline as potential Republican challengers to Franken.
"If Paulsen were to say he was going to run for United States Senate, that race would be competitive in the blink of an eye," said Coleman. "If Congressman Kline said he was going to run for Senate in 2014, I have no doubt that race would be listed as a competitive race."
Paulsen has sent mixed signals about his interest in running for Senate, telling some interviewers he's not ruling out a bid, while expressing a more definitive "no" in an interview with MPR News last week.
Kline has not ruled out a Senate bid and is "keeping all options on the table for 2014," according to a spokesman. That said, Kline has accumulated significant seniority within the U.S. House and has a comfortable perch as chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee.
Since leaving the Senate, Coleman has become a lobbyist in Washington with the international law firm Hogan Lovells. More importantly for prospective candidates such as Paulsen and Kline, Coleman also chairs several important outside spending groups, the American Action Network and the Congressional Leadership Fund. In last year's elections, the two groups spent more than $20 million to help Republican candidates nationwide.
Coleman criticized his successor, saying that Franken had been an "invisible" presence in Minnesota in contrast with the state's senior Senator, Amy Klobuchar.(2 Comments)
WASHINGTON - When asked twice in the same interview this week by MPR News whether he was considering a bid to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014, Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen said "no."
Now he's saying "maybe."
According to a report in The Hill newspaper published Thursday, Paulsen said, "I am planning on just continuing to represent my district right now. I haven't ruled anything out. But just staying focused on my district."
Paulsen's office argued that his comments to MPR on Wednesday were taken out of context. In the spirit of transparency, here is the audio of the entire exchange:
After Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills performed extremely poorly in this past election against DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Republicans have been anxious to find a strong candidate to take on Franken. The first-term senator won his seat by a razor-thin margin in 2008 that led to a lengthy recount that lasted into 2009.
Paulsen, who began his third term in the U.S. House this week, is considered very friendly with the business community, particularly Minnesota's medical device industry, and has become the strongest fundraisers in the state's U.S. House delegation behind U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, raising more than $3 million the latest two year election cycle.
With U.S. Senate races now regularly costing tens of millions of dollars, candidates frequently begin campaigning far in advance of the election in order to raise the cash they need to compete.
However, Franken is a also very strong fundraiser, raising more than $3 million in the past two years. His political committee has more than $1 million in the bank as the campaign ramps up.
There's at least one sign that someone in Paulsen's camp has thought about a Senate bid: the domain name www.paulsenforsenate.com redirects to Paulsen's main campaign website.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - After the losses they took in last year's elections, some Minnesota Republicans have hoped that U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen would challenge DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014.
They're going to be disappointed.
When asked Wednesday whether he was interested in a run for Senate, Paulsen said, "No, that's ridiculous."
He emphasized that he wants to use his seat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee to overhaul the tax code this year and said any legislation produced by that effort would the best way he could represent his constituents in the 3rd District, which spans the western Minneapolis suburbs.
Paulsen has served in the U.S. House since 2009 and before that served 13 years in the Minnesota House, including four years as Majority Leader. He's become one of the strongest fundraisers in the Minnesota congressional delegation, raising $3.1 million for his last election and still holds more than $770,000 for future races.
Paulsen's office says his use of the word "ridiculous" wasn't about running for Senate. A spokesman says Paulsen used the word in the context to the preface of the question that mentioned Paulsen's "no" vote on the fiscal cliff deal before asking whether he was running for Senate.
Minnesota's two U.S. Senators voted for a proposal that would keep taxes at current rates for most Americans. Taxes, however, would increase on couples earning more than $450,000 a year and individuals earning more than $400,000 a year. The measure also delays automatic spending cuts.
The Senate passed the bill early this morning 89-8. The House has yet to vote on the proposal. Congress and President Obama have been racing to reach a deal that would avert automatic tax hikes for all Americans and across the board spending cuts that were scheduled to kick in today. The plan fails to continue a 2 percent payroll tax cut - a temporary measure enacted a few years ago that was aimed at stimulating the economy.
The measure also continues current agriculture policies for another nine months. Advocates have been pushing for a more comprehensive farm bill to come before the end of the year.
Economists had argued that the impact of looming tax increases and spending cuts could put the nation in another recession.
Citing the need to keep taxes low for middle-income Minnesotans, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and DFL Sen. Al Franken both supported the measure.
Here's Klobuchar's statement:
"I voted for this compromise because the last thing we should be doing this New Year's is sticking middle class families with a tax hike. I fought for and wanted a larger, more comprehensive plan that balanced revenues and spending cuts. I will continue to push for a broader plan to reduce our debt and give businesses and families the certainty they need."
Here's Franken's statement:
"I voted for this bill because it contains a number of very important provisions, including tax cuts for working and middle-income Minnesotans, an extension of unemployment insurance for so many Americans who are looking for work, and the production tax credits that mean so much to our state's renewable energy producers. And it was crucial to me that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security beneficiaries were protected. "There are some provisions I most certainly don't like, particularly those in the extension of the Farm Bill: cuts in conservation and energy, and the gutting of the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program. But I'll continue to work to pass a five-year Farm Bill this year so that Minnesota's ag community has the support and certainty it needs. "While I don't think this package raises sufficient revenues toward paying down the debt or to make the investments in infrastructure, education, and research and development needed to grow our economy, I knew that no bill would have 100 percent of what I wanted, and I will continue to fight for the priorities that I believe will best serve Minnesota."(1 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Both Republicans and Democrats tend to make a lot of noise in Washington on the issues of the day. But following the massacre of 26 students and teachers at an elementary school last week, Republicans have gone almost completely quiet on the subject of gun control.
None of the three Republican lawmakers from Minnesota who will be returning to Congress next year have responded to requests for a comment from MPR News on Friday's proposal from the National Rifle Association to hire armed security guards and police to be stationed in all of the nation's schools. (2nd District Congressman John Kline did speak with MPR News on Tuesday about some gun control-related issues but no other Minnesota Republican has spoken since.)
Democrats were less shy.
"No legal organization in America is more responsible than the NRA for lobbying to ensure the proliferation of killer guns while denying law enforcement tools to stop killers," said St. Paul U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum in a written statemewnt. "[NRA vice president] Wayne LaPierre's call for guards and guns in every school building and playground is madness and a perverse vision for life in America."
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a gun owner who received the NRA's endorsement in this past election, was also critical of the group's proposal, calling it "deeply disappointing."
"I refuse to believe that our schools need to become armed encampments where our children don't feel safe," said Walz in a call with reporters.
Earlier this week, Walz announced his willingness to consider new limits on assault-style weapons and large ammunition clips, steps he had previously resisted.
Neither of Minnesota's two Democratic U.S. Senators wanted to comment directly on the NRA's proposal. Both had attended the funeral of long-serving U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye on Friday morning and said they had not seen the NRA press conference nor had any time to hear about the group's plan for armed guards in schools.
"I'm not sure that's the best solution," said U.S. Sen. Al Franken.
"As to whether or not that's practical enough, we'll have to look at the numbers," said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Both Klobuchar and Franken support what's rapidly becoming the Democrats' preferred response to the shootings: greater limits on assault-style weapons and large ammunition clips, along with tighter background checks for gun buyers and an increased emphasis on mental health screenings.
The pair will have a front row seat to whatever happens with gun control next year. They both sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee which is likely to hold major hearings on gun violence as early as January.(10 Comments)
"The NRA (National Rifle Association) is strong and many of them (members of Congress) take the position that any gun position is going to lead to the position of taking away of all guns," Ellison said. "This is not rational. We need sane, sensible gun regulation and we need it now."
Ellison says his top initiatives would be to address high capacity clips that hold multiple rounds of bullets and greater background checks that require people to submit to background checks before purchasing weapons at gun shows.
"Those are things that we can do now that won't interfere with the right to own a gun but hopefully will avoid and keep guns out of the hands out of the people who are violently unstable," Ellison said.
Ellison also says there needs to be greater access to mental health treatment. He said that would help identify early signs of mental instability which he says lead some to take violent acts.
Ellison has been the most vocal of Minnesota's Congressional delegation to today's shooting. Many others suggested that today was not the day to discuss whether stricter gun control measures are needed.(6 Comments)
DFL Sen. Al Franken declined to say today whether he would support tougher gun laws after the school shooting in Connecticut.
Authorities in Newtown, Connecticut said 20 children were killed today along with at least 7 adults, including the gunman. It's the nation's second-deadliest school shooting after the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007. Franken was asked about tougher gun control laws during an afternoon news conference.
"I'm not sure this is the day to start looking at policy regarding this," Franken said. "This is the day for us to have the victims and their families in our hearts, in our prayers and in our thoughts."
The shooting has groups on both sides of the gun control issue speaking out in Minnesota. The group Protect Minnesota plans a Friday evening rally at a park in south Minneapolis. It says its goals are to reduce gun violence by cutting down on illegal access to guns and promoting measures to stop gun injuries and death, especially among children.
Meanwhile, a group called the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance called on school superintendents and principals to immediately authorize qualified staff and faculty to carry guns at schools.
Several politicians issued statements calling for the nation to come together in light of the tragedy. They include DFL Rep. Keith Ellison, Gov. Dayton, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen.
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum issued a statement urging President Obama and Congress to take action on gun control.
"The time has come for President Obama, Congress and the American people to come together to act immediately to end the epidemic of gun violence and the proliferation of guns designed to be weapons of mass murder," McCollum said in a statement.
Update: Ellison is scheduled to appear on MSNBC at 7:20pm to discuss the shooting and "how Congress can address gun violence."(2 Comments)
WASHINGTON - As part of its campaign to raise tax rates on the wealthy, the Obama Administration is touting a new report that says two million Minnesota families will each see their income taxes rise by $2,200 next year if no agreement with Congress is reached.
The study, conducted by the White House National Economic Council, also estimates that consumer spending in Minnesota would drop by $3.6 billion if tax rates rise on those making less than $250,000 a year as scheduled at the beginning of 2012.
In recent weeks following President Obama's re-election, Republicans have dropped their longstanding opposition to additional federal tax revenue but have continued to fight to keep tax rates where they currently are, offering instead to find the additional funds through closing unspecified tax deductions.
Democrats and many outside budget experts argue that closing loopholes without raising rates will constitute a middle class tax increase and have continued to lobby for raising taxes on the wealthy.
Minnesota's 10 member congressional delegation is split cleanly along party lines on this issue with Democrats backing higher rates and Republicans arguing to keep rates where they are and close loopholes.(1 Comments)
It's never too early to start thinking about the next election.
Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia, is already dishing out predictions, and so far he thinks DFL Sen. Al Franken will hold on to his seat - unless Republicans put up a strong candidate.
Roll Call gives the Minnesota Senate race a similar rating of "leans Democratic."
Here's what Sabato wrote on his "Crystal Ball" blog:
"After winning the narrowest of belated victories in 2009, Sen. Al Franken (D) has a decent approval rating in Gopherland, and he enters his first reelection bid as a slight favorite. We suspect he would trounce Rep. Michele Bachmann (R), who barely survived her 2012 reelection bid in Minnesota's most Republican House district. Another possibility -- one-time presidential contender and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) -- will not be a candidate, having landed a lucrative job in association-land. The quality of the Republican challenger will determine much here. Minnesota has a reputation for being more Democratic than it actually is."
Another possible GOP contender? Third Congressional District Rep. Erik Paulsen, who, when asked if he was interested in the job during an interview with WCCO earlier this week, said he's focused on representing his suburban Twin Cities region in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Second Congressional District Rep. John Kline is also a possible opponent. His spokesman Troy Young told Roll Call that his boss is "leaving all options on the table for 2014."
Former Sen. Norm Coleman has been named as a possible Franken contender. But Coleman, who narrowly lost to Franken in 2008 after an expensive and lengthy recount, has been busy with his American Action Network group in Washington, D.C.
Minnesota voters are split on the marriage amendment, according to a new poll from the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling (PPP).
Roughly 48 percent of the 824 likely Minnesota voters surveyed say they support a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, while 47 percent oppose it - well within the poll's 3.4 percentage point margin of error.
"It looks like Minnesota's marriage amendment will go down to the wire," said Dean
Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "Voters in the state are very closely divided
in their attitudes about it."
According to PPP, public opinion has narrowed on the subject since June, when the firm found that 49 percent of Minnesota voters opposed the amendment compared to the 43 percent who supported it.
Other polls tell a different story. A survey released this week by KSTP/SurveyUSA shows that 50 percent of Minnesotans favor the amendment while 43 oppose it.
PPP also asked questions about an amendment to the state's constitution that would require voters to show identification on Election Day, and found that it's likely to pass. About 56 percent of Minnesotans favor the amendment while 39 percent do not. Republicans and independents overwhelmingly support the ballot initiative.
Meanwhile, KSTP/SuveryUSA's found 62 percent of Minnesotans support the ID amendment, while 31 percent oppose it.
Other poll highlights:
- Forty-eight percent of Minnesotans approve of the job Gov. Mark Dayton is doing while 37 percent do not. He leads a generic Republican opponent in 2014 by 13 percentage points.
- However, Democrats lead a generic state legislative ballot by only 3 percentage points, a much tighter margin that the 12 percentage point lead the party had in June.
- Sen. Al Franken, who is up for reelection in 2014, has a 49 percent approval rating and leads a generic Republican opponent by 6 percentage points. Franken would lead former Sen. Norm Coleman and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty by 7 percentage points in a head-to-head match-up, and would lead Rep. Michele Bachmann by 12 percentage points.(7 Comments)
UPDATE - This post has been updated with remarks from American Crystal Sugar below.
WASHINGTON - One of the most powerful labor unions in the country is urging 225 members of Congress, including eight members of Minnesota's 10 member delegation, to tell American Crystal Sugar to end a year-long lockout of workers in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa and return the company's campaign contributions if it doesn't settle the labor dispute.
More than 1,300 unionized workers have been locked out of their jobs by the sugar beet processing cooperative since August 2011 when contract talks broke down and were replaced by non-union labor.
"I am sure you do not approve of this blatant disregard for working families and their communities," wrote AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a letter to every member of Congress who has received the company's campaign contributions. "I am therefore asking you to use your influence and stature to insist that the company resolve this dispute immediately and end the lockout."
American Crystal Sugar is a big player on Capitol Hill, giving more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions to members of both parties since 2011, according to opensecrets.org. The company is a beneficiary of a government policy that restricts imports of sugar from overseas. DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack are the only two members of Minnesota's congressional delegation who have not received campaign contributions from the company in this election cycle.
Seventh District Rep. Collin Peterson, whose district includes many sugar beet farmers and American Crystal Sugar plants, is the biggest recipient of the company's contributions, receiving $11,750 since January 2011. DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has received the smallest contribution, $1,000.
UPDATE In a brief telephone interview with MPR News, Brian Ingulsrud, American Crystal Sugar's vice president for administration, said the letter would have no impact on the company's position.
"Our offer was very fair and competitive," said Ingulsrud, who said the company's final offer included a 17 percent raise for workers.
WASHINGTON - Members of Minnesota's congressional delegation are going straight to President Obama in their attempt to get assistance for individuals who lost property during severe floods this past June in northeastern Minnesota.
Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency turned down Minnesota's request for disaster aid for individuals although state and local governments are eligible for federal aid to repair washed out roads and other facilities.
"We have all visited the affected areas and seen the damage to private property, and are deeply concerned that the Administration determined that the severe damage to homes was not significant enough to warrant this support," wrote DFL U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack in a letter to Obama. "While we are continually impressed with the community response and the resilience of our constituents, we believe that federal assistance is necessary beyond the public assistance that has already been granted."
Gov. Mark Dayton also protested the agency's decision. A special session of the state legislature to deal with disaster aid is expected later this month.
Tim Pawlenty's getting good press for his line that President Obama's policies are "all foam and no beer." Politico's Veep Sheet reports that Minnesota's former governor used the line on several occasions in the past couple of days.
"Imagining the unsatisfying scenario of being served a foamy pint of beer, Pawlenty delivered the punch line: 'Barack Obama is all foam and no beer. And you can't live on the foam. His speeches are his foam.'
Pawlenty, however, is not the first Minnesota politician to use the line.
Democrat Amy Klobuchar used the same attack six years ago against Republican Mark Kennedy during an MPR News debate at the State Fair.
"Your proposal, Congressman Kennedy -- it reminds me of when I was at the beer garden and I was hearing some kids talking, 'I got too much foam in my beer,' this college student said, 'Your proposal is all foam and no beer.'" Listen
Pawlenty is rumored to be on Mitt Romney's short-list for vice-presidential candidates. Ironically enough, Kennedy made his case on Monday as to why he thinks Pawlenty should be the pick.(1 Comments)
UPDATE This post has been updated
WASHINGTON - Amy Klobuchar's Senate re-election campaign fund continues to grow. Her campaign announced Friday afternoon that she's raised more than $950,000 ahead of a July 15 Federal Election Commission deadline and has about $5.5 million cash on hand.
Her war chest grew by approximately $300,000 in the last three months, suggesting that her campaign's spending has begun to ramp up.
Klobuchar's Republican opponent, schoolteacher and state Rep. Kurt Bills, has not yet filed his fundraising totals with the FEC. When reached by phone Friday afternoon, Bills' campaign manager Mike Osskopp said, "We raised less," and promised to pass along those figures shortly.
We'll update when he does.
UPDATE Bills' campaign announced raising $243,300 in the second quarter of the year and issued an attack on Klobuchar, calling her "the candidate of lawyers, lobbyists and bailed out Wall Street."
"Amy Klobuchar votes for bailouts and boondoggles. It's no surprise that the beneficiaries want to keep her in office," Osskopp said. The campaign has $64,681 in the bank.
Outside observers consider Klobuchar's to be a safe Democratic seat this campaign and her fundraising is, in some ways, indicative of that. Senate candidates in competitive seats have been raising far more this election cycle. For example, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill brought in $2.6 million this quarter for her Senate re-election bid while next door in sparsely-populated North Dakota, the candidates for the open Senate seat there are each bringing in as much as Klobuchar has.
WASHINGTON - Faced with looming deadlines and a week-long 4th of July recess, both houses of Congress Friday passed legislation renewing nationwide transportation programs for another two years while also keeping federally-backed student loan interest rates from doubling.
Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann was the only member of Minnesota's 10 person congressional delegation to vote against the final bill.
Both measures had been in legislative limbo for months due to partisan fights about the scope of the legislation and how to pay for it. The highway funding was a particular point of tension for many state departments of transportation because Congress has relied on short-term extensions for several years.
The White House and congressional Democrats had long pressed for the student loan interest rate extension. Republicans, including Rep. John Kline, chair of the House Education Committee, had initially balked but eventually reversed themselves and also supported an extension but differed with Democrats on how to pay for it.
As the June 30 deadline for both measures to expire approached, the pair were bundled together into one legislative package and were passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. The bill also extended federal flood insurance programs.
"This legislation paves the way for critical improvements in Minnesota's roads and bridges and helps make our roads safer for families," said DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in a statement.
The transportation bill will direct about $700 million worth of federal funds toward Minnesota during the 27 month lifespan of the bill.
"Compromise and common purpose is the glue that holds us together," said DFL Rep. Tim Walz, who last week had secured passage of a non-binding motion in the House asking negotiators to wrap up work on the bills quickly.
Indeed, the final highway bill compromise disappointed some transportation advocates by allowing states to opt out of using money set aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects.
"The proposed new law from the House and Senate conference committee is a return to a 1950s highway-heavy emphasis with greatly reduced accountability and transparency," said Barb Thoman, executive director of Transit for Liveable Communities.
A measure inserted by DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken in the Senate version of the bill would have given states and communities greater flexibility to use federal funds to repair bridges but that portion of the bill was also excised during negotiations.
"While I'm pleased that we passed this legislation, I'm going to continue to fight to improve Minnesota's infrastructure and put people back to work," said Franken.
The lengthy process required to negotiate an agreement upset Minneapolis Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat.
"After more than 100 days of inaction, John Boehner and Republicans in the House of Representatives have finally agreed to support America's roads, bridges, and students," said Ellison.
Minnesota's Republican members of Congress stayed mum about the bill. Conservative groups such as the Club for Growth had urged lawmakers to vote against the measure and said their votes would recorded for the group's annual scorecard which is used to determine whether the Club will support primary challengers against a member.(2 Comments)
There's been plenty of reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling on President Obama's health care overhaul plan.
Politicians on both sides of the issue have been sending out news releases and commenting via Twitter. Here are some of the key quotes:
Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin
"Millions of Minnesotans just breathed a sigh of relief. Today, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, which will expand health coverage, lower out-of-pocket costs and end insurance industry abuses like denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. The Supreme Court did not bend to political pressure from the right -- they did what was right. We owe them our thanks."
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Pat Shortridge (via Twitter)
"Lesson: We need conservative Senators who are willing to vote against activist liberal judicial nominees, not rubber stamp them...For the weak-minded: Point was on conservative Senators opposing libs like Soto, Kagan, Ginsburg, etc. Roberts not a lib, a disappointment."
Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum
"Two years ago, I was proud to vote in support of the Affordable Care Act. Today's historic Supreme Court decision affirms President Obama's leadership to extend healthcare coverage to millions of Americans. It is now time for Republicans in Congress to end their vitriolic repeal campaign and work on effectively implementing this law to the benefit of the American people."
Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann
"I am deeply disappointed by the court's decision. Today's Supreme Court decision raises the stakes for the coming months...Obamacare represents the largest expansion of entitlement spending and a playground of left-wing social engineering in our country's history and must be stopped. Now, the only way to save the country from Obamacare's budget-busting government takeover of health care is to completely repeal it."
Republican Congressman Chip Cravaack
"This is a huge slap in the face to every American who believes in free market and limited government principles...This Supreme Court ruling means small business owners, doctors, patients, and consumers will still be forced into a government-run health care system that limits our freedom while driving up costs on all Americans...Our mission is clear: maintain control of the House, take back the Senate and win the White House...then DEFUND and REPEAL Obamacare."
Republican Congressman John Kline
"The Supreme Court's decision is a devastating blow to the American people. If Washington can penalize private citizens for failing to buy government-approved health insurance, then there is no reasonable limit on federal power. The president's health care law has radically transformed our careful system of government in which power is derived from the people. The vast majority of the public does not support this government takeover of health care and Congress must continue its efforts to repeal it."
Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison (via Twitter)
"Americans won today. With #Obamacare SCOTUS confirms #Healthcare is a Human Right...Historic decision by #SCOTUS. #Obamacare can now take its place in history with Social Security & Medicare."
Democratic U.S. Senator Al Franken
"It's a great day for Minnesotans. This means that Minnesotans who have pre-existing conditions will not, starting in 2014, none of them will be denied or punished for having pre-existing conditions when it comes to getting insurance. That is absolutely central to why I ran for the Senate."
Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen
"While I respect the Court's decision, it doesn't change the fact that the health care law's policy is flawed and remains very unpopular with the majority of Americans. The 2,700 page law was imprudently crafted in a way which threatens good private coverage, robs $500 billion from seniors, and leaves in its wake a legacy of debt for our children and grandchildren."
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton
"I am very pleased with the Supreme Court's decision to fully uphold the Affordable Care Act. Today's ruling will be met with relief by the Minnesotans whose lives have already been improved by this law...This ruling is also an affirmation of the reform efforts currently underway in Minnesota to improve the quality and lower the cost of health care."
Democratic Congressman Tim Walz
"This decision ensures that nearly 50 million Americans, who before the Affordable Care Act couldn't afford to see a doctor, will continue to get the care they need. It ensures that children won't be denied health care just because they were born with an illness. It ensures that senior citizens will never be forced to choose between buying groceries or filling their prescriptions. It ensures that our future leaders won't be greeted on graduation day with a notice that they've lost their coverage. And it ensures that we will have a cost effective, sustainable health care system for generations to come."
Democratic U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar
"Today the Supreme Court put the law above politics by upholding the Affordable Care Act. The ruling upheld important reforms such as closing the 'donut hole' for seniors' prescription drugs, allowing young people to remain on their parents' plans until age 26, and ensuring that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to health insurance. This law is a beginning, not an end, and I believe that improvements still need to be made. Moving forward I will continue to work to ensure the law is implemented in a way that is consistent with Minnesota's high-quality, efficient health care system and ensure these reforms work for our state."(2 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Members of Congress released personal financial information Thursday, although four members of Minnesota's delegation postponed revealing their annual finances for several months.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat, U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann and Chip Cravaack, both Republicans and U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat, all requested additional time to file their disclosure forms. Members can delay filing until mid-August. Last year, Franken, Bachmann and Cravaack delayed filing their disclosures until later in the summer.
Overall, Minnesota's members were worth considerably less than their well-heeled counterparts in both chambers. A 2011 report by the Center for Responsive Politics estimates that Senate members have an average net worth of $2.6 million while House members average $756,000.
Franken, Bachmann and Cravaack, three of the four Minnesota members who have delayed filing their disclosure forms, would likely exceed those averages, based on their reported net worth last year. The six members whose 2012 filings are now available all report less than average net worths for their respective chamber.
Members of Congress are not required to report specific holdings and instead report their assets and additional income in the form of ranges, making a precise accounting of their net worth far from precise.
DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar may be worth as much as $1 million, the highest net worth of the Minnesota lawmakers reporting their finances today. Like last year, Minneapolis DFL U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison continues to have the lowest net worth in the delegation with assets no greater than $34,000 and debts potentially reaching $615,000.
This year's filings are slightly different thanks to ethics legislation pushed by DFL U.S. Rep. Tim Walz that requires members to also disclose some details about their mortgages.
Amy Klobuchar (D) - Klobuchar is worth between $310,000 and $1.05 million, a slight decline from her 2011 filing in which her net worth was between $345,000 and $1.1 million.*CORRECTED, SEE NOTE BELOW Klobuchar reports no debts, and her money is primarily invested in mutual funds, life insurance and a college investment fund for her teenage daughter. UPDATE: Klobuchar's office says her reported assets are approximately midway between the low and high ends of the figures on her public filing.
Kurt Bills (R) - Klobuchar's likely Republican opponent in this fall's election, state Rep. Kurt Bills, is also required to file financial disclosure paperwork with the Senate. Bills reports holding assets between $86,000 and $290,000 with no debt.
Keith Ellison (D) - As noted above, Ellison is likely the member of the delegation with the lowest net worth, listing assets between $1,000 and $34,000 while reporting debts between $260,000 and $615,000. Among those debts is the mortgage on a house Ellison purchased in Minneapolis in January 2011.
John Kline (R) - Kline lists assets worth between $263,000 and $695,000, which include a stake in a family farm in Houston, MN and several annuities. Kline also owns residences in Lakeville, MN in his district and in Washington, DC. Kline has also taken out a home equity line of credit on his Washington home, in addition to his mortgage. Last year, Kline reported owning assets worth between $251,000 and $676,000.
Betty McCollum (D) - The St. Paul Congresswoman has assets worth between $12,000 and $180,000 and also owns homes in St. Paul and Washington, DC. Her mortgages on those two homes are worth between $200,000 and $500,000. McCollum's reported assets last year were worth between $11,000 and $165,000.
Erik Paulsen (R) - The second-term Republican owns assets worth between $152,000 and $709,000 and carries between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of debt on his home. Last year, Pauslen reported assets between $152,000 and $800,000. Unlike most members of the delegation, who appear to mostly invest in mutual funds, Paulsen owns shares in a number of blue-chip companies, including Cisco, Coca-Cola and Medtronic.
Tim Walz (D) - Walz reports holding assets worth between $98,000 and $295,000 and has between $190,000 and $465,000 in debt. That debt includes a mortgage his main home and a rental property in Mankato as well as credit card debt. Walz also has a stake in a family farm in Nebraska, where he was born.
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post used an incorrect figure for the assets Sen. Klobuchar reported in 2011. The assets reported by Sen. Klobuchar this week are accurate. The figure has been corrected and MPR News regrets the error.
Posted at 1:27 PM on May 24, 2012
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - Legislation introduced by DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken after a shooting at a Grand Marais courthouse left three people injured last year cleared a key hurdle in the U.S. Senate Thursday.
The legislation, entitled the Local Courthouse Safety Act, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee by a voice vote with two Senators registering no votes. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration though no floor vote has yet been scheduled
The bill will allow the Justice Department to work with local law enforcement organizations to train and prepare for possible mass shooting incidents, will allow states to use existing federal grant money to pay for security upgrades at courthouses and will let the federal government transfer surplus metal detectors and X-ray machines to local courts.
"Our local sheriffs, judges, and other court personnel, as well as the public, should be able to carry on business in our local courthouses knowing they are safe," said Franken.
WASHINGTON - Just days after Minnesota Republicans endorsed a candidate to run against DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the state's senior senator will add to her campaign's already large war chest with a birthday-themed fundraiser Tuesday evening at an upscale Washington restaurant.
According to an invitation collected by Politico, Klobuchar's fundraiser will be hosted by fellow Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy, Jay Rockefeller and Debbie Stabenow. All three Senators chair committees that Klobuchar sits on.
The event will be held at Bistro Bis, a French restaurant close to the Capitol whose menu includes dishes such as "peppercorn crusted duck breast with parsnip variations, porcini mushrooms and sherry ravigote" for $28.50 per plate. Individual donors are asked to give $2,500 to attend the fundraiser, those representing political action committees are asked to give $5,000.
The invitation says Klobuchar will share the proceeds of the event with the Minnesota DFL party. Klobuchar turns 52 on Friday, May 25.
Klobuchar isn't the the only member of Minnesota's congressional to use her birthday as an opportunity to fundraise. Fellow Sen. Al Franken's birthday is today, May 21, and for the past week, his family has been soliciting contributions pegged to his birthday.
Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has also used her birthday to raise money from supporters.
The newly endorsed Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate suggests that cutting the federal workforce is one of the ways he'd reduce the federal budget deficit.
In an interview with The Daily Circuit on MPR News, state Representative Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount, said this year's election will focus on specifics.
In particular, he wants to reduce the federal budget deficit by cutting programs. Bills didn't offer many specifics of his own but said he would look at the budget plan put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. He compared the success of North Dakota's economy to the federal government.
"One's booming of real economic growth that's natural resource-based, and the other one is booming because of borrowed money. So we have to get in and look at the federal workforce that has grown so much and pare that back so the private sector can grow," he said.
Bills won the Republican endorsement on Friday over several other candidates after receiving strong backing from delegates who support Texas Congressman Ron Paul's campaign for president.
Bills said he still backs Paul for president but will eventually back the GOP nominee. He also said he shouldn't be considered someone who agrees with Ron Paul on every issue.
"I had somebody ask me are you a Ronald Reagan Republican or a Ron Paul Republican?" Bills said. "I said I'm a Kurt Bills Republican. I think whatever your name is within the party, you're that person."
Bills said he doesn't expect a significant primary challenge. He will face DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar in November.
Bills said he's going to spend the day focusing on how much money his campaign needs to compete with Klobuchar. He said his campaign is looking at a budget of roughly $5 million but acknowledged he'll be outspent by Klobuchar. The latest campaign finance reports shows her with more than $5 million in the bank, much more than Bills has raised so far.
You can listen to the full interview here: Listen(1 Comments)
From MPR's Conrad Wilson....
ST. CLOUD - Speaking before delegates at the state GOP convention, Eighth district Congressman Chip Cravaack warned that the GOP House could be in a budget battle later this year with President Obama.
"I can guarantee you that we are going to have one heck of a budget battle at the end of this year," Cravaack said in his speech to the delegates.
In an interview with MPR News following his speech, Cravaack said the only solution to the coming budget debate is for Republicans and Democrats to come together.
"One party's not going to solve this. We have to come together as Americans," he said. "We can't keep spending money we don't have."
If Congress doesn't pass a budget this year, across the board cuts in the current budget will get triggered. Cravaack, a former Navy pilot, said those cuts will hit defense spending especially hard.
"Sequestration is going to be absolutely disastrous for our military," he said. "Fifty-percent of that is coming out of national defense, which is only 20-percent of the actually budget in itself. So, do the math. An inordinate amount of money's being taken out of our military."
Cravaack was the only member of the state's Congressional delegation to address the convention. Republicans Eric Paulsen, John Kline and Michele Bachmann were noticeably absent.
Cravaack is facing a stiff reelection competition against three Democrats in the Eighth Congressional District. Former Congressman Rick Nolan won the DFL Party's endorsement but former state Senator Tarryl Clark and Duluth City Council member Jeff Anderson say they'll run in the primary.
You can listen to Cravaack's speech here: Listen
(MPR's Tom Scheck contributed to this report)
The Speaker of the Minnesota House is backing state Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount, for U.S Senate. Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers called Bills a "man of integrity" and said he has the right plan to improve the nation's economy.
"This election is about the economy. We need to send someone to Washington that can not only ask the tough questions but answer them," Zellers said in a statement.
Zellers and Bills have served in the Minnesota House together over the last two years.
Zellers' endorsement comes two days before Republican delegates meet in St. Cloud to endorse a Republican candidate to challenge DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Army veteran Pete Hegseth and former state Rep. Dan Severson are also vying for the GOP endorsement. All three candidates have said that they will drop out of the race if they don't win party backing.
Here's the endorsement letter from Zellers:
WASHINGTON - A debt collection company accused of gathering too much sensitive patient information from Minnesota hospitals will be investigated by U.S. Sen. Al Franken.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson released the results of a months-long investigation of Accretive Health on Tuesday, alleging that the company violated federal and state privacy, consumer debt and fraud laws through its business practices. Some of the practices described in her report included company representatives attempting to collect payment from patients before admitting them to hospital emergency rooms and improperly using patient medical records in the debt collection process.
"If these allegations are true--and I do want to hear all sides of this story--they would be an affront to the health, privacy, and dignity of Minnesotans," said Franken in a news release today.
Franken, a Democrat, chairs a Senate subcommittee on privacy and also sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.(2 Comments)
Between now and next month's Republican statewide nominating convention, expect Senate hopeful Pete Hegseth to distinguish himself from the competition by linking his rival, Kurt Bills, to presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Paul's message "is not one that's going to win the general election, and it's not one that's in line with Republicans and Minnesotans at large," said Hegseth's spokesman Kyler Nerison.
Bills endorsed Paul for president, and Paul has endorsed Bills, a member of the Minnesota House, in his effort to win the GOP nomination to run against DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Nerison said the campaign's goal is to make sure delegates at the convention are well aware of the Bills' association with Paul, who supports ending the Federal Reserve, pulling American troops out of Afghanistan, and other libertarian ideas controversial in some Republican circles.
Paul's supporters are expected to make a strong showing at this year's statewide convention. His Minnesota campaign manager told MPR that Paul won 20 of the 24 national delegates elected at Republican district conventions.
Nevertheless, Nerison said that Hegseth still plans to drop his Senate bid if he's not endorsed by the party.
WASHINGTON - It may seem counter-intuitive but there's a whole species of Washington lobbyists who specialize in working with state and local governments to secure funding from the federal government. Many cities and counties in Minnesota have hired lobbyists for just that purpose, including Minneapolis, Moorhead, St. Cloud and Hennepin County.
(For more information on the practice, you can read this story I did on the issue last year.)
But with demise of earmarks (which used to serve as a mechanism for members of Congress to direct spending to their home states and districts), tighter city and county budgets, and the end of the federal economic stimulus program, local governments appear to be spending less on lobbying, according to a new study by the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, a conservative-leaning think tank.
The study estimates that Minnesota's cities, counties and municipal authorities (for example, the Metropolitan Airports Commission) spent about $1.1 million lobbying the federal government in 2011. That's down from nearly $1.4 million in 2010 and nearly $1.3 million in 2009.
"Taxpayer-funded lobbying is a self-perpetuating problem that encourages higher spending and the expansion of government at every level," said the Freedom Foundation 's vice president Jonathan Blake, in a statement. "Millions of tax dollars are being used to lobby for millions more."
The foundation notes that while local governments are required to report how much they spent lobbying the state government to the State Auditor's office, there's no such requirement for federal lobbying. Still, federal lobbying rules require that organizations hiring a federally-registered lobbyist report their approximate spending, along with the issues they're lobbying on, to the U.S. Senate.
Here's the Freedom Foundation's summary of what local governments spend on federal lobbying based on those Senate records:
WASHINGTON - DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's war chest keeps expanding. Her re-election campaign announced Friday that the first-term Senator raised just over $1 million in the first quarter of 2012 and has just under $5.2 million cash on hand.
One of Klobuchar's potential GOP rivals, National Guard veteran Pete Hegseth reported this week that he raised $160,000 in his effort for the Republican endorsement.
More than 25 percent of Klobuchar's million dollar haul came from donors giving less than $200. About 50 percent came from donors giving more than $200 and political action committees contributed about 23 percent of her funds.
Vice-President Joe Biden will be in Minneapolis this morning to raise money for Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Biden will hold the fundraiser at The Hilton in downtown Minneapolis. Donors are being asked to give from $125 per person to $25,000 with the contributions shared by Klobuchar and the DFL Party. Biden has no public events scheduled during his visit.
Klobuchar, who is in her first-term, is considered a safe bet for reelection in November but Republicans say she can be beaten because she voted in favor of the bank bailouts, the federal stimulus and the federal health care law. Three Republicans are vying for their party's endorsement to challenge Klobuchar. They are state Representative Kurt Bills, Army veteran Pete Hegseth and former state Representative Dan Severson.
This isn't the first time Biden has held a private fundraiser in the state. He held a Minneapolis fundraiser for President Obama's reelection last May.
Vice President Joe Biden will hold a fundraiser for DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar at The Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis on April 11. The fundraising letter is asking donors to give $10,000 for VIP seating, program recognition and a photo with Biden. Those who give $25,000 will be considered chairs of the event. There are a variety of other suggested contributions. The lowest cost donation to get into the fundraiser is $125.
The fundraising letter says Klobuchar's campaign will split the money raised from the event with the Minnesota DFL State Central Committee.
The White House has not announced Biden's visit yet, so it's unknown whether the fundraiser will be public. It also isn't known whether Biden will hold any other events during his time in Minnesota.
WASHINGTON - Hockey is Minnesota's official state sport, so it's only appropriate that DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar use an NHL hockey game to add to her campaign coffers.
According to an invitation first reported by Politico, Klobuchar is attending a fundraiser in her honor at this Sunday's match between the Minnesota Wild and the Washington Capitals at Washington's Verizon Center. The event is hosted by the political action committee of the National Association of Broadcasters.
Tickets start at $500 a person. For those uninterested in politics or broadcasting policy, seats start at $55 a head.
Klobuchar apparently enjoys unconventional fundraisers. Last year, she held another event at the Verizon Center to see a production of "Glee!".
Iron Range DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina says its time for the state to honor the memory of the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone at a fitting place in the Capitol. He says he's introducing legislation to commission a bust of the populist DFLer, who died in a 2002 plane crash, to be placed in Minnesota's seat of government.
Wellstone was actually en route to the funeral of Rukavina's father when the plane went down, killing Wellstone, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia, three campaign staffers and the plane's two pilots.
He says the family tie makes it appropriate for him to author the bill. He said this fall will mark a decade since the crash. Rukavina said the state historical society says that's the appropriate time to wait.
It may be longer, of course. Wellstone is a rallying point for the DFL, and the Republican majority in the Legislature may not be eager to honor him.
Rukavina says he's not concerned about that.
"You know, I'm not going to get into politics. I know some very, very conservative Republican people in my district who liked Paul Wellstone, beacuse he could just connect with them, whether they agreed with him or not. That's what I'm hoping happens around here. Paul Wellstone had friends on both sides of the aisle. I mean he wound up being good friends with Orrin Hatch. I know at least in my area of the Iron Range, whether my constituents were Republicans, Democrats, conservatives or liberals, they always felt Paul Wellstone listened to them, connected with them. And that's what I'm hoping happens here with the Republicans in charge of both the House and Senate."
Photo courtesy of Terry Gydesen
WASHINGTON - President Obama signed legislation Wednesday to allow a new bridge over the St. Croix River near Stillwater.
The signing ends a decades-long process to get an exemption from the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to build a replacement for the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge.
"After thirty years of debate and delay, we finally got it done," said DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, in a statement. "This effort is an example of what can get done when people put politics aside and do what is best for our state."
"It finally took Congressional action to allow this project to proceed because of years of frivolous lawsuits and bureaucratic holdups, but I'm pleased we could deliver," said Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the measure's House sponsor. "This legislation does not appropriate a dime; rather it allows a project supported by both states' Departments of Transportation and the majority of local residents to proceed."
MnDOT said earlier this week that construction of the new bridge will begin in 2014 and will take three years to complete.
WASHINGTON - Amid the partisan bickering in the nation's capital, Minnesota's Republicans and Democrats took a few minutes Wednesday to celebrate one piece of their state's heritage they could all agree on: hotdish.
Eight of Minnesota's 10 person Congressional delegation took part in the 2nd Annual "Hotdish Off" hosted by DFL Sen. Al Franken in a Capitol Hill conference room. Reps. John Kline and Betty McCollum didn't participate.
Former Minnesota Congressman and Republican strategist Vin Weber and House Chaplain Patrick Conroy judged the eight entries, none of which could be remotely described as health food. Franken and first-term Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack both placed first, a decision that prompted good-natured cries of "Recount!" from some members of the crowd, in a nod to the lengthy recount Franken faced before joining the Senate in 2009.
Franken's entry was called Sen. Franken's Mom's Mahnomin Madness Hotdish and included Minnesota-grown Mahnomen rice, turkey, mushrooms, parmesan cheese and gravy.
Cravaack's Minnesota Wild Strata included french bread, a dozen eggs, nearly a pound of cheddar cheese, pork sausage and wild rice grown by the Fon Du Lac Chippewa band from Cravaack's district.
Cravaack's Minnesota Wild Strata
• Loaf of French bread, sliced and cubed
• 12 eggs, beaten
• 4 cups of milk, divided
• 3 teaspoons of dry mustard
• 15 ounces of extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
• 2 pounds of ground pork sausage, browned and drained
• 1 cup of cooked Minnesota wild rice
• 1 (10.75 ounces) can cream of Mushroom soup
1. Place French bread in a well greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Mix eggs, three cups milk and dry mustard together. Carefully pour over bread. Sprinkle cheese, sausage and wild rice over bread.
2. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Before baking, mix cream of mushroom soup and 1 cup milk together and spread over bread mixture.
3. Bake covered at 375 degrees for one hour. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.
*The rice was produced by the Fon Du Lac Band of Chippewa, and aside from the eggs, all the ingredients were organic.
Sen. Franken's Mom's Mahnomin Madness Hotdish
• 1 pound of wild rice (Mahnomen)
• 1 stick of butter
• 10 cloves of garlic
• 3 medium sized yellow onions
• 4 stalks of celery
• 2 pounds of white button mushrooms
• 2 cans (8 ounces each) of water chestnuts, drained, then sliced into quarter-inch rounds
• 1 can cream of mushroom soup (diluted with 1/2 cup of water)
• salt to taste
• Roast turkey - pulled from the bone
• Turkey gravy (au jus)
• 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1. In a colander, rinse the wild rice.
2. Put the rice in a pot, and cover with 3 inches of water. Boil in a pot, uncovered, for about 20 to 25 minutes. If you're using Mahnomen wild rice, it will cook more quickly than the paddy variety.
3. While the rice is boiling, slice (do not mince) the mushrooms, onions, garlic, and celery.
4. Melt the butter in a skillet, and sauté the onions, garlic, and celery until they begin to bleed a little liquid into the butter. Then add the mushrooms. The celery and onions should not be totally soft.
5. Once the rice has cooked, drain it and add to the sautéed vegetables.
6. Add pulled turkey and gravy, water chestnuts.
7. Place mixture in casserole dish, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese, and place in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until top is browned and hot dish is heated through.(7 Comments)
A freshman state lawmaker says he's considering a run for the U.S. Senate and may announce his plans later this week.
Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount, says he's been weighing a possible run for several months. Although he's a Republican he didn't rule out running as a Libertarian.
Bills was first elected to the House in 2010. He campaigned for Texas Congressman Ron Paul's presidential bid during last month's precinct caucuses.
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar is running for re-election. Two Republicans, Dan Severson and Pete Hegseth, are already running.
WASHINGTON - A liberal group that contributes to female candidates who support legal abortion is the largest single donor to Minnesota's congressional delegation, according to a new report from MapLight, a nonpartisan research group that looks at money in politics.
EMILY's List donated more than $360,000 to incumbent members. The powerful political action committee claims credit for helping both DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and fellow Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum take office in Minnesota. The group also backed DFLer Tarryl Clark's run against GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann in 2010 and supports Clark's bid against Rep. Chip Cravaack this year.
Other prominent donors mentioned in the report, entitled "Who Owns Your State's Members of Congress?", include employees of the University of Minnesota, who contributed $141,000, employees of the Minneapolis law firm Robins Kaplan, who gave $139,000, employees of Dorsey and Whitney, another Minneapolis law firm, who gave $134,000 and Target employees, who contributed $119,000.
The study covers the period from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011 for House members and July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2011 for Senators in order to capture a single term in each chamber.
Gov. Dayton sent a letter to Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann today urging her to get the House to pass the bill authorizing a replacement for the Stillwater Bridge. He warned that failing to get the measure passed would mean the state would have to use the money currently set aside for the bridge for other projects.
"Everyone must understand, however, that if the March 15th deadline cannot be met and the federal and state monies are reallocated to other Minnesota transportation projects, there will no longer be sufficient funding available to undertake the St. Croix Crossing Project in the foreseeable future," the letter reads.
Dayton's letter may be meant to put some political pressure on Bachmann. Dayton, a Democrat, praised DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar for getting the bill passed in the U.S. Senate.
Klobuchar, Bachmann and Dayton are all pushing for a new bridge. Their plan would exempt the state from Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and some critics argue the proposed new bridge is too big and too expensive.
Not all of the members of Congress are backing the legislation. Democrats Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison are opposed to the plan.
Here's Dayton's letter:
Posted at 6:00 PM on February 6, 2012
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - Minnesota's two U.S. senators voted against authorizing long-term funding for the Federal Aviation Administration Monday evening, citing concerns about the impact the legislation would have on unions. The bill was approved 75-20 with five Republicans joining 15 Democrats in opposition.
The first permanent reauthorization of the FAA since 2007 was the product of long negotiations with House Republicans who had initially sought significant changes in the way union elections in the transportation sector were run as their price for approval of the bill.
While some of those provisions were removed, another was added that increases from 35 to 50 percent the amount of workers' signatures required to petition for a union to be formed. Many airline unions found that measure unacceptable and urged Democrats to oppose the bill.
"This legislation will make it much harder for Minnesotans to get the workplace protections provided by unions, and that's simply unacceptable to me," said DFL Sen. Al Franken in a statement explaining his no vote. Franken noted that the bill did protect funding for small, rural airports in Minnesota, a policy provision he had supported.
Fellow Democrat, Sen. Amy Klobuchar did not immediately issue a statement explaining her vote.
"...[P]rovisions that have nothing to do with the FAA were added to the conference report, and I don't believe this legislation is an appropriate venue for making unrelated policy decisions," said DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who also supported the improved air traffic control and passenger rights provisions of the bill but voted against the final legislation.
The bill also hastens U.S. air traffic control's transition to a satellite-based navigation system that's expected to reduce delays and lower pollution.
WASHINGTON - DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar has sent her own letter to the Susan G. Komen Foundation expressing concern about the group's decision this week the end funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening programs.
Critics of the decision say Komen gave in to pressure from groups opposed to legal abortion that have sought to weaken Planned Parenthood's funding in the past year. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States.
"I believe this decision is counter to the goals of Komen's mission of protecting women's health and I urge you to reconsider your decision," wrote Klobuchar to Komen CEO Nancy Brinker.
DFL Sen. Al Franken signed a letter sent by 25 other Democratic Senators also expressing concern that the decision was politically motivated.
Here's a copy of Klobuchar's letter.(15 Comments)
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate passed the STOCK Act Thursday evening with 96 votes for, including those of Minnesota's two senators and just three votes opposed. The legislation bars members of Congress and high-level members of the executive branch from profiting in the stock market with information gleaned on the job and tightens financial reporting requirements for elected officials.
"No one is above the law in this country - least of all the lawmakers," said DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar in a written statement.
Action now moves to the House where DFL Rep.Tim Walz was an original sponsor of the bill, which now has wide bipartisan support. Shortly after the Senate vote, the Republican House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, promised a swift vote on the bill next week after initially resisting efforts to advance the measure in December.
"I'm pleased that Majority Leader Cantor has ended his obstruction of the STOCK Act," said Walz in a statement issued by his office. Yesterday, Walz and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), his main ally on the STOCK Act, had challenged Cantor by beginning a legislative procedure known as a discharge procedure to force a floor vote on the bill.
Once the bill passes, President Obama has promised to sign it immediately.
WASHINGTON - DFL Sen. Al Franken is one of a group of Democratic U.S. Senators who are asking the Susan G. Komen Foundation to reverse its decision this week to halt funding for to Planned Parenthood breast cancer screening .
The foundation, a major sponsor of breast cancer research and screening, withdrew financial support for Planned Parenthood citing a policy of not funding groups that are currently under investigation.
Republicans opposed to abortion on a U.S. House committee are investigating the organization in what the group's supporters characterize as a politically motivated attempt to intimidate the country's largest provider of abortion and family planning services.
In a letter to Komen CEO Nancy Brinker, the Senators call the foundation's decision "troubling" and write, "It would be tragic if any woman--let alone thousands of women-- lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack."
Franken's office confirmed that he had signed the letter.
The Washington Post reports that 21 other Senators, all Democrats, have also signed it. 25 other Senators also signed the letter.
Here's a copy of the full letter:
Dear Ambassador Brinker,(19 Comments)
We write to express our disappointment with Susan G. Komen for the Cure's decision to cut funding for breast cancer prevention, screening, and education at Planned Parenthood health centers. This troubling decision threatens to reduce access to necessary, life saving services. We urge Komen to reconsider its decision.
Planned Parenthood is a trusted provider of health care for women and men. More than 90 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood are primary and preventative including wellness exams and cancers screenings that save lives. Each year, Planned Parenthood health clinics provide 750,000 breast exams, 770,000 pap tests and nearly 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases. Twenty percent of all women in the U.S. have visited a Planned Parenthood health center.
For the past five years, grants to local affiliates of Planned Parenthood have been an important part of Planned Parenthood's work to protect women from breast cancer. Komen funding for Planned Parenthood has provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and resulted in 6,400 referrals for mammograms. In 2011 alone, grants from Komen provided Planned Parenthood with roughly $650,000 in funding for breast cancer prevention, screening, and education. According to a recent statement by Komen, "In some areas of the U.S., our affiliates have determined a Planned Parenthood clinic to be the best or only local place where women can receive breast health care."
It would be tragic if any woman--let alone thousands of women-- lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack.
We earnestly hope that you will put women's health before partisan politics and reconsider this decision for the sake of the women who depend on both your organizations for access to the health care they need.
Posted at 12:30 PM on February 2, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: U.S. Senate
A peek into Franken MVPs, a fundraising committee meant to help re-elect DFL Sen. Al Franken, shows that the comedian-turned-lawmaker pulled in thousands last year from some of the most hilarious people in Hollywood.
Here are a few highlights, according to Federal Election Commission documents.
- Seth MacFarlane, who is best known for being the brains behind the animated comedy "The Family Guy," gave Franken $10,000.
- Larry David, who co-created "Seinfeld" and created and acts in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," gave Franken $2,500. His ex-wife, Laurie David, gave $2,500 as well.
- Comedienne Kathy Griffin gave $2,500.
- "Late Show" host David Letterman gave Franken $2,500
- Cross-dressing actor and stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard gave Franken $10,000, as did Bill Maher, who is host of HBO's "Real time with Bill Maher."
- Director and producer Ron Howard gave Franken $1,000 as did his wife, Cheryl.
- Actress Meryl Streep and her husband Donald Gummer together gave Franken $1,200.
A few names from Franken's "Saturday Night Live" days also appear on the donor roster, including actor Kevin Nealon, who gave $1,000 and writer Christine Zander, who gave the same amount.
SNL creator Lorne Michaels gave Franken $4,600.
In 2011, Franken MPVs raised nearly $725,000 from a range of donors, including lawyers, investment bankers, business owners, clothing designers and wealthy Minnesotans such as John and Sage Cowles and members of the Dayton family.
Roughly $365,000 of the funds raised last year by Franken MVPs was moved into Franken's 2014 re-election account, and about $206,000 was transferred into the Midwest Values PAC, a pot of money Franken doles out to other candidates and causes.
WASHINGTON - Incumbents and challengers for federal offices are filing their required quarterly fundraising reports.
Here's a quick summary of what's in the filings. One caveat: these numbers don't include contributions to leadership political action committees and joint fundraising committees. Those are separate legal entities that many of the Minnesota delegation members have but those figures are reported separately.
As reported by MPR News, the biggest news out from the reports is that GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign ended 2011 deep in the red. Just a few days into 2012, she dropped out and will now have to dig out out of at least $447,000 in debt as she runs for re-election in the 6th District.
Minnesota's other Republican House members remain strong fundraisers. Rep. Erik Paulsen pulled in more than $316,000 in the last quarter of the year, raising almost $1.4 million for the year. His campaign war chest now holds $1 million.
Paulsen's DFL challengers, Brian Barnes and Sharon Sund, have not yet filed reports with the Federal Election Commission.
Republican Rep. John Kline raised $260,000 in the last quarter and topped the $1 million mark for the year. He's sitting on $860,000 and currently has no declared DFL opponents.
First-term Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack grossed $206,000 from October to December and over $750,000 for the year. He has $515,000 cash on hand.
Only one of Cravaack's three declared DFL challengers has filed a report with the FEC. Duluth City Council member Jeff Anderson raised $22,000 and has $13,000 in the bank. UPDATE: Former state Sen. Tarryl Clark reported raising $161,000 in the fourth quarter ($530,000 for the year). Clark's campaign did not report how much cash it had in hand and its report was not immediately availave from the FEC. Clark's campaign said she has $273,000 on hand. Rick Nolan reported $60,013 in the 4th Quarter. He has $35,867 in the bank. On the DFL side, Sen. Amy Klobuchar's campaign for re-election this November has not yet released her quarterly report but had $4 million in the bank as of Sept. 30. UPDATE: Klobuchar's campaign reported raising a million dollars* in the last quarter and just under $6 million across her election cycle. She has $4.6 million in the bank.
Dan Severson, one of her three declared GOP rivals, raised $45,000 in the fourth quarter and has $34,000 in cash.
Minneapolis DFL Rep. Keith Ellison pulled in $243,000 in the last three months of the year and has $142,000 in his campaign war chest. Ellison raised about $820,000 for the whole year.
First District Rep. Tim Walz raised $210,000, making 2011 a million dollar fundraising year for the former teacher. His campaign has $617,000 in the bank. Two of Walz's three Republican challenger Allen Quist raised $6,200 for the entire year.
A third opponent, Mike Parry, has not yet released his fundraising totals. Republican Mike Parry's FEC report says he raised $32,585 in the 4th Quarter and has $29k in the bank.
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum's haul for the fourth quarter was $128,000. For the year, McCollum pulled in more than $430,000 and has $175,000 on hand. Her only declared Republican challenger, Daniel Flood, raised less than $4,000 for the year and has $29,182 in the bank.
Longtime DFL Rep. Collin Peterson
has not yet filed his reports with the FEC but raised $114,000 and sits on $450,000 in cash. Republican challenger Lee Byberg raised $54,000 ($155,000 for the entire year) and has $128,000 on hand but also reports $76,000 in debts.
*NOTE An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Klobuchar's fundraising. The correct number is just over a million dollars, not $919,000 as first stated.(1 Comments)
Public Policy Polling says former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is leading the field of Republican presidential candidates. The poll of 303 likely Caucus goers found that Gingrich has an 18 point lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
The poll found that Gingrich has the support of 36 percent of those polled. Romney garnered support from 18 percent. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum received 17 percent support. Texas Congressman Ron Paul received 13 percent. 15 percent of those polled said they aren't sure.
Pollster Tom Jensen says the poll is good news for Gingrich since he's winning among several groups including self-described Tea Partiers, non-Tea Partiers, self-described Republicans and independents. But he said Gingrich shouldn't get too comfortable because many of those polled are open to changing their minds.
"The race in Minnesota is incredibly fluid," Jenson wrote. "15% of voters are undecided and out of the 85% who do have a current preference, 63% say they could change their minds between now and the caucus in two weeks. That leaves almost 70% of the electorate up for grabs in the closing stretch and it seems likely that the Florida results could have a significant result on the psyche of Minnesota voters. If Romney comes back to win in the Sunshine State it could result in significant improvement in his Minnesota numbers."
You can read the full poll here.
Posted at 8:15 PM on January 23, 2012
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate Monday night passed a bill authorizing a replacement for the aging Stillwater lift bridge over the St. Croix River.
The bill, sponsored by DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, passed the Senate with no debate under a procedure known as unanimous consent that is used for legislation considered uncontroversial.
The legislation grants an exemption to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that protects the St. Croix. The bill authorizes a four-lane replacement bridge south of Stillwater near the town of Oak Park Heights.
"This is a milestone for the St. Croix bridge project," said Klobuchar in a statement. "I hope the House will now take action and pass this critical legislation so that we can move forward and build this bridge."
An identical bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann in the House of Representatives awaits a vote in that chamber. House leaders have not yet scheduled the bill for debate.
"The first of two hurdles towards necessary Congressional approval has been cleared by this legislation passing the Senate," Bachmann said in a press release. "I commend the bill's sponsor, Senator Klobuchar, and its cosponsors, Senators Franken (MN), Johnson (WI) and Kohl (WI), for getting this legislation through without a single opposing vote."
One of the possible holdups in the House is the opposition of DFL Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, who argue the cost of the project is excessive and say a smaller bridge would suffice.
"We need to find a common sense compromise because a $700 million bridge across the St. Croix River is bad fiscal policy, bad transportation policy, and bad environmental policy," said McCollum in a written statement.
Posted at 8:07 AM on January 23, 2012
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - After staying quiet on the controversy surrounding bills in Congress that would tighten penalties on website illegally distributing copyrighted material, DFL Sen. Al Franken defended his support for the measures in a letter to supporters sent Friday night.
"If we don't protect our intellectual property, international criminals - as well as legitimate businesses like payment processors and ad networks - will continue to profit dishonestly from the work these Americans are doing every day," wrote Franken. "And that puts these millions of jobs at serious risk."
After widespread protests on the internet, including the blackout of prominent sites such as Wikipedia, Congressional support for the House and Senate bills, known as PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House, ebbed and on Friday leaders in both chambers pulled the bills from further consideration for now.
Franken has championed policies favored by the tech community such as a net neutrality and he opposed the now-shelved merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. But he angered many who supported his past policy stances by siding with the entertainment industry in the internet piracy debate. One liberal blogger told MPR News Friday that Franken's support for the bills could hurt his support with grassroots activists when he faces reelection in 2014.
The former actor and comedian's campaign committee has received extensive financial support from the entertainment industry.
Franken backed the decision to postpone consideration of the bills for now.
"[I]f holding off on this legislation gives us an opportunity to take a step back and try to bring everybody back to the table, I think it's the right thing to do," wrote Franken.
You can read the entirety of Franken's statement here.
Posted at 2:09 PM on January 20, 2012
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar has invited Alexandria Technical Community College President Kevin Kopischke to next week's State of the Union address.
Members of Congress are allowed to bring a guest to major presidential addresses to both chambers of Congress and many use the opportunity to highlight issues important to them and their constituents.
In a statement, Klobuchar hailed Alexandria Tech's "tremendous success" and highlighted one of the school's manufacturing programs that has a 96 percent job placement rate.
The Obama Administration has made improving technical and community colleges a key part of strategy for improving the skills of American workers and boosting the nation's exports.
WASHINGTON - As sites across the Internet go dark today in protest of online anti-piracy bills in the U.S. House and Senate, members of Minnesota's congressional delegation are clarifying their positions on what's becoming a controversial issue.
The state's eight House members are mostly coming out against the Stop Online Piracy Act (known as SOPA) with at least six members already telling MPR News that they're opposed to the measure. DFL Rep. Keith Ellison has gone so far as to join the protesters by blacking out his campaign website in solidarity.
Separately, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann expressed her opposition to the bill in a speech during her now-ended presidential campaign. Check the bottom of this post for comments from each member.
Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen has not yet responded to requests for comment on the bill.
Minnesota's two U.S. senators both favor the Senate version of the bill, known as the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and were listed as original co-sponsors of the legislation when it was introduced last May. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was singled out by teen sensation Justin Bieber, who said she should be "locked up" for introducing another online piracy bill that would make it a felony to illegally stream copyrighted material.*SEE CORRECTION BELOW
Sen. Al Franken, a former actor and comedian, also supports for the bill, which is heavily favored by the entertainment industry. But Franken has also been an outspoken advocate for net neutrality and other key issues for the tech community. That community has united against the legislation, putting the state's junior senator in a tough bind.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) - Opposed - "I have serious concerns about government getting involved in regulation of the Internet, and about ambiguities in this legislation, which could lead to an explosion of destructive, innovation-stalling lawsuits," Bachmann said during an Oct. 20 speech while campaigning for president. UPDATE "Congresswoman Bachmann has said that she has 'serious concerns about government getting involved in regulation of the Internet.' It is because of those concerns that she opposes SOPA," said Bachmann spokeswoman Becky Rogness.
Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) - Opposed - "While we need to confront copyright infringement and online piracy, SOPA and PIPA legislation preempts due process of law. These are the wrong bills to accomplish this task, leaving too much room for interpretation, " said Cravaack.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D) - Opposed - As mentioned above, Ellison has blacked out his campaign website in solidarity and says the bill would, "harm internet innovation and jobs."
Sen. Al Franken (D) - Supports -
A spokesman for Franken said he would issue a statement on PIPA. UPDATE "Sen. Franken has heard the concerns that many Minnesotans have voiced over the past few days about the PROTECT IP Act, and he believes we need to reach a compromise that will both keep the Internet free and open and protect American Jobs," said Franken communications director Ed Shelleby.
Rep. John Kline (R) - Opposed - "I am not a co-sponsor of this bill, and do not support the legislation because it fails to maintain the freedom of expression provided by the Constitution and infringes on our liberties," said Kline.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) - Supports - UPDATE "The Senator believes we need to address concerns being raised today and work out a compromise that balances free exchange on the Internet with stopping foreign piracy that hurts our economy," said Klobuchar communications director Linden Zakula.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D) - Opposed - "I oppose SOPA because it threatens personal privacy, imposes unnecessary costs on Internet providers, and undermines open access to information on the web," said McCollum.
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R) - Opposed - "While I believe copyright infringement and piracy should be prosecuted to the full extent that the law affords, I have deep concerns about the effects of SOPA and therefore cannot support it in its current form," said Paulsen.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D) - The long-serving congressman is leaning against the measure, Peterson's chief of staff, Cherie Slayton, told MPR News.
Rep. Tim Walz (D) - Opposed - "The innovation and the entrepreneurship that we've seen come out of the internet, it's a model that is working and has worked and I'm very fearful that an overreach on this squashes that innovation," Walz said Wednesday.
CORRECTION An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Justin Bieber believed Sen. Klobuchar should go to jail for her sponsorship of PIPA. That is incorrect. Bieber was referring to Klobuchar's sponsorship of a separate bill that would make illegal streaming a felony.
When she dropped out of the race for president today, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann didn't say what her future would be. She's still a sitting member of the U.S. House but hasn't said if she'll run for re-election. Her spokesman, Alice Stewart, said Bachmann doesn't know what she's going to do next.
Bachmann has a few options.
1) She could run for the U.S. Senate.
Republicans would love to see Bachman make a run against DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, especially since a top tier GOP candidate hasn't emerged yet. A major challenge for Bachmann is to shift gears from being an "Iowan" running for president to a Minnesotan running for the U.S. Senate. Polling also suggests that Bachmann would have a lot of ground to make up if she challenges Klobuchar.
2) She could run for re-election.
Bachmann is extremely popular among Republican activists and can raise money from small donors. But again her claim to being an Iowan could come back to hurt her. There's no doubt those comments will be put in attack ads if she makes another run for Congress. She also raised and spent a lot of money on the race for the White House , and it isn't clear how much she has left. If she has an empty campaign account, Bachmann will have to start from scratch and can't ask major donors to max out to her campaign if they already wrote large dollar checks to her presidential campaign. Another deterrent is Bachmann is on the outs with GOP leadership in the House. She lost a bid for a leadership position last year and didn't please Republican leaders when she stepped on the GOP response to last year's State of the Union.
3) She could capitalize on her star power.
Bachmann has been a dynamic speaker who energizes many Republicans and angers many Democrats. She's also unpredictable. All of those factors make her a prime catch for a national TV or radio host. She could also write another book, but as MPR's Brett Neely reported earlier this month that Bachmann's book sales have not been brisk.
WASHINGTON - With the payroll tax deal approved by both chambers of Congress on Friday, the first session of the 112th Congress is done. With the House in Republican hands and the Senate controlled by Democrats, it's not a surprise to see that this session was less productive than past Congresses where a single party controlled both sides of the Capitol.
According the legislative tracking website Govtrack.us, just two bills authored by members of Minnesota's delegation this year have made it to the President's desk for signature and only one of those bills has been signed into law.
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar was the original sponsor of the Appeal Time Clarification Act of 2011 which clarifies the time limits for when civil lawsuits against the federal government can appealed. President Obama signed that measure on Nov. 29th.
GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack's bill to speed airport security screening of armed service members passed the House and Senate this month but hasn't been signed by the President yet.
Measures introduced by Republicans John Kline and Erik Paulsen and Democrat Tim Walz have passed the House but not the Senate. Some of those bills, such as Kline's Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, won't get taken up the Democratic-controlled Senate in any meaningful way. That measure overrides decisions made by the National Labor Relations Board about union election rules.
Members are quick to point out that even when they aren't the author of a bill, they're often able to add provisions of their own to the legislation. For example, Klobuchar's office notes that parts of a bill the senator introduced on supporting military victims of sexual trauma were incorporated into a Defense Department reauthorization bill.
Still, by almost any measure, the 112th Congress was one of the least productive on record said congressional scholar Sarah Binder at the Brookings Institution. She attributed some of the gridlock to the unusual split in party control between the two chambers but also pointed to a new schedule that keeps the House out of Washington more often. Binder added that the legislative process has become highly partisan and centralized in recent years.
"I think that this emblematic of a Congress and recent Congresses that are just tightly controlled by party leaders. That is, access to getting your particular policy issues onto the floor is difficult," said Binder, who received her PhD from the University of Minnesota.
One case in point is the fate of House and Senate bills to authorize a new bridge over the St. Croix River. Both measures spent the year weaving their way through House and Senate committees and securing endorsements from most members of the Minnesota and Wisconsin congressional delegations in the process. The bills now await a vote on the floor of both chambers but neither House nor Senate leadership has yet to schedule that vote.
With election season already starting to dominate lawmakers' attention, it's possible 2012 may prove even less productive on Capitol Hill.
AT&T won't be buying T-Mobile after all.
The $39 billion potential deal was facing government opposition.
DFL Sen. Al Franken was among those asking questions about the deal. Earlier this year, he asked the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commissions to block the purchase.
Here's what Franken had to say about the latest news:
"Had this merger gone through it would've been a bad deal for consumers, resulting in higher cell phone bills for Minnesotans, greatly reduced competition, the potential loss of thousands of jobs, and less innovation in technology."
"This merger would have put us one step away from the monopoly we had during the Ma Bell years. Wireless telecommunication plays a central role in the 21st century American economy, and I'm relieved that we are no longer at risk of concentrating such enormous power in the hands of AT&T and Verizon."
DFL Sen Al Franken will speak before the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Jan. 17. Franken will speak about STEM Education, a push to get more kids to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. He has been working on the federal level to get students more focused on that curriculum.
The event is free and open to the public. Here are the details:
Senator Al Franken
STEM Education: The Key to Minnesota's Economic Success
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Noon - 1:15 p.m.
Humphrey School of Public Affairs
301 19th Ave S., Minneapolis
WASHINGTON - Rep. Chip Cravaack achieved a rare legislative victory in a year generally marked by gridlock on Capitol Hill when the Senate on Monday night unanimously passed his bill authorizing expedited airport security screening for soldiers traveling on orders.
The bill orders the Transportation Security Administration to come up with a plan within 180 days to devise a separate screening procedure for uniformed members of the armed services. As a result of the bill, they should be able to pass through security checkpoints with less intrusive screening. Under the current law, soldiers receive the same level of screening as regular travelers.
Cravaack, a first-term Republican, was inspired to introduce the bill after seeing a service member have to remove his combat boots at an airport checkpoint.
"This is the least we can do for our military personnel and their families traveling our nation's airports while serving our country," Cravaack said.
The measure passed the House with overwhelming support on Nov. 29 but must return again to the House for a voice vote before heading to the president's desk for signature.
On Monday evening, the House also passed another measure proposed by Cravaack that designates the post office in Pine City, MN as the "Master Sergeant Daniel L. Fedder Post Office. The 34 year-old Marine was killed in Afghanistan in August 2010 by an improvised bomb.(3 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Congress is hoping to wrap up work for 2011 by the end of this week. But with much bigger issues such as the payroll tax cut extension and annual spending bills still unresolved, a final vote on authorizing a new bridge over the St. Croix River has not yet been scheduled.
The bill's two sponsors, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, had been hopeful the bridge bill would be resolved by year-end. But with time running out on the legislative calendar, that outcome is looking unlikely.
"We are encouraged by leadership and the Natural Resources Committee that HR850 will see a vote, but unfortunately we did not have a concrete timeline at this time," said Becky Rogness, spokeswoman for GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, the bill's House sponsor.
Measures such as this one are sometimes attached to larger, must-pass bills and there's no shortage of candidates for the St. Croix River crossing to get hitched to. Congress is set to pass a massive $900 billion spending bill by the end of the week and is also due to pass some kind of legislation extending a payroll tax cut and tweaking a Medicare payment formula. All of those bills could be possible legislative vehicles for the Stillwater bridge replacement.
Congressional inaction on this bill has frustrated Gov. Dayton and MnDOT, which last summer had established a Sept. 30 deadline for legislation to pass before money for the bridge would be allocated to other projects. With that date long past, MnDOT now says there is no immediate deadline for Congress to act.(1 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Freshman Congressman Chip Cravaack appears poised to score a legislative coup - getting his first bill to the President's desk within a year of taking the oath of office.
Cravaack's bill, which passed the House with overwhelming support on Nov. 29, would require the Transportation Security Administration to set up a separate, speedier airport screening procedure for members of the armed forces traveling in uniform. He said Thursday that the Senate is likely to consider the measure early next week, after which it would become law after President Obama signs it.
"I've been told it's going to be a stand alone [bill in the Senate]," Cravaack said, "But who knows what actually will occur?"
Cravaack said he got the idea after going through an airport security checkpoint and seeing a soldier returning from duty overseas taking off his boots to go through the metal detector.
Roughly 350 Republican delegates and staffers are assessing the fallout less than 24 hours after Tony Sutton abruptly resigned as state party chair. Sutton cited personal reasons for his resignation but it came at a time when several activists were upset with how he handled the party's budget. Party officials announced at a meeting in Bloomington Saturday that the party was $581,000 in debt.
"Let's all take a deep breath," state Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, said during the invocation.
Delegates elected a new deputy chair on Saturday but were also facing a party that lost its chair, deputy chair and executive director over the last two months. The vacancies forced the delegates to even elect two convention chairs to run the meeting.
Delegates worked relatively quickly to elect new leadership. They elected Woodbury resident Kelly Fenton to the position of deputy chair. Fenton defeated four other candidates. She'll serve as acting chair until the same group, party's central committee, elects a new chair.
During a brief victory speech, Fenton alluded to the problems plaguing the party and predicted Republican candidates will do well in the 2012 election.
"We are stronger than any challenges that we will face," Fenton said.
Fenton said she will not be a candidate to replace Sutton but left open the possibility of running for party chair in the future.
Fenton's top priority over the next month will be to ease concerns about the party's financial problems and direction. She got some help from Republican Congressmen John Kline and Erik Paulsen.
"We have precinct caucuses in two months," Kline said. "We have to be organized and ready and moving out because as you may have noticed, the campaigns are underway."
Kline later told reporters that he wasn't deeply concerned about the party's leadership in the upcoming elections. Others said the party's day-to-day activities would run normally over the next month.
The stakes in the upcoming election are huge. President Barack Obama and DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar are both running for re-election. Republicans are waiting to see who wins the GOP nomination for president, and no top flight candidate has stepped forward to challenge Klobuchar.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who serves as RNC Committeeman, says he thinks President Obama's low approval ratings will help Republicans in 2012. But he said the party needs to raise money for get out the vote operations.
"We can't just stop for a month and then start up again when we have a permanent chair," Johnson said. Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers also said he would be willing to help raise money to get the party out of debt.
Zellers also asked delegates to not to do any "Monday morning quarterbacking" about Sutton's departure.
But there was some disagreement over who is to blame for the party's problems. Michael Brodkorb, who resigned his position as deputy chair in October to work on state Sen. Mike Parry's campaign for Congress in the 1st District, said the party's deficit and problems are a result of Tom Emmer's campaign for governor.
Brodkorb said Emmer ran a poor campaign which hurt the party's ability to raise money.
Brodkorb referred to Emmer as the "Bill Buckner of politics" - a reference to the Red Sox first baseman who made an error that cost his team the 1986 World Series.
"I think Republicans nominated the one candidate who couldn't possibly win in 2010," Brodkorb said.
Brodkorb also said the party had difficulty raising money because many donors weren't happy that he was the nominee. He also said several Republican candidates didn't want to campaign with Emmer because he was "toxic" to their campaigns.
Emmer narrowly lost the gubernatorial election to Democrat Mark Dayton. The close election forced a recount that both Brodkorb and Sutton blame for adding to the party's financial problems.
Emmer was at the State Central Committee earlier in the day but couldn't be reached to comment on Brodkorb's statement. His former campaign manager, David Fitzsimmons, said he was surprised by Brodkorb's criticism.
"I am not going to sit here today and try to decide who is to blame," Fitzsimmons said. "We can all go around and point fingers and do everything else. I'm part of being at this convention today to figure out how to move forward from here."
Delegates decided not to set a date to hold a meeting to elect a new party chair. The party's constitution requires an election to occur within 30 days, but the party's attorney said Fenton would continue to be acting chair if no election is held.
Fenton or the party's executive committee will call the next meeting.(6 Comments)
WASHINGTON - After security researchers discovered software installed on many popular smartphone models that allegedly can record and transmit personal user information, DFL Sen. Al Franken has called on Carrier IQ, the company behind the software, to provide details.
The company says its software, which is reportedly found on many Android, Blackberry and Nokia smartphones, is used by phone carriers to track information about the functioning of their cellphone networks. But earlier this week, Trevor Eckhart, a security researcher, released a video demonstrating that Carrier IQ's software could send sensitive information such as the contents of emails and text messages to third parties.
"The revelation that the locations and other sensitive data of millions of Americans are being secretly recorded and possibly transmitted is deeply troubling," said Franken in a written statement. "This news underscores the need for Congress to act swiftly to protect the location information and private, sensitive information of consumers."
Franken, who chairs a Senate subcommittee that deals with digital privacy issues, sent Carrier IQ CEO Larry Lenhart a letter on Wednesday with a list of detailed questions about the software's capabilities. Franken requested a response by Dec. 14.
Since arriving in the Senate in 2009, Franken has made digital privacy a pet issue. In September, Franken and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons scored a victory over the in-car system OnStar after reports emerged that OnStar was tracking customers' vehicle location and considering selling the information to third parties.(6 Comments)
WASHINGTON - The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the super committee, is officially dead after the panel's leaders announced today they would be unable to make a Nov. 23 deadline for offering Congress recommendations on $1.2 trillion in long term deficit reduction.
That sets the stage for possible automatic, across the board cuts of an equal amount that would kick in as of Jan.1, 2013.
The press releases from Minnesota's House and Senate members responding to the super committee's failure are coming in quickly and we'll post them below as we receive them.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D) - "With families across America making tough choices every day, it appears Republicans in Congress can't stop playing political games long enough to make some really difficult decisions for the future of the country. The Super Committee's failure means automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion in domestic and defense spending are now triggered. Even though these will be difficult cuts, I am strongly opposed to Republican proposals to tamper with the sequestration to protect defense contractors and their lobbyists."
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R) - "I'm extremely disappointed that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was not able to agree on a way to address our spending-driven debt crisis, but the fact of the matter is that Washington is broken," said Rep. Paulsen. "The American people deserve better than this. We need to remember that both parties created this mess; it's going to take Republicans and Democrats working together to clean it up."
Sen. Al Franken (D) - "I don't think we're going to be able to solve the country's budget problems without a balance of spending cuts and new revenues." said Sen. Franken.
"I think that Democrats put some painful cuts on the table and I'm thoroughly disappointed that Republicans haven't been willing to meet us halfway. But as I've said from the beginning , no deal would be better than a bad deal because there's an automatic mechanism in place to make budget cuts if there's no deal. And that mechanism protects Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, programs that are vitally important to Minnesotans."
Rep. John Kline (R) - "This summer, I expressed serious concerns about how a joint committee would operate and what proposals they would offer. My concerns were realized today as Americans were reminded, once again, how broken Washington has become.
"In recent weeks it has become abundantly clear that far too few of my colleagues in Washington are interested in forcing the federal government to live within its means. Whether it was refusing to support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, ignoring the long overdue need for entitlement reform, or failing to provide framework for historic spending cuts, Washington has let down the American people. Too many in Washington think the only way to fix our debt crisis is a $1 trillion job-killing tax increase on American families and small businesses. We cannot exacerbate the jobs crisis by raising taxes and creating further economic uncertainty, and we cannot burden our children and grandchildren with an ever greater mountain of debt."
Rep. Keith Ellison (D) (issued jointly with Rep. Raul Grijalva, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus with Ellison) - "Instead of focusing on jobs, which is the only way to grow our economy and fix the country's deficit problems, we witnessed Republicans again refusing to compromise and putting their loyalty to lobbyists ahead of the American people. After manufacturing this crisis over the summer, Republicans insisted on protecting tax giveaways for millionaires and billionaires and eliminating the Medicare guarantee. Republicans seem more committed to protecting the one percent than to finding bipartisan solutions that create jobs.
"Last month, the Congressional Progressive Caucus submitted its recommendations to the Super Committee that would create jobs while protecting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Since the Supercommittee failed to produce a plan, we will introduce our own legislation that reduces the deficit by trillions of dollars and puts America back to work.
"The best way to eliminate the deficit is to get America working again. Americans want leaders who work for all of us, not just the top one percent."
Rep. Tim Walz (D) - "Washington is broken. And we have to do something about it. Public officials and leaders in this country need to get their act together. Americans are understandably frustrated with the bickering and gridlock that has become a staple of the way Washington operates. It's unacceptable. We need common sense, bipartisan reform - to restore confidence in honest, open and fair government. I asked the Super Committee to "go big" and find $4 trillion dollars in savings. I am disappointed they did not, but I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reduce our debt. I will also continue fighting to get our economy back on track, get folks back to work and restore transparency and accountability to Washington through proposals like the STOCK Act."
Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) - "It was my sincere hope that both sides of the aisle could have reached an agreement for the sake of the American people, and that this kind of political gridlock will not persist at the expense of our children, our men and women in uniform, and our national security.
"This is yet another outrageous failure by Washington to set aside partisan bickering for the well being of our great nation.
"I voted against the Budget Control Act's establishment of the 'supercommittee' because it did nothing to solve our debt crisis and would lead to even more gridlock. My concerns sadly appear to have been justified with the shameless disintegration of this process into nothing but political finger-pointing.
"We must come together to identify common-sense solutions. I stand ready to work with any of my colleagues in Congress, regardless of party affiliation, to rein in our soaring national debt."
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) (issued via her presidential campaign) - "Mr. President, your Super Committee has failed the American people. You were elected president to lead, not to ignore the problems of our country and our economy. While millions of Americans are out of work and government spending and debt are spiraling out of control, the president and the Super Committee could not reach an agreement on how to put our country back on a path to prosperity. The Committee itself is a metaphor for the overall lack of political courage that has led us to this place of crisis. Meanwhile, our nation is swiftly approaching the precipice of economic collapse and the president's leadership was nowhere to be found.
"The Super Committee could not meet their statutory charge of reducing Congress's planned increase in spending by a relatively paltry $1.2 trillion over 10 years and now have placed this country's national security at risk through the consequences of triggering severe cuts to military funding, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently warned will be 'devastating for the Department,' and 'these changes would break the faith with those who maintain our military and seriously damage readiness.'
"The people we serve want the president and Congress to announce a bold bipartisan deal to cut spending and do so without raising new taxes on American families or businesses. Cutting spending will necessitate hard choices, but throughout American history we have united behind a common purpose when the best interests of our children and nation were at stake. It's time to lead."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) - "I have heard from countless Minnesotans who want their representatives to come together to reduce the deficit in a balanced way. I urged my colleagues to set aside partisan politics and do what's right for families, businesses, and the fiscal health of our nation. We have to get this done and I will continue to support sensible efforts to get our fiscal house in order and give businesses the certainty they need in these tough economic times."(2 Comments)
WASHINGTON - DFL Rep. Tim Walz's STOCK Act that bars members of Congress from buying and selling stocks based on inside information they glean from their work is rapidly gaining traction in the Capitol after a report about the practice last weekend on 60 Minutes.
As of Friday afternoon, it had 65 cosponsors compared to half a dozen a week ago. The signers span the ideological spectrum from Rep. Dennis Kuchinich (D-OH) on the left to Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a tea party icon on the right.
Minnesota's other three DFL House members signed onto the measure this week. DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar is cosponsoring a similar bill in the Senate, describing it as "common sense legislation."
Sen. Al Franken is the lone DFLer who hasn't signed onto the Senate bill. Spokeswoman Alexandra Fetisoff said he is still review the legislation.
None of Minnesota's four Republican House members have signed on to Walz's legislation. Rep. Chip Cravaack's office said he was still studying the issue.
Referring to hearings scheduled in the House to look into the issue, Rep. Erik Paulsen's spokesman Tom Erickson wrote, "To operate effectively, Congress must have the trust of the American people. Erik supports disclosure and is looking forward to hearing what the bipartisan Financial Services Committee thinks."
As a part of the national Thanksgiving turkey presentation at the White House next week, President Obama will pardon two Minnesota turkeys. Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, says Rick Huisinga, with the Willmar Poultry Company, raised the two birds that will be pardoned by Obama. He said Huizenga has the honor of raising the birds because he is the president of the National Turkey Federation.
"It's very special, especially for the grower, to take a Minnesota turkey to Washington D.C," Olson said.
Why two turkeys? Olson said they send two in case one of them is injured or gets sick during the trip.
He said Huisinga identified roughly 35 birds that hatched in July. Huisinga and others then raised the birds separately. He said they started preparing the group of birds for the trip and next week's press conference.
"Some Future Farmers of America members worked with the birds to be used to noises and flashes as well as being picked up because we want to make sure the birds are comfortable when they get to the White House," Olson said.
The two birds will receive a Minnesota sendoff before they depart for the White House. Gov. Dayton, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and others will host a Friday news conference to honor the birds and recognize the Minnesota Turkey Growers' annual donation to Hunger Solutions.
Minnesota is the number one producer of turkeys in the country (and that's not a joke about politicians).
You can read more about the Turkeys here.
Posted at 4:22 PM on November 15, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - DFL Sen. Al Franken is the latest in a series of Minnesota lawmakers drafting bills to speed up the approval of medical devices.
Franken's bill, released Tuesday and co-sponsored with fellow Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and John Kerry (D-MA), eases some conflict of interest rules affecting outside experts on Food and Drug Administration review panels and lifts an FDA rule that caps profits for devices that treat rare conditions. Easing that rule is intended to encourage companies to develop devices that would otherwise serve a very small number of patients.
"My legislation would remove unnecessary barriers so that these critical medical devices get to the patients that need them as quickly and safely as possible," said Franken in a written statement.
His legislation follows bills released by DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen that are also intended to speed up the time it takes the FDA to review medical devices. All three bills ease the conflict of interest rules for outside experts, albeit in different ways. Franken's is the only bill to address the issue of treating rare conditions.
Minnesota's medical device industry includes large firms such as Medtronic and St. Jude Medical, as well as smaller venture-capital funded firms. The industry has ramped up its congressional lobbying efforts recently, arguing that a slowing FDA approval process is putting American companies at a competitive disadvantage vis a vis overseas rivals.
A new report by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that nearly half of all members of Congress are millionaires.
That's 249 of 530 members of the House and Senate included in CRP's study.
Here's CRP's entire list. Because lawmakers are only required to list their income and assets in ranges, it's hard to pin down exactly how much each member of Congress is worth.
So, CRP ranks lawmakers by average net worth.
By that measure, at least three members of the Minnesota delegation are part of the millionaires club, according to CRP's data.
DFL Sen. Al Franken in 62nd place with an average net worth of $8,747,525;
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann in 194th place with an average net worth of $1,783,508;
and Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack in 217th place with an average net worth of $1,391,551.
Here's how the rest of the Minnesota delegation stacks up:
296th place: DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar with an average net worth of $724,514 (though she could also be among the Senate's millionaires if her net worth is closer to her maximum of $1,104,000).(1 Comments)
346th place: Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen with an average net worth of $487,017.
351st place: Republican Rep. John Kline with an average net worth of $471,006.
402nd place: DFL Rep. Collin C. Peterson with an average net worth of $263,005.
410th place: DFL Rep. Tim Walz with an average net worth of $247,502.
461st place: DFL Rep. Betty McCollum with an average net worth of $88,005.
506th place: DFL Rep. Keith Ellison who carries debt and has an average net worth of negative $14,497 as a result. If his assets are on the high end, he has a maximum net worth of $18,999.
According to an invitation obtained by MPR News, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has asked the congressional delegations of Minnesota and Wisconsin to meet with him and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Washington next Wednesday to discuss the planned $700 million Stillwater bridge project.
The governors of both states have also been invited but Gov. Dayton's office says he won't be able to attend and will send a representative instead.
News of the meeting comes shortly after a Senate committee gave DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar's bill authorizing a bridge the green light. That bill, along with an identically-worded measure in the House sponsored by GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann now await floor votes in each chamber.
Officials in Salazar's department are on the record as opposing the bridge's planned exemption from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison and 30 state lawmakers from both states have argued that the planned bridge is too large and expensive and have urged the construction of a smaller span instead.(2 Comments)
WASHINGTON - A group of 30 legislators from Wisconsin and Minnesota have sent a letter to both states' congressional delegations in opposition to the bills winding their way through Congress that would authorize a new bridge over the St. Croix River to replace the aging span in Stillwater.
"As legislators on both sides of the St. Croix River we are united in our concerns that the current design of the bridge is far too expensive," the group wrote, adding that there are cheaper alternatives to the current plans, which are estimated to cost $690 million.
None of the lawmakers represents districts immediately around the site of the current bridge in Stillwater or its proposed, new location slightly further south.
The letter comes as a U.S. Senate committee meets Thursday to decide whether the bill should move to the floor of that body. DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced Wednesday that she and DFL Sen. Al Franken had identified $8 million in offsetting cuts that will be made to make the bridge bill compliant with congressional budget rules.
Congress must approve a new bridge over the St. Croix because the river is protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Bills authorizing a new bridge have the support of Klobuchar, Franken, Wisconsin's two U.S. Senators, both states' governors and Reps. Michele Bachmann, Chip Cravaack and Ron Kind. The bridge connects Bachmann and Kind's districts. Twin Cities Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison are opposed to the bridge, arguing that it's too expensive.
Candidate attacks on earmarks and wasteful government spending are standard election year fodder. Opponents often accuse incumbents of loading up on pet pork projects with taxpayer dollars.
A recent example is an Oct. 21 press release sent by the Republican Party of Minnesota regarding DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar's spending record:
"Since she took office, Sen. Klobuchar has grazed at every opportunity at the federal funding buffet heaping her plate with tasty treats like $6 million for a snowmaking machine in Duluth and $1.2 million to build a bike trail to Target Field. In all she's supported over $1 trillion (with a "t") in stimulus spending."
"It was bad enough that past stimulus bills included things like bike trails and snowmaking facilities," GOP Chair Tony Sutton goes on to say.
There's a bit of truth to this claim. But it's been distorted to the point of making it false.
The Minnesota GOP contends that Klobuchar has supported more than $1 trillion in stimulus spending. That includes the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) which, at the time, was worth $700 billion; $25 billion in federal loans to the auto industry passed in 2008 (Detroit ultimately got most of its assistance from TARP); a $400 billion bailout for home finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and the $787 stimulus bill, according to Minnesota GOP spokeswoman Heather Rubash.
Whether these separate measures constitute wasteful government spending is a matter of opinion. But it's clear that they total far more than $1 trillion. And because all were meant to either create jobs, prevent people from losing their jobs, or prop up the economy, for this fact-check, we're taking a broad view of what "stimulus" means.
It's true that Klobuchar voted for all four bills, as did many other Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.
But from there, the GOP's statement gets off track.
Both the snowmaking machine and the bike trail are associated with the $787 stimulus bill passed in early 2009, said Rubash, who pointed to information from the National Republican Senatorial Committee for sourcing.
The stimulus bill did not include earmarks, which are pots of funding meant for specific pet projects in lawmakers' districts (though critics argue that some of the stimulus funding was specific enough, such as dollars to buy green vehicles, to be considered earmark-like).
It's true that Hennepin County got about $1.2 million in stimulus dollars to extend an existing bike trail to Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.
But, unlike the GOP's claim implies, Klobuchar did not request the money for the specific project. Rather, the state got a share of a $1.5 billion pot of stimulus money meant to fund transportation projects nationwide. In turn, Hennepin County applied to the state for bike trail funding, says Phil Eckhert, who is the county's director of Housing, Community Work and Transit. Ultimately, the project came in under budget at roughly $695,000, so the extra cash went back to the state, he said.
So, aside from the "aye" vote she cast in favor of the bill, Klobuchar had no control over specific projects supported by the stimulus bill.
Cash for a snowmaking machine wasn't in the stimulus bill, either. In fact, no stimulus cash was ever spent on such a project.
The media began buzzing about the snowmaking machine in December 2008 when mayors from across the nation compiled a report to show the incoming Obama administration what sorts of projects could be funded with stimulus dollars. That was before Obama was sworn into office and before lawmakers returned to Congress to draft the stimulus bill.
Included in that report was a snowmaking machine for Spirit Mountain, which is an authority of the City of Duluth. It was estimated to cost $6 million and create 70 jobs.
But once the stimulus was passed and federal dollars were available, no request for such funding was made, according to Renee Mattson who is executive director for the ski area.
There is a shred of truth in this claim: Klobuchar supported four big spending bills, including the stimulus package.
But the Minnesota GOP implies that Klobuchar was finagling cash for wasteful projects back home. The bike trail funding was not an earmark, nor did Klobuchar have a say in how that money was spent. And the snowmaking machine stalled before it even started.
On the whole, the claim is misleading to the point of being false.
The Republican Party of Minnesota, Sen. Klobuchar Sells Snow to Duluth and her Soul to the Unions, Oct. 21, 2011
The Senate, Roll Call vote for H.R.3221, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, accessed Nov. 9, 2011
The Senate, Roll Call Vote for H.R.2638: Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009, accessed Nov. 9, 2011
The Senate, Roll Call Vote for H.R. 1424, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, accessed Nov. 9, 2011
The Senate, Roll Call Vote for H.R. 1: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, accessed Nov. 9, 2011
U.S. News and World Report, A $25 Billion Lifeline for GM, Ford, and Chrysler, by Rick Newman, September 24, 2008
CNN, There goes another $30 billion, by David Goldman, June 1, 2009
Propublica, History of U.S. Government Bailouts, April 15, 2009
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, accessed Nov. 9, 2011
The United States Conference of Mayors, Ready to Go: Jobs and Infrastructure Projects, Dec. 8, 2008
U.S. News and World Report, Finding the Pork in the Obama Stimulus Bill: Is Obama's stimulus overflowing with special-interest projects?, By Matthew Bandyk, Feb. 19, 2009
Interview, Phil Eckhert, Director Housing, Community Works and Transit, Hennepin County, Nov. 8, 2011
Interview, Renee Mattson, Executive Director of Spirit Mountain, Nov. 2, 2011
Email exchange, Heather Rubash, spokeswoman, Minnesota GOP, Nov. 2, 2011
WASHINGTON - A day before a crucial Senate hearing on a bill to authorize a new bridge over the St. Croix, Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced that $8 million in cuts needed to advance the project under congressional budget rules had been identified.
An Interior Department program to centralize administrative services will lose $8 million in unspent funds in order to make the St. Croix bridge bill deficit-neutral. The offset was needed because the 2005 highway bill contained an earmark directing money for preliminary work on the bridge.
The announcement likely paves the way for the bill's passage through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a markup hearing scheduled for Thursday. If the measure passes the committee, it will then proceed to the Senate floor. A similar House bill sponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann also awaits a vote by the entire chamber.
"This is an important step in advancing this critical project," said Klobuchar in a statement.
If the bills, which have identical wording, pass both houses of Congress and are signed into law by President Obama, construction can begin on a four lane bridge over the St. Croix River south of the town of Stillwater. The new bridge would replace the aging lift bridge that goes through the town itself, causing significant traffic jams.
During a hearing in the U.S. House last month, some Democrats attacked the entire bridge authorization measure as "one giant earmark," in a nod toward Bachmann's sponsorship of the bill. Bachmann, who's also running for the GOP presidential nomination, has long argued that the federal government should be radically downsized.
The vast majority of the $690 million cost of a new bridge comes via the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation, in part using federal highway funds.(2 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Six of Minnesota's 10 members of Congress have signed a letter to the head of the Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to speed its approval process for medical devices.
"We urge you to make every possible improvement to cut down device approval times," wrote the 41 lawmakers from both parties and both chambers of Congress who signed the letter. Minnesota's signatories included DFL Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, GOP Reps. Erik Paulsen, John Kline and Michele Bachmann and DFL Rep. Betty McCollum.
The time it takes the FDA to approve new medical devices has increased over the past decade, worrying many in the industry that the regulatory process is stifling innovation. Minnesota is home to hundreds of medical device companies, including Medtronic and St. Jude Medical, as well as smaller venture capital-funded start ups.
The lawmakers and industry backers point to the medical device field as an area where American firms have a competitive advantage over foreign companies in export markets and also note that jobs in the sector have much higher than average salaries.
Klobuchar and Paulsen have recently introduced legislation that is intended to speed up the agency's device approval process and this letter contains some suggestions drawn from both lawmakers' bills, such as changing the FDA's conflict of interest rules for doctors sitting on advisory panels, as well as new elements such as considering harmonizing the FDA's approval process with foreign regulators.
In an interview with MPR News last month, Diana Zuckerman of the National Research Center for Women and Families criticized Klobuchar and Paulsen's legislation, arguing that a lack of resources at the FDA, rather than stifling bureaucracy, was behind the slowing approval times.
"This legislation is not the answer for faster reviews," Zuckerman said. "If they want good, fast reviews, they should be willing to pay larger user fees or the Republican Congress should be willing to increase the appropriation for the [FDA] Center for Devices."
Paulsen was also the subject of a front page story in the New York Times last month raising questions about political donations from venture capital firms that are pushing for faster FDA approval of medical devices.
From MPR's Conrad Wilson...
More than 2,500 people attended a rally for Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul in St. Cloud today.
The event, which is Paul's first trip to the state during his 2012 campaign for president, featured an energetic and vocal crowd.
At one point, Paul even joked he didn't even need to give the speech, because the audience already knew what he was going to say. Not deviating from his platform, Paul called for more individual rights and a smaller federal government before an enthusiastic crowd at the Rivers Edge Convention Center in downtown St. Cloud.
"The country and the world is in a mess today," Paul said. "And I'm quite convinced that we know exactly how we got here, and we know exactly what to do, and one thing for sure is that we don't need more government."
Paul spoke out against the Wall Street bailouts, called for a repeal of President Obama's health care law, an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while also promoting the rights of the individual.
"All we need to do is to send people to Washington who understand and are determined to follow the rule of law and respect our Constitution," Paul said.
Paul is currently running behind GOP frontrunners Mitt Romney and Herman Cain in national polling. He also delivered the speech in Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's district. Bachmann is also running for president.
The event marked the official start of Paul's presidential campaign in Minnesota.
You can listen to Paul's full speech here: Listen(2 Comments)
WASHINGTON - As an end of the year deadline draws closer, a U.S. Senate committee is set next week to consider DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar's bill to authorize a new bridge over the St. Croix River.
The bill is one of 32 agenda items under consideration at hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Nov. 10. If the bill passes through the committee, its next stop would be the Senate floor. A companion bill with identical language in the U.S. House sponsored by GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann is waiting for that body's leadership to schedule time for the full chamber to consider the measure.
An act of Congress is required to authorize a new span replacing the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge because the St. Croix River is protected by the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Klobuchar's bill has the support of fellow Minnesota Sen. Al Franken as well as Wisconsin's two Senators, Democrat Herb Kohl and Republican Ron Johnson. As such, it is likely to sail through the upper chamber once it arrives on the floor. In the House, Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison are opposed to the bill, arguing that the replacement bridge project is too large and costly.
One outstanding issue that may be resolved at the markup hearing is how to find $8 million in offsetting spending cuts or revenue increases to satisfy Congressional budget rules. The Congressional Budget Office determined last month that passing a bill authorizing a new bridge would add $8 million to the budget deficit because of earmarks applied to the project in a 2005 transportation bill.(1 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Count this as the least surprising news of the day out of the U.S. Capitol: DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar's $50 billion package of transportation spending, intended to also help combat unemployment, failed in the Senate today due to a Republican filibuster.
Although the measure attracted 51 votes, all from Democrats, it failed to pass the 60 vote threshold needed to end debate. All 47 Republicans, plus independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska opposed the bill, which would have also set aside a further $10 billion to create a public-private infrastructure bank to fund future transport projects.
Republicans opposed the bill, which was touted by President Obama, in part because it was funded by a 0.7 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the GOP's leader, called the proposal, "more failed stimulus."
In a statement released after the vote, Klobuchar remained optimistic that many of the underlying elements of the legislation would eventually pass.
"While other countries are moving full steam ahead with infrastructure investments, we're simply treading water," said Klobuchar. "In an increasingly competitive global economy, standing still is falling behind."
Wading into the high-profile and highly partisan fight over the President's jobs proposals represents a new turn in Klobuchar's Senate career. She frequently co-sponsors legislation with Republicans and avoids the cross-party taunting that's become a bipartisan ritual on Capitol Hill.
Obama also released a statement, which said in part:
"The American people deserve to know why their Republican representatives in Washington refuse to put some of the workers hit hardest by the economic downturn back on the job rebuilding America. They deserve an explanation as to why Republicans refuse to step up to the plate and do what's necessary to create jobs and grow the economy right now. It's time for Republicans in Congress to put country ahead of party and listen to the people they were elected to serve. It's time for them to do their job and focus on Americans' jobs. And until they do, I will continue to do everything in my power to move this country forward."(5 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Supporters of a new bridge over the St. Croix River took their case directly to the White House last week, discussing the matter with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley.
According to a press release from the Coalition for a St. Croix River Crossing, Oak Park Heights council member Mary McComber was in Washington for an event sponsored by the National League of Cities when she raised the question with both officials.
"Secretary LaHood and Bill Daley both said that the St. Croix River Crossing is a top priority for President Obama, and he is committed to moving the project forward," said McComber.
Replacing aging bridges and other infrastructure is a centerpiece of the White House's strategy to combat unemployment. Yesterday, President Obama spoke before the Key Bridge in Washington, DC about his proposals and the Senate will vote later today on a bill put forward by DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar to authorize an additional $50 billion in infrastructure spending. That measure, financed by a tax on millionaires, will likely fail due a Republican filibuster.
However, the primary bottleneck for authorizing a replacement span to the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge lies with Congress, not the Executive Branch. Bills in the U.S. House and Senate have been slowly winding through both chambers all year. After first establishing a Sept. 30 deadline for Congress to act before transferring funds for a replacement bridge to other projects, Gov. Dayton has pushed the date back to the end of the year due to the slow legislative pace in Washington.
Last month, the Congressional Budget Office found that building a new bridge will add $8 million to the deficit - mostly due to funds initially earmarked for the bridge in the 2005 highway bill. Due to congressional rules, any bill authorizing a new bridge will have to either cut $8 million in spending elsewhere or raise revenues by a corresponding amount.
Congressional sources say offsetting spending cuts are the most likely route and that leaders in both chambers are identifying reductions that could be paired with the authorizing legislation.(1 Comments)
Posted at 8:53 AM on November 2, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion to end debate on the Rebuilding American Jobs Act, a bill sponsored by DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar that would boost spending on transportation projects. A vote is expected Thursday.
Klobuchar's bill is part of President Obama's agenda to reduce unemployment and increase investment in infrastructure projects, a theme that he will hitting again during a speech today at a bridge in Washington, DC. Klobuchar's office confirmed that she will attend the speech. Later this afternoon, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will join her and several Democratic Senators at a press conference urging other senators to support the measure.
The bill, which will almost certainly not attract the 60 votes needed to end debate and receive a straight up or down vote, would allocate $50 billion to a variety of pressing transportation projects across the country and set aside an additional $10 billion as seed money for an infrastructure bank to fund future projects. The measure would be paid for by a 0.7 percent surtax on income above $1 million but Senate Republicans have vowed to defeat any jobs proposal that includes tax hikes.
WASHINGTON - The leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, including DFL Rep. Collin Peterson, have missed a self-imposed deadline of Nov. 1 to present their bipartisan plan for reducing agriculture spending by $23 billion over the next decade.
A spokeswoman for the Republican staff of the House Agriculture Committee told MPR News that as of Tuesday afternoon, the majority and minority leaders of both committees have not yet reached a final agreement. She did not know if an agreement was imminent.
Last month, the leadership of the agriculture committees in both chambers had taken it on themselves to offer the cuts to programs under their jurisdiction as a means of heading off potentially deeper reductions from the special Congressional deficit reduction committee tasked with making at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts by Thanksgiving.
In a brief conversation with MPR News last week, Peterson confirmed that he was working on what would amount to a re-authorization of the five year farm bill along with Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), that committee's ranking member.
The group is hoping that the deficit super committee will adopt their recommendations and offer their hastily-written farm bill as a component of the overall deficit reduction plan that Congress must vote on before Christmas. Under the super committee's special rules, the panel's proposals cannot be amended and can pass with a simple majority, unlike many bills in the Senate, which now require 60 votes to proceed.
Passing a farm bill through the super committee framework thus offers an expedited track with minimal debate, something that surely must appeal to the heads of both agriculture committees as liberals and conservatives have complained about farm spending in recent years.
Published reports indicate that the quartet plans to eliminate direct payments to farmers but will create a new "shallow loss" subsidy program that would make up a portion of a farmer's income if crop prices fall. The group may also make changes to the crop insurance program, which has become increasingly important to farmers.
One Washington-based farm lobbyist contacted by MPR News suggested that the lack of an announcement, or even background details from committee staff, suggested that there was likely a major disagreement among the four lawmakers that was blocking the way forward.
From MPR's Tom Weber:
Sen. Al Franken said Tuesday he's still hopeful Congress will approve a bipartisan replacement for the No Child Left Behind law.
The Minnesota DFLer sits on the Senate education committee, which forwarded its bill last week to the full Senate. But even if the Senate passes the bill, it's unclear whether it could be reconciled with the Republican-controlled House version.
In an interview with MPR News, Franken said the Senate's work should push the House.
"I think that our bill, by virtue of actually being a good bill and a very important bill and one that had bi-partisan support, will put pressure on the House to come up with something that's also bipartisan and that also makes a lot of positive steps toward taking what was an irrational system and making it rational," Franken said
The Senate bill would drop a controversial measurement called "adequate yearly progress." Some Republicans have said there would still be too much federal control over education. A Senate vote is expected by year's end.
Franken toured Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis Tuesday to discuss education.
Franken successfully offered four amendments to the education bill during last week's Senate committee deliberations. They would:
- Allow states to use computer-adaptive testing that includes questions above and below grade level (Minnesota used computer adaptive this year on the MCA math test, but questions had to remain within grade level)
- Create competitive grants aimed at placing principal candidates in high-need and rural schools along with a mentor principal (Franken wants funding to come from existing budgeted resources).
- Bolster laws that allow foster children to stay in the same school, even if they move to a new home outside that school or district's boundary.
- Clarify that districts would not have to force teachers to transfer schools in the name of equalizing funding between higher and lower-income schools.
One bill Franken didn't push for in committee was a measure protecting gay and lesbian students from discrimination. The DFLer withdrew the measure from committee consideration, even though he believes he would have had enough votes to approve it, because he says he was told it could be a "poison pill" that doomed the entire No Child Left Behind reauthorization.
Franken said he will now try to attached the so-called Student Non-Discrimination Act on the Senate floor, where he'll need 60 votes.
"We know the seven Republicans that I'd have to pick up are, and I've actually talked to, I think, every one of those seven," Franken said. "I have reason to believe that all of them may end up supporting it."
The measure would guarantee federal protections for LGBT students the way the Civil Rights Act protects people of color. Franken wants it added to whatever replaces the No Child Left Behind education law.
That floor debate has not yet been scheduled. But even if it passes the Senate, its chances are less certain in the GOP-led House. Minnesota Rep. John Kline, a Republican, chairs the House Education committee and has not included any such discrimination language so far.
Also on Tuesday, Franken and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley asked the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice to determine whether so-called "stalking apps" for smart phones are legal.
Several members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation have released statements on President Obama's declaration that the war in Iraq will end by the end of the year.
DFL Rep. Tim Walz, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison, GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen and GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann have all released statements.
I'll post additional statements if/when they come in. (Update: GOP Rep. John Kline and DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar also issued statements. The statements are below)
Here's the statement from Walz:
"The President's announcement today is welcome news and I am pleased this war is coming to an end. We need to reinvest right here in America, pay down our debt and rebuild our roads and bridges at home.
The brave men and women who have served our nation in uniform have done so admirably and I am incredibly proud of them. Now, more than ever, we need to commit ourselves to making sure they are taken care of when they return. We need to redouble our efforts to get them good health care, get them back to work and reintegrated into their lives.
Let us also pay tribute to those soldiers who will not return home and always keep their families in our thoughts and prayers."
Here's the statement from Paulsen:
"This is welcome news for the Minnesota servicemen and women who have been separated from their families -- many on multiple tours of duty. Our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen have served bravely and honorably in Iraq, and our country is forever grateful for their service and sacrifice," said Rep. Paulsen. "We also need to remember our troops who continue to serve in harm's way around the world and keep them and their families in our prayers."
Ellison released this statement (along with Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva):
"The President's announcement is a victory for America and another monumental step toward the end of the disastrous foreign policy of the Bush era. The President is fulfilling a promise to the American people to end this misguided war quickly and responsibly. For nearly a decade, Americans across the country spoke out against this war, and we can now turn the page on history. This is a long overdue victory for not just the people of Iraq, but the Progressive movement.
"As the President fulfills his promise to our country, we must also fulfill our promise to our veterans by ensuring that they and their families receive the benefits they have earned and deserve."
Here's a statement from Bachmann (which was released through her campaign for president):
"Today's announcement that we will remove all of our forces from Iraq is a political decision and not a military one; it represents the complete failure of President Obama to secure an agreement with Iraq for our troops to remain there to preserve the peace and demonstrates how far our foreign policy leadership has fallen. In every case where the United States has liberated a people from dictatorial rule, we have kept troops in that country to ensure a peaceful transition and to protect fragile growing democracies. We will now have fewer troops in Iraq than we have in Honduras - despite a costly and protracted war.
"President Obama's decision represents the end of the era of America's influence in Iraq and the strengthening of Iran's influence in Iraq with no plan to counter that influence. We have been ejected from a country by the people that we liberated and that the United States paid for with precious blood and treasure. The administration claims that we got exactly what we needed, but today's announcement demonstrates otherwise. The United States needed a working democratic partnership in Iraq and we should have demanded that Iraq repay the full cost of liberating them given their rich oil revenues. I call on the president to return to the negotiating table with Iraq and lead from the front and not from weakness in Iraq and in the world."
Here's Kline's statement:
"Without the tireless efforts from our brave sons and daughters in uniform, the drawdown of our troops that started under President Bush and continues under President Obama could not have happened. Minnesota should be proud of its National Guard, whose Red Bulls have played such a pivotal role in 'Iraqi Freedom.' And we must never forget our nation's heroes, those who made the ultimate sacrifice defending freedom. While the progress made has been significant, we must remember we remain at war against Islamist extremists and we continue to keep our troops and their families in our prayers."
Here's Klobuchar's statement:
"I have long supported a military policy in Iraq that focuses on the responsible withdrawal of U.S. troops and the transfer of authority to the Iraqi government. Our troops have shown tremendous courage to get us to this point. The mission of our Minnesota National Guard troops in Kuwait and Iraq to bring our soldiers and equipment home from Iraq is the right one."
WASHINGTON - Later today, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar will join Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood to unveil a new bill to fund transportation spending funded with a surtax on those earning more than $1 million, a key component of President Obama's jobs plan.
The move comes less than a day after another component of that plan, a measure to fund hundreds of thousands of police officers, firefighters and teachers, also funded by a millionaire tax, was blocked in the Senate by a Republican-led filibuster.
After unveiling his plan last month to combat persistently high unemployment, Obama has campaigned constantly in favor of the bill in the face of stiff Republican resistance. The GOP-controlled House won't take up the measure and Republicans in the Senate also blocked a vote on the bill in its entirety. As a result, Democrats have now decided to split the bill into small pieces and attempt to pass it that way.
The Democrats' strategy also presents plentiful opportunities to try to show the GOP favors the interests of millionaires over urgent infrastructure, education and public safety spending. Republicans are calling the jobs measures another government stimulus program that won't fix the economy.
We'll have more details after the conference call with Reid, Klobuchar and LaHood.
It's a $60 billion bill with $50 billion going to road, rail, airport and other critical transportation projects around the country. Another $10 billion will be used to seed an infrastructure bank, a proposal that's been floating around Washington for awhile. You can read more about the bank here.
Klobuchar described the collapse of the I-35W bridge in 2007 as a wake-up call to the country about the state of its decaying infrastructure.
"We just can't afford to wait any longer whether we're talking about a construction worker looking for a job or a business looking to export to foreign markets, it's clear we need to rebuild our infrastructure," said Klobuchar.
She described infrastructure spending as an area where both parties have long cooperated on and lamented the resistance by Republicans to any proposals of fresh government spending.
"There's no such thing as a Democratic bridge or a Republican bridge or a Democratic water project or a Republican water project," said Klobuchar.
But while Klobuchar may have called for bipartisanship, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was eager to taunt Republicans for resisting any Democratic proposal funded by a tax increase.
"The Senate GOP has had a love affair for many years now with Grover Norquist," said Reid, referring to the anti-tax crusader who's the chief enforcer of the party's no new taxes pledge.
Reid has scheduled a vote on the bill the week of Oct. 31 after the Senate returns from a recess. The measure's prospects are likely dim in the Senate where 60 votes are required to break a filibuster and Democrats have 53 members in their caucus.
Republicans immediately jumped on the proposal.
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results, yet that's exactly what Senate Democrats are proposing today," said Brian Walsh, the spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "So when taxpayers hear Senator Klobuchar and her fellow liberal Democrats call for even more bloated government stimulus spending it serves as yet another reminder of their broken promises and failed economic policies."
WASHINGTON - Former Minnesota Attorney General Hubert "Skip" Humphrey III is joining the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to head the agency's newly-formed Office of Older Americans.
Humphrey, the son of Vice President and former DFL Sen. Hubert Humphrey, served as Minnesota's Attorney General for 16 years between 1983 and 1999.
In a blog post on the agency's website, Humphrey, who at age 69 is himself a senior, explained his new office's mission.
"While we will help track down scams and enforce the law, we will also educate seniors on how to identify and avoid scams before they put their home and savings at risk," wrote Humphrey.
DFL members of Minnesota's congressional delegation praised Humphrey's appointment.
"The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau couldn't have picked a more qualified and committed person than Skip," said Rep. Keith Ellison in a statement. "While serving as Minnesota's Attorney General, he created many educational programs to reduce the number of crimes targeting consumers, especially the elderly."
"I am confident that the experience and dedication to justice he brings will enable him to serve America's seniors well in this new role," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar in a statement.
The CFPB was created as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law as a single agency designed to protect American consumers from risky financial products. It's currently leaderless due to Republican opposition to the agency's structure. Republicans have blocked a vote on President Obama's nominee to lead the CFPB, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.
WASHINGTON - The leaders of the agriculture committees from both parties in both the House and Senate are recommending the deficit-cutting "super committee" expect $23 billion in cuts to ag programs over the next decade.
Rep. Collin Peterson, who's the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, was one of the signatories to a letter to the super committee outlining the proposals.
The bipartisan agreement on an overall level of cuts among is significant because farm subsidies have been identified by both conservative Republicans and the Obama Administration as one potential area for agreement. The administration has already proposed making $33 billion in cuts to agriculture over the next decade.
The farm bill, which authorizes most agricultural spending, is also up for renewal in 2012, so this agreement maps out the new bill's likely contours. Direct payments to farmers will almost certainly be ended as a result of this deal and a greater emphasis will likely be placed on crop insurance.
The letter does not outline specific cuts but promises a complete legislative package by Nov. 1 and says the level of budget reductions being proposed is greater than the cuts to agriculture would be if the super committee deadlocks and automatic across the board cuts are made.
In other words, the House and Senate agriculture committees are telling the budget cutters, "We've got this under control. We're going to make deep cuts, but we'd like to make those cuts ourselves rather than have them imposed by the super committee."
WASHINGTON - DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar's re-election campaign hauled in just over $1 million for the three month period ending Sept. 30, bringing her stockpile of cash on hand to more than $4 million.
The amount is slightly less than her second quarter fundraising, when she brought in $1.1 million, but the state's senior U.S. Senator has a daunting financial advantage over her declared Republican opponents, former state representative Dan Severson and Joe Arwood.
In the second quarter, Severson raised just $3,700; more recent results aren't yet available. Arwood only recently declared his candidacy and has not yet filed any paperwork on his fundraising.
WASHINGTON - A new bill introduced by DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar seeks to speed the Food and Drug Administration approval process for medical devices.
Klobuchar's bill, introduced jointly with fellow Democrat Michael Bennet of Colorado and Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina, comes as the time it takes to approve new devices has climbed 43 percent in the last decade. At the same time, the medical device industry has come under increased scrutiny due to a series of recalls and studies that call into question the safety of some devices.
Among its many components is a provision to change the FDA's conflict of interest rules regarding outside experts who sit on FDA advisory committees. Klobuchar says the agency has had difficulty recruiting experts to serve on those panels because the current rules are burdensome, a key contributor to the slowdown in the approval process. The bill would apply the same conflict of interest standards that exist across the federal government.
"This legislation will help ensure that we have processes that promote safe, pioneering technologies that help save lives and create good jobs in Minnesota," Klobuchar said in a statement.
Similar bipartisan legislation will be introduced Friday in the U.S. House by Minnesota Republican Erik Paulsen, who's been working closely with klobuchar on medical device issues. Paulsen told MPR News that he's optimistic that his bills will be approved by the House sometime next year.
The medical device industry is a significant employer in Minnesota, accounting for nearly 30,000 jobs in the state according to the trade association AdvaMed. The industry also has a significant presence in Colorado, North Carolina, California and Massachusetts.(1 Comments)
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum says she believes it's time to end the war in Afghanistan. McCollum issued a statement today to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. She said the people of Afghanistan and their leaders have to take greater control of the country.
Here's the statement from McCollum:
"After ten years of war, U.S. forces have crippled the al Qaeda operations that launched the 9-11 attacks, diminished the Taliban, and given the Afghan people a chance to determine their own future. But during that time, so many sacrifices have been made by the 1,796 Americans who have given their lives in service and the thousands more who have endured injury. Another very real cost is that future American taxpayers will be paying for the nearly $450 billion borrowed for this war.
"The people of Afghanistan and their leaders must be prepared to take on the task of providing security, governance, and economic opportunity for their own fellow citizens. I would like to see the 90,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan come home and new Afghan leadership building their own country's future. Ten years is enough -- it is time to end the war in Afghanistan."
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says changes similar to the ones he made to his state's collective bargaining laws could be accomplished elsewhere as long as Republicans think about the next generation instead of the next election. Speaking in Bloomington today Walker said that the Wisconsin changes are working. He said the federal government and other states should follow suit.
"What we did earlier this year in Madison, I think resonates this year whether it's in Madison or in St. Paul or in Springfield or in Indianapolis or Columbus or Austin or in the halls of Congress in Washington D.C. We need men and women of courage and the people to stand up with them to back them up along the way. That's what we did earlier this year in Wisconsin."
Walker said Republicans in Wisconsin withstood pressure from Democrats and labor unions to punish them for the changes they made in the past year. Walker spoke to about 1,000 Republicans at the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference, which continues tomorrow in Bloomington.
You can listen to Walker's speech here: Listen
Political Strategist Karl Rove also spoke at the event. Rove, who served as political director to President George W. Bush, repeatedly criticized President Obama during his speech. He called Obama's Thursday news conference "petulant and petty."
"There he was lecturing us again, wagging his finger at us," Rove said. "We all know he doesn't really want to pass this so-called jobs bill. He really doesn't care. He'd prefer to have it as a political tool to beat up his political opponents."
Rove got his loudest applause from the GOP audience when he suggested that the federal health care law could be repealed if Republicans take the U.S. Senate and the White House.
You can listen to his speech here: Listen
While Rove got a loud applause from the audience, he got a glitter shower after his speech. A protester known for throwing glitter on Republican candidates pounced on Rove after his speech.
The attack occurred when he was signing books.
WASHINGTON - Congress continues to inch forward on authorizing a replacement for the aging bridge crossing the St. Croix River in Stillwater. The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday to mark up a bill sponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann allowing construction of a new bridge.
If the bill passes through the full committee, it will then head to the House floor for a vote. A companion bill in the Senate authored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar has not yet received committee approval. Bachmann's bill is co-sponsored by fellow Minnesota Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack, as well as Reps. Sean Duffy (R-WI) and Ron Kind (D-WI).
If passed, the bill would be most significant piece of legislation authored by Bachmann, who's running for the GOP presidential nomination, to receive Congressional approval.
A replacement bridge requires Congressional approval because the St. Croix River is protected by the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act which generally prohibits significant new structures around protected rivers.
Congressional sources have told MPR News that to speed the process, Bachmann has agreed to substitute Klobuchar's bill language for her own at this upcoming hearing.
Last month, Bill Berndt, a lobbyist for the coalition advocating for a new bridge, told MPR News that he anticipated significant Congressional action on the bridge in October.
Over the summer, Gov. Dayton had set a Sept. 30 deadline for Congress to authorize a bridge in order to allow MNDOT to redirect the funding set aside for the span to be used for other projects. Last week, MNDOT told MPR News that the Sept. 30 deadline was "no longer valid" and that the agency was working with Minnesota's Congressional delegation to push through passage of the authorizing legislation.
The Minnesota Republican Party intends to keep the date for the precinct caucuses on Feb. 7. State law requires the caucuses to be held on that day but can be moved if the GOP and the DFL agree to change it. (Update: law requires public facilities to be made available to the parties that day. Parties can hold caucuses on other day but will have to pay for the expenses).
"As of right now we are scheduling for Feb. 7 and we have no plans to change that," Westover said.
Minnesota's precinct caucuses are scheduled to be held one day after Iowa's precinct caucuses. That date, however, has been put into doubt after Republicans in Florida voted to hold that state's primary on Jan. 31. That upset the early primary schedule set forth by the Republican National Committee that determined voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada will go first. The RNC has threatened to strip Florida from half of its delegates at the national convention if they continue with the move.
The reason Minnesota isn't in violation is because the precinct caucuses are nonbinding.
"We are kosher as far as the party rules go," Westover said. "Our delegates are not bound by the decisions that are not bound by the decisions made on Feb. 7."
The party usually holds a straw poll on caucus night which could help Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's bid to be the GOP nominee.
Kristen Sosanie, with the DFL Party, says they are also planning to hold the precinct caucuses on Feb. 7. She said they asked the Democratic National Committee to approve the move and are waiting for a reply.
One potential problem with the early caucus date is how it will impact the state's legislative races. It's likely that candidates for the Minnesota House and Senate (and Congress) won't know exactly where the boundaries of their districts are. That's because the court appointed panel on redistricting won't release its map until February 21. Candidates may be forced to organize for caucuses in precincts that they may not represent after the new lines are drawn.(1 Comments)
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will be the featured speaker at the DFL Party's Founders Day Dinner. The event is an annual fundraiser for the party. Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006. He served in the U.S. House from 1991-2007.
Sanders is best known as a vocal critic of the bank bailout known as TARP (which he voted against).. He also voted against the confirmation of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and held a "mini filibuster" last December on a bill that would extend the Bush era tax cuts.
The fundraiser will be held at DFL headquarters on October 29th.
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum will hold a town hall next Tuesday that will focus on jobs and the economy. McCollum's office says McCollum will also push to pass President Obama's jobs bill.
McCollum's office also said several union members will also be on hand to discuss the importance of the bill.
Republicans have criticized the bill as a "second stimulus" and say they're focused more on reduding the deficit.
Here's the info from McCollum's office:
WHO: Congresswoman Betty McCollum
WHEN: Tuesday, September 27, 6:30-7:30 PM
WHERE: North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, 700 Olive Street, St. Paul, MN 55130
WASHINGTON - A large delegation from the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the St. Croix River was in Washington yesterday and today to press Congress for legislation allowing the construction of a new span over the river.
While there's near-universal consensus that the historic lift bridge is obsolete and a traffic bottleneck, the St. Croix River is protected under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act which makes building a replacement complicated. Congress must authorize exemptions to the law, which is far from simple.
Bill Berndt should know. The former Wisconsin lawmaker has been working on and off on the Stillwater Bridge issue since 1984.
"Is there a finish line? You bet there is. And are we close? We feel we are," said Berndt, who's now the federal lobbyist for the Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing.
The open question is what legislative path that authorization will take. There are standalone bills in the House and Senate, introduced by Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sen. Amy Klobuchar respectively. Both bills had successful subcommittee hearings but have not had hearings from the full committees that refer legislation to the floor of each chamber.
The issue has the support of all four U.S. Senators from Minnesota and Wisconsin, both states' governors and almost all of the U.S. House members whose districts are nearby. The lone standout is DFL Rep. Betty McCollum who argues that the planned replacement bridge is too large and too expensive.
Congressional sources say that Bachmann has agreed to use Klobuchar's language, which will speed up the process if there's no difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Bachmann's language would have, in essence, ignored the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act while Klobuchar's language makes it clear that authorizing the bridge constitutes an exemption the act and must include environmental mitigation measures.
With Congress frequently deadlocked, many bills have been stuck in legislative limbo this session. One House staffer for a Minnesota member said a likely approach would be for language authorizing a new bridge to be attached to one of the "must-pass" bills Congress takes up this fall. But so far, no Congressional office has confirmed plans to go that legislative route.
When asked about whether he preferred the bill move through Congress on its own or as part of broader legislation, Berndt said, "We'll take a victory any way it comes."
The other obstacle facing the bill is time. Gov. Dayton had initially set a soft deadline of Sept. 30 for Congress to act before he directed MNDOT to begin allocating the funds set aside for a new bridge to other construction projects. Dayton's office referred requests for an update on that deadline to MNDOT, which has not responded to multiple requests for clarification from MPR News
Berndt appeared unconcerned about the Sept. 30 deadline, saying that significant progress had been made since the deadline was set and that Congressional action was imminent.
"I would anticipate that you're going to see some action very soon," said Berdnt. "I wouldn't be surprised that given the schedule that is up, October will be an awfully crucial month for us."
WASHINGTON - Alex Conant, who ran the press shop for former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's now-shuttered presidential campaign, will be joining the staff of Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
A Rubio staffer confirmed the news this morning, which was first reported by Roll Call.
Rubio, a Senate freshman who was elected last year, is widely seen as a potential GOP vice-presidential candidate based in part on his youth and potential appeal to Latino voters.
Conant was spotted by this reporter from afar in a Senate hallway last week. Conant is not a stranger to the Senate, he previously worked for South Dakota Republican John Thune and also served a stint at the Republican National Committee.(2 Comments)
From MPR's Tom Weber...
When President Obama delivers remarks at the White House Friday morning about the federal No Child Left Behind law, Minnesota's Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius will be in attendance.
The president plans to speak about "the need to provide states with relief from key provisions of No Child Left Behind," according to the U.S. Department of Education. His comments will raise the profile of last month's announcement by Education Secretary Arne Duncan that he would grant waivers to states seeking to drop some of the law's provisions.
Cassellius submitted Minnesota's waiver request just days after that announcement.
Other education chiefs from around the country also will be in attendance for Obama's remarks, according to an advisory from the state education department.
WASHINGTON - Minnesota's high-profile Republicans are lining up to support Mitt Romney's presidential bid over home state candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann.
The latest Romney endorsement comes today from former Sen. Norm Coleman, according to a release from the Romney campaign. Coleman's official title will be Special Adviser on Policy.
"His advice will be critical as I lay out my vision for improving our economy at home and strengthening our partnerships around the world," Romney said in a statement.
In the same statement, Coleman, who is Jewish, picked up on an attack line that Republicans have been using against President Obama, that his policies hurt Israel.
"As a strong supporter of Israel, I am also confident that he is the best candidate to restore America's relationship with Israel," said Coleman.
Coleman, who was defeated in 2008 by DFL Sen. Al Franken, now works as a lobbyist in Washington, DC but has not ruled out running for office again.
This latest endorsement for Romney joins endorsements by other senior Minnesota Republicans in the past month, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whose own presidential bid sputtered, and former Minnesota Congressman and Washington insider Vin Weber.
So far, Bachmann has not garnered any high-profile endorsements from Minnesota Republicans, including the state's three other Republicans who serve in the U.S. House.
UPDATE: In a brief interview with MPR News this afternoon, Coleman emphasized Romney's electability as a candidate compared to others, such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.
"I think he [Romney] brings some things to the table that makes him the best choice, the best opportunity for our team to reclaim the White House," said Coleman.
While backing Romney, Coleman did not criticize Bachmann and went so far as to say he was a "big fan" of the Stillwater Congresswoman.
Coleman said he would play a role in actively courting the Jewish community, where Republicans see a chance to make inroads.
The former senator emphasized that his endorsement was personal and that it did not extend to the American Action Network, the outside conservative political group that Coleman founded. That is significant because the AAN was a major player in last year's midterm elections, pumping $26 million worth of advertising into crucial electoral races.
Posted at 2:32 PM on September 19, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - The revolving door spins again. After leaving DFL Sen. Al Franken's office last month, his former chief of staff Drew Littman has taken a job with a renewable energy company.
According to Politico, which first reported the news, Littman will open a Washington office for California-based Solazyme, which makes biofuels from algae.
Littman joined Franken's staff in July 2009 immediately after the drawn-out election recount. Before working for Franken, Littman was a lobbyist with his own practice and also worked with the powerhouse Washington firm Podesta Associates.
WASHINGTON - If there was ever a Congressional committee with the power to rivet the attention of Senators and House members, it's the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the "super committee."
The bipartisan, bicameral committee of 12 is the child of last month's debt ceiling deal and has an unusual amount of power to find more than $1.5 trillion in budget savings over the next decade by Thanksgiving. The House and Senate must then approve or reject the entire package without amendments (and in the case of the Senate, with a simple majority vote) by Christmas. If the deal is rejected, automatic, across-the-board cuts worth $1.2 trillion kick in starting in 2013.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of more than 30 senators, including DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, asked the super committee to "go big" and reach a $4 trillion deal along the lines of proposals made by last year's Bowles-Simpson Commission and another framework reached by the Senate's so-called "Gang of Six" earlier this year.
Some of the other signers include Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).
At a press conference, the senators said their goal was to provide political cover for the super committee members to go above and beyond their mandated budget cutting goals, but the letter also reflects another new fact of Capitol Hill life: most lawmakers are now forced to lobby this select committee of Senators and House members instead of having a direct voice in affairs themselves.
Klobuchar isn't alone among Minnesota lawmakers writing these kinds of letters to the super committee.
Yesterday, her colleagues, DFL Sen. Al Franken was one of several Senate liberals who penned a letter to all 12 committee members asking them to spare Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from cuts.
In the House, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison co-wrote a letter on behalf of the Progressive Caucus that he leads asking the committee to add job creation to its mandate.
Some members are counting on personal connections to ensure that their voices are heard. DFL Rep. Collin Peterson is concerned that agricultural programs will be hard hit by the super committee because of the "ideological agendas" of some of its members.
But Peterson says agriculture has at least one ally with a seat on the committee, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who also chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
"He's our guy," Peterson said in an interview, "He's been calling me regularly and we've been strategizing."
So far, Minnesota's four Republicans in the House have been quiet about the super committee, but shortly after the bill creating the committee passed, Rep. John Kline expressed concern about the automatic defense cuts that would take place if the committee doesn't reach a deal.
The open question is whether all of the letters and personal contacts will be enough to change the 12 members' minds by Thanksgiving.
WASHINGTON - Before a special joint session of a bitterly divided Congress, President Obama laid out his agenda for creating jobs and reducing unemployment through a $450 billion package of targeted tax cuts and infrastructure investments.
Lawmakers' reception to the plan was partisan, albeit somewhat more cordial than last month's legislative food fight over raising the debt ceiling.
Here are the responses from Minnesota lawmakers to the plan:
Rep. Michele Bachmann - Rep. Michele Bachmann did not arrive back in time to be present for the speech. Her staff said torrential rainfall in the Washington area delayed her flight from the West Coast, where she attended a GOP presidential debate yesterday. She did arrive in time to hold a press conference after the speech to offer a rebuttal, something the Republican leadership declined to do.
Before a small group of reporters, she said, "While the President's speech comes on the heels of a trillion dollars of failed stimulus, bailouts, and temporary gimmicks aimed at creating jobs, the President continued to cling to the idea that government is the solution to creating jobs."
Rep. Chip Cravaack - None of the four reporters for Minnesota-based outlets who were in the House chamber spotted the freshman Republican. Cravaack's spokesman, Michael Bars, via email said "Rep. Cravaack was huddling with his team listening carefully to the President's speech."
Bars emailed a short statement about the speech, writing, "Rep. Cravaack will examine all pro-growth proposals that mitigate excessive, job-destroying regulations that saddle small businesses and job creators."
Rep. Keith Ellison - "I like most of what I heard, and I'm ready to vote for the American Jobs Act," Ellison told reporters immediately after the speech. When asked whether he thought a bill could be moved through Congress, Ellison said, "There was stuff in there Republicans clapped for."
Sen. Al Franken - "Our top priority must be getting people back to work. The President presented a smart plan that will create needed American jobs and won't add a dime to the deficit. This plan will benefit Minnesota, and Congress needs to act on it quickly. This package would put lots of Minnesotans back to work, including teachers, first responders, and construction workers, and put more money in the pockets of our state's working families," according to a statement released by the DFL senator's office.
Rep. John Kline - "I was pleased to hear the President heed the call of Americans by expressing a desire to work together to promote long term economic growth," the Republican lawmaker said in a statement. "Unfortunately, his call for more stimulus-type measures ignores the reality that people - not government - are our nation's true job creators. The private sector doesn't need Washington to tell them how to create jobs; they need Washington to get out of their way."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar - "I thought it was incredibly realistic that he tied it to having to be paid for," said Klobuchar, a DFLer, referring to the President's proposal that the costs of his new stimulus program be offset with additional deficit savings by the special bipartisan, bicameral "Super Commission" that's meeting this fall. "If it's not paid for, it's not going to get done," Klobuchar told reporters.
Rep. Betty McCollum - "For the past eight months, the world has witnessed an out-of-control Tea Party majority in Congress, harming our economy and stalling job growth with their posturing and political games," said McCollum, a liberal DFL member from St. Paul, in a written statement. "The American people want jobs, not dangerous and harmful Tea Party schemes to protect polluters, bust unions, eliminate Medicare, and outsource more jobs."
Rep. Erik Paulsen - "Neither party can escape blame for our nation's economic turmoil. Republicans during the Bush years made mistakes, spending lots of money the country didn't have. But a few of my colleagues and I want to reform Washington's reckless, unsustainable ways," the Republican said in a written statement. "I'm always willing to work across the aisle on good ideas to revive the economy. Unfortunately, the President's remarks tonight were more of a rehash of previously failed policies. He and we can do better."
Rep. Collin Peterson - The DFL Congressman's office did not issue a statement on the speech.
Rep. Tim Walz - Asked about the deep political divisions in Congress, the Mankato DFLer said, "We're going to have to overcome it. The bottom line is the President was very conciliatory, he brought up big issues like Medicare reform and was willing to go there. I'm optimistic about it. I heard it in August, the American people want action, they're not concerned with the political divide other than getting it fixed."
WASHINGTON - Tonight's speech by President Obama before a joint session of Congress is quickly turning into a miniature version of the annual State of the Union address.
The latest sign, a list of guests invited by First Lady Michelle Obama, including Burnsville resident Darlene Miller.
Miller is the owner and CEO of Permac Industries, which makes machine tools, and she also serves on a presidential panel on jobs and competitiveness so her invitation makes sense in the context of the speech, which will emphasize ways to create jobs and bring down unemployment.
Her company was also a beneficiary of a subsidized job program that was part of the 2009 stimulus act.
Miller has also contributed to Republican candidates in the past, including Rep. John Kline and former Sen. Norm Coleman, so her presence as a guest of the First Lady serves another of the President's themes: the need to for bipartisanship.
Other guests include GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, AOL co-founder Steve Case and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann won some home state support at the Minnesota Republican Party's State Fair booth. The MNGOP held an unscientific straw poll throughout the Fair.
There were 2,300 votes for Bachmann. Texas Gov. Rick Perry finished second with 1,901 votes. Texas Congressman Ron Paul finished third with 1,181 votes. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received 617 votes.
Those attending the State Fair were eligible to vote in the straw poll if they visited the MNGOP's State Fair booth.
It's an unscientific poll so shouldn't be viewed as a way to gauge support in Minnesota. Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton dubbed the straw poll at the State Fair as a "fun way to see a candidate's viability" at the State Fair. in other words, it's a little bit of catnip for political watchers.
Here are the results:
TOTAL CAST: 7731
WASHINGTON - One of Capitol Hill's staunchest opponents of the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile applauded the U.S. Justice Department's announcement today that it will go to court to block the formation of a telecom behemoth.
"I have long believed that this merger would be a terrible deal for consumers, and I'm pleased the Department of Justice has taken the wise step of officially opposing it," said DFL Sen. Al Franken in a statement.
Franken is concerned that if the the merger were to go through, AT&T and Verizon would control more than 80 percent of the wireless market and would raise prices on consumers and limit innovation.
In July, Franken had asked the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission to reject the merger.
But he's taken heat from labor unions, which strongly backed his election in 2008, for his stand. AT&T is unionized and T-Mobile isn't. A merged company could increase the number of union members at a time when the labor movement is struggling.(2 Comments)
Minnesota's U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones will take over as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Jones, who was serving his second stint as U.S. Attorney, will take over an agency that has been receiving heavy criticism over the past few months. The former head of the ATF, Kenneth Melson, was criticized for a botched sting operation that resulted in guns getting into the hands of violent criminals in Mexico.
"As a seasoned prosecutor and former military judge advocate, U.S. Attorney Jones is a demonstrated leader who brings a wealth of experience to this position," said Attorney General Eric Holder in a news release. "I have great confidence that he will be a strong and steady influence guiding ATF in fulfilling its mission of combating violent crime by enforcing federal criminal laws and regulations in the firearms and explosives industries."
The news release says Jones will continue to serve in the capacity of U.S. Attorney when he assumes the role of ATF acting director on Aug. 31, 2011.
President Obama spoke this morning before the American Legion's national convention in Minneapolis. The event served as a kickoff to the administration's observance of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Throughout his speech, Obama paid tribute to the military members and their families that served their country since the attacks.
"In a decade of war, they have borne an extraordinary burden, with more than two million of our service members deploying to the warzones," Obama said. "Hundreds of thousands have deployed again and again, year after year. Never before has our nation asked so much of our all-volunteer force-that one percent of Americans who wears the uniform."
The president also used the speech to remind the group about the troop draw downs in Afghanistan and Iraq, the veterans services he's protected during his time as president and his efforts to convince private sector companies to hire more veterans.
You can listen to the full speech here: Listen
(MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will join DFL Rep. Tim Walz, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Wednesday. The three Democrats will hold a public forum with experts on Africa and foreign aid to discuss the ongoing famine in the horn of Africa. The event will take place after Pelosi and Walz speak to the American Legion's national convention in Minneapolis.
Here are the details of the event:
What: Congressman Keith Ellison and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs will host a public forum and discussion about the ongoing famine in the horn of Africa.
Who: Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi Representatives Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, and Tim Walz USAID Administrator Raj Shah Hashi Shafi of the Somali Action Alliance Daniel Wordsworth of the American Refugee Committee
When: Wednesday, August 31 1:30 - 3 p.m.
Where: Cowles Auditorium Humphrey School of Public Affairs University of Minnesta 301 19th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN
DFL Sen. Al Franken appeared on MPR's Midday today to talk about a wide range of issues facing Congress and the nation. Near the end of the broadcast, host Gary Eichten asked Franken whether he thought GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann had a legitimate shot at winning the GOP nomination for president.
"I hope so," Franken joked. Franken appears to be in the camp of Democrats who believe that Bachmann's candidacy would give President Obama an easier path to the nomination because Bachmann is too controversial to attract moderate voters.
"So you would like to see the Congresswoman be in a position where she could become president," Eichten asked.
"Ok, now I'm having second thoughts," Franken joked.
Franken said he likes Bachmann as a person. He mentioned that Bachmann attended Franken's Hot Dish cookoff in January and they both attended several funerals for military personnel.
"We have laughed together, we have cried together. I like her," Franken said. "I disagree with almost every stance she has."
You can listen to the entire show here:
(NOTE: An initial post quoted Franken as saying he "disagreed with every stance" Bachmann has. I updated the blog to accurately reflect Franken's statement.)
Forbes Magazine says GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann is the 22nd most powerful woman in the world:
The tough-talking, steely-eyed Minnesota congresswoman has her sights set on the Oval Office. She officially announced her candidacy for the 2012 Republican nomination in June, making her one of a handful of women to run for U.S. President on a major ticket. The Tea Party favorite voted "no" to raising the U.S. debt ceiling, wants to repeal "ObamaCare" and is opposed to same-sex marriage, despite having a gay stepsister. Her Christian and family values--she and her husband Marcus homeschooled their five children and raised 23 foster children, all teenage girls--have earned her loyal supporters. However, she has so far battled questions ranging from her legitimacy to her migraine headaches and her therapist husband's controversial counseling methods.
Bachmann is the top elected official from the United States on the list. German Chancellor Angela Merkel tops the list. Several members of President Obama's Administration, including Hillary Clinton, Kathleen Sebelius and Margaret Hamburg, also rank ahead of Bachmann.
Bachmann, who is running for President, is in her third term in Congress. She represents Minnesota's 6th Congressional District.
She won the Iowa Straw Poll earlier this month but the victory doesn't appear to have given her a bounce in the polls. A new Gallup Poll says Bachmann is polling at her lowest level since June. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has stormed to the top of the poll. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are also ahead of her in the national poll.
The New York Times also writes about the "Bachmann bubble" - a reference to the Bachmann campaign's effort to keep a tight leash on the reporters covering the campaign.
As to Minnesota's 6th District, MPR reports that Bachmann's presidential campaign activities make the future of her congressional seat uncertain."(5 Comments)
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen is visiting Israel this week. His spokesman, Tom Erickson, says Paulsen is part of a congressional delegation that includes 80 members. He said the American Israel Education Foundation is sponsoring the trip and it's the only country Paulsen will visit.
Paulsen is also writing some comments about his trip on the blog, TC Jew Folk. It's mostly a play by play of the first day of this trip.
I'm excited to have arrived in Israel this afternoon. I will try and provide some updates and thoughts on my meetings periodically.
There's lots happening here, as always. In fact, it was characterized to us on my bus ride to Jerusalem, these are not only interesting times (because they're always interesting here), but these are also unusual times. Unusual because of the 8 months of the Arab Spring, which is seeing "the street" engaged in democratic decisions in these countries. A first for these countries that have been run by dictators.
Paulsen also said he was briefed on an Israeli missile defense system and mentioned the recent protests in the country.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who dropped his bid to run for president in 2012, will not challenge DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar in 2012. Minnesota GOP Chair Tony Sutton was actively recruiting Pawlenty to challenge the first-term senator after Pawlenty announced he wasn't running again. Pawlenty's spokesman, Alex Conant, confirmed to MPR News that Pawlenty won't run against Klobuchar.
The Associated Press first reported the news.
"I don't know what I will be doing next," Pawlenty said in an email to The Associated Press. "However, I will not be running against Amy in 2012."
Former state Rep. Dan Severson is the only Republican to announce a run against Klobuchar. He lost his bid for Minnesota Secretary of State in 2010.(2 Comments)
President Obama will make his second trip to Minnesota in the month of August. On Tuesday, August 30, the president will speak before the American Legion's national convention in Minneapolis. The convention will be held from Saturday, August 27 until Thursday, September 1.
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is running to replace Obama in the White House, is scheduled to speak at the convention on Thursday. Gov. Dayton and other members of Minnesota's congressional delegation, including DFL Rep. Tim Walz, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison and DFL Sen. Al Franken, are also scheduled to attend the event. The Veterans Affairs Secretary and House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller, R-FL, will also speak at the event.
Here's the schedule:1 Comments)
President Obama is speaking in Cannon Falls, MN this hour. He told the audience that the nation's problems aren't too big to fix if the nation's political leaders start working towards solutions. Obama also showed that he's going to use a political strategy employed by past presidents - run against Congress.
"I'm really happy to be out of Washington right now," Obama told the crowd.
Obama's Cannon Falls stop is the first of a three state bus tour to discuss the nation's economy. The president said the nation's economy has hit some rough spots over the last six months but he said some of those problems are "self-inflicted." In particular, he said the recent debate over the nation's debt ceiling was unnecessary.
Obama told the crowd that the nation's problems CAN be fixed - the question is how.
"And what's been happening over the last six months, and a little bit longer than that if we're honest with ourselves, is that we have a political culture that doesn't seem willing to make the tough choices to move America forward."
Obama also encouraged the audience to lobby their members to start addressing the nation's problems. He said he's willing to support Republican efforts to erase the nation's deficit but also wants to raise taxes on the nation's top earners. That proposal has made little headway in Congress because House Republicans oppose it.
"I'm not here just to enjoy the nice weather. I'm here to enlist you in a fight. We're fighting for the future of our country. And that is a fight that we are going to win."
Obama's trip to Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois comes just two days after GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll of 2012 candidates.
Republicans in Minnesota held a rally protesting Obama's visit. They said they hoped the eventual Republican nominee will defeat Obama in 2012.
"We're ready to fight and we're here to take back our country," Priebus told the crowd, announcing the plans for the "Obama's Debt-end Bus Tour" in response to Obama's three-day campaign tour through the Upper Midwest.
Obama is making the trip at a time when both he and Congress are suffering from low approval ratings.
You can listen to the first part of Obama's speech here: Listen
President Obama will hold a town hall in Cannon Falls on Monday. President Obama will fly into the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport on Monday morning and will travel to Cannon Falls for the morning event. The town hall will be held at Lower Hannah's Bend Park at 11:45 a.m.
The event will be the first stop on Obama's three-day economic bus tour in the Midwest.
"While in the Midwest, the President will discuss ways to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and accelerate hiring in communities and towns across the nation and hear directly from Americans, including small business owners, local families, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials," The White House said in a statement. "The President knows we must do everything we can to promote economic growth, restore confidence in our nation's future and enhance the sense of optimism for future generations."
The White House says the event is free and open to the public but tickets are required and can be picked up at the Cannon Falls City Hall beginning at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Gov. Dayton is taking swift action today to opt out of the federal No Child Left Behind standards. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that the federal government will start granting waiver to states that want to opt out of the No Child Left Behind law that was passed in 2001. Dayton issues a statement today saying he would do just that.
"Any education reform in Minnesota must begin and end with what is best for our children. The decade old federal law, known as No Child Left Behind, has failed to meet that standard. When it was enacted in 2001, nine of the ten members of the Minnesota Congressional delegation, including all three Republicans and myself, voted against it. Unfortunately, we were right. NCLB has imposed rigid testing requirements, many of which have harmed, not improved, the quality of students' learning experiences. It has labeled many schools wrongly, by applying invalid statistical measures.
"We can and must do better for our children. That is why today I have approved Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius' request to apply for the recently announced federal waiver, exempting schools temporarily from the flawed testing requirements and punitive sanctions of the current No Child Left Behind law.
"Such a waiver would allow Minnesota educators to focus on what is working in their schools. It would provide school boards, administrators, teachers, and parents with the flexibility they need to implement the reforms the Legislature and I enacted in the recent session."
As noted in the statement, Dayton voted against the No Child Left Behind Law in 2001. The only member of the delegation to vote for the bill was DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar. DFL Rep. Bill Luther abstained from voting.(1 Comments)
WASHINGTON - The U.S. avoided default today after the Senate passed a bill raising the government's borrowing authority while making over $2 trillion in long-term spending cuts. Both of Minnesota's DFL Senators voted for the agreement, which passed the Senate 74-26.
The Senate's vote and the president's signature end months of heated disagreement and confrontation between Democrats and Republicans in Washington over an issue that had traditionally ended in an embarrassing vote for past administrations, but not the sweeping concessions that Republicans managed to extract this time around.
As she walked out of the Senate chamber after voting, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar was relieved that an agreement had been reached, even if it was imperfect.
"We didn't reduce a number of things that I think would have made a major problem for our economy," argued Klobuchar, who pointed to Social Security and Medicaid, which were spared from cuts by this deal.
The agreement has two parts. First, it makes $917 billion in cuts over the next decade, with many of the cuts actually set to begin in 2013 and later, after the next election. As history has shown before, a future Congress could also undo elements of the deal over time.
Medicare was also spared for now, although the health insurance program could be cut if a special bicameral, bipartisan committee of lawmakers doesn't come up with a second rounds of cuts totaling at least $1.2 trillion by Thanksgiving.
More confrontations in September and December possible
It's still unclear exactly where the cuts will fall. The agreement specifies spending caps in defense and non-defense spending over the next two years. Those caps are actually considerably higher than spending caps that made up the budget road map (known as the Ryan plan after the Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan) passed by the House earlier this year.
It's now up to House and Senate appropriators to work within those spending caps as they merge their appropriations bills ahead of the beginning of the federal government's new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
While the two chambers can now at least agree on the number of dollars they have to spend, many of the House-passed bills contain policy riders that the Democratic-controlled Senate considers unacceptable, including provisions that would weaken the Environmental Protection Agency and the rights of workers to unionize in the transportation sector. Look for more possible brinksmanship between the parties in the fall with those policy riders.
Another potential confrontation could come in November and December after the special committee reports its recommendations for longer-term savings. One Democratic Senate aide worried that Republicans might provoke another showdown then.
Under the agreement, the trigger mechanisms make automatic cuts in payments to Medicare providers and security spending including defense, State Department operations, homeland security and veterans' affairs if the committee can't reach agreement. The aide worried that Republicans, having spread out the budget-cutting pain in their area over a variety of programs, might be willing to let the cuts to Medicare take place.
Ethanol agreement orphaned by deficit deal
One victim of the budget agreement was an agreement crafted by Klobuchar with the ethanol industry to end a major subsidy for the corn-based fuel while preserving other government support for ethanol. Since the measure that passed the House and Senate included no revenues of any kind, the ethanol deal, which includes changes to the tax code, couldn't be included in the final agreement even though it included budget savings.
Klobuchar hoped that lawmakers could take up the ethanol provision when they return in September and tax breaks like those could also be fodder for the special budget-cutting committee.
Reflecting on a process that had lasted months and distracted lawmakers and the Obama Administration from other goals, such as reducing unemployment, Klobuchar appeared irritated.
"What bothers me how inefficient it is and how we wait to the last minute to get things done," Klobuchar said. "That's disturbing and that's not how anyone would run their family, their business or even a local government, so I'd like to see that change."
But with re-election on the minds of the president and many lawmakers, including Klobuchar, and a divided, heavily partisan Congress, expect more conflicts like this one in the coming months.(1 Comments)
WASHINGTON - When big news hits in Washington, reporters' inboxes usually get flooded with press releases. But the big debt ceiling and deficit reduction deal struck by President Obama and congressional leaders yesterday has been playing out a little differently.
So far, just two members of Minnesota's delegation have taken a public stand on the agreement. DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar came out in favor in an interview with MPR's Cathy Wurzer this morning.
"It's not the deal I would have written," said Klobuchar, "but you have to remember that the stakes are incredibly high."
GOP Congresswoman and presidential contender Michele Bachmann denounced the deal right away.
Rep. John Kline, who has close ties to the GOP leadership, was supportive of the agreement but didn't offer a full endorsement last night, according to spokesman Troy Young.
"While there is not a final deal, Congressman Kline is pleased the proposal appears to be based on the framework of "Cut, Cap and Balance" and includes no tax increases," Young wrote in an email. "While he has some initial concerns on how a joint committee could act and operate, he is still reviewing the plan and wants to ensure this or any agreement would fundamentally change the way Washington spends taxpayer money."
All eyes will be on DFL Rep. Keith Ellison today, who so far has remained silent. Other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus that he co-chairs have already savaged the agreement.
Queries to other congressional offices have thus far turned up no response with most press secretaries saying that their bosses are still "studying" the bill's language.
Listen to audio of Klobuchar's interview with MPR News here:
The League of Women Voters, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and other groups will hold a series of public meetings in hopes of drawing a new Minnesota political map. The first citizen meeting will be held Saturday afternoon at Minnesota Council of Nonprofits' offices at 1pm at 2314 University Avenue in St. Paul. Other meetings will be held across the state in coming weeks.
Input from the meetings will be used to propose several maps in September, says Laura Fredrick Wang, with the League of Woman Voters.
"These maps really define political power for the next ten years," Wang said. "The people who can tell you best what their community looks like, where people work in their community, where they go to school, where they live in their community and how they relate to each other are the people who live there. And if you don't get out and talk to those people and get a really broad range of input, it's really hard to capture a community."
Wang says the groups hope to submit one proposal to the state courts in October. A court-appointed panel will also hold hearings in October to get input on redistricting. The courts will draw the maps in late February if Gov. Dayton and the GOP-controlled Legislature can't agree on a map.
The political boundaries for Congress and the Legislature have to redrawn every ten years after the U.S. Census Bureau releases population data. So, the stakes for the new maps are huge because they will be a factor in determining the political makeup of the Minnesota Legislature and the state's congressional delegation for a decade.
Gov. Dayton vetoed a GOP redistricting plan in May because he said Republicans didn't gather enough citizen input about the proposal. He and the Democrats have not submitted a proposal of their own.
(Read more about the state's redistricting battle here)
The League of Women Voters' Yang says she hopes her plan will present the courts with a broader plan.
The commission, dubbed "Draw the Line Minnesota," will be represented by members who hold a wide range of political views.
The panel includes:
Bruce Corrie; Concordia University's Dean of College of Business and Organizational Leadership
Matthew Lewis, spokesman for the Independence Party of Minnesota
Anne Mason; a former spokeswoman for Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy and political director to GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen's Congressional campaign in 2008.
Kent Kaiser; a professor at Northwestern College who also served as spokesman when Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer held office.
Elda Macias; a marketing director for Ameriprise Financial and former member of the DFL Latino Caucus
WASHINGTON - Passions are running high in Washington over what once was a routine Congressional vote to increase the nation's debt limit. There's a crisis atmosphere in the hallways surrounding both the Senate and House chambers. Cable news channels are running countdown clocks to Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department runs out of borrowing authority.
Congressional offices are reporting much higher than usual levels of phone calls and emails from constituents after Monday night's speech by President Obama, in which he urged Americans to contact their lawmakers and ask for an increase in the debt limit. DFL Rep. Betty McCollum said her office had recorded over 600 calls on Tuesday, well above average.
But at this stage in the debate, there are just two proposals left for how to extend the debt ceiling by at least $2.5 trillion, enough to carry the government past the presidential election in 2012, and avoid a default on the federal government's debt.
Minnesota's Democratic lawmakers generally support the Democratic plan put forward by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But the state's four Republicans are divided and undecided about the plan offered by GOP House Speaker John Boehner.
Boehner's proposal would raise the debt ceiling by an additional $2.5 trillion while cutting a similar amount from federal spending over the next decade without increasing revenues.
Boehner's plan has two steps, an initial vote to approve the plan and lift the debt limit by $1 trillion while making offsetting cuts to domestic spending of $1 trillion. Then, Congress would convene a bipartisan, bicameral commission of lawmakers who would find another $1.8 trillion in cuts from entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, passage of which would trigger another increase in the debt ceiling.
Minnesota's four Republican lawmakers are divided on Boehner's proposal. Rep. John Kline, the senior Republican in the delegation and a confidant of Boehner's, supports the plan. Meanwhile, Rep. Michele Bachmann, who's also running for the Republican presidential nomination, opposes any increase in the debt ceiling that does not also include a mechanism for de-funding last year's health care bill.
Reps. Erik Paulsen and Chip Cravaack are on the fence about the Boehner plan. In a brief conversation off of the House floor, Paulsen said he didn't know enough about the plan yet and hoped to learn more after a Republican caucus meeting tonight.
In an email, Cravaack's spokesman wrote, "The Representative's chief concerns remain sufficient spending cuts relative to the proposed debt increase, tax hikes on families and job creators, and a Balanced Budget Amendment to reform spending authority."
Indeed, a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is turning into a major sticking point with the fiscally-conservative Republican Study Group, which has come out against the Boehner proposal, potentially depriving the Speaker of enough votes to push his bill through the House.
But regardless of whether Boehner's bill makes it through the Republican-controlled House, it stands no chance of making it through the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama has threatened to veto the measure should it land on his desk.
The Senate proposal backed by Majority Leader Harry Reid is a major concession for Democrats, who had hoped to include revenue increases of some kind in a final deal to spare some of their domestic priorities from drastic cuts. Instead, like the Boehner plan, Reid's bill contains no revenue increases.
Reid's bill also calls for a single vote to extend the debt ceiling by $2.7 trillion while making comparable cuts over a decade. The cuts include counting savings from the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, a tactic some Republicans have denounced although their budget projections have made similar assumptions in the past. Unlike Boehner's bill, Reid's contains no cuts to entitlement programs.
Sen. Al Franken and Reps. Betty McCollum and Collin Peterson indicated that they would support Reid's proposal. Peterson had been concerned that both proposals would cut too deeply into agricultural programs, but in a brief interview this afternoon, he said he had spoken with Reid's office and was assured that agricultural programs would only be cut by approximately $12 billion over the next decade, a figure he found acceptable.
Rep. Keith Ellison's spokeswoman indicated that he was leaning towards supporting the Reid bill, too, because Reid's package makes no cuts to entitlement programs. Rep. Tim Walz would only say that he was looking into Reid's proposal but that he was opposed to Boehner's.
At this point, with a week left before the Treasury runs out of cash, a weekend session of Congress appears all but inevitable. What appears more up in the air is whether both parties can reach a deal.
Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke is scheduled to speak to the Economic Club of Minnesota in September. Bernanke, who is overseeing the central bank of the U.S, will have plenty to talk about. He's trying to manage the nation's monetary policy during a struggling economy and as President Obama and Congress continue to debate the best way to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
The event will be open to Economic Club of Minnesota members and sponsors. The Economic Club of Minnesota's mission is to consider ideas on how "Minnesota can better compete in the global economy and how America can most effectively provide world leadership on economic and strategic issues."
WASHINGTON - Reporters and campaign operatives eager to dig into the finances of Republican presidential candidate and House member Michele Bachmann will have to wait a bit longer. Bachmann's office confirmed that she has received another extension for filing her required financial disclosure forms that were first due to be released June 15.
Bachmann's paperwork is now due Aug. 12, during the scheduled Congressional summer recess. Income from a stake Bachmann and her husband hold in a family farm in Wisconsin will surely come under scrutiny. The farm receives payments from the federal government even as Bachmann has called for cutting federal spending.
Freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack also received an additional extension, which puts his expected filing date in mid-August as well, according to chief of staff Michael Tomberlin. Cravaack, who's expected to face a tough challenge next year in his DFL-leaning district, may also see his finances come under scrutiny after announcing last week that his family will be moving to New Hampshire while he continues to represent Minnesota's 8th District.
On the Senate side, DFL Sen. Al Franken had previously asked for a longer extension and his paperwork is due by Aug. 15, said spokesman Ed Shelleby.
WASHINGTON - Happy Federal Election Commission fundraising filing deadline day!
We don't have all the numbers on how much the various presidential, senatorial and congressional campaigns have brought in, but we'll update this post as more results come in.
Michele Bachmann - CBS reports that the Stillwater Congresswoman has raised $4 million since officially announced her bid for the White House last month. We're trying to confirm those numbers with the campaign. The CBS report says $2 million came from donors and the other $2 million was transferred from Bachmann's congressional campaign account. While $2 million in less than a month is nothing to sneeze at, there had been speculation that Bachmann's haul was likely to be far bigger and the Washington Post's conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin deemed the figure mediocre.
UPDATE: Bachmann's campaign announced that she's raised $4.2 million in the past quarter, although it didn't break out how much came before and after Bachmann's June 12th official announcement that she was entering the race. The campaign says Bachmann had more than 88,000 donors who gave an average of $48. Her war chest holds $3.6 million.
Tim Pawlenty - The former governor's campaign had reported two weeks ago that it raised $4.2 million over the past three months. Today, they're saying that when they counted every penny in the piggy bank, it was actually $4.5 million with $2 million cash on hand. Just $600,000 of the money is dedicated to the general election, should Pawlenty win the Republican primary. That puts Pawlenty even with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) but both are still far behind Mitt Romney, who brought in over $18 million in the same period.
Amy Klobuchar - As reported earlier this week, Klobuchar raised $1.1 million for her reelection bid and has more than $3 million in the bank.
Dan Severson - The only declared GOP opponent for Klobuchar's seat raised just $3,600 in the past quarter. If that fundraising pace continues, next year's Senate election could look like the short film Bambi meets Godzilla.
Jeff Anderson - Anderson, a city council member in Duluth, is one of three DFLers who have already declared their intent to run against Republican Chip Cravaack in the 8th Congressional District. His campaign has raised $30,000 so far and has $27,000 in the bank.
Lee Byberg - Republican Byberg lost to DFLer Collin Peterson last year. This time around, his FEC filing shows that Byberg raised $40,000 in the past quarter and has $42,000 cash on hand. One challenge for Byberg, his campaign still has $77,000 in debt from the election cycle.
Tarryl Clark - Former State Rep. Clark took on - and lost to - Michele Bachmann in the 6th District last year. Although Clark went down in flames, she raised $5 million in the most expensive House race last year. Now, she's moved to Duluth and plans to challenge newcomer Rep. Chip Cravaack. Clark's campaign says she raised over $140,000 since declaring her bid two months ago and has $130,00 cash on hand.
Chip Cravaack - Freshman Republican Rep. Cravaack is likely to face a very tough re-election campaign in the 8th District. So far, we've gotten no answer from his campaign about their fundraising, but last quarter's results were not terribly strong given the amount of money Democrats are likely to pour into the race. UPDATE Cravaack's campaign raised nearly $224,000 and has almost $269,000 cash on hand. As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Cravaack has drawn interest from many lobbyists and trade associations related to industries that do business with the committee. Cravaack pulled in more than $76,000 from political action committees.
Randy Lee Demmer - Republican Demmer challenged DFL Rep. Tim Walz in the 1st District last year and lost. Demmer's in the race again this year but so far has raised just $1,600 and his campaign is still buried under $93,000 in debt from last year.
Keith Ellison -
As yet, there's no response from the DFL Congressman's campaign. UPDATE: Minneapolis Congressman Keith Ellison's campaign raised $233,000 last quarter. The DFLer's campaign bank account now holds $169,000.
John Kline -
UPDATE: The 2nd District Republican Congressman's campaign raised $327,000 this quarter and has $583,000 cash on hand. As the new chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Kline's fundraising base has expanded considerably in the past year and a closer look at those numbers will probably reveal many out of state donors. The Republican chair of the House Education and Workforce committee hasn't yet announced his campaign's fundraising totals.
Betty McCollum - DFLer McCollum's campaign reports raising $114,000 last quarter, with $108,000 cash on hand. McCollum has a very safe DFL seat in St. Paul and is not expecting a serious challenge. Still, her campaign is about to get a big fundraising boost when McCollum's close ally, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, holds a fundraiser in Minnesota this weekend for McCollum and other Democrats.
Erik Paulsen -
Paulsen's campaign says its results will be out later this afternoon. UPDATE: 3rd District Congressman Erik Paulsen's campaign raised $396,000 last quarter and now has $676,000 in the bank. That's in line with his strong fundraising performance in the first quarter and may scare away some potential DFL challengers.
Collin Peterson - The powerful ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee raised $161,000 in the past three months. Over $126,000 of those funds came from political action committees associated with various agricultural companies and trade associations. Peterson's campaign war chest now has $581,000 in it.
Lynne Torgerson - Tea party Republican Torgerson challenged DFLer Ellison in last year's election and says she plans to run against him again in his heavily Democratic Minneapolis district. So far, she's pulled in less than $3,000.
Tim Walz -
We've asked the 1st District DFL Congressman's campaign for an update but haven't heard back yet. UPDATE:
Walz's campaign announced that the 1st District Congressman raised $380,000 for his reelection. He'll need it, as Republicans have repeatedly tried to oust the DFLer since Walz first took the seat in 2006. Walz has $397,000 on hand.
A quick note on why these numbers matter. Fundraising shows how much support candidates have and what kind of resources they'll be able to deploy during their campaigns. Further, we can tell from the mix of small donors and large donors whether the candidate has a lot of interest from the grassroots versus wealthier donors who can write big checks.
We'll do more in-depth analysis over the coming weeks.(1 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Amy Klobuchar's mountain of campaign cash continues to grow. The DFL Senator's campaign says she raised $1.1 million in the past three months
The first term Senator raised about the same amount the previous quarter. She now has a war chest of $3.3 million to fund her re-election, 16 months before Election Day 2012.
Last quarter, Klobuchar had $2.5 million in cash on hand, suggesting that her campaign spent $300,000 in the past three months. More details will be available after July 15, when the campaign is required to file details with the Federal Election Commission.
Klobuchar's fundraising has had a whimsical element to it. Last month, she held an event for donors at a performance of Glee, the musical, in Washington, DC.
Klobuchar's growing campaign bank account, and her sky-high job approval rating, appears to have dissuaded many Republicans from declaring a run against her.
So far, former state Rep. Dan Severson is Klobuchar's only declared Republican opponent.
Posted at 2:24 PM on July 7, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - Ethanol's 45 cent per gallon tax credit could end by July 31 rather than the previously scheduled Dec. 31 expiration date, according to the terms of a deal announced today by DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA).
The credit, worth over $5 billion a year, has been in the cross-hairs of a bipartisan group of Senators from beyond the Midwest with varying reasons for opposing the industry subsidy. Last month, the Senate voted 73-27 on an amendment to end the tax credit although the underlying bill the amendment was attached to ultimately failed to receive a vote.
After that vote, Klobuchar and Thune began talks with Feinstein, who had co-sponsored the amendment, to find a compromise that would put the ethanol industry on a "glide path" away from the strong government support it has received in the past.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture estimates that ethanol production contributes $3 billion a year to the state's economy.
Of the $2 billion worth of remaining funds for the blender credit, $1.3 billion will be dedicated to deficit reduction and $668 million will go towards tax credits for installing ethanol infrastructure at gas stations, encouraging the production of cellulosic ethanol that doesn't use corn as a feedstock and extending a tax credit for small producers.
"What this does is it allows us to use existing funds, existing money, not use any new money going forward," Klobuchar told MPR News in a brief interview this morning.
In addition to the tax credits, American-made ethanol also benefits from a federal mandate to mix the fuel with gasoline and a tariff on imported ethanol that's targeted at Brazil.
The deal comes at a time when Congress and the White House are engaged in high-stakes talks to raise the government debt ceiling and craft a long-term deficit reduction plan. Klobuchar hoped the agreement could serve as a template for phasing out other industry subsidies in the tax code.
"I think it's a great example of how an industry in the middle of the year came forward and said, OK, we know our subsidy is going away, let's do it in a smarter way and put some immediate money on the debt," Klobuchar said.
The agreement still needs the approval of the full House and Senate, and President Obama's signature, before it becomes law. Klobuchar said it could be attached to the deficit reduction agreement currently under negotiation.
Industry groups, faced with the complete elimination of the subsidy by the end of the year and an increasingly hostile Congress, welcomed the agreement.
"The final compromise reflects both the importance of the ethanol industry to achieve energy independence and the need for fiscal responsibility," said Bart Schott, President of the National Corn Growers Association.
WASHINGTON - Many of Minnesota's candidates for federal office are bombarding email inboxes today, looking for a last-minute rush of campaign contributions before a federal filing deadline at midnight tonight.
Presidential contenders such as Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty are trying to prove their viability as strong, national candidates in the GOP nomination process, something made much easier by an impressive fundraising haul.
"They'll stop at nothing to defeat me," was the title of one such email from Bachmann's presidential campaign. In case you were wondering, the "they" in Bachmann's email refers to "Barack Obama's campaign machine" that will "use the numbers we report not only as a sign of our campaign's strength, but also a sign of the strength of our conservative values."
Judging from the traffic of fundraising emails in my inbox, Pawlenty has not sought smaller donors as aggressively as Bachmann, even as media reports suggest that his campaign is struggling to raise funds.
Pawlenty's latest appeal was delivered Tuesday after a foreign policy speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. Riffing on a theme from the speech, the email asked, "Will you join me to stop President Obama's defeatist attitude and return America back to its rightful leadership role?"
In case it's not clear, "join" in this context means "give."
Congressional candidates are also shaking the money tree. Incumbents like to post strong numbers early in the election cycle to scare off potential opponents.
DFL Rep. Tim Walz has challenged his supporters to give $50,000 before the midnight deadline. The three-term congressman's 1st District is a prime GOP target and Walz has been tapped for extra support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to help him hold the seat.
His fundraising numbers this quarter will likely be strong, especially since he took part in four Washington, DC events this quarter, each with a suggested minimum contribution of $1,000.
Freshman Republican Chip Cravaack posted weak fundraising numbers in the first quarter but lately he's been aggressively courting small donors via email (likely with the help of email lists he purchased from Bachmann).
One such recent email asked, "Who pays attention to FEC reports?" The answer: "Washington is filled with liberal lobbyists whose only job is to scour these reports, find first-term Republicans who haven't raised much, and send big campaign checks to their opponents."
For challengers, a strong showing might tilt party support in their direction.
DFLer Tarryl Clark, who was defeated by Bachmann in the 6th District congressional race last year, has her sights set on defeating Cravaack in the 8th District next year. Clark is a proven fundraiser who pulled in nearly $5 million in her race against Bachmann.
"Why is it important to raise money this early?" asks Clark's latest appeal. In Clark's case, it might be because the St. Cloud resident has relocated to Duluth in order to challenge Cravaack and she will need to prove her worth in a crowded field of DFL contenders, most with stronger ties to the 8th District.
Another DFL candidate who's gunning for Cravaack's job is Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson. Entitled "Midnight Tonight," Anderson's most recent email says midnight, "marks the first quarterly FEC fundraising deadline since Rep. Cravaack cast his radical vote to end Medicare - and the world is watching our response."
WASHINGTON - Citing concerns about long approval times for medical devices, Minnesota's congressional delegation joined forces to send a letter to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg asking the agency to speed up the approval process.
"We are very concerned that delays in this process are hindering innovation, delaying patient access to new therapies, and undermining the US medical industry's global leadership," said the letter signed by both Senators and eight House members.
While the lawmakers said they supported the FDA's mission of ensuring safe and reliable treatments, they called the agency's approval process, "often inconsistent and unreliable."
Minnesota is one of the centers of the medical device industry and employs an estimated 30,000 Minnesotans and the state's congressional delegation has long championed the industry.
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen is the co-chair of the House Medical Technology Caucus and recently testified before a House panel about the FDA approval process. Paulsen also plans to introduce legislation later this summer to speed up the process.
During last year's health care overhaul, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar helped cut a surtax on medical devices that was part of the final bill.
The joint letter cites FDA data pointing to slowing rates of approval for new devices. In fiscal year 2000, 76 percent of devices received approval on the first application. In fiscal 2010, just 32 percent of devices were approved on the initial submission to the agency.
The slowing approval rate comes as more questions are raised by the medical community about the safety of some devices. A U.S. Senate committee is investigating Medtronic for problems with a spinal implant and allegations that the company may have had financial ties with doctors who were aware of the problems but did not publicize them.
UPDATE: DFL Sen. Al Franken's office wrote in to note that Franken was also actively involved in helping reduce the size of the medical device surtax during last year's health care bill debate.
WASHINGTON - Earlier tonight, President Obama laid out his rationale for beginning a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He'll remove 10,000 soldiers by the end of the year and another 20,000 by September 2012, still leaving nearly 70,000 troops in the country.
We'll post reactions from Minnesota's congressional delegation and presidential candidates Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann here.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty - Speaking on Fox News, the Republican presidential candidate told host Bill O'reilly that President Obama had ignored his generals' recommendations.
"This decision should be based on conditions on the ground and success," Pawlenty said. "Not some vague notions of a responsible wind down and then jumping over what the real mission is now, which is stabilizing that country."
Rep. Michele Bachmann - Surprisingly, Bachmann's rapid-response communications shop has not come out with a statement about the speech. When asked if the GOP congresswoman would be doing TV interviews tonight, her office said she had no plans to.
But Bachmann, who announced last week that she's running for president, did give The Weekly Standard a taste of what she's likely to say:
On Afghanistan, I firmly believe that we are at a point where we've got to stay the course, and we've got to finish the job.
Rep. Keith Ellison - Speaking with MPR News right after the speech, Ellison was also disappointed with the President's address, but for different reasons. The DFL Congressman said the withdrawal plans were not "ambitious enough."
"A lot of Afghans want us to leave, we got a corrupt leader there, and basically the people who attacked us have been dwindled to the point where there's fewer than a hundred of them there," Ellison said. "So I just think it's time to get on out of there."
Rep. John Kline - In a statement, the former Marine Corps colonel echoed the words of his political ally Tim Pawlenty.
"Any timeline for a drawdown in Afghanistan should be based on the conditions on the ground, not the political climate in Washington," Kline said.
WASHINGTON - Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak met with federal disaster relief officials today to lobby for more aid for the city after a tornado swept through North Minneapolis last month destroying and damaging
hundreds thousands of homes.
While the Obama Administration did commit to providing money to help repair public infrastructure destroyed by the storm, the federal government had turned down an initial request to help individuals whose property had been destroyed or damaged.
Rybak, who had been in nearby Baltimore over the weekend for the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting, met this morning at the White House with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to appeal their aid decision.
"Before this meeting we set the level that we didn't expect to walk out of the White House with a check nor did we get it," Rybak said. "But we did make more progress than I expected on multiple fronts."
Minneapolis will be able to reapply for the individual disaster assistance, which would go toward helping the 274 homes and businesses seriously damaged by the tornado.
"We can't be certain how successful we'll be in getting that aid but we believe after our meeting that we have a stronger case to get individual assistance and we'll be working hard on it," Rybak said, adding that a final decision by FEMA would come within a matter of weeks.
In fact later in the day Gov. Mark Dayton's office said the state would reapply for the assistance.
Rybak stopped by Capitol Hill to brief Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar on his meetings.
"I also called FEMA and made the same case, just so that they knew the nature of the population on the North Side and how vulnerable they are," Franken said.
Both senators said they would also find additional grants resources for the area from other parts of the federal government including the Small Business Administration and the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"We'll do everything we can do to help with the city here," Klobuchar said. "It's not always about passing a bill or getting a major [disaster] declaration but it's also about looking at some of these other things where you can apply for grants."
Later this afternoon, Rybak will go back to the White House to join a bipartisan group of mayors who are meeting with President Obama to discuss the economy and jobs.
"He's the president, I'll talk about whatever he wants to talk about," Rybak said. "But you can imagine that I will figure out some way to work the word "tornado" into my response."(2 Comments)
Posted at 4:45 PM on June 16, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate is often called a millionaires club because so many of its members have net worths in the seven, eight and nine digits. Not DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
According to the latest financial disclosure records filed yesterday, Minnesota's senior Senator's finances resemble the rest of the state's congressional delegation (at least those who have filed, Sen. Al Franken and Reps. Michele Bachmann and Chip Cravaack received extensions).
Klobuchar's net worth ranges between $194,000 and $454,000 and she reports no outstanding debt. Those figures do not include Klobuchar's personal house and mortgage, nor any cars or auto loans she might have.
Almost all of the money is invested in an array of retirement and college savings accounts.
Her net worth is up between 12 and 16 percent over last year's disclosure, when Klobuchar reported holdings between $173,000 and $390,000. By comparison, the S&P 500 stock index rose 12.6 percent in the same period.
Posted at 3:05 PM on June 15, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - Minnesota's U.S. senators joined a bipartisan, but mostly Democratic, group of lawmakers asking President Obama to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan.
In a letter to the president, the 27 senators said American objectives in the country had been largely achieved, including the destruction of the terrorist group Al Qaeda and the recent killing of its leader, Osama bin Laden, by U.S. forces.
The letter said further counter-insurgency and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan were "misguided" and that international forces would be unable to build a Western-style democracy there.
DFL Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar signed the letter, as did two Republicans, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Both were elected in 2010 with strong Tea Party support.
In a statement, Franken said the letter, "sends a statement that our patience is limited."
Posted at 12:14 PM on June 15, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - This Friday, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar will visit Minnesota's Iron Range with Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, whose family grew up in the region.
Begich's father and grandfather hailed from Eveleth, while Klobuchar's father and grandfather were from Ely, less than 60 miles away.
Their visit will include a stop with Begich's uncle Joe, who still lives in the area. Joe Begich served as mayor of Eveleth for four terms and in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1974 to 1992.
"When Amy invited me to join her in Minnesota, it didn't take long to say yes," Begich said in a statement.
The pair will also visit a nearby veterans' memorial.
Three attorneys for Briggs and Morgan have filed as "attorneys of record" for eight citizens in a redistricting case. The attorneys; former MN Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnuson, Elizabeth Brama and Michael Wilhelm, all filed the paperwork this morning to say that they would represent the eight Republican citizens who have filed lawsuits both in federal and state courts.
The Republican Party of Minnesota is working with an independent group, "Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting," on redistricting efforts.
Magnuson said he's working on behalf of the eight clients listed in the legal filings and is willing to work on the issue in both state and federal court.
"I will work on both of them with the exception that I can't appear before the Minnesota Supreme Court," Magnuson said. "But we have other attorneys in our office that can do that." Magnuson left his position on the Minnesota Supreme Court last June. The Minnesota Supreme Court is asking former justices to wait three years before they appear before the Minnesota Supreme Court.
One of the citizens being represented by Magnuson, Gregg Peppin, said a lot of the litigation work has been coordinated by the Minnesota Republican Party and "Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting." He said the filing indicates that Briggs and Morgan will be working with attorney Tony Trimble on redistricting efforts for Republicans in Minnesota.
"They told me they were going to get a litigator and this confirms that," Peppin said about Magnuson's filing.
Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton confirmed that Briggs and Morgan has been hired by "Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting" but said he or other members of the MNGOP have nothing to do with the hiring. He said former MNGOP Chair Chris Georgacus is heading "Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting."
The decision to hire Briggs and Morgan sets up another battle of legal heavyweights. Magnuson, a former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice appointed by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, represented the Minnesota Republican Party and Republican Tom Emmer in the 2010 gubernatorial recount.
Democrats have hired Washington D.C. attorney Marc Elias and Minneapolis attorney David Lillehaug to head up the DFL Party's redistricting efforts in court. Elias represented Gov. Mark Dayton in the 2010 gubernatorial recount and Sen. Al Franken in the 2008 U.S. Senate recount.
The Minnesota DFL Party has also been working with the outside group, Democratic National Redistricting Trust, on its legal efforts. That group is also being represented by Elias.
One of the reasons independent groups, and not state parties, are working on redistricting efforts is to avoid campaign contribution limits and disclosure laws. The McCain/Feingold law forbids parties from raising unlimited amounts of soft money to pay for political activity and redistricting efforts. Independent groups can raise soft money.
Republicans and Democrats in Minnesota have been lining up for a lengthy and costly court battle over how the state's political boundaries should be drawn. The courts are being asked to prepare for the possibility that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP legislative leaders won't reach agreement on a redistricting plan. Dayton vetoed the GOP-backed plan last month. The courts will take over the process if an agreement isn't reached by February 21.
A federal judge held a hearing last week on a request by several Democrats to have federal court oversee the drawing of the state's political maps. Republican attorneys have argued that redistricting matters must move through state court first.
Posted at 3:00 PM on June 14, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
An attempt to end the existing subsidy system for ethanol producers failed in the U.S. Senate today.
A motion to end debate on the amendment to an economic development bill brought by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) drew just 40 votes, 20 less than were needed to move to a formal vote. Both Minnesota Senators opposed Coburn's amendment.
Coburn's measure would have eliminated the existing 45 cent per gallon tax credit for ethanol producers and a tariff on imported ethanol.
Yesterday, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican John Thune of South Dakota offered up an alternative bill to Coburn's amendment as part of a bipartisan group of corn state Senators that would establish a glide path away from the current subsidy system for ethanol producers while retaining subsidies for cellulosic ethanol and the construction of dual-fuel pumps at gas stations.
In a statement released after the vote, DFL Sen. Al Franken hailed the measure's failure.
"Ethanol is an American industry, with American jobs and economic benefits that can't get shipped overseas," said Franken. "You're never going to see a massive ethanol spill in the gulf that destroys peoples' lives and you're never going to see foreign countries gang up to restrict the supply of ethanol, driving up gas prices for Minnesota families."
The vote is also significant because it represents an intra-party spat among Republicans over whether ending tax loopholes constitutes a tax hike.
Coburn insisted that eliminating loopholes without changing tax rates was not a tax increase. A total of 34 Republicans voted in favor of ending debate on his amendment, suggesting that Coburn's position may have swayed many members of his caucus.
WASHINGTON - Tomorrow, the Senate will debate an amendment put forward by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would effectively end the current ethanol subsidy system which currently doles out nearly $6 billion a year to ethanol producers.
Corn state senators aren't happy about this vote. DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) have introduced a bill that they hope will bleed votes away from Coburn's amendment.
Their bill would also end the 45 cent per gallon tax credit for ethanol but would direct some of the funds that would have paid the subsidy towards upgrading gas station fuel pumps for ethanol and financing research on advanced cellulosic biofuels that don't use corn and have lower emissions.
The bill would also direct a billion dollars in savings towards deficit reduction.
"Our bipartisan legislation would provide businesses a clear glide-path to move forward and keep the biofuels industry competitive while reducing our debt by a billion dollars this year," said Klobuchar in a statement.
The politics behind the amendment are a bit convoluted.
While Coburn, who hails from an oil-producing state, has long detested ethanol subsidies, what's driving the debate behind this amendment is a dispute within the Republican party over what constitutes a tax increase.
The party's anti-tax wing, led by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, says that any measure that closes a tax loophole and increases the government's revenues constitutes a tax hike. While Coburn does not support new taxes or an increase in tax rates, he wants to end many tax breaks and using the higher tax revenue to close the budget deficit.
So while it's ethanol that the senators will be debating tomorrow, the subtext of the debate is whether Republicans will be willing to end long-popular tax breaks that benefit favored industries and use the extra money that comes in on deficit reduction.
Of course, even if the Senate were to adopt Coburn's amendment, it would still have to go through the House of Representatives and onto the White House and several Congressional sources told me they're skeptical that the House GOP would sign off on Coburn's measure.(1 Comments)
WASHINGTON - As expected, a bill to raise the nation's borrowing limit by $2.4 trillion without spending cuts failed in the House of Representatives, garnering just 97 Democratic votes in support and receiving 318 votes in opposition.
The result of the vote is a defeat for the Obama Administration and 100-odd House Democrats who had asked for a so-called "clean" debt ceiling vote that was not attached to a longer-term plan to reduce federal spending.
The entire Republican majority, including all four GOP members of Minnesota's delegation, voted as bloc against the measure.
"It would be irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process," said Republican Rep. John Kline in a statement.
Tomorrow, House Republicans will meet with President Obama in a closed-door meeting to discuss next steps on raising the limit and reaching a longer-term deal to balance the federal budget.
"Now we gotta negotiate [with Democrats]," said Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack, when asked about next steps in the process.
The Treasury Department says it has enough cash to pay for government operations until August 2nd.
Were Congress to fail to raise the debt ceiling by then, the federal government would have to begin defaulting on some of its obligations, although Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann has insisted that such an event would not constitute a default and that U.S. debts could be repaid from existing tax revenues.
Republicans were joined by 82 Democrats, including DFL Rep. Collin Peterson.
"I think there needs to be fundamental reform with the budget," said Peterson shortly before the vote. "Until we get something done that's sustainable, we shouldn't be raising the debt limit."
DFL Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum voted in favor of raising the debt ceiling.
"I'm voting to raise it because I think that if you incur a debt, you should pay it back," Ellison told MPR News before the vote. "I think it's irresponsible to not vote yes."
DFL Rep. Tim Walz was not present for the vote. Spokeswoman Sara Severs said Walz remained in Minnesota after falling ill with a stomach flu, but that he would have voted to raise the debt limit had he been able to make it.
"Refusing to pay your credit card bill is not the way to eliminate your debt," Severs said. "At a time when our economy is still fragile, the last thing we need is more uncertainty."
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain will be making a campaign stop in Minnesota in June.
Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, announced on Twitter today that he'll be attending the RightOnline 2011 Convention in Minneapolis on June 18. The conference is scheduled to be held on June 17th and 18th and aims to bring together conservative bloggers, conservative organizations and citizen actviists for grassroots training.
The conference is organized by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a group that works to advance Republican issues. The group is funded by David Koch of the Koch Industries (You can read more about the group at FactCheck.org's site).
Cain isn't the only candidate for the White House who is scheduled to speak at the event. Tim Pawlenty is scheduled to speak. GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is considering a run, is also scheduled to speak at the event.
And the RightOnline 2011 Convention isn't the only political event being held in Minneapolis that weekend.
The Democratic leaning Netroots Nation will be holding its annual conference in Minneapolis between June 16 and June 19.
DFL Sen. Al Franken, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL Rep. Tim Walz and former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI are some of the people who will be speak at the Netroots Nation event.
Netroots nation was originally organized by the writers of The Daily Kos.
Former DFL State Sen. Lisa Fobbe has a new job as U.S. Sen. Al Franken's new central Minnesota representative, according to a statement from Franken's office.
She starts work today at Franken's office in St. Cloud.
Elected in a special election in 2008, Fobbe served just two years in the statehouse, between 2008 and 2010, before being ousted in last year's election.
WASHINGTON - Responding to a recent Supreme Court decision, DFL Sen. Al Franken today unveiled a bill to allow consumers to sue companies, even when they had already waived that right by signing a boilerplate contract.
The Supreme Court decision in AT&T vs. Concepion allows companies to prevent class-action lawsuits by inserting language into contracts that requires signatories to enter mandatory arbitration and give up their right to sue.
The decision applies not just to consumer cases, but also to employment and civil rights laws.
Franken's bill, introduced jointly with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), would ban those mandatory arbitration clauses from contracts.
The bill is unlikely to pass in both chambers of Congress due to the highly partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill these days.
But it is likely to please trial lawyers, a key Democratic constituency.
According to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, lawyers are the biggest single source of campaign contributions to Franken's campaign, giving more than $1.3 million to his campaign committee and leadership PAC between 2005 and 2010.(1 Comments)
80 Republican state lawmakers have signed on to an Amicus Brief that challenges the federal health care law. The brief means lawmakers are lending their support to a challenge to the law in U.S. District Court in Florida. The suit challenges the cosntitutionality of the individual mandate that requires everyone in the U.S. to have health insurance.
"State Legislators take an oath to uphold our state and federal Constitution, and it is our duty to not be complicit in allowing the federal government to violate the Commerce Clause and Tenth Amendment-no matter how good or bad the legislation is," said Rep. Westrom in a news release. "Today, we are defending states' rights and standing up for individual freedoms our Constitution intentionally intended to reserve to the people and states."
This isn't the first Amicus Brief filed by a Republican from Minnesota. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty filed a similar brief in November.
Democracts, including Attorney General Lori Swanson, say the federal health care is constitutional because the federal government has the right to regulate health insurance under the interstate commerce clause.(2 Comments)
Posted at 3:50 PM on May 10, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON - Before a packed hearing room, executives from Apple and Google told a group of senators this morning that their companies take consumer privacy seriously.
DFL Sen. Al Franken called the hearings as part of a newly-formed subcommittee tasked with examining the privacy implications of new technologies. Since joining the Senate in 2009, Franken has taken a strong interest in online issues, including net neutrality regulations and privacy.
"I believe that consumers have a fundamental right to know what data is being collected about them," Franken said in opening remarks. "I also believe that they have a right to decide whether they want to share that information, and with whom they want to share it and when."
In an interview with MPR News yesterday, Franken said more than just privacy was at stake for some people.
"The first people that got back to me [after the hearings were announced] were the Minnesota battered women's coalition," Franken said. "They said that this technology is frequently exploited by abusive partners."
Both Apple and Google are under scrutiny because their smartphone platforms are popular with consumers and both companies have had very public missteps around privacy issues in the recent past.
Apple "does not track users information," said Guy "Bud" Tribble, the company's vice-president of technology, in response to questions about a recently discovered file on Apple's iPhone and iPad devices that contains detailed data about a user's whereabouts.
Google Director of Public Policy Alan Davidson emphasized that users could only voluntarily opt-in to his company's location-based services, which transmit data back to Google.
But other experts said every part of the smart phone ecosystem, from Google and Apple to software developers to cell phone carriers, operates in a legal free-for-all zone.
"The default law in this country for sharing of data is you can do whatever you want," said Justin Brookman, a consumer privacy advocate with the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, DC.
Google and Apple both emphasized that the data collected by both companies was stripped of identifying information and made anonymous, a claim disputed by another witness, Ashkan Soltani.
"It's really difficult to call this stuff anonymous, making those claims is not I think really sincere," said Soltani, an independent security consultant who has helped develop the Wall Street Journal's ongoing series on electronic privacy.
Franken expects to hold more hearings like these over the coming months. While he didn't anticipate unveiling legislation based on the findings of the hearing, Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said he plans to offer updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Unlike many events in the highly-polarized capital these days, the tone was bipartisan. Ranking member Tom Coburn (R-OK) welcomed the hearings but cautioned, "We need a whole lot more information and knowledge before we come to conclusions about what should or needs to be done."
Vice-President Joe Biden will be in Minneapolis tomorrow for a private fundraiser at a Minneapolis home. A person with knowledge of the fundraiser says Dean and Karin Phillips will host the fundraiser tomorrow afternoon. The asking price is $10,000 a couple. The money raised from the fundraiser will go to President Obama's reelection campaign.
Republicans in the Minnesota House released their plan to redraw the state's congressional lines. Minnesota is keeping eight seats but the 2010 Census is forcing them to redraw the political lines.
The map protects every incumbent in Minnesota's delegation but DFL Rep. Collin Peterson swaps the 7th District with GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack's 8th District.
The proposal for the 8th stretches from northwestern Minnesota to Minnesota's Arrowhead. It runs south into Carlton County and Clay County.
The proposal for the 7th also slices the state horizontally. It includes Wilkin County and stretches across to Pine County and south into Chisago and Big Stone counties.
The 6th District continues to stretch across the northern Twin Cities suburbs and east into Stillwater. That enables GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann to keep her seat. Bachmann, is considering a run for President, has not announced whether she'll make another run for Congress.
The proposal also keeps Minneapolis and St. Paul in separate districts.
I'm told Republicans in the Minnesota Senate are likely to adopt the same map. Gov. Dayton can either veto or approve the proposal. The courts will draw the lines if an agreement between Dayton and the Legislature can't be reached by February 21st.
I'll post more later.
Here's the statewide map and a map for each district
House GOP for Minnesota's Congressional districts
Several hundred people gathered on the lawn of the State Capitol today to rally against tax increases. Several Republicans spoke at the gathering including Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. John Kline, Rep. Erik Paulsen, Rep. Chip Cravaack, Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.
Bachmann told the audience that she favors abolishing the tax code and instituting a flat tax. She also told the crowd to urge lawmakers to oppose raising the federal debt ceiling.
"We can have the federal reserve stop printing money and financing the debt," Bachmann said. "We can have them stop having them buying our t-bills from the united states treasury. we can have them stop spending money that we don't have."
The rally comes as Republican lawmakers are at odds with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton on the best approach to balance the state's budget. Dayton wants to increase income taxes on Minnesota's top earners. Republicans say they can balance the budget without tax increases.
Here's a few of the speeches.
Thanks to MPR's Rupa Shenoy for supplying the audio.
The Minnesota House Redistricting Committee has scheduled a Tuesday hearing on their plan to redraw the state's redistricting maps. The hearing will be held on Tuesday morning at 10:15. The House has a 24 hour rule so the plan will be released sometime Monday morning.
Apple's Steve Jobs and Google's Eric Schmidt won't be sitting at the witness table next week, but both companies are sending high-level representatives to DFL Sen. Al Franken's highly-publicized hearings on privacy issues surround smartphones.
Franken released the witness list today and it includes Guy "Bud" Tribble, Apple's Vice President of Software Technology and Alan Davidson, Google's Director of Public Policy. In a letter several weeks ago, Franken had specifically called on both companies to testify at the upcoming hearings.
The hearings, which take place next Tuesday morning, are the first for the newly-constituted Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, which Franken leads.
These hearings were already in the planning stage when security researchers revealed a hidden file on Apple's iOS devices (which include iPhones and iPads) that tracks users' locations. After the existence of the tracking file came to light, Franken called on Apple and Google, which together control the two most dynamic smartphone platforms, to explain how both companies use their customers' data.
Other witnesses include Jessica Rich, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection in the Federal Trade Commission and Jason Weinstein, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice. Security professionals and trade group representatives will also testify.(2 Comments)
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, will speak at this year's Hubert H. Humphrey Day Dinner. The dinner, which is a fundraiser for the Minnesota DFL Party, will be held on June 11th. The event, which is traditionally closed to the press, typically features a well known leader in the Democratic Party. Barney Frank spoke at last year's event.
A state Representative who lost both his legs while serving in Iraq says he's pleased U.S. military forces killed Osams bin Laden. Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, says President Obama made the right decision by sending in elite Navy SEALs into Pakistan to kill Bin Laden. He said it was better than dropping a bomb on the compoud and not knowing whether Bin Laden was killed.
"He did what was best for America," Kriesel said about Obama. "He wasn't worried about anything else except to make sure that we got the guy who killed thousands of our innocent men and women in the World Trade Center Towers and in our embassies. A tip of the hat to him."
Kriesel lost both of his legs from a roadside bomb while serving his country in Iraq in 2006. But he doesn't think the U.S would have invaded Iraq if it wasn't for the 9/11 terror attacks but he said he doesn't want to equate his injuries in Iraq with Bin Laden.
Kriesel, however, said he's pleased to see the military action taken against Bin Laden.
"It's nice to see justice served," Kriesel said.
We'll continue to track the reactions of Minnesota's congressional delegation to the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces yesterday.
Here's DFL Congresswoman Betty McCollum's statement:
"The death of Osama Bin Laden is the most significant blow to al Qaeda in the nearly ten years since the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001. This is a just end to a mass murderer who targeted innocents and destroyed so many lives.
"President Obama, his national security team and our courageous military personnel are to be commended for their leadership in achieving this accomplishment.
"I hope that today's action provides some comfort to the families who lost loved ones in the attacks as well as families of our military personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of terrorists who threaten our country.
"There is much more work ahead to keep our nation safe.
"I share the President's belief that this historic moment is an opportunity for all Americans to once again come together to remember our common ties. Our greatness as a nation and our continued security depend on our determination as Americans to protect our shared values."
GOP Rep. John Kline, a former Marine, also emphasized his support for the troops but like many of his Republican colleagues, didn't mention President Obama is his statement:
"Nearly 10 years ago America suffered one of the most horrific attacks on her people in our nation's history. Thanks to the tireless and heroic efforts of our troops and intelligence officials, Osama bin Laden - the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks - is dead. While the world is now free from one truly evil man, we are still at war with Islamist extremists. We must remain increasingly vigilant, and continue to support our brave sons and daughters in uniform as they courageously battle a determined enemy."
Here's a statement from DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar:
The killing of Osama Bin Laden brings a measure of justice for the families of all those lost to his senseless terrorism, including Tom Burnett's family in our own state. Burnett, a passenger on Flight 93, courageously fought back against the Bin Laden led hijackers.
Since 9/11 Bin Laden taunted our country for over a decade and our prayers and gratitude are with our courageous counterterrorism agents and troops that tracked him down and brought him to justice.
Today we remember those who were killed, their families who continue to grieve, and the brave first responders who rushed to ground zero to save lives on that terrible day. I hope that this will offer some comfort to the families who lost loved ones on that September day.
Today is also a reminder that we must remain vigilant to protect ourselves from threats around the world and of the incredible courage and sacrifice of our Armed Forces and intelligence agencies who work day in and day out to make sure America remains safe.
Here's GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack's statement:
"I applaud the amazing men and women of our military and our intelligence agencies who have worked for almost 10 years to make sure Osama bin Laden - the perpetrator of the worst terrorist attack in American history - was finally brought to justice for his heinous crimes. This may not end the threat posed to us by global terrorism, but it is a clear victory for America and freedom loving people throughout the world."
DFL Congressman Collin Peterson is now out with a statement:
"After nearly 10 years, the perseverance of our military and intelligence communities has brought justice to Osama bin Laden. I'm grateful to all those men and women in uniform who have sacrificed so much to bring more security to our country in these tough times. We also must remain vigilant against the threat of terrorism still faced by so many around the world."
UPDATE 2:20 PM
DFL Rep. Keith Ellison just released this statement:
"The death of Osama Bin Laden marks the most significant accomplishment yet in the war against Al-Qaeda. I commend the work of the U.S. Armed Forces and intelligence community for finding the world's most wanted terrorist. I also wish to recognize President Obama for his decisive leadership as Commander in Chief.
Today my thoughts are with the families of those Bin Laden murdered in the September 11th terrorist attacks. Even before 9/11, Bin Laden killed Americans and others at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and on the USS Cole.
Americans of all faiths recognized the end of a truly evil man last night. Osama Bin Laden was a murderer. I hope his death marks the beginning of the end of the Al-Qaedaism ideology."
Here's a statement from Tim Pawlenty, who is running against Obama in 2012:
"This is terrific news for freedom and justice. In the hours after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush promised that America would bring Osama bin Laden to justice -- and we did. I want to congratulate America's armed forces and President Obama for a job well done. Let history show that the perseverance of the US military and the American people never wavered. America will never shrink from the fight and ultimately those who seek to harm us face only defeat. Today, justice is done, but the fight against radical Islamic terrorism is not yet over."
Note that Pawlenty mentioned President Obama in his written statement. GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is also mulling a run for the White House, did not mention Obama in her statement:
"I want to express my deepest gratitude to the men and women of the U.S. military and intelligence community. Their persistence and dedicated service has yielded success in a mission that has gripped our nation since the terrible events of 9/11. Tonight's news does not bring back the lives of the thousands of innocent people who were killed that day by Osama Bin Laden's horrific plan, and it does not end the threat posed by terrorists, but it is my hope that this is the beginning of the end of Sharia-compliant terrorism."
Here's a statement from GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen:
"The news that American forces have killed Osama bin Laden marks a significant achievement in the fight against terrorism. I want to thank the countless American soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, intelligence officials, as well as their families, for their tireless efforts in protecting our country."
I'll post additional statements if/when they come in.
Update: Here's a statement from DFL Rep. Tim Walz:
"Tonight, my thoughts are most with our brave men and women in uniform. Their perseverance, sacrifice and courage is nothing short of remarkable. We have them to thank for this moment of justice. America still has enemies around the world, and so, we will stay vigilant. But tonight ends a dark chapter in our history. May we always honor the memory of those who lost their lives on September 11th and keep our thoughts and prayers with their families. And let us always remember moments like tonight when our country can come together as one."
Here's a statement from DFL Sen. Al Franken:
"This is a great day. I think every American feels very emotional about what happened in Pakistan today. Our hearts are full of pride and gratitude for all those responsible for bringing Osama bin Laden to justice, with sadness as we remember that horrific day ten years ago, and with hope as we go forward in our fight against radical jihadism. I think the president was wise to remind us of how unified we felt as a nation after 9/11 and how we can achieve anything we put our mind to if we work together. "(3 Comments)
Posted at 2:17 PM on April 26, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
Former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman has joined the Washington law firm Hogan Lovells as a senior government advisor.
That means he's likely to be involved with lobbying, and even if he doesn't formally register as a lobbyist, Coleman will certainly be advising the firm's lobbyists.
Coleman narrowly lost his Senate seat to DFL Sen. Al Franken after a lengthy recount in 2009. He also served as mayor of St. Paul.
More recently, Coleman's been the chairman and CEO of the American Action Network, one of the outside groups that pumped over $26 million worth of ads into last year's midterm elections.
According to an AAN spokesman, Coleman will step down from his role as CEO but will remain the group's chairman.
Hogan Lovells' clients include Nissan, Daimler, General Electric and Xcel Energy. Interestingly, the firm's political action committee leaned heavily Democratic in the last election, giving $121,000 to Democratic candidates and $78,000 to Republicans, according to Opensecrets.org.
Posted at 4:54 PM on April 25, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. Senate
After sending a stern letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs about possible privacy issues with the iPhone, DFL Sen. Al Franken has announced public hearings on smartphone privacy and invited representatives from Apple and Google to testify.
The hearings - scheduled for May 10th - come after security researchers published a report showing that iPhones maintain a detailed and unencrypted log of their owners' whereabouts. Phones using Google's Android operating system maintain similar, but less detailed records.
While applauding the technological ingenuity behind smartphones, Franken said, "This hearing is the first step in making certain that federal laws protecting consumers' privacy--particularly when it comes to mobile devices--keep pace with advances in technology."
It's not clear if Apple or Google have RSVP'd yes yet, but the hearings come at a time when the two companies' smartphone platforms are taking off.
Last week, Apple reported selling nearly 19 million iPhones in the first three months of the year. Meanwhile Google reports that 10 million Android devices are being activated every month.
These are the first hearing for the newly-formed Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, which Franken heads.
After security researchers revealed today that Apple's best-selling iPhone and iPad devices contain a hidden file that secretly records the location of its user, DFL Sen. Al Franken wrote a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs demanding an explanation.
"Anyone who gains access to this single file could likely determine the location of a user's home, the businesses he frequents, the doctors he visits, the schools his children attend, and the trips he has taken--over the past months or even a year."
He went on to ask that Apple provide information on how the location data is being collected and used and why consumers weren't told that their personal information was being collected.
As head of the newly-formed Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, Franken is in a position to keep this issue alive, including calling public hearings, if he's not happy with Apple's response to the letter.
Coincidentally, Apple released its most recent quarterly results today. The company said it sold over 18 million iPhones and over four million iPads.
You can read the entire letter Franken wrote to Jobs here.(7 Comments)
DFL Sen. Al Franken appeared on MPR's Midday today to discuss the budget battle in Washington, President Obama's speech and other issues facing Congress. During the conversation, Franken expressed concern that the federal government could eventually default on its debt for the first time in the nation's history.
"We cannot default on our treasuries, on our debt," Franken said. "We just can't do that. The Treasury bill is the most secure investment in the world and must stay that way. If we default on our debt, it will be absolute disaster. We cannot allow that to happen."
You can listen to the entire Midday here.
You can read more about the debt ceiling here.
Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, issued this statement on President Obama's speech.
"President Obama today articulated a balanced approach to bringing down the national deficit with fairness and shared responsibility. He wisely protects the middle class while asking the richest Americans to share the responsibility and the sacrifice of debt reduction. Equally important, he protects investments in education, transportation and other infrastructure that support job growth and American competitiveness.(1 Comments)
His approach stands in stark contrast to the proposals put forward by Republicans in Congress, who ask America's middle class and senior citizens to shoulder much more than their share of the responsibility for reducing the Nation's debt."
The deal reached between Republicans and Democrats in the late hours last Friday night cuts spending for the remaining six months of this fiscal year by about $39 billion. It took lawmakers all weekend and all of Monday to turn the painstakingly negotiated agreement into legislative language.
Now, the specifics of those spending cuts are available. While details of exactly how the cuts will affect Minnesota still aren't available, the cuts are wide ranging and will be felt by the public, said one Democratic staffer.
Minnesota will likely see a decline in federal assistance for local law enforcement. Two programs that help pay for equipment and salaries for police departments across the country will lose over $600 million in funding at a time when state and local budgets remain under pressure.
One of those programs has helped hire more than 1,400 police officers in Minnesota since the mid-1990s, according to DFL Sen. Al Franken's office. But the office wasn't able to provide estimates on how many officers might be affected by the budget deal.
Across the state, thousands of small projects that would have been financed by congressional earmarks won't happen. Members of DFL Rep. Betty McCollum's office pointed to the Twin Cities Central Corridor transit project as the kind of program that gets its start with earmark funding to pay for feasibility studies.
Other programs affected by the cuts include the WIC program which helps nursing mothers and children. It fed more than 240,000 Minnesotans in 2009. But even with the reduced funding, the program does not anticipate any recipients will receive less food, according to Sen. Franken's office.
Money to help people with low incomes pay for heat was also cut as part of the deal.
A wolf control program based in Grand Rapids is reportedly close to running out of money, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
Minnesota will also probably see its high speed rail plans derailed. House Republicans managed to cut off spending for one of President Obama's signature initiatives at a time when Gov. Mark Dayton was hoping to secure funds to connect the Twin Cities to Chicago.
Staffers from Sen. Franken's office said they hoped there would be other funding opportunities for high speed rail later this year, but they agreed the train program would be slowed down.
Republicans described the cuts as necessary at a time when the federal budget deficit exceeds $1.6 trillion.
"There's a lot of programs that have benefits. The challenge is to prioritize," said Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen.
Paulsen was pleased that Democrats and Republicans were able to reach a deal to cut spending and he said Republicans had re-framed the debate in Washington to focus on cutting rather than adding spending.
Republicans have already proposed even deeper cuts for next year's budget and have proposed a plan to balance the budget over several decades by transforming the Medicare program into a system of vouchers for those currently under 55.
Democrats have denounced the Republican plan, which also includes lowering tax rates on those with high incomes. Last week, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison called the plan, "the roadmap to ruin."
Amid this debate, President Obama plans to lay out his vision for how to balance the federal budget while maintaining a social safety next in a speech tomorrow.
In a dramatic finish, House and Senate negotiators announced a deal to keep the federal government open late Friday night, about an hour before funding expired.
The bill cuts nearly $40 billion in spending from the next six months of the current fiscal year and includes provisions Democrats find distasteful, such as restrictions on abortion in the District of Columbia.
Still, Republicans had initially called for $61 billion in cuts and some tea party activists have called for a primary challenger to House Speaker John Boehner for not cutting spending dramatically enough.
After brief, congratulatory speeches by Senate majority leader Harry Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate quickly passed a so-called "bridge" funding measure that provides the government with funding through next Thursday in order to put the complicated deal crafted between the House, Senate and President into legislative language.
DFL Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken supported the measure.
The House quickly followed and passed the bill 348-70, although Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann and DFL Rep. Keith Ellison voted against it.
Although the House did not vote on the funding bill until after midnight - when the government's funding technically ran out - the White House Office of Management and Budget sent out a memo telling federal agencies to continue normal operations.
In a statement released immediately after the vote, Bachmann said, "The deal that was reached tonight is a disappointment for me and for millions of Americans who expected $100 billion in cuts, who wanted to make sure their tax dollars stopped flowing to the nation's largest abortion provider, and who wanted us to defund ObamaCare."
Earlier Friday, Bachmann had pulled back from her suggestion that Republicans fight hard to win deep spending cuts on this bill, suggesting instead that she preferred a fight over next year's budget and a concerted effort to repeal the funding measures undergirding the health care overhaul.
To explain why he joined Bachmann in opposing the funding bill, Ellison wrote on Twitter, "I voted no, jobs not cuts." Ellison has long called for higher taxes on the wealthy and greater spending on infrastructure and social safety net as an alternative to spending cuts with no offsetting tax increases.
With just a few hours to go before the federal government's funding runs out and non-essential activities must be curtailed, members of Minnesota's congressional delegation have begun to announce their plans what happens during shutdown.
Sen. Al Franken (DFL)
Sen. Al Franken's office says that while Franken considered all of his staff essential, "...the Senator has defined "essential" as people who are advising him on the government spending bill and those who are on hand to respond to constituent emergencies."
According to a member of Franken's staff, about a dozen staffers are being retained, including caseworkers to handle an emergency requests related to flooding in northwest Minnesota. Franken's offices throughout the state will be closed.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL)
Klobuchar spokesman Linden Zakula released this brief statement:
"Our most urgent priority is keeping the Moorhead office open during the floods, but we will be furloughing employees in Minnesota and Washington because everyone is going to have to do their part."
Rep. John Kline (R)
Kline's spokesman Troy Young said he would continue to work at the district office, but the "majority" of staff would be furloughed if the government closes.
Rep. Chip Cravaack (R)
Cravaack's spokesman Shawn Ryan confirmed he would continue to work through a shutdown but when asked about the district office and plans to furlough other staff, said in an email, "That decision will be made if and when the government shuts down."
Rep. Tim Walz (DFL)
Walz's office said it would announce its staffing plans later this evening "when a shutdown becomes imminent."
Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL)
Rep. Keith Ellison's offices in Washington and Minneapolis will remain open and his entire staff will be retained through any government shutdown.
"I've designated all my employees essential because they are," Ellison told MPR News. "I cannot carry out all the flood of questions that are going to be coming in by myself."
Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL)
Here's the statement put out by McCollum's office:
"Shutting down the federal government has been the tea party Republicans' goal since last November. Any temporary shutdown of the federal government can only be called a short-sighted, hollow victory for tea party extremism over common sense compromise. Their victory is a loss for the American people.
"I believe compromise was possible and continues to be possible. My job is not to shut down government, but to work for the families and constituents I was elected to serve. On Monday morning my offices in St. Paul and Washington will be open for business. My staff and I will not be held hostage by these destructive tea party tactics. We will be working to serve the residents of Minnesota's Fourth Congressional District."
We'll continue to update this post as we learn more from the various offices.
In the first of what are likely to be a series of budget battles this year, lawmakers may not pass a spending bill to keep the federal government open past midnight tonight.
The White House and Congressional leaders are trying to break a budget deadlock and prevent a federal government shutdown that would idle hundreds of thousands of workers.
President Obama and congressional leaders failed to reach a deal in late-night talks Thursday on government funding for the rest of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
Republicans and Democrats say they don't want the government shut down. But if it does, members of both parties are already airing their arguments for why the other party deserves the blame.
"We have offered repeatedly legislation and passed it in the House to keep the government open and to cut spending to put us on a path to fiscal responsibility," said Republican Rep. John Kline.
Kline and his fellow Republicans blame House Democrats for failing to pass a budget last year when Democrats controlled the House.
They're also directing criticism at the Democratic-controlled Senate for not agreeing to the Republicans' bill to cut $61 billion from this fiscal year's budget.
In an email, a spokesman for Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen wrote that Pauslen is, "extremely disappointed that the Senate hasn't put forth a plan of its own and encourages them to act to prevent a shutdown."
Democrats responded that Republicans haven't been negotiating in good faith.
"Unfortunately, this era of tea party politics rejects compromise regardless of the harsh and harmful consequences," said DFL Rep. Betty McCollum in a statement. "President Obama has already met tea party Republicans more than halfway by offering $33 billion in cuts to the rest of Fiscal Year 2011. "
McCollum and other Democrats also question whether Republicans are sincere in their desire to cut government spending, since one of the apparent sticking points in the negotiations are so-called policy riders that would affect abortion and environmental policy.
Middle ground may be hard to find as tea party supporters, who helped Republicans capture their House majority, keep the pressure on the party's right flank.
At a tea party rally held in front of the Capitol this week, protesters could be seen carrying signs reading, "Shut it down" and chanted that slogan minutes before Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke to the crowd of about 400 or 500 people.
Bachmann has said repeatedly that she doesn't want a government shutdown - which she's renamed a "slow down" because many federal workers would actually continue to work even if their paychecks are delayed.
But Bachmann also voted against a House measure yesterday that would funded the government for another week and the military through the end of the fiscal year in September.
Although that measure passed, a provision restricting abortion in the District of Columbia means the Senate will not take up the bill.
In a statement, Bachmann said she voted against the funding bill because it does not remove funding for President Obama's health care overhaul that passed last year that she and the Republicans oppose.
But if removing health care funding is Bachmann's condition for supporting a spending bill, it's highly unlikely that there's any spending bill Bachmann would vote for that can also get the President's signature.
Both parties are presenting their stance as reasonable. In an email, a spokeswoman for DFL Rep. Tim Walz wrote that Walz, "still believes that compromise is a virtue not a vice and that southern Minnesotans want the parties to be able to come together and find solutions."
Meanwhile, as the midnight deadline draws near, congressional staffers remain in the dark over who will continue to work through a deadline and who will be furloughed. Staffers' precious BlackBerries may have to be turned off until a spending deal is reached.
In addition to members' staffs, thousands of workers who maintain the Capitol complex would also have to stay home, including the elevator operators in the Senate.(1 Comments)
Former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman has been chatty lately.
In an interview with Hotline on Call, Coleman reiterated his support for former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's bid for the presidency:
"I've been on the Tim bandwagon for a while," Coleman said. "In the last cycle I said he'd be a great president ... and I've been consulting on and off with him since."
While describing Rep. Michele Bachmann as a "close friend," Coleman declined to endorse her developing campaign for the White House.
In a separate interview with Politico, Coleman said DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who's up for re-election in 2012, will be tough for Republicans to unseat:
"She's certainly strong. She's got good numbers and good support," he said. "She hasn't been a very polarizing force. Clearly, that's going to be a challenge."
So far, no Republicans have stepped forward to challenge Klobuchar. Repeated calls by MPR News over the past several weeks to the National Republican Senatorial Committee for comment on possible Klobuchar opponents have not been returned.
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced a bill today that would require the armed forces to retain all records related to sexual assault. She introduced the bill jointly with fellow Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
Klobuchar's office says the bill, known as the Support for Survivors Act, is needed because there's been a rise in the number of reported sexual assaults in the military.
Last year, there 3,158 official reports, but the Pentagon estimates that number is only a fraction of the total number of assaults. The bill's authors say poor record-keeping practices further complicate efforts to track the reported crimes.
"Instead of destroying these records, we should be making sure that consistent records are kept across all military branches," said Klobuchar in a statement. "By simply helping preserve their personal records, we can make sure our veterans have the care they need while supporting justice for assault victims."
To slash the deficit, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., need to go after the big bucks, says Sen. Al Franken.
Case in point: tax breaks for oil and gas companies.
"Over the past decade, the five largest oil and gas companies have made $1 trillion in profit," Franken said during a March 9, 2011, floor speech after the Senate rejected a bill to cut spending. "Yet they are benefiting from tax subsidies that have been in place since as far back as 1916. Eliminating these wasteful subsidies will bring in about $64 billion over 10 years."
Franken's savings estimate is off by billions, but his underlying point is on target.
In inflation adjusted dollars, it's true that the largest oil and gas companies operating in the United States made about $893 billion over the last decade. Franken said $1 trillion, but he's still in the ballpark.
It's also true that oil and gas companies benefit from a slate of tax breaks and subsidies meant to spur investment and production, some of which have been in place for many decades. If they were all eliminated, it would save the government roughly $46 billion over 10 years, according to the Office of Management and Budget. An additional $10 billion could be saved by axing a foreign tax credit that largely benefits oil and gas companies, a perk that Franken also advocates eliminating.
Still, Franken's saving estimate is high because he's also counting the nonconventional fuels credit, a tax break that's no longer available to the vast majority of oil and gas producers. Franken's office estimated it would $20 billion over 10 years; in reality, it will only cost $100 million through 2014.
Franken's numbers are off by 12 percent, but he is essentially correct. Eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies would save billions.
It's a close call given the bad math, but Franken's claim passes the PoliGraph test.
Sen. Al Franken, floor speech, March 9, 2011
Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2011, accessed March 21, 2011
The Center for American Progress, Eliminating Tax Subsidies for Oil Companies, by Sima J. Gandhi, May 13, 2010
The Center for American Progress, Big Oil's Lust for Tax Loopholes: Oil Prices and Profits Rise While Big Oil Defends Its Tax Loopholes, by Daniel J. Weiss, January 31, 2011
The Environmental Law Institute, Estimating U.S. Government Subsidies
to Energy Sources: 2002-2008, September 2009
The Congressional Research Service, Oil and Gas Tax Subsidies:
Current Status and Analysis, February 27, 2007
The U.S. Treasury Department, General Explanations of the Administration's Fiscal Year 2010 Revenue Proposals, February 2011
The Joint Committee on Taxation, Estimates Of Federal Tax Expenditures For Fiscal Years 2010-2014, December 2010
Interview, Ed Shelleby, press secretary, Sen. Al Franken, March 14, 2011
Interview, Daniel Weiss, senior fellow, Director of Climate Strategy, The Center for American Progress, March 14, 2011
Interview, Seth Hanlon, Director of Fiscal Reform, Doing What Works program, March 18, 2011
Interview, Lisa Goldman, senior attorney, Environmental Law Institute, March 21, 2011
The Humphrey School(2 Comments)
More members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation are weighing in on American military operations in Libya.
DFL Sen. Al Franken said today he supports the mission. But in a statement to MPR News, Franken also suggested that the Obama administration needs to better explain the mission's goals.
"While I personally believe that Qaddafi should go, people need to understand that the purpose of the force we're using is specifically to protect civilians, not to coerce a regime change," Franken said.
At a time when Congress is debating how deeply to cut spending, Franken also called on President Obama to clarify the financial costs of the military operations in Libya.
Here's the full statement:
"The Libyan government's violence against its own people is completely unacceptable," said Sen. Franken. "Innocent civilians in Libya must be protected from massacre by Qaddafi and that is why I support the action the president has taken so far. Our participation is limited in scope and duration, the president has stated categorically there will be no U.S. ground troops deployed, and we are working in partnership with an international coalition enforcing a U.N. resolution."(3 Comments)
"While I personally believe that Qaddafi should go, people need to understand that the purpose of the force we're using is specifically to protect civilians, not to coerce a regime change. The president also needs to clarify how much this operation is going to cost American taxpayers, and how it's going to be paid for. I look forward to the Administration consulting with Congress in more detail on that and other issues related to this operation."
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum released a statement saying she supports the U.S. involvement in creating a "No Fly Zone" in Libya. But the 4th District Congresswoman also says she wants President Obama to consult with Congress before any other military action is taken.
Here's her statement:
"The brave men and women of America's armed forces are fulfilling critical missions around the world. Now, they are participating in a broad international coalition to protect the Libyan people from a murderous tyrant. While I support the current, limited U.S. mission in Libya, I have serious concerns about deepening U.S. military involvement. President Obama must consult with Congress before further expanding America's commitment in Libya."
Minnesota will get a better sense of how the population has changed over the past 10 years when the U.S. Census Bureau releases new data tomorrow.
The Census Bureau says it has shipped Minnesota's 2010 Census data to Gov. Dayton and legislative leaders, and it will release the information this afternoon. The information will include the number of people living in Minnesota and exactly where in the state they live. State lawmakers and the governor will use the data to redraw the boundaries for the U.S. House districts and the state's legislative districts.
Minnesota will keep all eight of its Congressional seats, but the boundaries will have to be redrawn so that each district has an equal population. Minnesota's legislative districts will also be redrawn to account for population growth.
The GOP controlled Legislature is expected to present it to Governor Dayton later this year. The courts would likely get involved if he and lawmakers can't agree on a plan.
The U.S. House voted in favor of a continuing resolution that would avoid a federal government shutdown and cut $6 billion in federal spending. The vote was 271-158. The House and Senate are working to pass the measure before Saturday in order to avoid a government shutdown.
Minnesota's delegation split its vote. Democrats Collin Peterson and Tim Walz joined Republicans John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Chip Cravaack in voting for the bill.
Republican Michele Bachmann joined Democrats Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison in voting against it.
Bachmann says she voted against the bill because it didn't defund the federal health care law.
"We have learned that $105 billion was appropriated when ObamaCare was signed into law." Bachmann said in a statement. "That means the bureaucracy and infrastructure for this government-takeover of health care are already being established. There is no time to delay. We must defund ObamaCare now, and this CR makes no such attempt."
Paulsen said he voted for the bill because it focused on "belt tightening."
"For too long now, hard working Minnesotans have been tightening their belts and waiting for Washington to do the same," said Rep. Paulsen in a statement. "Today, my colleagues and I took another step forward in curing Washington's spending problem and removing the barriers to job creation. However, we cannot continue to limp along two to three weeks at a time; we need leaders of both parties to put an end to short-term thinking and work to pass long-term budget solutions."
I'll post statements from the other members of the delegation if/when they come in.
DFL Rep. Keith Ellison told MPR's Brett Neely he voted against the continuing resolution because he disagrees that spending cuts will improve the economy.
"If you want to cut the deficit, you gotta increase jobs," Ellison said. "You got to increase people working, you need people out there productive and paying taxes, not increasing the lines of the unemployed."
Cravaack told MPR that he came close to voting against the bill, which would have lead to a government shutdown, but decided to give Senate Democrats and the White House more time to reach a deal with House Republicans.
"I just kept on thinking about the long term viability of keeping the government running," Cravaack said. "So now it's in the Senate's hands, it's in the President's hands."
Peterson told MPR that several of the Democrats who voted for the bill are interested in cutting government as long as it's fair.
"And our position is, you know, a bunch of us Democrats, that we'll work with them as long it's reasonable ," Peterson said. "And it's the same thing, as long as it's sensible proportional, everyone is feeling the pain, we'll work with them . "
Here's the statement released by Kline:
"For too long, leaders in Washington have allowed government spending to spiral out of control, racking up record deficits and an unprecedented $14.1 trillion in national debt. That is why House Republicans passed legislation last month to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year while cutting $100 billion in non-defense spending. Last week, we voted to save taxpayers $8 billion by beginning to shut down the TARP bailout program. And earlier this year, we voted to repeal and defund the job-killing health care bill. I look forward to continuing our efforts to get our nation's spending under control."
MPR's Brett Neely contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON--A Washington ethics watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service about the tax-exempt status of the American Action Network (AAN), which is led by former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.
The complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and Washington (CREW) says AAN misrepresented itself to the IRS when applying for tax-exempt status by claiming it was a "social welfare" organization that would only play a "minor" role in the political process.
Following the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, AAN's 501(c)4 status under the tax code meant the organization was not required to disclose its donors. According to data from Opensecrets.org, AAN spent at least $26 million during the last political campaign cycle.
Much of that money was spent on so-called "issue ads" targeting Democratic candidates for the House and Senate. According to CREW's press release, AAN's ads were explicitly political:
One warned voters the health care reform law their Democratic member of Congress had voted for would pay for Viagra for sex offenders. Even though no vote was scheduled on repealing the law, the advertisements encouraged viewers to call their member and tell them to vote for repeal "in November." This kind of political advertisement masquerading as an "issue" ad is political activity under tax law.
Some of those ads were directed against DFL Rep. Tim Walz. According to Opensecrets.org, AAN spent $275,000 in Walz's congressional district last fall. MPR News has requested a statement on CREW's complaint from Walz's campaign, but not yet received a response.
Other candidates experienced even larger ad campaigns financed by AAN. The group spent $1.8 million on ads targeted against Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-VA.
CREW said its complaint against AAN was non-partisan.
"The American Action Network and Sen. Coleman have every right to work to elect more Republicans, but they can't violate the tax laws to do it," said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan in a statement. "If a group wants to take advantage of privileges like protecting the identity of donors, it has to follow the obligations that go along with that."
Coleman, who serves as CEO of AAN, launched the organization in February 2010, not long after announcing he would not run for governor. He served one term as Senator before being narrowly defeated by Al Franken. AAN's chairman is Fred Malek, a prominent Republican fundraiser.
MPR News has also requested a statement from AAN and Coleman, but has not yet received a response.
UPDATE: AAN spokesman Jim Landry wrote in with the following response: "This is a baseless complaint from a partisan group with a record of filing baseless complaints."
WASHINGTON--DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and other lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would set minimum nationwide guidelines for issuing drivers licenses to young people in an effort to reduce the leading cause of death among teenagers.
Called the STANDUP Act, the bill would require states to issue to graduated drivers licenses for young drivers or risk losing federal highway funds.
At a press conference at the Capitol, Klobuchar, who's the mother of a teenager, said the accident data on teen driving spoke for itself.
"They're more likely to take risks while they're driving. They're more likely to speed and drive while distracted. They will drink and drive at times, and teenagers have the lowest rate of seatbelt use," Klobuchar said. "It's not saying teenagers are bad, it's just the facts."
Klobuchar's co-sponsor is Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, D-NY. Congressmen Tim Bishop, D-NY and Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, will introduce a companion bill shortly in the House.
The act's sponsors say more than 5,600 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2009 involving drivers between the ages of 15 and 20. All states have some restrictions on young drivers, but standards vary considerably. States with strong graduated licensing laws have seen a reduction in teen driver crashes of up to 40 percent.
The act would introduce a three stage process for acquiring a drivers license, including a minimum six-month learner's permit stage and another intermediate six month stage before teens get an unrestricted license at age 18.
New drivers would be prohibited from driving at night during the first two stages, and they would be restricted from carrying teenage passengers during those periods and from using cell phones except in emergency situations. Minnesota already has a similar law.
The act's sponsors hope to pass a stand-alone version of the act, but said they may also try to attach it to this year's highway bill, which is considered a "must pass" piece of legislation.(5 Comments)
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann used the bulk of her time on NBC's Meet the Press this morning to criticize President Obama.
For the first five minutes of the interview, Bachmann kept keying in on her talking point of the week which is that President Obama and Democrats in Congress "snuck in a provision" in the health care law that spends $105 billion to implement the law.
"$105 billion is a lot of money," Bachmann said. "You can't just slip that into a bill and not tell members of the House and not tell members of the Senate."
Bachmann was a member of Congress when the health care bill passed and said in a follow up news release that the funding was "broken up, hidden in various parts of the bill." She said there was no debate or no discussion on the bill and she thinks the funding should be given back. One key question that host David Gregory didn't ask is why Bachmann and others didn't raise this issue when the bill was being debated. The funding and the policy change were also passed into law after months of discussion.
Bachmann also didn't back off her claims that President Obama is running a "Gangster Government." When asked about that claim, Bachmann stood firm.
"I do believe that actions taken by this White House," Bachmann said. "I don't take back my statement on Gangster Government. I think there have actions that have been taken by this government is corrupt."
"Do you think the President has anti-American views?" Gregory asked.
"I answered that question before," Bachmann said. "I have very serious concerns about the president's views and I think the president's actions in the last two years speak for themselves."
Bachmann also said she feels Congress and President Obama should take the advice of military leaders and stay out of the crisis in Libya.
"As Defense Secretary Gates has said, we need to be very careful about putting an army on the ground in the Middle East," Bachmann said. "We are extended now in Afghanistan and Iraq, and for us to consider further penetration at this time -- we need to listen to General Petreaus and what he has to say."
Bachmann, who says she's thinking about running for president in 2012, offered no timetable as to when she'll make a final decision.
You can watch the full interview here.(9 Comments)
DFL Rep. Keith Ellison appeared on CNN's State of the Union this morning to criticize Rep. Peter King, R-NY, for holding a hearing on the radicalization of Muslims. Ellison, who represents Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, said he will testify at the hearings to voice his displeasure with the hearings.
"I challenge the basic premise of the hearings, Ellison said. "I do agree that we have to deal with violent radicalization but singling out one community is the wrong thing to do."
Ellison also said the hearing could be used by Al Qaeda as a recruitment tool that the U.S. is at war with Islam.
King also appeared on the show. He said he's holding the hearings because he's worried that there are efforts to radicalize Muslims "from within."
"I think the hearing is going to be very productive," King said. "It's going to go forward and it's going to talk about something that is not being talked about publicly. I think it should be."
King pointed out that Attorney General Eric Holder testified that he stays awake at night about the radicalization of Muslims in the U.S.
I'll post the video once it's available. Update: I couldn't find the video but here's the transcript.(19 Comments)
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann won't be the only member of Minnesota's delegation to appear on the Sunday morning shows this weekend. DFL Rep. Keith Ellison is scheduled to appear on CNN's State of the Union tomorrow morning.
CNN's website says Ellison will appear as a counter to Rep. Peter King, R-NY:
Finally, Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has planned hearings on the radicalization of Muslims in America. He'll join us to explain what he's hoping to learn. Also joining us will be Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.
The show airs at 8am Central.(2 Comments)
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann will appear on NBC's Meet the Press this weekend. The 6th District Congresswoman will make an appearance on the show to discuss the federal budget debate and the 2012 field. Bachmann is considering a run for the White House in 2012:
Also Sunday: A Republican response from the head of the Tea Party caucus in the House, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). She's traveled the country speaking to the Tea Party faithful, what does she expect now from her fellow Republicans and Speaker Boehner in the budget battle? Plus, we'll get her take on the beginning stages of the 2012 field. How does she think the campaign against President Obama's re-election should be framed?
White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley will also appear on the show.(5 Comments)
DFL Sen. Al Franken has hired former state Rep. Al Juhnke to handle Agriculture, Energy, Environmental Outreach in Minnesota. Junhke, who lost his reelection bid to Republican Bruce Vogel in 2010, will handle his duties from his hometown of Willmar. Juhnke served 14 years in the Minnesota Legislature. He served as Chair of the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee.
"Al Juhnke understands how important agriculture, energy, and the environment are to creating jobs and spurring economic development in Minnesota," Sen. Franken said in a statement. "He has spent years working closely with key Minnesota groups, stakeholders, and communities on these issues and knows how important they are to our state's economy and its future. We're all lucky to have him back in a role where he's serving the people of Minnesota."
Minnesota's U.S. House delegation split their votes on a continuing resolution that would cut $4 billion from the federal budget and avert a partial government shutdown for two weeks.
The House passed the bill 335-91.
Republicans John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Chip Cravaack joined Democrats Tim Walz and Collin Peterson in supporting the measure. Republican Michele Bachmann joined Democrats Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison in opposing the measure.
Bachmann was one of five Republicans to vote against the bill. She issued a statement saying she voted against the bill because it didn't defund the federal health care law
"I agree with the need to cut spending, but I voted against the two-week CR today because it did not include language to defund ObamaCare. Over the coming years, ObamaCare will hurt our economy so defunding it must remain part of our negotiations on a CR.
"Nearly two weeks ago I voted for the CR because it contained language that would begin to defund ObamaCare. This legislation today did not.
"The real question to consider: Do President Obama and Harry Reid actually need to keep funding ObamaCare for the next two weeks?"
Cravaack issued a statement saying the bill is a "step in the right direction."
"Two weeks ago, my colleagues and I in the House voted to provide funding for the federal government through the rest of this fiscal year. That bill made historic cuts to our massively bloated budget. Unfortunately, the Senate has not yet acted on that legislation. So again the House has taken the lead.
Today, we passed a short-term continuing resolution to keep the federal government up and running, while at the same time saving taxpayers $4 billion compared to current spending levels. Although this is in no way a permanent solution, it is a step in the right direction. I hope our friends in the Senate will follow suit as we work toward truly sustainable spending levels."
I'll post other statements if/when they come in.(1 Comments)
WASHINGTON--In the interests of clarifying where Minnesota's members of Congress stand on the dispute between public sector unions and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, MPR News examined their recent public statements. When a member had no statement on record, we asked for one. Here are excerpts of their statements:
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R):
"Don't let anyone tell you that the government workers in Wisconsin are losing their collective bargaining rights over wages," Bachmann said in a speech to a South Carolina Republican women's group. "They are not. They are retaining them. It's their collective bargaining right over their benefits."
"It isn't that these unions are bad or evil, it's just that we've got to get real about what we can and cannot afford," she said.
Rep. Chip Cravaack (R):
No public statements and no statement provided to MPR News by publication time.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D):
"We are enormously proud of you," Ellison says to the working people of Wisconsin and the country. "There's nothing wrong with collective bargaining, with workers bargaining with management to come up with a fair pay and good, safe working conditions."
Sen. Al Franken (D):
"As a member of four labor unions, I know personally the importance of collective bargaining. For decades, my family's health care was covered through the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists and the Writers Guild of America. Now as working Americans are under assault, we find ourselves at a crossroads. We know all too well that Scott Walker's real purpose is not about balancing budgets. It's about busting unions."
Source: Statement to MPR News
Rep. John Kline (R):
On Wisconsin, Kline says praised Gov. Walker for trying to get a handle of the state's pension and benefits for state employees. When challenged that unions have already met Walker's demands, Kline said he didn't "want to get into Wisconsin's negotiations" but said politicians need to handle the hard reckoning of budget problems.
Source: MPR News
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D):
"It was a positive development when the workers agreed to cuts--everyone needs to be part of the solution to our budget problems. I believe, however, that the workers should have a right to have a voice and representation at the negotiating table."Source: Statement to MPR News
Rep. Betty McCollum (D):
"There should be no doubt that there is a war going on right now against workers, unions, and middle class Americans who want more jobs.
In Wisconsin, Ohio, and here in Congress, workers rights are under attack by union busting politicians.
It is time for Americans to stand up and fight for the rights of workers to organize and negotiate for safe working conditions, living wages, and basic benefits. It is time to stand up and fight against the attacks launched by a union busting Republican governors and their corporate sponsors."
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R):
"The American public expects their elected officials at state and federal levels to make the very tough choices in order to get their respective fiscal houses in order. Rep. Paulsen believes that Gov. Walker's overall budget is on the right track, including his proposal to bring the state's public employee system more in line with the Minnesota model. He also believes that it's time for Wisconsin Senators to quit shirking their responsibilities and start serving the people who elected them."Source: Statement to MPR News
Rep. Collin Peterson (D):
No public statements and no statement provided to MPR News by publication time.
Rep. Tim Walz (D):
"I understand that tough budgeting decisions have to be made across the country and if the governor needs to negotiate with unions to discuss specific proposals, he has every right to do so. However, attempting to use a difficult budgeting situation for political purposes and to strip Wisconsin workers of their individual freedom to negotiate for a fair wage and decent working conditions is wrong. We should have an honest conversation about ways that we can all save money, but I don't believe a kindergarten teacher in La Crosse or a high school teacher in Rochester caused our budget problems and I don't believe taking away their freedom to negotiate will solve it either."
Source: Statement to MPR News(4 Comments)
Former DFL state Sen. Tarryl Clark, who retired from the Minnesota Senate to make an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2010, will join the BlueGreen Alliance. Clark, who lost her congressional bid to GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, will spearhead a national campaign aimed at creating jobs. Clark is joining former Michigan Rep. Mark Schauer to discuss ways to create a "clean energy" technology that will promote jobs in the U.S. The BlueGreen Alliance is a group of union members and environmentalists.
The campaign will occur in nine states: Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and California.
Clark's decision to join the campaign shows that she's serious about keeping her name out there for another run for Congress. She hasn't been shy about sending out fundraising e-mails to her supporters and has said she's keeping her options open about making another run for Congress. She has suggested she could challenge Bachmann or GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack. It could depend on how the new congressional maps are drawn. Clark lives in St. Cloud.
GOP Rep. John Kline told reporters that he's backing Tim Pawlenty's bid for president in 2012. Kline met with Minnesota reporters today to discuss the situation in Wisconsin, the federal budget showdown and the situation in the Middle East.
On Wisconsin, Kline says praised Wisconsin Governor Walker for trying to get a handle of the state's pension and benefits for state employees. When challenged that unions have already met Walker's demands, Kline said he didn't "want to get into Wisconsin's negotiations" but said politicians need to handle the hard reckoning of budget problems.
Kline will be on the front lines of that hard reckoning next week. The U.S. House has suggested that there will be a "shutdown showdown" over the federal budget. President Obama and Congress have to reach an agreement by March 4th. Kline says he doesn't want to see a government shutdown but added that House Republicans won't support a continuing resolution that doesn't cut government spending. He wouldn't say what an acceptable level of cuts would be.
"I'm very confident that the Republicans in the House are not going to vote for a continuing resolution that has no cuts in it," Kline said.
Kline, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, says he's watching the unrest in the Middle East closely. He said Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi's violent actions towards protesters in that country borders on an atrocity.
"We have seen now how really bad this guy is when he is killing his own people to stay in power," Kline said.
Kline said he's watching the situation in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria and Jordan closely. He said it's possible that the issue could go against U.S. interests in the region.
"I'm not entirely sure that we're going to like the type of democracy that could come out of this," Kline said.
Kline said he is hoping unrest in Iran occurs because he argued that the situation can't get much worse there.
Finally, Kline said he was running for reelection. He was then asked who he was supporting for president 2012.
"Tim Pawlenty," he said at the end of the news conference.
Kline's decision to back Pawlenty means he's not backing GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is also pondering a run for president.
Roll Call reports that Pawlenty is headed to Washington D.C. on Monday to try to build a network of supporters in Congress. Kline and GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen are listed on the invitation.
Here's Kline's briefing: Listen
There are plenty of groups closely watching budget negotiations in Washington D.C. If an agreement isn't reached on a continuing budget resolution, the federal government will be forced to shut down on March 4th. Federal employees could be out of work until a resolution is found. Also, applications for passports and visas, national parks and payments to federal contractors would be affected.
One other major problem could be how U.S. Census data is distributed. Many states, including Minnesota, are waiting for specific population numbers to help guide how the political boundaries are drawn. The state has to redraw the political maps for Congress and the state Legislature every 10 years.
Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy says he expects to get the data sometime in the next two weeks. But he's worried that a government shutdown will delay that delivery.
"There's a lot of data that needs to come out of the U.S. Census Bureau in the next few weeks," Gillaspy said. "I hope that there's not going to be anything that is going to slow that process down because that would set us off late in beginning the redistricting process."
Gillaspy also says state officials also have one less month to complete the process than they did 10 years ago because the state's primary was changed to August.
Michael Cook, with the U.S. Census Bureau, wouldn't "get into hypotheticals" as to whether the data release could be slowed because of a government shutdown. He said
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen has announced that he'll hold a Congress on your Corner event in Bloomington on Tuesday. Here's the info:
WHO: Rep. Erik Paulsen
WHAT: Will hold a "Congress on Your Corner" event at Bloomington City Hall on Feb. 22.
WHEN: Tuesday, February 22
9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
WHERE: Bloomington City Hall
1800 West Old Shakopee Road
Republican Tom Emmer got some major support in his quest to become a Republican National Committeeman. GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, GOP Rep. John Kline and former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman announced they're supporting Emmer's candidacy.
"These leaders know the amount of fundraising, organization and effort that are required to win federal races. Therefore, their endorsements acknowledge the energy and assets they believe I offer to the state party as National Committeeman to the RNC," Emmer wrote.
Emmer, who lost his bid for governor in 2010 to Democrat Mark Dayton, is seeking the post being vacated by Brian Sullivan. Former MNGOP Executive Director Ben Golnik and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson are also running for the post. Delegates will vote on the position at the April State Party Central Committee meeting.
If you're looking for an indication of just how divided Minnesota's House is these days, you needn't look any further than this afternoon's Health and Human Services Reform committee meeting.
Rep. Steve Gottwalt presented his Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act to the committee. But after referring to "Obamacare," during the discussion, the St. Cloud Republican was quickly admonished by New Hope DFLer Sandra Peterson.
"I'm not sure where I am on the federal health care reform issue," Peterson said. "But I keep hearing the reference to Obamacare. Is that the real term of it? Is that the real name of the bill? Because it offends me just a little bit to have that repeated time and time again. I don't know yet whether I agree with the bill or not. But I believe we call it, in this body, by its real name."
Gottwalt said that he made an initial reference to the "so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." But he made no apologies for "Obamacare."
"I understand that it may be offensive to some people," Gottwalt said. "But that is a very commonly used term that helps people understand what legislation we're talking about... I think its been referred to as that by people of no particular political persuasion and from both sides of the aisle."
Peterson offered no quarter. "I do think we ought to use the correct names in here... When we're discussing legislative issues, I think we ought to use the correct terminology."
And that was that.(2 Comments)
By Brett Neely
(Washington) - DFL Sen. Al Franken was tapped by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy today to lead the committee's new Privacy, Technology and the Law subcommittee. Franken has been a member of the Judiciary Committee since he took office in 2009. The new subcommittee will have oversight authority over laws and polices related to online privacy, according to a press release issued by Franken's office.
Franken's new subcommittee will be spending a lot of time looking at how companies such as Facebook and Google collect and use information about individuals.
"The boom of new technologies over the last several years has made it easier to keep in touch with family, organize a community and start a business," Franken said in a statement. "It has also put an unprecedented amount of personal information into the hands of large companies that are unknown and unaccountable to the American public."
Today's subcommittee assignment immerses Franken deeper into online issues.
Franken has taken a stand for so-called net neutrality rules, which would require Internet Service Providers to treat all kinds of data traveling across their networks equally. He also opposed the Federal Communications Commission's approval of the merger between cable operator Comcast and NBC Universal, in part because he's concerned the cable operator will try to drive companies like Netflix out of business.
The ranking Republican on the subcommittee will be Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, and other members of the subcommittee include Chuck Schumer, D-New York, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina.
Not sooner was that announcement made than Sen. Amy Klobuchar was named chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts. The subcommittee is responsible for oversight over the federal court system, judicial rules and procedures, the Department of Justice grant programs, and helping eliminate government waste, fraud, and abuse.
"As a former prosecutor, I understand the importance of effective oversight and the need to ensure equal justice for all Americans," Klobuchar said in a statement. "I am honored to chair the subcommittee and look forward to working with my Republican colleague Jeff Sessions to make sure we are keeping our communities safe and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in the government."
In addition to chairing the Judiciary subcommittee, Klobuchar's office says she will continue to serve as chair of the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Competiveness, and Export Promotion, which oversees innovation issues and has oversight over the Commerce Department, export promotion, and tourism issues.
Every 10 years, Minnesota's Congressional boundaries have to be redrawn so there's equal population in each Congressional district. And as I reported this morning, Minnesota's delegation is keeping a close eye on how the process plays out in St. Paul.
The U.S. Census Bureau has not released the population estimates for each district but you can see which districts will need to grow and which districts will shrink by looking at past population estimates. Each Congressional district has to have 662,990 people in it. If you look at the 2009 population estimates, you'll get a good sense of the makeup of each district. DFL Rep. Collin Peterson has to pick up the most population followed by DFL Rep. Keith Ellison. GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann has to lose the most. Followed by GOP Rep. John Kline.
(Here's a cool map that shows the info based on the 2009 population estimates)
Here's how the districts line up when you look at 2009 population estimates and how much population it will have to gain/lose to get to the magic number:
1st Congressional District (DFL Rep. Tim Walz)
2009 estimate: 635,429 (-27,561)
2nd Congressional District (GOP Rep. John Kline)
2009 estimate: 737,324 (+74,334)
3rd Congressional District (GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen)
2009 estimate: 664,528 (+1,538)
4th Congressional District (DFL Rep. Betty McCollum)
2009 estimate: 623,879 (-39,111)
5th Congressional District (DFL Rep. Keith Ellison)
2009 estimate: 618,292 (-44,698)
6th Congressional District (GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann)
2009 estimate: 755,489 (+92,499)
7th Congressional District (DFL Rep. Collin Peterson)
2009 estimate: 615,742 Peterson (-47,248)
8th Congressional District (GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack)
2009 estimate: 649,438 (-13,552)
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek told MPR News today that he won't run for the U.S. Senate in 2012.
"I'm not interested in running in 2012," Stanek said. "I'm focused on being sheriff over the next four years."
Stanek won re-election in 2010. Several Republicans have suggested that Stanek as a possible candidate against DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Stanek intitially told MPR News that he had no comment when asked about a run. But now, he's taking his name off the table.
"Amy is my friend," Stanek said. "We work together on several issues. She's good for law enforcement."
Stanek's comments come one day after MPR published a story on the Republicans who are thinking about challenging Klobuchar. His decision means that there is one less Republican in that group.
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann will host what is being dubbed as the first ever "Tea Party Town Hall" with several other lawmakers. The Tea Party Express announced on its website that Bachmann will join Iowa Rep. Steve King, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Senator Mike Lee of Utah at an event on February 8th in Washington D.C. All of those lawmakers are a part of the Tea Party Caucuses in their respective legislative bodies.
CNN says the lawmakers will take questions from a live audience and from people watching the event on the internet.
This isn't Bachmann's first event with the Tea Party Express. The group live-streamed Bachmann's response to President Obama's State of the Union.(1 Comments)
GOP Sen. Joe Gimse of Willmar and GOP Rep. Mike Beard are urging the members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation to oppose any earmarks. In a letter to the six Democrats and four Republicans in the delegation, the two chairs of the House and Senate Transportation Committees wrote that the process of earmarking has a "detrimental effect" on Minnesota's transportation system:
"When earmarks are approved by Congress, the amount dedicated to each project is counted against what the state should receive in its share of federal gas tax revenues for highway funding. Unfortunately, some earmarks are set aside for projects that have not been fully vetted and approved by state and local transportation officials. Due to this lack of support and corresponding lack of matching funds from the state, these earmarks end up being "orphaned" and become the equivalent of an uncashed check from the federal government."
Gimse and Beard then cite a USA Today story saying Minnesota has lost $131.3 million in federal funds as a result of earmarking. They don't say how much money Minnesota made as a result of earmarking.
Republicans, most notably GOP Rep. John Kline, have vowed not to take any earmarks. But some, including GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann find other ways of getting those funds. Bachmann sent letters to Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood in the past seeking stimulus funds. She also wants to have earmarks redefined to exclude transportation funds.
Here's the full letter from Gimse and Beard.
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann's entry into presidential politics and her rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union is getting her national attention.
That includes Saturday Night Live, which poked fun at Bachmann's response. CNN aired Bachmann's speech live but it appeared awkward because Bachmann wasn't looking into CNN's camera but into the camera hosted by the Tea Party Patriots. That means most of the people who saw Bachmann's response were wondering why her gaze was slightly off kilter. Anyway, here's the SNL skit making fun of it:
On the policy front, Bachmann is also getting criticized by some Veterans Groups. Several have ripped her for calling for cuts to Veterans Affairs. They say it's unfair to cut funding for veterans who have just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Bachmann has said her budget proposal is meant to "generate discussion."
WASHINGTON - GOP Rep. John Kline says he didn't see GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann's rebuttal to President Obama's speech last night but downplayed its significance. Bachmann upstaged the GOP response of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
Kline, a member of the House GOP leadership team, told MPR's Cathy Wurzer that the GOP response came from Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
"The Republican response was Paul Ryan," Kline said. "I thought he did a fantastic job.
Mrs. Bachmann, I do understand she had a response, and well probably 4 or 500 of us have responses. I'm talking to you about it right now. I went back to my office after the State of the Union and did interviews last night.
Hers has gotten a lot of attention. I understand that but there was one response. That was Paul Ryan's and I thought he did just a fantastic job of laying out the situation that we're in."
Kline was careful to mention that he doesn't know if there is a split between GOP leadership and members of the Tea Party caucus.
On the issues, Kline repeated his concerns over reauthorizing the federal Race to the Top funding and his plans as chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee.
"I'm supportive of reducing the federal presence from the federal government and fixing No Child Left Behind," Kline said.
It appears that the Obama Administration is trying to work with Kline on education issues. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Kline's district last week.3 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Former DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar sat down with MPR's Cathy Wurzer this morning to talk about his time in Washington D.C. and his plans now that he's been defeated by GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack.
One item that was discussed was the possibility that he could make a run for his old seat. Wurzer asked the question because a labor newspaper in Duluth reported that Oberstar isn't ruling it out.
"Things have changed and I'm moving in another direction," Oberstar said.
"So that's a no?" Wurzer asked.
"Let's not close any doors," Oberstar replied.
Oberstar emphasized, however that he doesn't see any "such circumstance" that he could run for his old 8th Congressional District seat.
Listen to the full interview here: Listen
WASHINGTON - Here's GOP Rep. John Kline's reaction to President Obama's State of the Union:
Since the President took office two years ago, he and Congressional Democrats have overseen the largest budget deficit in the history of our nation, driving the national debt to a staggering $14 trillion. While the nation suffers from 20 straight months of unemployment above 9 percent, Washington has been on an unsustainable job-killing spending spree. After listening to the President's remarks during his State of the Union address, I hope his actions match the rhetoric we heard tonight.
In the first weeks of the new Congress, House Republicans have demonstrated that they are listening to the American people and leading by example: we have cut our own budgets by 5 percent, repealed ObamaCare, and rolled back non-defense government spending to 2008 levels.
This needs to be a Congress focused on jobs and the economy. One way my Republican colleagues and I have demonstrated our resolve to restore America's fractured fiscal house is by banning earmarks. I was pleased to hear the President is following our lead in putting an end to wasteful pork-barrel projects.
As the Chairman of Education and the Workforce Committee, I am pleased the President highlighted education reform as one of his priorities. As I did last week when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and I visited Crystal Lake Elementary School in Lakeville, I am continuing to seek input from principals, teachers, parents, and students on what is working - and what is not working - at the school level and whether federal policies are supporting or hindering the work schools across the country are doing to ensure students are prepared to succeed.
Later this year, in its second-largest deployment since World War II, the Minnesota National Guard will send more than 2,400 troops - the famed "Red Bulls" - to the Middle East. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a veteran of the Marine Corps, I was pleased to hear the President reiterate his commitment to winning the war against Islamist extremists. Through initiatives like "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon," we must ensure we take care of our sons and daughters in uniform, and their families.
I encourage the Administration and Congressional Democrats to join Republicans in showing we are serious about restoring trust between the American people and those elected to represent them. I encourage Washington to heed the calls of the American people to do what we were sent here to do - provide security and freedom for our country, restore economic certainty, and enable America's job creators to put our nation back to work.
WASHINGTON - DFL Rep. Keith Ellison says he has mixed feelings about President Obama's State of the Union address and said Obama's move to the middle is dealing with the reality of a mixed government.
After the speech, Ellison told reporters that he's pleased to see Obama is making a commitment to invest in public works projects and end tax breaks for oil companies but is concerned about the level of cuts put on the table.
"He said he's not going to let the cuts fall on the poorest Americans, but you know what?," Ellison said. "We'll see. I'm very concerned about that. Unless we're talking about some real cuts in the military, which he did mention, to his credit, I don't know where he's going to get it from."
Ellison said he thinks President Obama and Congress should look first to making cuts to military programs and projects are considered "outdated" or out of use. Ellison also said he'd like to see Obama address what he called "income inequality" between the nation's wealthiest and poorest citizens.
Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, also praised President Obama for encouraging the nation to embrace many cultures including the Muslim faith.
"He didn't have to say what he said about Muslims being American family but he did," Ellison said. "I can tell you there's a lot of people who really appreciated him saying that..."
WASHINGTON - While most of the members of Congress were busy worrying about which member of Congress they planned to sit with, DFL Rep. Tim Walz decided to invite a Republican from his congressional district. Walz invited GOP state Sen. Julie Rosen to attend tonight's State of the Union in an effort to show bipartisanship.
"We represent the same people," Walz said. "I think it's important for us that this isn't, just as the President said, sitting together tonight but an effort to keep working and move forward on that."
Rosen said she felt that there was a firm commitment from both Republicans and Democrats to work together. Something she hopes will also occur on the state level.
"I walked away feeling much better about the cooperation and collaboration and communication that I felt in that room," Rosen said. "Hopefully tomorrow and the next two weeks and two years will show results in that manner."
Rosen's hope could be put to the test later this week. Her committee, the Senate Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee, will vote on a bill that lifts the moratorium on building new nuclear power plants in Minnesota. Walz took the rare move of stepping into state politics by announcing he backed the move.
WASHINGTON - GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann made the unusual move of offering a different rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union speech. Bachmann appeared via weblink on a Tea Party website (which CNN carried live) after Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan delivered the GOP response.
Bachmann criticized President Obama for a large amount of spending and criticized him for not working to find budget cuts.
"After the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money we don't have," Bachmann said.
"But, instead of cutting, we saw an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt. It was unlike anything we have seen before."
Bachmann, a possible candidate for the White House in 2012, has repeatedly said the federal government needs to cut spending. She didn't offer specifics during the address but outlined ways that President Obama could help improve the economy like repealing the federal health care law and supporting a balanced budget amendment.
A key question is whether her ideas have as high a likelihood of gaining approval from President Obama and a divided Congress.
You can listen to Bachmann's full speech here: Listen
WASHINGTON - Here's DFL Sen. Al Franken's reaction to President Obama's State of the Union:
"Creating jobs and improving the economy has to be our top priority and I'm glad we heard that from the President tonight. I've spent the past few weeks traveling around Minnesota talking with workers, small business owners, and educators. And from East Grand Forks and Alexandria to Rochester and Duluth, everyone reinforced that investing in education, job training, and innovation is essential to our economic future and creating long-term prosperity.
"We must address some very serious issues in the year to come, among them the federal budget and reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and bipartisan cooperation is going to be key to getting anything done. I hope that the tone the President set tonight continues throughout the 112th Congress."
WASHINGTON - Here's DFL Rep. Betty McCollum's reaction to President Obama's State of the Union:
"President Obama clearly outlined the challenges and opportunities we face as a country with job creation being our top priority, and I want help him succeed.
"To create jobs we need to continue investing in education, innovation, research, and rebuilding our vital infrastructure that will strengthen our economy. The jobs of the future will require educated Americans who can successfully compete against China and the rest of the world.
"President Obama is also right to focus on reducing the budget deficit. The best way to reduce the deficit is to grow the economy and create jobs. But Congress needs to make smart investments and smart cuts to programs when they don't work or there is waste - that includes cutting the waste out of the $700 billion annual defense budget.
"The Republican budget plan cuts education, infrastructure, and research that will weaken our economy, kill jobs, and cede global leadership in the 21st Century to China, but they don't fix the budget problem. I want America to win the future, not turn global leadership over to China."
WASHINGTON - Here's GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen's reaction to President Obama's State of the Union:
"I appreciate President Obama's call for bipartisanship; we need to work together as a country if we're going to tackle this looming debt crisis and put this country back to work" said Paulsen. "However, we must learn from past mistakes and realize that we can't simply spend our way to prosperity. Despite new government programs designed to stimulate our economy, Americans watched as our deficit, debt and unemployment rate skyrocketed over the past two years."
"With Washington spending already at unsustainable levels, it's essential that we get serious about reining in expenses" continued Rep. Paulsen. "Simply freezing spending at current levels, as the President suggests, does not go far enough. We should return to pre-bailout and pre-stimulus spending levels to prove we're committed to getting rid of trillion dollar deficits. In the coming year, I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to finally put this country on the path to fiscal responsibility."
Paulsen, a champion of small business and advocate of free enterprise, entrepreneurship, and innovation currently serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, and is co-chair of the Congressional Korea-U.S. Free Trade Working Group and co-chair of the House Medical Technology Caucus.
WASHINGTON - With the economy and job creation as the top issue on the minds of voters, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar is making it known that she's reaching out to business leaders across the state.
Over the past few weeks, Klobuchar held an Innovation Summit, met with business leaders across Minnesota and invited Medtronic CEO Bill Hawkins to President Obama's State of the Union address.
"I got on the Commerce Committee four years ago with the focus of working with businesses both big and small," Klobuchar said when asked about the more public emphasis on business issues. "You look at the fact that I've been working with these business from the beginning. You don't turn over in a few months. I've been doing it the day I got here."
Klobuchar may have been working quietly on economic and business issues over the past four years but it's clear she's touting those efforts now. She was careful to mention during an interview tonight that she's coauthoring a bill with Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown that aims to cut regulations on business. She says she hopes the bipartisan effort will allow business leaders to spend less money on regulations and more money on investments.
"Now is the time to start building," Klobuchar said. "Building our economic edge, adding private sector employees and looking at not just stabilizing but how to compete..."
Klobuchar also said reducing regulations on medical device companies is her top priority - a clear message to Minnesota's Medical Alley that she's trying to help improve their bottom line - especially after those companies had a difficult 2010. Her efforts to reach out to Minnesota's Medical Technology companies are also aimed at circumventing a potential political problem in 2012.
Republicans, including GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen, have criticized a tax on medical device companies. Klobuchar was careful to mention at the time and in the interview that she convinced those negotiating the health care law to lower the tax.
It's no mistake that Klobuchar is making business her public business in 2011. She's up for reelection in 2012 and has high approval ratings. A signal that she's reaching out to business in an economic downturn shows that she intends to keep those approval numbers high.(2 Comments)
WASHINGTON - DFL Rep. Keith Ellison is praising President Obama for committing to spend billions on public works projects like roads, bridges and energy projects.
"This is the thing that is going to help power our economy into the future," Ellison said.
President Obama is expected to announce a plan tonight to "outbuild" other nations. Obama is expected to cast a message that shows that the investment is the best way to keep the nation competitive with the rest of the world.
"We have a big debate as to what's spending and what's investment," Ellison said. "I think when you have over $1 trillion in crumbling infrastructure then that's clearly got to be investment in maintaining it."
Ellison, who has called for higher taxes to help address the federal budget deficit said targeting the funding goes beyond building roads and bridges. He said a project that moves the power created from the windmills in western Minnesota to the population centers on the eastern side of the state is a good example.
But these projects could be met with a skeptical GOP majority in the U.S. House. All four GOP members of Minnesota's congressional delegation have called for spending cuts to curb the federal deficit not increase it.
For example, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann's office released excerpts from her rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union. In the remarks, Bachmann criticized President Obama for federal spending on the health care law and the stimulus. She said the GOP would oppose efforts to spend more.
"Last November many of you went to the polls and voted out big-spending politicians and you put in their place men and women who have come to Washington with a commitment to follow the Constitution and cut the size of government. And I believe that we are in the early days of a history-making turn here in the House of Representatives..."
WASHINGTON - Minnesota's U.S. House members had lunch today to discuss ways they can work together to improve the state of Minnesota.
DFL Rep. Keith Ellison said all eight members of Minnesota's House delegation sat down and broke bread today.
"We don't know what we might work on unless we get together and talk about it," Ellison said.
Ellison said the new dean of Minnesota's delegation, DFL Rep. Collin Peterson called the meeting. He said it's the first time the delegation got together to talk about issues. Ellison declined to discuss the full details of the meeting but said one main theme was improving the state's education system.
"There may be some common ground there," Ellison said. "Everyone knows we have to have an educated populace."
There's no guarantee that there will be much gained from these types of meetings. Minnesota's U.S. House delegation is incredibly diverse. Ellison is the chair of the House Progressive Caucus. GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann is chair of the Tea Party Caucus. Those two groups are diametrically opposed on issues of taxes and spending.
But Ellison said he hopes that the group continues to meet on a regular basis and everyone in the room takes risks on issues. He said that can be difficult when every member of the delegation has a base constituency group backing them.
"All of us have our base who rewards and punishes us for what they think we're doing right or wrong," Ellison said. "But if all of the rewards are on saying inflammatory stuff to upset the other side and all of the punishments are associated with trying to work with them then it's going to be difficult to work with them...."
If that occurs, Ellison said it's unlikely that the delegation will agree on many issues. Even if that's the case, he joked that the group may still just do lunch and enjoy each other's company for the next two years.
The group may have to keep an eye on their waistlines. Especially since several of the members will be taking part in a hot dish competition on Wednesday that's hosted by DFL Sen. Al Franken.
WASHINGTON - Democrats have suggested for months that GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack is just renting the eighth congressional district. Cravaack pulled off an upset win of DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar in November and Democrats in Washington D.C. and in Minnesota have both have their eyes on his seat as a possible pickup. Cravaack even admitted that he's "Number two on the DCCC's list."
One major question though is who will challenge him.
A few of the big names that have been floated are walking away from a run. Tony Sertich, the former Majority Leader of the Minnesota House, says there is "zero chance" that he'll run for the seat. Governor Dayton just appointed Sertich to run the Iron Range Resources Board. Sertich is steadfast that he won't run.
Duluth Mayor Don Ness says he isn't running.
"There are many, many reasons," Ness wrote in an e-mail to me. "Family, lifestyle, and the fact that I love being Mayor are at the top of this list."
And DFL state Sen. Tony Lourey says he isn't running for the job.
Two names have surfaced as possible candidates to challenge Cravaack in 2012. Daniel Fanning, the Deputy State Director for DFL Sen. Al Franken, says he's "certainly thinking about a run" but emphasized that he's just considering it at this point.
Fanning, who grew up in Chicago but says he's lived in Duluth for the better part of 12 years, has been active in DFL politics. He ran DFL state Sen. John Marty's campaign for governor before he took the job with Franken's office. He is also Associate Chair of the DFL Veterans Caucus.
Another name if DFL state Sen. Roger Reinert of Duluth.
"I haven't ruled it out, but I'm not actively pursuing it, Reinert told MPR's Tim Nelson. "Right now, I'm completely concerned about the Legislative session."
Reinert said he will take another look at the race in June but emphasized that the district should be represented by someone who lives in Duluth or the Iron Range.
"It's the heart of the district," Reinert said.
For his part, Cravaack isn't focused on his reelection.
"I'm not worried about reelection and the reason I'm not worried is that If I do a good job for the people of Minnesota, I'll be back in office," Cravaack said.
"I hope people look past who has an R behind their name or a D behind their name and just judge a person for the person."
One wildcard is how redistricting plays a part in Minnesota's congressional delegation. The 2010 Census requires the Legislature and Governor Dayton to come up with a new map. That means the 8th District could look dramatically different than it does right now.
Another wildcard is whether Oberstar decides to make another run at Cravaack. We'll find out later today if that's a possibility.
WASHINGTON - GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack appeared skeptical of raising the federal debt limit for fear that he that the federal deficit is growing out of control. During an interview with MPR's Cathy Wurzer, Cravaack said he has big concerns that the federal deficit is growing out of control. He said he has concerns about passing a continuing budget resolution or a plan to immediately raise the debt limit.
"If we don't watch what we're doing, we will go by the way of Iceland," Cravaack said. "Our stock market will crash, our currency will be devalued to zero if we continue on this path."
Cravaack doubted that there will be an economic fallout if the federal government doesn't raise the debt ceiling. He said "that's not true" regarding criticism that the U.S. could default on its loans.
"We'll have revenues coming in," Cravaack said. "There will be a time period that we can play with but this is extremely serious what we're about to do."
People may say that we'll lose our AAA bond rating. That may be true but if we raise the debt limit above our GDP we won't have to worry about our AAA bond rating anyway because we become less of a firm type of risk to investors."
Cravaack said "you have to" look at cuts to Social Security and Medicare to help the deficit. He emphasized that people over the age of 55 won't see any cuts in benefits but he said there are ways that people under that age could see some changes to their benefits.
"We can stair step it down, tier it down. That's one of the things that you can take a look at. I'm not saying that's the model but this is something that we have to take a look at but we have to protect the promises that we made at the same time..."
Cravaack also said today that he's not sure where he plans to sit at today's State of the Union.
"I'm a freshman. I'm lucky to get seated. I might be in the back standing," Cravaack said about attending his first State of the Union.
Seating at the State of the Union is on a first come, first serve basis but says he has a full day of meetings scheduled right up to President Obama's address. He says that will make it difficult to find a prime slot in the House Chamber.
Cravaack didn't invite anyone to the State of the Union but he said he hopes, if possible, that he can sit with some of the members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation tonight.
You can listen to the full interview here: Listen(2 Comments)
Former DFL Congressman Jim Oberstar has suggested in the past that he probably won't run for the seat he lost to GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack in 2010. But there is buzz among DFLers in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District that he could make that run. The reason: An article that recently ran in the The Duluth Labor World has this headline:
"Jim Oberstar: Don't close the door on anything."
The story centered around Oberstar's recent lunch with 40 members of the region's trade meeting but it appears he may have received some cajoling from some long-time supporters.
"When he sat to eat his lunch, Retired Sheet Metal Worker George Sundstrom stood and said, "when you were speaking it was evident, you haven't lost a thing. What would it take to get you to run again?"
With a smile Bill Richards, who has worked with Oberstar since 1981, placed a comforting hand on Jean Oberstar's shoulder as she appeared mortified by the prospect of him running for Congress again. Oberstar had told the press earlier, "I don't think I'll run again."
He knew he couldn't get away that easily with Sundstrom. ":Let's not close the door on anything," Oberstar answered. Former Duluth Central Body Chair Sundstrom led the applause."
Question of the Day: Should Oberstar give it another run?(2 Comments)
DFL Rep. Collin Peterson says he thinks he'll sit with GOP Rep Frank Lucas again at tonight's State of the Union. Lucas took over as chair of the House Agriculture Committee which Peterson held when Democrats controlled the House.
But it has nothing to do with the new bipartisan mood that's captured the Congress:
"All of this foolishness with who's going to sit with who tomorrow night. I mean, geez. Last year, I sat with Frank Lucas kind of by accident.
I came in late and there weren't any seats on our side. So I wandered back over to the Republican side and Frank had a seat next to him and I sat down and we sat next to each other.
"You know what that got me? It got stories that I was going to switch parties. So now this year, all of a sudden, some of the most partisan guys who would never be bipartisan have dreamed up this thing that we're all going to be bipartisan. We're all going to sit next to each other.
It kind or irritates guys like me who do this all of the time. It's like 'The only time we're going to be bipartisan is when somebody pays attention so we'll send out a press release.'
It's part of what's wrong with this town."
Peterson says he plans to sit with Lucas again tonight on the GOP side of the aisle but no one should report that he's thinking about switching parties.
"They didn't stand up as much last year so that was good," Peterson said of the Republicans last year. "I didn't have to jump and down. I could just sit there."
You can listen to Cathy Wurzer's full interview with Peterson here: Listen
Nothing kicks off the new Congress like a little hot dish. At least that's what DFL Sen. Al Franken is hoping. Franken is hosting several of his colleagues in Minnesota's Congressional delegation on Wednesday with a little hot dish competition.
Franken proposed the competition as a way to "bring the delegation together at the start of the new session to celebrate Minnesota before tackling the issues facing the state."
Franken's office says Franken, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL Rep. Tim Walz, DFL Rep. Betty McCollum, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison and GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann will all submit Hot Dish recipes on behalf of their offices.
Minnesota State Society member Megan Ivory Carr will tally the votes and announce the winner.
Side Note: No word on whether the members of the delegation will lobby the two lobbyists to vote their way or press the journalist on the panel to give up his information before the official announcement.
Franken's office is also hoping that the event becomes an annual tradition.
No word on whether anyone is bringing antacid.
I'm in Washington D.C. for the next 36 hours as a part of MPR's coverage of the State of the Union. While Morning Editionhost Cathy Wurzer will be doing more formal interviews with Minnesota's Congressional delegation to gauge the impact of "Minnesota's clout in Washington," I'll be covering the delegation and President Obama's State of the Union around the edges.
Some of the issues will be serious. Others will be funny. I hope it's entertaining.
Which brings me to the first headline:
You would think one of the leaders in Congress, the White House or a high-priced political strategist may have uttered those words at some point. Especially given the major disagreements between Democrats and Republicans across the country. Those disagreements mainly are fought in full view here in Washington D.C.
But I didn't hear any politician utter that phrase (yet).
Instead, it was Mohamed Ali.
Ali, who went from listening to WAMU (a public radio station playing classical music) to WETA (another public radio station that airs NewsHour) exactly at 7pm, said those words to me as he drove me from Reagan National Airport to my hotel.
Ali said a bulk of his cab fares come from those who either work for the federal government or have business with the federal government.
And he dreads when Congress is out of session.
"I would say my business drops fifty percent when Congress is in recess," Ali said.
I guess that means the people running the place (hospitality staff, etc.) really rely on the people running the place (the White House and Congress).
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen invited Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek to President Obama's State of the Union. Stanek, who served in the Minnesota House with Paulsen, is in his second term as sheriff of Minnesota's largest county by population.
"Congressman Paulsen invited Sheriff Stanek because he wanted to show his appreciation for all that the Sheriff and his office do to keep Hennepin County residents safe," Paulsen spokesman Tom Erickson said in a statement.
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced today that she's invited William Hawkins, the chairman and CEO for Fridley based Medtronic, to President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday.
"Companies like Medtronic show how innovation can be a catalyzing force in the American economy," Klobuchar said in a statement. "It is important that Washington hear from business leaders like Bill who share my commitment to revitalizing America's innovative edge to help our businesses find new markets for their products and compete in the global economy."
The move also reemphasizes that Klobuchar is working to improve the working relationship between the federal government and the medical device industry. Industry officials have complained that the FDA approval process is too slow.
"We commend the recent actions of the FDA and the Obama administration, which recognize and address the impact regulations can have on innovation and job creation," Hawkins said in a statement. "Creating a more predictable and consistent regulatory system makes it possible for patients to get quicker access to novel medical devices developed by companies like Medtronic. The medical device industry is a true American success story and we collectively will write the next chapter through principled collaboration throughout the innovation ecosystem."
The President will deliver the 2011 State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday at 8PM
U-S Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged Minnesota lawmakers today (Fri) to pass legislation that would create alternative ways for people to become teachers.
Duncan told a crowd of education and business leaders in Minneapolis that Minnesota has a great track record of education reform, but issues like teacher licensure also show complacency.
"The fact that this state hasn't been more open around alternative certification for teachers doesn't make sense to me," Duncan said. "I think what we want is more great teachers in nation's classrooms wherever they come from. And we should hold everyone accountable - we should hold them to a high bar. Accountable, but being really creative there."
The state's teachers' union opposed alternative licensure last year. Education Minnesota says it does support the effort this year but only under circumstances that don't lessen the rigor needed to become a teacher.
Duncan also told the crowd that the business community hasn't been active enough in education debates.
You can listen to Duncan's full speech here: Listen
Thanks to MPR's Tom Weber for the audio.(6 Comments)
Politico is reporting today that GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann will give a State of the Union response via the internet. Bachmann will reportedly give her response on the Tea Party Express website. The group sent out an e-mail announcing Bachmann's appearance.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has confirmed with us that she will broadcast her response to Barack Obama's State Of The Union address this Tuesday. You'll be able to watch her rebut Obama via her address which will be broadcast on our website: www.TeaPartyExpress.org
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan has been selected to give the GOP's official response to President Obama's speech. No word on whether Bachmann will wait for Ryan to finish his comments.
Republican in the U.S. House have voted to repeal a health care law, meeting a campaign promise. The vote is more symbolic than substantial since President Obama and the Senate are unlikely to support the efforts. Republicans have also said they intend to defund major portions of the law with the hopes of stifling the effects of the new law.
Democrats are arguing that repealing the law will harm low income and others who benefit from the changes to the health care system that occurred under the law.
I gathered many of the statements released by the members of Minnesota's delegation.
Here's a statement from GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann:
"Obamacare, as we know, is the crown jewel of socialism. It is socialized medicine.
"The American people spoke soundly and clearly at the ballot box in November and they said to us, Mr. Speaker, in no uncertain terms, 'Repeal this bill.' So today this body will cast a vote to repeal Obamacare. And to those across the United States who think this may be a symbolic act, we have a message for them: this is not symbolic. This is why we were sent here and we will not stop until we repeal a President and put a President in the White House who will repeal this bill, until we repeal the current Senate, put in a Senate that will listen to the American people and repeal this bill.
Here's a statement from DFL Rep. Keith Ellison:
Protecting every American's right to quality health care and a living wage job must be priority number one for this Congress. Sadly, today, the new Republican House of Representatives passed its first significant piece of legislation. It was not a bill designed to deal with the wave of home foreclosures devastating our communities or to put the millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Instead, the first priority of the new Republican majority was to take health care away from millions of Americans.
Obviously, Congressional Republicans have a different agenda. Repealing the health reform law and enacting the Republican "No Care/No Jobs" bill means dumping 32 million Americans from health coverage - including almost 12,000 young adults in Minnesota. Additionally, this "No Care/No Jobs" bill adds another $230 billion to our federal budget deficit.
Rather than combating near 10 percent unemployment nationwide, the top Republican priority is to deny millions of Americans health care and to side with health insurance companies over working Americans.
Denying health care to millions of Americans doesn't create jobs. The American people deserve better from their elected leaders.
Here's a statement from GOP Rep. John Kline:
"For 20 consecutive months more than 14 million Americans have been unemployed. As much as we would like to solve this problem, the federal government cannot legislate or regulate our way to job creation. We can, however, foster economic certainty that will encourage families, businesses, and entrepreneurs to spend, hire, and invest. And that is what we will try to do today.
"Almost one year ago Democrats launched a nearly $1 trillion government takeover of health care that increases national health care spending by $311 billion over 10 years and levies more than $500 billion in new taxes on individuals, consumers, and businesses. The 2,700 page law has led to more than 4,000 pages in new rules and regulations - and the law is only 10 months old. The uncertainty of what this all means for individuals and businesses today - and in the months and years to come - is having a chilling effect on the country's job creators.
"A number of provisions in the law will undermine job creation and economic growth, but perhaps none is as alarming as the employer mandate. For the first time in the nation's history, employers with more than 50 workers are required to provide government-approved health care coverage. Those who do not, or cannot afford to, will be forced to pay a $2,000 penalty for every worker beyond the first 30.
"If you are a small business owner with 50 workers and you cannot afford to provide government-approved health insurance for your workers, adding one additional employee to the payroll will result in a $42,000 penalty.
"Some refer to the employer mandate as "shared sacrifice." They argue that expanding coverage to every individual means everyone must pay. But the cost of this provision will result in more than lost dollars and cents. Hiring new workers will be more expensive, creating a disincentive for job-creators to put Americans back to work.
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum ripped the vote in an e-mail to supporters:
I believe health care should be a right for all Americans, not a luxury or a privilege available for only the most fortunate. Democrats - without the help of a single Republican - passed a historic health care reform law in 2010 that took unprecedented steps towards making health care access a right. Protections that make patient care our top priority, not insurance company profits, are now the law of the land because of the Affordable Care Act.
Today the Tea Party Republicans in the U.S. House voted in lockstep, passing H.R. 2, to repeal health reform and the new patient rights that are saving lives and protecting families. The Republican plan to strip away protections for children, seniors, and adults with pre-existing medical conditions will be replaced with a uniquely Republican solution - NOTHING! Republicans want to repeal health reform and restore the same broken system that protects insurance company profits - not people.
Many are calling this repeal vote a political stunt. I disagree. This is the first salvo in a two year battle to defeat Democrats - take the White House and Congress in 2012 - and kill health care reform. Democrats and all Americans cannot be silent or passive. We need to fight for our rights and fight to defend this health care reform law we all worked so hard to pass.
I voted today against the Tea Party Republican health care repeal agenda and I will not stop fighting for quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack released this statement:
"I agree all Minnesotans should have access to high quality, affordable health care," Cravaack said. "However, I do not support the increased regulation, taxation and government interference found in the 2,400 page, $1 trillion legislation President Obama signed into law last year. The country can't afford it, and it serves as a massive over-reach on behalf of the federal government. Minnesotans and all Americans deserve better than the loop-hole filled, back-door negotiated, special interest bill they got."
"Fortunately, this will not be the only vote I take on health care," Cravaack added. "Now that the House has voted to repeal Obamacare, I intend to work to ensure it is replaced with legislation that expands the accessibility of coverage, lowers costs and focuses on the quality of patient care - without laying the bill at the feet of Minnesota taxpayers and future generations of Americans. We can do much better, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass legislation that offers positive solutions to the many serious problems found in the current law."
Here's a statement from DFL Rep. Tim Walz:
"Repealing the Affordable Care Act will eliminate consumer protections, put insurance companies between you and your doctors, raise taxes on small businesses, and explode the deficit. It will be bad for our economy and jobs in places like southern Minnesota that have a robust health care industry.
Southern Minnesotans are already seeing benefits from this new law. Seniors have received help paying for their expensive prescription drugs and have better access to preventative care.
And just a few weeks ago, I received a letter from a dad in southern Minnesota named Paul. Paul's son Joe is 21 years old, works part time and has Type II diabetes. Joe couldn't get the insurance he needed to pay for the expensive equipment and treatment he needs. But because of the new law we passed, Joe was able to get back on his parent's insurance and his new insurance card came a couple of weeks ago in the mail. A vote to repeal this legislation is a vote to tear that insurance card out of Joe's hand and so I voted against it."
Here's a statement from GOP Erik Paulsen:
"Last Congress, Democratic Leadership passed the health care law to figure out what was in it, and what we found wasn't good; a laundry list of tax hikes, massive spending sprees and job-crushing government mandates," said Rep. Paulsen. "Repeal is the first step in bringing meaningful, affordable and patient-centered health care reform for all Americans in an open and transparent manner."
"Now we have an opportunity to get it right and provide common-sense reforms that lower healthcare costs, protect the doctor-patient relationship, and provide small businesses with certainty to hire new employees and get our economy back on track. The repeal today will also stop a $20 billion tax burden on the life-saving medical device industry, a burden that falls on the hundreds on medical technology companies that reside in my district."
Here's a statement from DFL Sen. Al Franken:
"Minnesota families and businesses have already started to feel the direct benefits of the health care law." said Sen. Franken. "This law already has done a lot of good for a lot of people: it's eliminated lifetime caps on insurance, given kids the ability to stay on their parents' plans until they're 26, closed the prescription drug 'doughnut hole' for our seniors, and prevented insurance companies from denying children coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Beyond that, it cuts the deficit and allows more small businesses to cover their employees because of the tax credits the law provides."(2 Comments)
Minnesota Democrats are waging an all out push back on efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is also known as the health care law.
Gov. Dayton will participate in a 3pm White House Conference Call with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss the "impact that repealing the Affordable Care Act would have on the state's economy, residents and businesses."
DFL Rep. Keith Ellison also announced on his Twitter feed that he'll hold a conference call to discuss his opposition to repealing the law.
Meanwhile, the DFL Party is holding a news conference at noon today in Duluth to "highlight the benefits of the health-care reform law and urge Rep. Chip Cravaack to vote no in this week's House vote on repeal." Cravaack campaigned heavily against the health care law.
The U.S. House is scheduled to vote on the health care repeal this week. The measure is likely to pass but is unlikely to pass the Senate. President Obama also opposes efforts to repeal the law.
DFL Sen. Al Franken is ramping up his opposition to the proposed merger between cable giant Comcast and NBC Universal. Franken sent an e-mail to supporters saying the merger would be a "disaster."
"When the same company owns the content and the pipes that deliver that content, consumers lose," Franken said in the video statement.
Franken also called for his supporters to sign a petition opposing the merger.
Comcast executives have disputed Franken's claim saying it would lead to more programming choices and "ownership diversity."(9 Comments)
This morning the US Census Bureau announced 2012 reapportionment resulting from population changes tracked by the 2010 census. As of April of this year US population increased to nearly 309 million people, that's up nearly 10 percent from 2000.
As a result of population growth and shifts 12 Congressional seats are being reapportioned affecting 18 states. Minnesota's population is up 7.4 percent from 10 years ago. The Census counted 5.3 million people in the state.
There were concerns that slow population growth in the Midwest relative to the West would result in Minnesota losing a Congressional seat in 2012, but that didn't happen.
Minnesota has not lost Congressional seat since the 1960 census when it went from nine to its current eight.
The race to keep Minnesota's 8 seats was extremely tight. Minnesota got the 435th seat in Congress. North Carolina was number 436 with a difference of 15,000 or so people.
DFL Sen. Al Franken is explaining his vote for a tax cut deal that would extend the Bush era tax cuts.
In his e-mail to supporters, Franken calls the vote "the hardest vote I've ever taken." Franken, who voted for the deal to move forward on Monday, said President Obama "punted on first down." The Senate is expected to vote on the bill later today. DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar also voted for the bill.
Here's Franken's full e-mail:
A lot of people are unhappy that the President punted on first down, and I'm one of them. Extending the Bush tax breaks for the super-wealthy will explode our deficit over the next two years without doing anything to help our economy. It's bad policy.(1 Comments)
But for Minnesota's middle class, struggling to get by in a tough economy, there's a lot in this bill that will really help: tax cuts for working families, a payroll tax holiday, energy tax credits, and the extension of Recovery Act initiatives that are already making a difference.
And for the Minnesotans truly suffering right now-men, women, and children on the edge of economic disaster-the alternative is simply unacceptable. If we let Republicans block unemployment benefits, even temporarily, there will be a lot more pain for working families, a lot more homeless kids spending Christmas in a shelter or a car.
If this is the prelude of a permanent extension of the Bush tax breaks for the super-wealthy, we're in big trouble. We'll lose our ability to make the investments we need to grow our way out of long-term budget deficits: education, infrastructure, and research and development. And I am taking the President at his word that he will fight harder to put an end to these wasteful tax breaks in 2012 than he did in 2010.
This isn't a great deal by any stretch of the imagination. But I got into this line of work because I wanted to stand up for Minnesota families trying to put food on the table and build a better life for their kids. And, for them, the only thing worse than a bad deal would be no deal at all. That's why I voted yes yesterday-and why I will continue my fight for economic policies that create jobs, address our deficit problem, and build new opportunities for Minnesota.
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar released a statement today on why she's supporting a bill that would extend Bush era tax cuts for another two years. The Senate got the sixty votes needed to move the bill ahead for the full vote.
Here's the release from Klobuchar:
"I am voting to move forward with this bill because we cannot afford to sock the middle class with an average $3,000 tax increase at this time. While I voted for and strongly favor allowing the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans to go back to the Clinton levels, the middle class benefits of this bill outweigh the parts I disagree with. I will continue to work to include provisions both in this bill and next year that focus on a long-term plan to responsibly reduce the deficit."(1 Comments)
After saying he was unhappy about a deal that would extend the Bush era tax cuts for another two years, DFL Sen. Al Franken voted to move the bill closer to a full vote.
Here's a release Franken sent out after the vote become clear:
"I don't like extending the excessive Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, I don't like the explosion in the deficit it will create, and I don't like how the President made this deal. But I would hate even more to see Minnesota families get hurt. "There's a lot in here to help create jobs and to help middle-class Minnesotans weather this recession: tax cuts for working families, a payroll tax holiday, energy tax credits, and the extension of Recovery Act initiatives that are already making a difference. And a lot of harm would come to working families if unemployment insurance isn't renewed. So I'm voting for this reluctantly and will continue to fight passionately to get our economic policies on the right track."(1 Comments)
Posted at 2:57 PM on December 7, 2010
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: U.S. Senate
Public Policy Polling says Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is the most popular of the 66 senators it has measured this year.
A recent survey of state voters found that Klobuchar is running 10 or more points ahead of several potential GOP challengers in her 2012 re-election bid. Klobuchar would beat outgoing Governor Tim Pawlenty (53 to 43), Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (56 to 39), former senator Norm Coleman (54 to 40), gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer (56 to 38) and Congressman Erik Paulsen (52 to 34).
Here's the full news release:
Amy Klobuchar is the most popular of 66 senators PPP has measured in
2010, and she won her first election to the Senate four years ago by 20 points. But that
was in a Democratic wave. With the closeness of the still-contested 2010 gubernatorial
race, and a generally more conservative electorate in the Midwest this year, Klobuchar
could draw a strong challenge in 2012. But even emptying the GOP bench, and in an
electorate in which Democrats barely outnumber Republicans, no one can come within
ten points of defeating Klobuchar in PPP's first test of that race.
Outgoing Governor Tim Pawlenty comes closest, but Klobuchar still beats him, 53-43.
She could breathe easy if the Tea Party grassroots elevate one of their firebrands to the
nomination, leading Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, 56-39. And she would give
two victims of a recount a bigger run for their money than did Mark Dayton or Al
Franken. She is ahead of former senator Norm Coleman, 54-40, and likely defeated
gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, 56-38. Finally, she tops Congressman Erik
Klobuchar almost literally has the unanimous support of her party, getting 93-98% of
Democrats and losing only 1% to every one of the Republicans except Coleman, to
whom she only loses 3%. She also has leads of 17 (against Pawlenty) to 26 points
(versus Bachmann) with independents, and takes 6% (Pawlenty) to 11% (Bachmann and
Emmer) of Republicans.
At 59-29, Klobuchar's job approval rating and margin are the highest by six points over
those of the next most popular senator, Scott Brown of Massachusetts. By comparison,
colleague Al Franken sits at 45-42, and her most popular potential Republican opponent
is Coleman, at 43-42. Klobuchar earns the favor of 26% from the opposite party, very
unusual in this polarized climate. Bachmann is the least well liked overall, with a 37-51
favorability rating, just a hair worse than Emmer's 37-49. Paulsen breaks even at 22-22,
but 57% have no opinion of or have not heard of him.
"Amy Klobuchar is so popular President Obama may want to ride her coattails in 2012,"
said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling.
PPP surveyed 949 Minnesota voters on December 4th and 5th. The survey's margin of
error is +/-3.2%. Other factors, such as refusal to be interviewed and weighting, may
introduce additional error that is more difficult to quantify.
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum says she's opposed to a deal that would extend the Bush tax cuts for top earners. President Obama and Republicans reached a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts for two more years. The deal also includes an extension of unemployment benefits.
McCollum says she's opposed to the deal because it extends the tax cuts for the top income earners and would increase the deficit by $900 billion.
"This is a deal that will continue to explode the deficit while the rich get richer and struggling middle class families get crumbs. The Republicans successfully held unemployed Americans hostage to give even more tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. This plan is irresponsible, and I will oppose it."(25 Comments)
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar will be on MPR's Midday today at 11am. You can listen live on the radio or here.
Posted at 11:01 AM on August 26, 2010
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: U.S. Senate
MPR's Midday will feature DFL Sen. Al Franken today at noon. The broadcast will be from the MN State Fair. Listen to it on the radio or watch the webcam of the broadcast here.
DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL House Majority Leader Tony Sertich and DFL Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller sent a letter to Governor Pawlenty today urging him to take $263 million in federal funds.
Pawlenty is faced with the choice of accepting funds that he has criticized on the campaign trail. He has repeatedly critiized President Obama and the Democratic controlled Congress for spending too much and increasing the deficit. Pawlenty, who is ramping up a run for president in 2012, accepted federal stimulus money and even booked the FMAP funds in his initial budget plan in January.
Pawlenty's spokesman said lthe governor was still mulling whether to take the funds. He has until September 24th to make a decision.
Today, Kelliher, Sertich and Pogemiller are trying to ramp up the pressure:
"You cannot let political ambition get in the way of doing what is right for Minnesota. We strongly encourage you to seek these federal funds. Failure to do so would be an irresponsible act...hurting Minnesota taxpayers while doing nothing to help the tough economic situation faced by patients and our health care system."
You can read the full letter here.
Posted at 6:14 AM on July 30, 2010
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Campaign 2010, Campaign 2010: Minnesota Governor, Campaign 2010: U.S. House, Daily Digest, MN Legislature, Pawlenty travel, Tim Pawlenty, U.S. House, U.S. Senate
The three DFL candidates for governor debate the issues tonight in Mankato.
Republican Tom Emmer has tax rallies scheduled for today in four cities (Mankato, Duluth, Detroit Lakes and St. Paul).
Independence Party candidate Rob Hahn told reporters on Thursday that he doesn't have anger issues and a protective order against him shouldn't stop people from voting for him. He called it a "one-time incident."
The MNGOP pays for billboards supporting Emmer. The party won't say how much they're spending but the latest campaign finance report says the MNGOP spent $35,000 for two billboards in mid July.
IP candidate Tom Horner released a Vikings stadium plan.
Democrat Mark Dayton released a new ad that focuses on jobs.
2010 Race for Congress
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and the MNGOP are giving away a donation from a questionable veterans group.
A congressional candidate in Idaho called Bachmann a "visionary leader."
Democrat Tarry Clark says she opposes individual health care mandates.
Attorney General Race
Republican R. Chris Barden was for the public subsidy before he was against it.
A federal judge shoots down state rules regarding judicial races. The rules prevented candidates for judge from backing political candidates or soliciting or accepting campaign dough.
Under for Dome
MnSCU and the U of M ponder what to do with their next leaders.
The courts are flooded with requests to change child support terms.
Low performing Minnesota schools get more money but there are some strings attached.
Tougher tobacco laws take effect on Sunday.
President Obama takes on critics of his education plan.
Economic growth has likely slowed in the second quarter.
DFL Sen. Al Franken says net neutrality is a First Amendment issue.
On Sunday, he bowls.
GOP Rep. John Kline pushes the House for a clean vote on a troop funding bill.
MPR's All Things Considered talked with DFL Reps. Tim Walz and Keith Ellison over their votes for Afghanistan war funding.
A new database tracks transportation earmarks in Congress.
DFL Rep. Collin Peterson writes an op-ed pushing for trade with Cuba.
Pawlenty for Prez Watch
It sure does seem like the Pawlenty for President train is leaving the station. He met with Washington D.C. reporters earlier this week. He's campaigning in Iowa this weekend and a few more weeks. And now he's released a web video that has presidential candidate all over it.
AP says Pawlenty is helped by the fact that Minnesota is so close to Iowa.
The Star Tribune says his weak standing in the polls hasn't quieted the 2012 buzz around Pawlenty in Washington D.C.
Politifact checks two Pawlenty statements.
Indiana Republican Mike Pence suggests he may make a run.
2012 DNC Convention Watch
DNC officials are touring St. Louis.(2 Comments)
Former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman was on CNN earlier today and was asked about the report that say he's mulling a possible challenge to RNC Chair Michael Steele. Coleman didn't say he was running but he also didn't say he wasn't.
Norm Coleman: "The reality is there has been concerns about the RNC, that's a reality. The fundraising hasn't been what a lot of folks would like, etc. but that's not the focus of right now. The other side wants to get off almost 10 percent unemployment, they want to get off of the huge deficits. We want to keep the focus on Democrats."
Wolf Blitzer: I'll take that as being wide open
James Carville: Sounds like we got a candidate in December
Coleman: "I'm working with Chairman Steele."
Update: Here's the story from CNN.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve the nomination of Elena Kagan for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Here's DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar's statement:
"I supported Solicitor General Kagan's nomination in the Judiciary Committee today because I believe she would bring a wide variety of legal experience to the bench - as a manager, as a teacher, as an advisor, as a consensus builder and as a lawyer. And in every job she has had, she has worked very hard and done very well. She has developed a reputation as a person who brings people together despite their ideological differences and has consistently demonstrated the fair approach to the facts and law that we want in a Supreme Court Justice. Having cleared this important hurdle today, I look forward to Solicitor General Kagan's nomination moving to the full Senate where we can have a healthy debate and a timely confirmation."
Here's DFL Sen. Al Franken's statement to the press (and his full statement here):
"I'm going to vote for General Kagan," said Sen. Franken. "Because I think that General Kagan understands the place of the Supreme Court, and its relationship to the executive, to the legislature, and to the American people."
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann announced today that she's filed the paperwork to create a "House Tea Party Caucus." In a written statement, Bachmann said the group intends to promote fiscal responsibility, limited government and "adherence to the Constitution."
"The American people are speaking out loud and clear. They have had enough of the spending, the bureaucracy, and the government knows best mentality running rampant today throughout the halls of Congress. This caucus will espouse the timeless principles of our founding, principles that all Members of Congress have sworn to uphold," Bachmann stated. "The American people are doing their part and making their voices heard and this caucus will prove that there are some here in Washington willing to listen."
Bachmann isn't the only one suggesting a Tea Party Caucus on Capitol Hill. Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, who is running for the U.S. Senate, told the National Review that he would like to form a Tea Party Caucus with South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn.(5 Comments)
Posted at 2:35 PM on June 30, 2010
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: U.S. Senate
DFL Sen. Al Franken's office says Franken will travel to Vietnam as a member of a four person congressional delegation. Franken will travel with Iowa Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to Vietnam. A news release sent by Franken's office says the delegation will "look into environmental remediation of dioxin and the joint funding of medical services for people with disabilities, and meet with Vietnamese government officials to discuss education initiatives, labor issues, and trade relations."
Franken is also scheduled to take a side trip to Laos but the office didn't give specifics. Franken has worked on several issues regarding the forced repatriation of roughly 4,000 Hmong asylum seekers from Thailand to Laos.
DFL Rep. Tim Walz today praised the U.S. Supreme Court for issuing a ruling that strikes down a gun ban on Chicago.
"This decision upholds Americans' rights under the Second Amendment no matter where they live and I was proud to stand in defense of those Constitutional rights with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle," Walz wrote in a written statement.
Walz signed on to a friend of the court brief supporting the measure.
Posted at 5:59 PM on June 28, 2010
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: U.S. Senate
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on President Obama's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court earlier today.
Here's DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar's opening statement on Elena Kagan's confirmation: Listen
Posted at 5:58 PM on June 28, 2010
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: U.S. Senate
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing earlier today on President Obama's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Here's DFL Sen. Al Franken's opening statement on Elena Kagan's confirmation: Listen
MPR's Tom Crann talked Friday with DFL Rep. Collin Peterson on a bill that would overhaul the nation's financial industry. The House and Senate cut a deal on the bill early Friday morning. Leaders in bodies are hoping to push the bill through Congress this week
Here's the interview with Peterson: Listen
MPR News will provide live coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on President Obama's appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Elena Kagan. Radio coverage will start at 11:30 this morning and will run through the afternoon. The entire hearings will also air live on the website.
Meanwhile, DFL Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar weighed in on Kagan. You can read that story here.
Here's a look at this weekend's shows...
This week on Almanac U. S. Senator Al Franken talks about next week's confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan; GOP Lt Governor candidate Annette Meeks give us her take on the office she is seeking and Mary Lahammer's Campaign Notebook returns with a look at which Gubernatorial candidates plan to release their tax returns.
WCCO Sunday Morning with Esme Murphy:
Sen. Al Franken
DFL Candidate for Governor Matt Entenza
IP Candidate for Governor Rob Hahn
KSTP's At Issue:
They didn't get back to me.
It's been nearly a month since changes to the health care program for the state's poorest took effect. Moderator Julie Bartkey discusses the changes, the impacts, and the Governor's recent decision not to allow for early Medicaid enrollment with Human Services Commissioner Cal Ludeman, Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis), and Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood). The nations first Hmong-American legislator, Sen. Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul) explains why she chose to retire, and looks back at her 9 year political career.
ABC's This Week:
Topic: Afghanistan, terrorism, Iran, North Korea, cyber warfare. Guest: Leon Panetta, CIA Director.
CBS' Face the Nation:
Topics: Kagan confirmation hearings, future of Afghanistan. Guests: Sens. Partick Leahy, D-Vt. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Carl Levin, D-Mich.
CNN's State of the Union:
Topic: Political State of the Union. Guests: Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, NRSC chairman; Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., DSCC.
Fox News Sunday:
Topic: The change of command in Afghanistan and its implications for U.S. military strategy. Guests: Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
NBC's Meet the Press:
Topics: The war in Aghanistan, the upcoming midterm elections and the future of the GOP. Guests: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; Sebastian Junger, author, "WAR"; Wes Moore, author, "The Other Wes Moore", U.S. Army Captain (Ret.); Tom Ricks, contributing editor, Foreign Policy magazine and author, "The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008," senior fellow, Center for a New American Security; Gen. Barry McCaffrey (Ret.), former commander-in-chief, U.S. Southern Command, NBC military analyst.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be in Minnesota on Saturday to tour of the St. Paul Union Depot. She'll tour the area with DFL Reps. Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison and Jim Oberstar. The project was funded by $35 million in federal stimulus money.
A news release sent by McCollum's office says the Union Depot will service Amtrak, local and interstate buses (2012), and the Central Corridor (2014). This project will also accommodate future intercity, commuter, and high speed rail services to Chicago.(2 Comments)
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum announced today that she signed on to a piece of legislation that would give an independent group investigating the BP oil spill subpoena power. McCollum and 23 other Members of Congress want the "National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling" to help with the investigation.
"The National Commission needs to hold BP and all responsible parties accountable," McCollum said in a news release. "Granting the Commission the power to subpoena will allow a more thorough and transparent investigation into this disaster."
The group is expected to hold public hearings soon.
MPR News asked the members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation and Governor Pawlenty for a reaction to President Obama's decision to accept General Stanely McChrystal's resignation as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and replace him with General Petraeus. I'll post the statements as they come in.
DFL Sen. Al Franken:
"I fully support the President's decision. He clearly decided that General McChrystal could not continue in his position after what he did. And that's entirely appropriate. I have a lot of confidence in General Petraeus' leadership and I appreciate his willingness to take on the difficult task of carrying out our strategy in Afghanistan."
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann:
"We owe General McChrystal a deep debt of gratitude for his years of brave and faithful service to his country. Going forward, it's imperative that we keep the safety and security of our country at the forefront of our nation's priorities. I'm confident that once the Senate confirms the command of General David Petraeus, we will stay focused in our war against terrorism."
DFL Rep. Keith Ellison:
I support President Obama's decision to replace General McChrystal.
However, my primary concern remains the fate of our men and women in uniform serving in Afghanistan. Our main objective must be the safety and security of the United States, effectively fighting terrorism, and ensuring and the humanitarian and security needs of the people of Afghanistan.
I have long argued that in order to achieve peace and security in the region, we must have a civilian surge coupled with transitioning our troops out of combat missions and readying them for redeployment.
I continue to call on President Obama and General Petraeus to increase public diplomacy to ensure long term stability, and to bring our troops home from this near decade long conflict.
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar:
"I support the President's decision. As the President noted, General McChrystal has served our country bravely and honorably, but the comments in the article crossed the line. General McChrystal was right to submit his resignation, and the President did the right thing in accepting it. I am pleased that General Petraeus has accepted this difficult assignment."
GOP Rep. John Kline:
"When I visited Afghanistan less than a month ago, I met with military leaders, civilian officials, and U.S. troops currently serving in the area. We are engaged in a critical fight against Islamist extremists, and our goal in Afghanistan remains the same - a stable country that denies the Taliban and al-Qaeda a safe haven from which to launch attacks against Afghanistan, Pakistan, or the U.S. and its allies.
"As a fellow veteran, I thank General McChrystal for his decades of decorated service and honor him for answering the call to serve in Afghanistan and around the world.
"Moving forward, I am confident General David Petraeus has proven his leadership in Iraq and is extremely well qualified for this job."
DFL Rep. Tim Walz:
Note: Walz discussed the situation before Obama's decision on Midday.
"I respect our commander-in-chief's decision, and I have full confidence in General Petraeus' ability to transition into his role smoothly and effectively. We all need to work together to ensure that our strategy is successful, and I will continue to ask the tough questions of the President and his team. Our focus now has to be making sure the brave men and women who are serving our country in harm's way have a clear mission, the support, and the leadership they need to get the job done."
DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar:
"As Commander and Chief of our armed forces the President must have complete confidence in the generals who report to him. I support President Obama's decision to appoint a general who can develop and implement a successful strategy in Afghanistan, without getting distracted by the politics and personalities of Washington DC."
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen:
"Changing military commanders during a time of war is a decision that should never be taken lightly. And while the recent events that led to this decision are certainly regrettable, I have absolute confidence that General Petraeus is the right choice to lead our brave servicemen and women in Afghanistan.
The nomination of Gen. Petraeus will no doubt build on the good work that has already been done in the region."
A spokesman for Governor Pawlenty's PAC declined comment.
A spokeswoman for DFL Rep. Betty McCollum declined comment.
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum:
"I support President Obama's decision. General Petraeus is an extremely capable military leader. I have full confidence in his ability to execute the President's strategy in Afghanistan."(4 Comments)
DFL Sen. Al Franken used a speech to the liberal leaning American Constitution Society to criticize the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court. Franken, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the court is "pro-business". In particular, Franken was highly critical of the court's decision on the Citizen's United case. The ruling allowed corporations to spend freely on political ads and campaign literature to influence elections:
"Most Americans are familiar with cases in which the Court has had to balance individual rights against some compelling state interest.
It's easy to feel disconnected from these cases. Even though the government has awesome power - enough to take away your freedom, or even your life - the degree to which that power is deemed to supersede your individual rights doesn't really enter into the daily lives of most Americans.
But there's more than one kind of power.
If you have a credit card, if you watch TV, if you file insurance claims, if you work - in other words, if you participate in American daily life at all - then you interact with corporations that are more powerful than you are.
The degree to which those corporations' rights are protected over yours, well, that's extremely relevant to your life.
And in case after case after case, the Roberts Court has put not just a thumb, but a fist, on the scale in favor of those corporations.
A fist with brass knuckles. Which weigh a lot. Because they're brass.
It's important to recognize that, for some conservative legal activists, this is the whole point. Do they want to undercut abortion and immigration and Miranda rights? Sure. But those are just cherries on the sundae.
What conservative legal activists are really interested in is this question: What individual rights are so basic and so important that they should be protected above a corporation's right to profit? And their preferred answer is: None of them. Zero."
A spokeswoman for Franken said Franken used his speech to outline some of his thoughts as the hearings for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.
Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty and DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar gave speeches at the Fort Snelling Memorial Day services.
Here's Pawlenty's speech: Listen
Here's Klobuchar's speech: Listen
H/T MPR's Laura Yuen.
Here's a look at this weekend's public policy shows..
This week on Almanac Eric and Cathy chat with photographer Doug Ohman and writer Chris Niskanen about their new state park book, Mary Lahammer and a special guest do some live grilling on 4th Street and a couch full of political scientists will take a look back at the week of Lt. Governor announcements.
KSTP's At Issue:
Matt Entenza and Robyne Robinson...also political analysts Ember Reichgott Junge and Sarah Janecek.
WCCO's Sunday Morning:
Robyne Robinson, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison...
Sec. of State Mark Ritchie details the changes voters need to know as the primary election draws near. Newly appointed Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Michael Pugliese discusses the impact of the legislative session on Minnesotans. Senate Taxes Chair Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, says his staff will begin work shortly on revising the tax structure.
ABC's This Week:
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell
CBS' Face the Nation:
White House Energy Adviser Carol Browner, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Louisiana State University environmental scientist Edward Overton, Ph.D
CNN's State of the Union:
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)
Fox News Sunday:
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen
NBC's Meet the Press:
White House Energy Adviser Carol Browner, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ). The show may also air some excerpts from Thursday's interview with Gov. Pawlenty.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty sent a letter to congressional leaders today raising concerns over the effort to change the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy. The letter comes just days after President Obama and Democrats in Congress reached a deal that would repeal the 17-year-old federal law banning openly gay Americans from serving in the military.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Pawlenty wrote that changing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would amount to a "major policy change."
"As you know, Guard units currently not only supplement active duty military units engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, they also provide states with indispensable help in responding to domestic emergencies and natural disasters. The impacts upon Guard units and all military units need to be understood before any significant policy changes are decided.
It would be unwise for Congress to address this long-standing policy without the benefit of full hearings and the completion of the impact study being conducted by military leaders. I urge you to take no legislative action until the Department of Defense has completed its review and public hearings have been held to thoroughly discuss the findings."
Pawlenty isn't the only one expressing concern about any change to Don't Ask Don't Tell. The nation's military leaders are also urging Congress to wait until a review is completed. Opponents of the policy say it requires military service members to lie about their lifestyle in order to serve their nation.
DFL Rep. Al Juhnke, chair of the Minnesota House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Division, said he's never heard Minnesota National Guard members raise concerns about Don't Ask Don't Tell in his committee.
"The state just does what the federal government passes down. It appears to be political to me," Juhnke said of Pawlenty's letter.
Posted at 4:40 PM on May 18, 2010
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: U.S. Senate
DFL Sen. Al Franken met with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan today. Franken released this statement about the visit:
"I enjoyed my meeting with Elena Kagan very much. I found her substantive and engaging. I was impressed by her remarkable career and it's clear she would bring some much-needed variety to the court. We had a great, lengthy conversation about many areas of law, the confirmation process, and her views on the role of the Supreme Court."
AP reports that Kagan has already met with a fifth of the Senate.
From MPR's Tom Weber:
Carl Harris, an official with the U.S. Education Department, will appear with Congressman Keith Ellison on Monday (5/17) at a forum on closing the achievement gap.
Harris's official title is deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. He'll start the day Monday with tours of Richfield and South High Schools in Richfield and Minneapolis, before attending the 4:30 p.m. forum at Columbia Heights Senior High.
Harris, a former Durham, NC superintendent, has Minnesota ties, which were apparent last weekend when he gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. Harris graduated from SMSU in 1976 with a degree in Health and Physical Education.
*** Of note: Harris's ultimate boss at the Department of Education, Secretary Arne Duncan, will be in Madison tomorrow (5/15) to deliver a commencement address at the University of Wisconsin.
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar met with Solicitor General Elena Kagan today. Kagan is President Obama's pick to replace Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Klobuchar released this statement after the meeting:
"It was a pleasure meeting with Solicitor General Kagan today to discuss the remarkable privilege and responsibility of serving on the Supreme Court. She struck me as an exceptionally intelligent, independent, and open-minded thinker who possesses an impressive command of the law.(1 Comments)
During our conversation, we had the opportunity to discuss her ability to separate the roles of advisor and advocate from the role of a judge. We talked about recusal and in what situations it would be appropriate. I asked her about her respect for precedent and how the wide variety of life and legal experience she brings to the Court would influence her as a Justice. Her answers were candid, straight-forward, and informative.
I enjoyed my time with Solicitor General Kagan, and I look forward to hearing more during the nomination hearings."
Posted at 10:04 AM on May 10, 2010
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: U.S. Senate
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar released a statement on Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. Here it is:
"As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I look forward to considering Solicitor General Kagan's nomination. A Supreme Court Justice should demonstrate an independent breadth of mind and character, with an open-minded, fair approach to the facts and the law.
"Solicitor General Kagan is extremely intelligent and she would bring a wide variety of legal experience to the bench - she's spent time in government, in private practice, as a professor, and as the first woman dean of her law school.
"Over the years she has developed a reputation as a person who brings people together despite their ideological differences. She has shown herself to be a true leader. Like former Chief Justice Rehnquist, she comes to the court with experiences different than those of a judge. I think it is healthy for the court to have one at least Justice from outside what has been termed the 'judicial monastery.'"
DFL Sen. Al Franken issued this statement on President Obama's decision to nominate Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court:
"Elena Kagan is a brilliant and superbly qualified nominee. As the former Dean of Harvard Law School and first woman to be Solicitor General of the United States, she will bring a diverse background of impressive experiences to the bench. She has a record of bringing together people with a wide range of viewpoints. And importantly, Kagan is a nominee from outside the "judicial monastery"--that is one of her greatest strengths as a nominee.
"But just as it's important for Supreme Court justices to have a diversity of legal backgrounds, it's also thrilling to see the Court begin to reflect the reality of our diverse population. I'm pleased the President has chosen to nominate another woman to the Court, and one who has been confirmed for office by members of both political parties should be confirmed without unnecessary difficulty.
"I feel honored to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court Justice are among our greatest responsibilities, and once again I will prepare for them with care. As with Justice Sotomayor's confirmation, I will be seeking the opinions of some of Minnesota's best legal minds before I ask my questions."
Funnyman and one time (and future) late night host Conan O'Brien is scheduled to host a Minneapolis fundraiser for DFL Sen. Al Franken. Donors are asked to give as much as $4800 to attend the event. Franken and O'Brien are both Saturday Night Live alumni.(8 Comments)
DFL Sen. Al Franken and several other U.S. Senators are backing legislation that would require any corporate CEOs to appear in any political ads that they purchase. The measure would also prohibit foreign companies and government contractors from participating. Here's part of the news release:
Under the Senators' proposal, the heads of any organization sponsoring an ad--including corporate CEOs--would be required to appear during the ad, as is currently required of candidates for federal office. In cases where special interests funnel their money into shell groups, the top five organizations that have donated to the group would have to be identified on screen during any ad sponsored by that group. The CEO of the group's top funder for that particular advertisement would also be required to appear on screen to deliver a "stand by your ad" disclaimer. The DISCOLOSE Act would effectively require, for the first time, all corporations and advocacy groups that make political expenditures to establish easy-to-track campaign accounts. All donations to these accounts that exceed $1,000--as well as all expenditures funded through these accounts--would be reported within 24 hours to the Federal Election Commission once the money is spent, as well as to the public on the organization's website, and to company shareholders in their corporate filing statements. If a company or organization did not wish to establish these transparent accounts, it would be required to disclose all its donors, not just those whose contributions are earmarked for political activities. The legislation will also strengthen a candidate's ability to respond to corporate attack ads by ensuring they can purchase air time at the lowest possible rate in the same media markets where these attacks ads are airing. The bill would also make sure that private corporations don't coordinate their political activities with candidates. The legislation was developed together with the Obama administration and House leaders including U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Van Hollen was expected to introduce the House version of the DISCLOSE Act later today with Republican cosponsors.
Update: Here's a statement from U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue:
"What's most in need of disclosure is the real purpose behind this bill--it's nothing more than a brazen attempt to tilt the playing field in favor of the incumbent party in this fall's elections, silence constitutionally protected speech, and abridge First Amendment rights.
"It's a sad day when legislators like Rep. Van Hollen and Sen. Schumer so blatantly put politics before the people's business. With unemployment near 10% and millions of Americans out of work, Congress should be more concerned about creating jobs than protecting their own. It's no coincidence that Rep. Van Hollen is the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Sen. Schumer is immediate past chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Sen. Schumer even admits his legislation is designed to 'impact' this fall's elections 'as much as possible.'
"Stifling free speech is an abuse of the legislative process and is unconstitutional. It will not stand. Free speech does not corrupt our politics, but efforts to limit it do."
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar is scheduled to headline the Iowa Democrats' State Party Convention on June 12th. The first-term Senator will join Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin and Iowa Gov. Chet Culver at the event.
"I was honored that Iowans would invite one of their neighbors from the north to speak at this year's Convention. I look forward to joining Senator Harkin and others in Des Moines," said Senator Amy Klobuchar in a news release.
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and DFL Sen. Al Franken released statements today praising U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Stevens announced today that he's retiring in late June or early July.
Here's Klobuchar's statement:
"Justice Stevens leaves a large and distinguished robe to fill. Although he will be best remembered for his nearly 35 years on the Supreme Court, we also honor his service in the Navy during World War II. Our country owes Justice Stevens a debt of gratitude for his public service in all capacities. He is truly a member of the 'Greatest Generation.'
"As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I look forward to considering the President's nominee to be the next Supreme Court justice and I hope we will have a productive and civil exchange about that nomination."
Here's Franken's statement:
"Justice Stevens has served on the highest court with distinction for over three decades. But just because he deserves the break, doesn't mean he won't be missed. I want to thank him for his extraordinary dedication to our country and our system of justice. I hope that President Obama will nominate a successor who shares Justice Stevens' values and commitment to the rule of law."
The New York Times and the Washington Post both had interviews over the weekend with U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens where he talked about his possible retirement. Stevens is 89 and said his decision will come soon.
To quote the Times:
Hints about Justice Stevens's possible departure started in September, when he confirmed that he had hired only a single law clerk, instead of the usual four, for the term that will start this fall. In occasional public statements since then, Justice Stevens, the leader of the court's liberal wing, said he had not yet made up his mind. But the White House is bracing for a summertime confirmation battle, the second of the Obama presidency.
On Face the Nation on CBS yesterday host Bob Schieffer suggested that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is on the list to replace Stevens, although the idea was pretty quickly shot down by CBS Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford. You can see the exhange about three minutes in:
As far as I can tell, Klobuchar's name first came up in the Huffington Post on Friday, but that piece did a service of both raising the idea and rejecting it in the same breath by saying this under Klobuchar's picture:
The current political climate, Congress' low job approval ratings and the tenuous Democratic majority in the Senate all suggest that Klobuchar, though widely considered a strong choice, is unlikely to be nominated.
I have a call into Klobuchar's office but haven't heard anything back yet.
Back in 90's state Supreme Court Justice Alan Page's name was floated as a possible U.S. Supreme Court pick. Of course nothing ever came of it. I just floated it again for no particular reason.
I just talked to Sen. Klobuchar. She says she is honored her name is being mentioned, but she's not aware of being on any short list. She says she loves her job, and she would never leave what she is doing now.
Here's the interview.(4 Comments)
There has been a lot of political chatter about a Wall Street Journal report citing Medtronic CEO Bill Hawkins saying the excise tax would lead to the loss of 1,000 jobs. Republicans, like GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen, say the tax will mean jobs losses in the industry and are pointing to Hawkins comment to back it up.
MPR's Annie Baxter reports this morning that Medtronic's spokesperson clarified that statement:
A Medtronic spokesman said in an email that the statement was taken out of context; Medtronic does not have plans to eliminate jobs as a result of the health care reform law.
The spokesman said Hawkins meant the industry as a whole would lose jobs, and that Medtronic is worried about the impact of the excise tax on device makers large and small.
But Baxter reports that the Medical Device Tax, which is a part of the recently signed health care law, will impact the industry, especially smaller companies.
Check out the entire story here.
Update: Here's the full statement from Medtronic on the impact of the new law:
Like the passage of Medicare in 1965, the health care reform bill signed Tuesday by President Obama will shape the future of U.S. health care and our industry for decades to come. Medtronic supports patient access to affordable, quality health coverage and new law takes our country in this direction. We helped to form several elements of this legislation, but there is no doubt it will have an impact on our business.(4 Comments)
The excise tax on medical devices now included in the law was reduced from $60 billion to $20 billion over 10 years. It provides for a 2013 start date to coincide with coverage expansion; it will be a conventional excise tax with full deductibility; and it will cover all product classes with the exception of retail products like contact lenses and possibly many diabetes supplies, including continuous glucose monitors, which we manufacture. The impact of the tax, we estimate, will be roughly $150 to $200 million on Medtronic annually beginning in 2013. We have no immediate plans to eliminate jobs at Medtronic as a result of the device tax or health care reform. We accept our shared fiscal responsibility for coverage expansion, and are very appreciative of our constituent members of Congress from Minnesota and Indiana, in particular, for having significantly tempered the size, distribution and timing of the tax.
In addition to the tax, the bill also includes some positive changes like uniform federal standards for disclosure transfers of value to physicians for product development and training, something Medtronic has long supported. Relationships between physicians and companies like ours help fuel innovation and advance patient care. Also, the new law calls for the creation of a national body to study and compare the clinical effectiveness of widely used medical therapies. This research is designed to help patients and health care practitioners better understand which therapies work best for which patients.
We will stay engaged as the new law is implemented to ensure our ability to remain innovative and shape our business and our therapies to compete in this new environment.
Posted at 10:57 PM on March 21, 2010
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Campaign 2010, Campaign 2010: Minnesota Governor, Campaign 2010: U.S. House, MN Legislature, Tim Pawlenty, U.S. House, U.S. Senate
Minnesota's Congressional delegation, Gov. Pawlenty and others are weighing in today on the House passage of the health care overhaul bill. Here's how Minnesota's delegation voted.
Here are the written statements:
DFL Rep. Tim Walz:
"Middle class families in southern Minnesota want to visit their doctor and get the care they need without insurance company or government control. They want hassle free coverage they can count on and they want peace of mind knowing that if they get sick, they will not have to worry about insurance companies dropping them.
For the past three years, I have traveled around southern Minnesota hearing from folks about how we can improve our health care system. Those who have shared their stories with me are honest, hard working people. They do not want a handout or special treatment. They just want a fair deal. One of those folks is Sheila Wieser. When Sheila's son, Michael, got sick with a rare liver disease, she just wanted to be able to get him the care he needed to get well. Michael was kicked off his parents insurance when he graduated college and because he had a pre-existing condition, no insurance company would give him coverage. By the time Sheila was able to get Michael any help at all, his disease was too advanced and he died. No mother should ever have to experience that and if this legislation had been passed years ago, Michael might still be with us today.
I also voted for this legislation because it is the fiscally responsible thing to do. Since first coming to Congress, I have actively worked to find ways to reduce the skyrocketing, long-term federal debt. Let me be clear: We cannot tackle our debt without addressing the out of control cost of health care and we cannot rebuild a strong, vibrant economy while businesses are strangled financially and forced to choose between cutting salaries or health insurance for their employees. I cannot in good conscience pass on a skyrocketing debt and a broken health care system for our children and our grandchildren to deal with, they deserve better than kicking the can down the road for another day.
I am particularly proud of the pay for results provisions we fought for in this legislation. This is a patient-centered provision that is about using a market-based, business solution to provide high quality, low cost health care. Every single day, Mayo Clinic is an example of how health care should be practiced in this country and I was proud of our efforts to ensure that doctors are paid for the quality of care that you get and not just the number of treatments and procedures you go through.
This legislation is not perfect. I have often said health care reform is a journey, not a destination. As we move forward, I will work closely with doctors, nurses, hospital, employers, small businesses and southern Minnesotans to ensure that this legislation is implemented in a fair, common sense way."
GOP Rep. John Kline:
With these votes, Congress has failed its most fundamental responsibility of representing the American people. Citizens descended on the U.S. Capitol this weekend to implore their elected officials to reject this legislation - yet their voices were ignored. Governors are lining up to challenge the mandates that will be imposed on the citizens of their states - yet their pleas have gone unheard. Republicans and Democrats alike stood up to vote no - yet backroom deals and a thirst for government control won the day.
"Time and time again, Republicans called on the majority to scrap this government takeover of health care and student lending and embrace commonsense, bipartisan reforms. And each time, majority leadership rejected our offers and stubbornly insisted on their own partisan plan. Today will go down in history as a day when the balance of power shifted away from the people and their voices were silenced. The American people will not forget the way these votes were cast.
"Today's votes were a loss for the American people, but the battle is far from over. We must now begin working to undo the government takeover of health care and replace it with meaningful reforms that will finally bring down health care costs."
# # #
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen:
"Today, the House of Representatives narrowly approved a costly, partisan bill the American people have said loud and clear they do not want. My constituents, by a margin of over three-to-one, have said they do not like this plan -- and with good reason.
This bill represents a major expansion of the federal government's role in health care. It creates new entitlement spending of nearly $1 trillion, slashes over $500 billion from Medicare in order to spend it elsewhere, allows the IRS to impose new fines on Americans who don't purchase 'acceptable' coverage, fails to protect veterans' care and imposes a new $20 billion tax on life-saving medical technology innovations.
Amazingly, this bill also does not adequately address the fundamental problem of rising health care costs for individuals, families and small businesses. Instead, premiums are likely to continue rising under this plan, while new taxes and penalties will make it even harder for small businesses to create jobs. This is the exact wrong approach.
There is no question we can and should reform health care. But doing so with a massive government expansion that will burden future generations - all without fundamentally addressing the number one problem of rising costs - is both reckless and wrong. The American people need and deserve better."
DFL Rep. Keith Ellison:
"For me, this legislation represents progress toward universal health care for all Americans," Ellison stated. "Every landmark piece of legislation had a beginning. Women's rights did not end with the 19st Amendment; Civil Rights did not end with the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act; Social Security enacted in 1935, and Medicare in 1965, did not begin as we know them today. So too is it with this health care reform bill. It is a beginning - and an important one," Ellison said
"When 40,500 uninsured Fifth District residents have health care coverage - that is change. When 9,700 Fifth District residents with pre-existing conditions are no longer denied coverage - that is change. When 57,000 Fifth District young adults can obtain coverage on their parents' insurance plans - that is change. When insurance coverage for 358,000 Fifth District residents is improved - that is change, and when the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers is reduced by $101 million - that is positive change." the Congressman stated.
"I have long been an ardent advocate of the single payer health care system and a robust public option, however I wholeheartedly support this bill as a foundation. And when thirty-two million more Americans have health insurance it is a good beginning. At the same time, when $1.3 trillion in deficit spending (accumulated over the past eight years) is reduced, it is a good start."
"I look forward to enthusiastically casting my yes vote for this historic beginning in American health care," Ellison concluded. ###
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann:
"On August 13, 1800, Thomas Jefferson wrote the following:
"'Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government. Public servants at such a distance, and from under the eye of their constituents, must, from the circumstance of distance, be unable to administer and overlook all the details necessary for the good government of the citizens, and the same circumstance, by rendering detection impossible to their constituents, will invite the public agents to corruption, plunder and waste. And I do verily believe, that if the principle were to prevail, of a common law being in force in the United States..., it would become the most corrupt government on the earth...What an augmentation of the field for jobbing, speculation, plundering, office-building, and office-hunting would be produced by an assumption of all the State powers into the hands of the General Government.'
"Poignant words, and as our federal government expands its grip over one-sixth of our nation's economy with the passing of this legislation, maybe now President Obama and Speaker Pelosi will finally take the time to find out what's in it.
"This past year, the President and Democratic leaders in Congress gathered in back rooms away from the American people and twisted arms to get just enough votes through deals and handouts to pass their legislation. They broke promises of open debate and transparency, and instead of working with Republicans and implementing common sense reforms that wouldn't break the bank, they went it alone and spent more money we just don't have.
"Future generations will pay the price for our government's arrogance and recklessness, and the American people won't ever forget the irresponsible actions of this Administration and Congress. After all, government answers to the people, not the other way around, and the fight for the soul of this nation continues on."
DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar:
"I have evaluated the issues of health care for 35 years and very intensively for this past year as Congress has worked on the major reform legislation. The fine points of this health care bill have now been defined, and in my judgment, the balance of benefits are in favor of this bill. That will benefit the people of the 8th congressional district and the American people.
This bill will assure that no one's current health care can be dropped. No one will be forced out of their health care they now hold. No one will be denied because of a previously existing condition. No one can have their health insurance dropped because of lifetime caps or be denied when they need their health insurance the most. People will be able to retain health insurance if they change jobs.
For seniors, the legislation closes the doughnut hole that has existed for five years, which will save seniors thousands of dollars in prescription drug costs. Young adults will be able to stay on their parents' policy until age 26.
This bill represents a massive step forward in quality health care for the people of the 8th congressional district. Included in this legislation is a major improvement in the Medicare reimbursement formula. The longstanding geographic disparity in Medicare has severely disadvantaged Northland health care providers, and the reimbursement gap will be closed as we move toward payment parity with the rest of the country.
Regarding the lingering issue of abortion, I am confident that abortion will not be funded in this legislation. Current law dating back to October 1979 (Public Law 96-86) has contained a federal prohibition on the use of federal funds for abortion in community health centers. Conscious clause protections that have existed in the past will remain in effect and in the future, and the legislation prohibits the use of federal tax credits and cost-sharing assistance to pay for abortion."
Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty:
"Democrats rejected needed, common sense reforms in favor of an overreaching, extraordinarily expensive, government-centric plan that gives more and more control to an already bloated and bankrupt federal government."DFL state Rep. Tom Huntley:
"The passage of federal health care reform is not just an historic step forAmericans everywhere, it also has monumental consequences for the state of Minnesota."(7 Comments)
"Iam proud to stand with the more than 1,000 other state legislators from around our
great nation who worked together over the past year to support health care reform. State legislators have long been on the front lines of the battle for better, more accessible, and more affordable health care for their constituents, and our leadership was critical to making this victory for American families possible."
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping health care overhaul bill that provides health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans and place stricter standards on health insurance companies.
Here's how Minnesota's delegation voted (full Roll Call here):
Democrats Voting Yes:
Tim Walz, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison and Jim Oberstar
Democrats Voting No:
Republicans Voting No:
John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Michele Bachmann
Here's a look at this weekend's public policy shows...
Kris Eide (State of Minnesota) and Rick Larkin (St. Paul) provide a flooding update... we preview Sunday's House health care vote with Political Scientists Larry Jacobs, Steve Schier, Kathryn Pearson and Guy Charles... and we present some fascinating --and disturbing-- history about the Ku Klux Klan's hold on America (and
Minnesota) in the 1920s.
KSTP's At Issue:
Harvey Mackay talking about the job market and his new book "Using your head to get your foot in the door: Job search secrets no one else will tell you." We also review the week's events at the Capitol and in Congress with our political panelists.
WCCO Sunday Morning:
Former Gov. Jesse Ventura to talk about his new book. Michael Schommer, Communications Director with Minnesota Department of Agriculture to talk about the Ash Borer infestation.
Two big bills that relied on negotiations with the Governor's office are detailed in this week's Capitol Report. Sen. Keith Langseth (DFL-Glyndon) gives his impression on the final bonding bill. Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) provides insight on the final General Assistance Medical Care bill, and the negotiations that went into crafting the final product. Sen. Dennis Fredrickson (R-New Ulm) discusses with Julie Bartkey his view of the bonding bill and a bill that provides $26M for environmental projects in the state.
FACE THE NATION - Topic: "Do Democrats Have the Votes to Pass Health Care?" Guests: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn; Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin.
STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY - Topic: Health Care. Guests: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah); Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Topic: Health Care. Guests: Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.); Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). Topics: Health Care; 2010 Midterm Outlook. Guests: Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist; CNN political contributor; William Bennett, CNN political contributor; author, "A Century Turns."
FOX NEWS SUNDAY - Topic: Health care vote. Guests: Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.), ranking member, House Budget Committee; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, (D-Fla.), Chief Deputy Whip; Sen. John Cornyn, (R-Texas), Chairman, National Republican Senatorial Committee.
MEET THE PRESS - Topic: Health care reform vote. Guest: Rep. John Boehner, House Republican Leader; Rep. Steny Hoyer, House Democratic Leader; former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Chairman, Democratic National Committee; Michael Steele, Chairman, Republican National Committee; Anita Dunn, former Obama White House Communications Director; Ed Gillespie Chairman, Republican State Leadership Committee founder, Resurgent Republic former chairman, Republican National Committee and former Counselor to President George W. Bush.
THIS WEEK - President Obama's political strategist David Plouffe and former President George W. Bush's political strategist Karl Rove. Former Senators Trent Lott and Tom Daschle are also on the show.
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann is making a full court press in her opposition to the federal health care overhaul bill. Last night, Bachmann appeared on Fox's Hannity to discuss the bill. Her office says she'll appear on Fox's Glenn Beck (4pm Central) later today.
Paging Rush Limbaugh!(1 Comments)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman will host a Minneapolis fundraiser for Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl later this month. Former U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz and ION Ceo Wendell Maddox also appear on the invite. Kyl is up for reelection in 2012.
Here's the invite:
Honorable Tim Pawlenty Honorable Rudy Boschwitz Honorable Norm Coleman Wendell Maddox (List in Formation)
Cordially Invite You To A Special Luncheon Honoring
Senator Jon Kyl
Assistant Republican Leader
Friday, March 12, 2010
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
The Minneapolis Club
729 Second Avenue South
Co-Host: $2,500 (Raise or Contribute)
DFL Rep. Tim Walz has formed a federal political action committee. Paperwork with the FEC says Walz created the Renewing the American Dream PAC. The PAC's Assistant Treasurer, Shelli Hesselroth, said Walz formed the leadership PAC to help federal candidates with "common sense voices who believe in solving problems." Hesselroth said they haven't determined who will get money from the PAC. She said Walz will raise money for the PAC through individual contributions and will not hold fundraisers for it.
As far as I know, Walz is now the seventh member of Minnesota's delegation to form a federal leadership PAC. Here are the candidates who currently have PACs
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar has the Follow the North Star PAC.
DFL Sen. Al Franken has the Midwest Values PAC
DFL Rep. Tim Walz has the Renewing the American Dream PAC
GOP Rep. John Kline has the Freedom and Security PAC
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum has the Betty PAC
DFL Rep. Collin Peterson has the Valley PAC
DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar has the Mesabi Fund
Gov. Pawlenty also has the Freedom First PAC.
Let me know if I'm missing any.
MPR News is streaming the White House health care summit. Watch it here.
MPR's Jess Mador reports today that DFL Sen. Al Franken attended a rally of labor activists, Democrats and progressives in support of a health care overhaul bill moving through Congress. The rally, organized by Take Action Minnesota, is meant to send a message to Congress that something should be done on health care soon. The White House is negotiating with House and Senate leaders to come up with some sort of health care overhaul bill.
Franken, who has pushed for the House to pass the Senate bill and then pass a public option through reconciliation, said pushing the legislation currently being debated in Congress is better than starting over from scratch.
"I don't want to oversell this. I don't want to say that your premiums after going up and up and up are suddenly going to go down. But if we don't do anything, it's going to go that way and what we need to do is bend it this way to bring down the growth in the cost of health care."
You can listen to Franken's full speech here: Listen
There were several people outside the rally protesting the health care bills. They held signs saying "Stop Obamacare" and complained that government spending is getting out of control.
Here's a look at who will be on this weekend's public policy shows...
This week on Almanac we debate the next step in the GAMC debate with Rep. Tom Huntley and Rep. Matt Dean... and ad exec John Rash analyzes a week of Olympic coverage.
WCCO's Sunday Morning with Esme Murphy:
Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung, Tom Horner, an I-P candidate for governor and DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
KSTP's At Issue with Tom Hauser:
They didn't get back to me.
Jim Miller, with the League of MN Cities, and St. Coud Mayor Dave Kleis talk to about local government aid cuts.
Job creation tools continue to surface at the Capitol. Sen. James Metzen joins moderator Julie Bartkey to discuss his job bill. Republican Sen. Amy Koch counters with measures her caucus would like to see included to gain GOP support. Finally, a bipartisan bill to move Minnesota's primary election up a month passes unanimously. Senate author Terri Bonoff explains what voters need to know.
On the national scene...
NBC's Meet the Press:
General David Patraeus, MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty
ABC's This Week:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell.
CBS' Face the Nation:
Guest: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Fox News Sunday:
Guests: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D).
Gov. Pawlenty sent a letter today to President Obama asking him to include governors in the White House health care summit. Pawlenty also touted some of the changes to Minnesota's health care system. He also called for medical malpractice reform and for the ability to sell health insurance across state lines (you can read a story by MPR on that issue here).
Pawlenty did not mention in the letter that his budget plan would cut 20,000 people off of state subsidized health insurance coverage in his letter.
You can read the letter here.(5 Comments)
The progressive group, Take Action Minnesota, is touting a rally for health care reform featuring DFL Sen. Al Franken. The event will be held in Minneapolis on Sunday.
Here's part of the e-mail from Take Action Minnesota:
Right now we're as close as we've been in a generation to seeing our health care system overhauled. If we allow the big insurance companies to win this fight, how will we win the next one?
Fortunately, we have Members of Congress who are committed to fighting with us.
Senator Al Franken is committed to passing health care reform "one way or the other" because he is clear about "how close we are to the biggest health care victory in half a century."
Are you ready to join him?
WHAT: Rally for Health Care Reform with Senator Al Franken
WHEN: Sunday, February 21st, 2010 from 1:00pm - 2:00pm
WHERE: Minneapolis United Labor Center, 312 Central Ave - Rm. 217-218, Minneapolis, MN 55414
DFL Sen. Al Franken used his time during a recent Senate Judiciary to rip into Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Congress is holding hearings that focus on Comcast's proposed merger with NBC. Franken, who has expressed uneasiness about the deal, tore into Roberts. He said Roberts told him one thing while his company attorneys did something entirely different.(2 Comments)