With support from Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, the U.S. Senate approved President Obama’s plan to train and equip Syrian rebels Thursday, backing his strategy to confront the Islamic State militants.
The legislation, drafted as an amendment to a routine bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, grants the president authority to train foreign forces to confront the Islamic State.
Opponents in both parties framed the vote as a precarious step toward a wider conflict in a region where American troops have been fighting for more than a decade.
Less than 24 hours before the vote, Franken told the Star Tribune he was unsure if he would support the measure.
“While I do have real concerns about this strategy, I believe that training and arming the Syrian rebels is our best available option,” Franken said in a statement after the vote.
The U.S. House approved the measure Wednesday.
The authorization expires in mid-December with the spending bill it is attached to, ensuring lawmakers will revisit the issue before the end of the year. The bill language specifies that the measure is not a broad authorization of force against the Islamic State.
“There needs to be a full debate in Congress on an authorization to use military force,” Franken said. “What I don’t want is for this to be a slippery slope that leads to another protracted ground war in the region.”
The debate over how to respond to the Islamic State has emerged a flashpoint in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race. Federal authorities suspect that at least a dozen men and women have left the state to join the terrorist group.
Seizing on the potential threat to Minnesotans as a key campaign issue, Republican nominee Mike McFadden has criticized Franken’s, accusing the senator of blindly supporting Obama’s foreign policy.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden said the withdrawal of the largest insurer from MNsure, the state’s health care exchange, is evidence of the Affordable Care Act’s failure, blaming President Obama and his opponent, Sen. Al Franken, for enacting what he called a broken system.
PreferredOne was the top-selling insurer on MNsure, but its CEO said they’d be pulling out of the exchange, saying their participation was “not sustainable.” PreferredOne insured six out of 10 MNsure consumers who now will have to seek out other providers and may result in higher healthcare premiums.
“I’m a businessman, and as a businessman I know that when someone provides 60 percent of the market and is the low-cost provider drops out of the program, you’re going to see a significant increase in premiums. This doesn’t work.” McFadden said, pointing to a chart from the Hoover Institution that illustrated the tangle of functions that make up the ACA. “I’m very disappointed in President Obama and Sen. Franken because this program has been based on lies.”
The biggest of all, he said, is that Obama care decreased the cost of insurance in the country. PreferredOne’s withdrawal is proof of that, he argued. However, he said he does not believe the insurance company should be held responsible for leaving MNsure. He remained focused on a system he said could be fixed by a “state-based, market-based, patient-centered” system that allows consumers to buy their insurance across state lines.
Franken spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff said that because of the ACA, 95 percent of Minnesotans are now insured, while the state’s uninsured rate has been halved.
“Mike McFadden would repeal the health law and take us back to a time when women were charged more for health coverage simply because they were women, people with preexisting conditions were denied coverage, half the bankruptcies in this country were connected with health care emergencies and young adults couldn't get covered under their parents' plan,” she said in a statement. “Once again, Mike McFadden has proven that he would rather jump at the opportunity to play politics than actually solve problems.”
McFadden made his statements on the day the Franken campaign launched another ad claiming McFadden’s investment firm, Lazard Middle Market, was involved in a merger that moved an American pharmaceutical company to Ireland to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
McFadden called the ad “patently false,” saying his firm did not represent the company that made the inversion, and that Franken praised a similar move by Medtronic to new headquarters in Ireland. However, while Franken praised the move as a potential job-creator, he also said the it "needs careful scrutiny."
McFadden said he said companies leave the country because they lack the tax incentives to stay.
“What this is evidence of is you have a president and a Democratic senator and a Democratic Senate that don’t understand tax policy and haven’t done anything over the last six years to make the United States have a competitive tax climate.” he said.
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and his Republican challenger Mike McFadden have agreed to three debates leading up to the election.
The first of the debates will take place in Duluth, followed by two in the metro just before the Nov. 4 election. They are as follows:
• Duluth News Tribune/Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce: 8-9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1
• WCCO TV: 10-11 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 26
• Minnesota Public Radio: 7-8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2
Franken spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff said that, including a FarmFest candidate forum that took place in July, the Senator will have participated in four debates—the same amount that took place in the 2012 Senate race between Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican challenger Kurt Bills.
The McFadden campaign maintainst three isn't enough. McFadden challenged Franken last month to six debates throughout the state, including in Rochester and Moorhead as well as a Twin Cities Public Television debate in the metro. McFadden spokeswoman Becky Alery said the campaign will continue to push for more debates with Franken, particularly in greater Minnesota.
“We've been seeing throughout this campaign that Sen. Franken has continued to hide from Minnesotans, while Mike has traveled the state and talked to Minnesotans from top to bottom.”
Alery added that, with early voting, it’s important Minnesotans have the opportunity to hear from the candidates more than a week before election day.
The newly-finalized schedule coincides with a newly-released ad by the McFadden campaign that calls out Franken as “the invisible senator” and features McFadden facing off with an empty podium adorned with a Franken campaign sign. View it here.
UPDATE: The Franken campaign shot back in response to the ad.
"This ad is absurd," Fetissoff said in a statement. "Minnesotans know that Al Franken is working hard for us here in our state and has delivered concrete results for us in the Senate. Investment banker Mike McFadden is more interested in playing political games than solving the real problems that Minnesota families face."
Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has signed on to a letter asking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to adopt a “real zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence.”
Klobuchar is among sixteen women U.S. senators criticizing the league’s handling of the domestic abuse case of player Ray Rice after the recent release of video by TMZ.com showing him striking his now-wife, knocking her unconscious.
“We were shocked and disgusted by the images we saw this week of one of your players violently assaulting his now-wife,” the senators wrote. “Tragically, this is not the only case of an NFL player allegedly assaulting a woman even within the last year.”
The Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice’s contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely following the release of the footage.
Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games. Facing mounting criticism for the decision, the NFL established a six-game unpaid suspension for players who violate the league's policy on domestic violence and a lifetime ban for a second offense.
“We are deeply concerned that the NFL’s new policy, announced last month, would allow a player to commit a violent act against a woman and return after a short suspension,” the senators wrote. “The NFL’s current policy sends a terrible message to players, fans and all Americans that even after committing a terrible act of violence, you can quickly be back on the field.”
WASHINGTON -- President Obama outlined a campaign Wednesday to launch airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq. Obama said he doesn't believe he needs Congressional approval for this military action, which will be conducted with allies. He will seek Congressional support and additional money to finance the operation.
Here are comments from some of Minnesota's Congressional delegation after the speech:
Sen. Al Franken, Democrat: "I want to find out more about the potential ramifications of these actions on the civil war in Syria, for more specifics about the coalition the administration intends to build, and about their ongoing efforts to stifle terrorist recruitment activities in Minnesota and around the country."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat: "I support targeted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as well as training and equipping the moderate Syrian opposition, and I also think it's critical that we work with our allies in the international community so we are united in our effort defeat this terrorist organization."
Rep. John Kline, Republican: "It's never a good strategy to telegraph to the enemy what options are off the table. As a 25-year Marine Corps veteran, the father of a son who has served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a member of the House Armed Services Commmittee, I will continue to ensure our allies and personnel in Iraq and around the globe are receiving the support they need to combat terrorism, while carefully reviewing additional military actions taken by the president."
Rep. Tim Walz, Democrat: "The president has the authority to expand strategic airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq. I believe he should exercise that authority. Before taking any warranted action against ISIL in Syria, however, I believe the president should consult with Congress."
Rep. Michele Bachmann, Republican (via Twitter)
"The president gave a poll driven speech that has nothing in common with defeating a brutal enemy that has declared war on the United States."
"The president's so-called strategy offered virtually nothing new, and it's clear he doesn't understand the threat of Islamic jihad."
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