WASHINGTON -- From students to college presidents to business leaders, Minnesota members are bringing a diverse set of guests to tomorrow night's State of the Union address.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar will bring Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) President Peggy Kennedy.
Sen. Al Franken will bring University of Minnesota Student Body President Joelle Stangler
Rep. Tim Walz, D, First Congressional District will bring Army Ranger Sgt. Thomas Block. He is a Minnesota native and was named Army Times Soldier of the Year for 2014.
Rep. John Kline, R, Second Congressional District -- Staffers did not respond to requests for comment on his guest.
Rep. Erik Paulsen, R, Third Congressional District will bring Minneapolis Police Sergeant Grant Snyder. He is a leader in the Minnesota law enforcement community in combating sex trafficking.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D, Fourth Congressional District will bring Matt Kramer, the president and CEO of the St Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.
Rep. Keith Ellison, D, Fifth Congressional District will bring Veronica Mendez, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha’s (CTUL) Co-Director.
Rep. Tom Emmer, R, Sixth Congressional District will bring Brenton Hayden, who was named "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" and started his own business at 20 years-old. He is from central Minnesota.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D, Seventh Congressional District gave his extra ticket to North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp so she could bring a couple from her state. The two were among the first responders to a school bus-train crash site last year and helped rescue kids.
Rep. Rick Nolan, D, Eighth Congressional District will bring Sophie Cerkvenik of Britt, Minnesota. Sophie is the daughter of a lobbyist and a senior at Virginia High School.
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tim Walz took on a new committee this week, swapping Transportation and Infrastructure for House Armed Services, which places the 5th-term Democrat on two of the more powerful committees dealing with military and veterans issues.
In a statement, Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to serve in Congress, said he was looking forward to the new challenge.
Only one Minnesotan, Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan, now serves on Transportation and Infrastructure -- a committee historically important to the state, which has a long list of infrastructure needs. The late Rep. Jim Oberstar, who served 36 years in the House, chaired the committee back in the 2000s.
Transpo/Infrastructure was among newly elected GOP Rep. Tom Emmer's top committee choices, but the freshman was placed on Agriculture and Foreign Affairs instead.
Walz's spokesman Tony Ufkin said Friday the committee "isn't what it used to be" with the elimination of earmarks and that Congressman Walz still plans on working on infrastructure needs in his district.
"We kind of feel like you can be a strong transportation advocate, while not being on the committee so I don't think a whole lot has changed here," he said.
Ufkin said his boss getting a slot on Armed Services means he has more venues to push veterans and military reform legislation -- like a personality disorder bill, which looks at veterans who may have been discharged unfairly.
WASHINGTON - Some of Minnesota's U.S.. House delegation crossed party lines to support a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline Friday.
The Republican-sponsored legislation drew yes votes as expected from Minnesota's GOP representatives John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer. But a majority of the state's five Democratic representatives - Tim Walz, Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson - also vote yes. They were among 28 House Democrats who supported the bill, which passed 266-153.
In interviews with the Star Tribune, all three said they preferred to ship heavy crude oil squeezed from the tar sands of Canada by pipeline rather than by rail.
But Walz said the pipeline issue should not foreclose a push for more renewable energy sources.
"When you get mired in these issues that become political litmus tests instead of broader-based solutions, it causes you problems," he said. "What I've always said about Keystone is that the people selling it as pushing your gas prices going down are selling you a bill of goods. But those who say if we don't build Keystone, we will not get tar sands crude - that's not going to happen."
With some tar sands oil already being extracted and much more to come, "the question now is what is the safest way to move it," Nolan said.
Peterson had earlier predicted that President Obama would veto the Keystone bill if it passed the House and Senate. The president renewed that veto threat this week.
"I don't know if there will be enough votes to override a veto," Peterson said.
Democrats Betty McCollum of St. Paul and Keith Ellison of Minneapolis opposed the Keystone XL.
WASHINGTON -- Amid the big debates this week to keep the federal government running, three Minnesota Democrats were relishing smaller victories in the final hours of the 113th Congress.
Rep. Betty McCollum got her Global Food Security Act passed late Wednesday. Rep. Keith Ellison got the Federal Housing Finance Agency to agree to $700 million a year to create affordable rental housing units. And Rep. Tim Walz was hoping the Senate would pass his veterans suicide prevention bill and send it to the president's desk.
-McCollum's bipartisan Global Food Security Act, introduced by Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, directs the president to develop a strategy to improve nutrition and strengthen agricultural development with an eye on international aid. Minnesota's biggest food companies, including Cargill and General Mills, were supporters.
-The Federal Housing Finance Agency committed to more than $700 million more to construct affordable rental housing. Ellison's office had been pushing the federal agency to shift resources after learning there was at least an 8 million unit shortage across the country.
-Walz was working across the chamber Thursday to get the Senate to pass his Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, named after a Marine who committed suicide after being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. The House passed the measure earlier this week. The Senate moved to pass it through a manuever called unanimous consent. It was unclear whether that maneuver would work before Congress left town at the end of this week. White House officials said the president would sign the bill if it hit his desk.
Incoming U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer will serve on the Agriculture and Foreign Affairs Committees in the U.S. House, his campaign announced Tuesday.
"I'm very excited to serve the Sixth District on the Agriculture and Foreign Affairs committees. The work of a representative is to advocate for their district, something I expect to be very busy doing with these assignments," Emmer said in a statement. "I’m looking forward to meeting my committee members and working together to serve our constituents."
Next year, Emmer will replace retiring U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in representing Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District. Bachmann served on the Financial Services Committee and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Minnesota has long had representation on the Agriculture Committee. Seventh District U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson has chaired it and, more recently, served as it's ranking Democrat. This year both U.S. Reps. Rick Nolan and Tim Walz serve on the committee as well.
Photo: U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer on election night with his wife, Jacquie//Jerry Holt, Star Tribune
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