With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

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Sen. Al Franken celebrates five-year swearing-in ceremony

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: July 9, 2014 - 9:55 AM

WASHINGTON -- It's been five years and one day since Sen. Al Franken was sworn in to represent Minnesota.

Franken and former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman tangled by mere hundreds of Minnesota votes in the 2008 election in what was one of the closest Senate races in the history of the union. It took seven months of legal battles before a three-judge panel concluded Franken narrowly won the election by 312 votes.

Coleman appealed that decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ultimately rejected the appeal June 30, 2009. The junior senator was sworn in July 7, 2009.

Franken joked at the DFL convention in May that he was going to win again in November, "by more than last time."

On Tuesday he said his bid for re-election is really just "building on the work I've been doing day in and day out."

"There's a cliche in the Senate, which is kind of true, which is there are showhorses and workhorses," he said. "I knew I wanted to be a workhorse and get things done."

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, John McCain introduce legislation to make importing Canadian pharmaceuticals easier

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: July 8, 2014 - 9:33 PM

WASHINGTON -- Sens. Amy Klobuchar and John McCain introduced legislation Tuesday that would allow people to import personal pharmaceutical drugs from Canada.

The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act allows individuals to import cheaper drugs in the same dosage, form and potency as drugs in the United States. Americans spent an average of almost $1,000 per person per year on prescription drugs -- roughly 40 percent more than the next highest country.

"In Minnesota, we know that Canadians often pay much less for their prescription drugs, but current law prevents Americans from importing these cheapar alternatives and benefitting from these savings," Klobuchar said, in a written statement. "This bipartisan bill would ... inject new competition into the U.S. pharmaceutical market."

The likelihood of a big bill like this to pass the chamber at this late stage -- the Senate has just a little more than three working weeks ahead of the August recess -- is slim, though Klobuchar staffers said Tuesday they hoped to get something through in the lame duck session after the November election.

"This is a commonsense, bipartisan bill that would mean real savings for families and that's why Sen. McCain and I are going to continue to push to get this done," she said, in a statement. 

Democratic Sens. Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar to ride out with Obama on Air Force One Thursday

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: June 25, 2014 - 4:44 PM

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar will ride out with President Barack Obama Thursday to  Minneapolis and attend events with him both days, staffers confirmed Wednesday.

Both Franken and Klobuchar say they want to talk to the president on the plane about the recent flooding in Minnesota.

Klobuchar will speak at the Lake Harriet Bandshell Friday, where Obama is scheduled to make a speech on the economy.

Neither office was able to confirm attendance Tuesday because the Senate voting schedule was still in flux.

Other confirmed Democrats from the Congressional delegation attending at least some of the events with Obama: Rep. Rick Nolan, Rep. Tim Walz, Rep. Betty McCollum and Rep. Keith Ellison. Rep. Collin Peterson will not go to any of them.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton was enthusiastic about the visit earlier in the week, telling the Strib: "I would be glad to appear with President Obama," he said. "I would want to appear with any president of any political party."

White House: In Minnesota trip, President will celebrate minimum wage

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: June 20, 2014 - 3:09 PM

WASHINGTON -- White House officials confirmed Friday that one of the reasons President Obama decided to visit Minnesota next week was because of the state's recent minimum wage boost.

"We shouldn't have Americans raising their children in poverty," said White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, speaking to reporters at a roundtable. "A very important pillar of the foundation for a viable sustainable economy is having a living wage. We are extraordinarily supportive (of Minnesota) which is part of the reason why we're going there next week."

President Obama will also attend a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser at a private home with Minnesota's Congressional Democrats on Thursday.

White House officials have been mum about Obama's schedule beyond the fundraiser while he's in the Twin Cities. Local DFL officials say they expect the president to do at least one public event, as well.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in April signed into the law the largest minimum wage increase in the state's history, giving raises to more than 325,000 Minnesotans. The move to a $9.50 base hourly wage catapults the state from one of the lowest minimum wages to one of the highest once it is fully phased in by 2016. 

Rep. Tim Walz appointed to House VA Conference Committee

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: June 18, 2014 - 5:22 PM

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tim Walz was among six Democrats and eight Republicans tapped Wednesday on the House side to work out differences between passed House and Senate legislation to reform the Veterans Administration.

Walz, who served 24 years in the Army National Guard, is a member of the House Veterans Committee.

In a statement, Walz said, "My number one goal as a veteran myself and a member of this conference committee is to ensure our veterans and their families are able to get the care they need, and in a timely manner."

The differences between the House and Senate versions of the reform legislation are not great, staffers say, but both chambers are eager to get VA reform passed and sent to the president promptly.

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