The scents of warm potatoes and cheese wafted through the room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. Wednesday afternoon as members of the Minnesota delegation went head-to-head for the fifth annual "Hotdish Off," in what might be the friendliest competition on the Hill, hosted by Sen. Al Franken.
The rules: “All hot dishes must contain a starch, some protein and a liquid,” said Eric Kaler, University of Minnesota president and one of the three hot dish competition judges. He, along with Star Tribune editorial writer Jill Burcum and The Hill’s Devin Henry (formerly MinnPost’s D.C. correspondent), graded the dishes on taste (a maximum of 10 points), originality (5 points) and “Minnesota components” (5 points).
Above: Rep. Betty McCollum's winning hot dish.
The faceoff came out with a win for Minnesota’s fourth district — Rep. Betty McCollum took first place, upsetting what would have been Rep. Tim Walz’s three-year winning streak. McCollum couldn’t be at the event to accept the prize for her "Turkey, Sweet Potato and Wild Rice Hotdish" dotted with tater tots. Her communications director Sam McCullough accepted an empty casserole dish award on her behalf.
The challenge exposed the members’ competitive sides, away from the world of amendments and legislation.
“What is wrong with trying to win?” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked Rep. Keith Ellison before the judging began.
“Nothing, nothing,” Ellison replied.
The deliberation among the top two hot dishes was close and as the judges huddled to decide the ultimate victor, Klobuchar said, “I think we need a recount!”
Franken, who won his first election by a recount of 312 votes and seven months of legal fights, said, “Don’t ever say that word around me!”
Above: Sen. Al Franken hosts the yearly cook-off.
This was the second year the entire delegation participated in the cook-off, and the first year without Michele Bachmann entering a recipe. The room was bristling with staffers and reporters.
Joked Kaler: “To get this many TV cameras, I usually have to fire a coach.”
Franken said he started the event to give members a chance to “get together as a delegation and celebrate a Minnesota culinary tradition.”
And what’s a little tradition without some smack-talk?
“You know, this is the first thing you said in that call you made to me after I won my election,” Republican Rep. Tom Emmer said to Franken. “That I would have to do 'Hotdish.'” Emmer replaced Bachmann after Bachmann retired in 2014.
“I don’t care if I win, all I care about is Tim Walz doesn’t win,” Franken said, hoping someone would break Walz’s two-year winning streak.
Above: (from left) Reps. Tom Emmer, Erik Paulsen and John Kline chat with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (center) during the "Hotdish Off."
Emmer, a first-time hot dish participant, posed with a sign that read “Fresh Meat Hotdish” — a title he gave his cheesy tater tot concoction in a crockpot.
Klobuchar jumped in the photo at the last minute.
“I photobombed you!” she said to Emmer.
“Yeah,” he said, still holding his sign. “With fresh meat!”
Allison Sherry contributed to this post.
WASHINGTON -- For the fifth time, Democratic Sen. Al Franken wants to taste his colleagues' cooking.
On April 22, Franken will host the annual Hotdish competition -- a bipartisan cook-off for the ten members of the Minnesota Congressional delegation.
They borrow a big conference room in a Senate office building and each member has to furnish a dish for the event -- sometimes we wonder whether they cooked it themselves or had some, um, help. This year's judges are Star Tribune editorial writer Jill Burcum and MinnPost alum Devin Henry, who departed for The Hill recently.
"Sen. Franken started the friendly competition as a way to bring the delegation together to put partisanship aside and celebrate a Minnesota culinary tradition," Franken's staffers said in a statement.
Democratic Rep. Tim Walz's cooking seems to be a favorite. He took the top prize last year for his "Turkey Trot Tater-Tot Hotdish" and in 2013 for his "Hermann the German Hotdish."
(This was before my time, does that have sausage?)
In 2012, Franken's "Mom's Mahnomnin Madness Hotdish" and former Rep. Chip Cravaack's "Minnesota Wild Strata Hotdish" tied for first place.
Don't worry. We'll post photos of the event that day.
"The simple truth is this bill is a duplicative, overlapping regulatory scheme designed to prohibit mining on the Iron Range," Nolan said. "The fact is, we have the brains, technology and regulations to both mine and protect the environment."
He went on, "Mining is what we do on the Range and is at the heart of our regional and national economy. This is truly a "Made in America" industry -- with 140 prosperous years of quality products and thousands of good-paying jobs."
WASHINGTON -- The Federal Election Commission warned the Minnesota Republican Party that it must straighten out its paperwork and clarify its 2014 year-end reports by mid-May due to several mistakes.
The warning letter comes a few months after the FEC fined the state party $26,000 for failing to disclose $250,000 in receipts, payments and debts between 2009 and 2011. That was the second large fine to hit the state committee in recent years. In 2011, the FEC fined the party $170,000 for misrepresenting debts.
This time, in a letter dated April 10 FEC officials ask the Republican Party of Minnesota to clarify an unreported loan from a lending institution, as well as reporting discrepancies in dollars that were shifted from non-federal to federal spending accounts.
State GOP Treasurer Bron Scherer said Monday the expenditures totaling $372,292 were all above board, but that they have software problems that cause reporting mistakes. Scherer said they have had similar software problems in the past.
Asked why they don't get a new system, he said the party had limited resources "and we don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater."
It's unclear whether the FEC will buy that defense though. In a 2007 ruling, the FEC spells out that parties or party committess that say a computer or a software system fails is not a defensible position with paperwork filing mistakes.
"The Commission will generally conclude that a committee has not met the best efforts standard if the committee's failure to obtain, maintain, or submit information or reports is due to ... the failure of a committee's computer system ... a committee's failure to use Commission-or vendor-provided software properly."
Scherer said he is working with the FEC to get the problems quickly solved before the May 15 deadline set by the FEC.
The state party faces $1.4 million in debt, which has shrunk under the leadership of current executive director Keith Downey. Downey was handily re-elected over the weekend to continue on at the helm.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is taking his case against voter ID laws straight to the Constitution.
He and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, are trying to encourage support for their “right to vote” amendment that will guarantee a citizen voting rights “in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides,” according to the resolution’s text.
Ellison and Pocan are holding a voting rights forum in Minneapolis Thursday, which will feature leaders from Asian American and Somali groups. The members are two of the 32 House Democrats supporting this potential amendment.
The 15th amendment bans denying voting based on race or color; the 19th amendment prohibits restricting voting based on gender; the 26th amendment bars voting restrictions on age. But none of these amendments explicitly give a voting guarantee to all citizens that would nullify states’ voter ID laws.
“We have a crisis of civic participation in America and we need a renaissance of civic participation,” Ellison said.
There are only 27 amendments for good reason — amending the Constitution is arduous. Besides a small amendment on Congressional salaries ratified in 1992 (which was approved 202 years after its submission), a Constitutional amendment hasn’t been ratified in more than 40 years. If two-thirds of the House and Senate approve the right to vote amendment, it can’t be ratified until three-fourths of the states approve it.
Pocan introduced the legislation in the House with Ellison and 23 cosponsors on Jan. 21. It was referred to the Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice on Feb. 2.
Ellison has been passionate about voter ID laws for years; he introduced a bill in 2013 to stop officials from requiring photo identification to cast a ballot or making them use provisional ballots because of lack of photo ID, but no further action was taken on it.
Some type of voter ID law is in effect in 32 states. Eight states, including Wisconsin, require that photo ID is shown before casting a ballot. On March 23, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s voter ID law.
Minnesota isn’t one of these states — its proposed voter ID law failed in 2012 — but the issue is still important to Ellison.
He said that government should reflect the desires of the people, and in the midst of these voter ID laws, there’s a “tremendous opportunity we have to shape our government.”
Many Republicans, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, support voter ID laws to prevent voter fraud.
“This is great news for Wisconsin voters,” Walker said in a release following the Supreme Court’s decline to hear Wisconsin's voter ID challenge last month. “As we’ve said, this is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our voting process, making it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
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