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, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Jim Spencer and intern Beena Raghavendran.

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Sen. Franken sits out, Sen. Klobuchar sits in on Netanyahu address Tuesday

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: March 2, 2015 - 3:59 PM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken said Monday he will not sit in the chamber during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress Tuesday, while his Democratic colleague Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she will be there.

In an e-mail, Franken said the speech had "unfortunately become a partisan spectacle."

The Israeli prime minister, amid his own re-election campaign,accepted an invitation by GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to address a joint session of the Republican-led Congress. The two Republican leaders did not check with the White House or the State Department -- considered a breach of protocol.

Netanyahu is expected to talk about his opposition to talks the United States is having with Iran about its nuclear program. Obama is not expected to meet with Netanyahu when he is in town.

"I'd be uncomfortable being part of an event that I don't believe should be happening," said Franken. "I'm confident that, once this episode is over, we can reaffirm our strong tradition of bipartisan support for Israel."

Franken joins Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, who said earlier this month they would boycott the speech.

Republican Reps. Tom Emmer, John Kline and Erik Paulsen said they will be there, as will Democrat Reps. Rick Nolan, Tim Walz and Collin Peterson.

Rep. Tom Emmer lashes out at fellow Republicans

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: March 1, 2015 - 4:00 PM

WASHINGTON -- Mere weeks into his first term as a U.S. congressman, Republican Rep. Tom Emmer is challenging the right flank of his party.

Just after midnight Saturday, Emmer issued a statement calling out Republican House colleagues who don't support fully funding the Department of Homeland Security because of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration.

Some House Republicans have said they only support funding the Department -- responsible for border and airport security, customs, immigration -- if cash is stripped out to execute Obama's immigration executive orders issued last year. 

Democrats and the White House find this position unacceptable and the issue has sparked a stalemate on Capitol Hill. A few hours before DHS ran out of money Friday at midnight, the Senate approved a seven-day funding bill and the House did the same. This means it will have be resolved, again, by this Friday.

"I am disappointed that many of my colleagues chose to put the security of Americans at stake and waste time playing politics," said Emmer, who replaced Rep. Michele Bachmann in January. "Congress has a solemn responsibility. As a body, we should never hold America's safety hostage simply for political gamesmanship ... With recent terror threats to the Mall of America hitting so close to home and the potential need for natural disaster relief in Minnesota during the winter months, it is imperative we approve the funding the DHS needs."

Emmer said he disagrees with Obama's immigrations actions, but thinks it will be solved in the courts. Two-dozen states, led by Texas, are challenging the constitutionality of the immigration orders.

Sen. Franken wins his (complicated) cause celebre: Net neutrality

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: February 26, 2015 - 9:34 PM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken was elated Thursday when the Federal Communications Commission approved rules that ensure Internet providers treat all legal content equally.

"Last spring, I could not have predicted that we would be celebrating this victory today," Franken said, on the Senate floor. "The best principles of our democracy have won out. It's clear that the voices of the American people have been heard. I've often called net neutrality the free speech issue of our time."

Franken has long fought in the weeds on net neutrality. At a Judiciary Committee hearing last year on the issue, there was standing room only because so many "free Internet" activists filled the room to hear Franken speak. Franken often talked about Comcast's "100 lobbyists" on Capitol Hill fighting for the Time Warner merger and challenged fellow Judiciary Committee Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to explain his opposition to net neutrality. Cruz called the issue "the Obamacare for the Internet."

"It was a statement that seemed to demonstrate a basic misunderstanding of what net neutrality is and how the Internet works," Franken said Thursday."Some folks really don't get it."

Franken said thanks to the FCC's ruling -- commissioners split on a party line vote -- he can "stream videos of my amazingly cute grandson just as easily as I can stream a hit TV show."

Hennepin County Sheriff Stanek to politicians: Please don't shut down DHS

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: February 26, 2015 - 3:05 PM

WASHINGTON -- Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek shared a stage with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Thursday urging members of Congress to fund the federal agency in the next 30 hours or it will shut down.

A shutdown means forced furloughs for about 20 percent of the DHS personnel staff. Everyone else -- for example TSA and Customs and Border Protection agents at the airport and FEMA workers -- will be forced to work without pay.

Stanek is worried about federal grants.

Minnesota received about $10 million in cash from DHS last year -- fully half of that went to Hennepin County to help with law enforcement. While the money has been allocated, Stanek hasn't received all of it and if DHS shut down, the personnel office workers who cut the checks would not be coming to work.

"This is a critical time with what happened over the past weekend with the propoganda video and working with our diaspora community with countering violent extremism," Stanek said. "There could be a natural manmade disaster in Minnesota, an oil tanker turnover ... It's very important."

Congress is debating now whether to fund DHS "cleanly" -- that is, without Republican-added amendments stripping away money to enforce President Barack Obama's immigration reform orders from last year. Democrats fought back against the amendments, which led to the current standstill.

The Department runs out of money at midnight tomorrow.

As promised, Obama vetoes Keystone pipeline bill

Posted by: Jim Spencer Updated: February 24, 2015 - 3:04 PM

President Obama made good Tuesday on a promise to veto a bill approving construction of the Keystone pipeline. In his veto message, the president called the bill an effort to "circumvent" an established review process that needed more time to consider "security, safety and environmental" issues. Republican leaders in the U.S.. House and Senate must now decide if they will try to override the veto. Without a wildly unlikely change in Democratic votes, it will be impossible to override the president's veto and make the pipeline approval law. An override effort move would begin in the Senate and require a two-thirds majority vote, before moving to the House, where another two-thirds majority would be required to make the bill law. The Keystone bill passed the House with Minnesota's three rural Democrats - Collin Peterson, Rick Nolan and Tim Walz - voting for it with Republicans John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer. Democrats Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum voting against it. In the Senate, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both Democrats, voted against Keystone. Both have said they will not vote to override a Keystone veto. Neither will Minnesota House members Ellison or  McCollum. 

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