In the wake of a year that saw across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester ravage reservations, Congress must do more to meet its treaty obligations with Indian tribes, said U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum.
In signing treaties with Indian nations in exchange for land, the federal government promised a wide array of services, including education and health care.
Congress has not kept its end of the bargain, McCollum said Thursday after attending the State of Indian Nations address in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
The National Congress on American Indians, an association of federally recognized tribes, called on Congress to consider tax and budget reform that won’t shortchange Indian Country.
“Health care and education are treaty-trust responsibilities,” said McCollum, who represents St. Paul and the east suburbs in Congress.
“They’re put in discretionary spending, but it should be mandated. It’s an obligation of the United States Government.”
Come 2015, McCollum could play a larger role in budget decisions affecting Indian Country.
With the pending retirement of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia, Betty McCollum is in line to be the lead Democrat on the House panel that oversees the budget of the Interior Department, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Moran, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Interior subcommittee, announced this month that he will not seek another term in Congress.
Based on seniority, McCollum would take over Moran’s role next January.
Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann is backing a resolution that would scale back President Obama’s power.
Criticism that Obama is overstepping his bounds intensified after his State of the Union address, when he vowed to make decisions without congressional approval.
Obama’s plans have renewed interest in the Stop This Overreaching Presidency (STOP) Resolution, a Republican-backed bill with more than 70 co-sponsors.
“Sadly, the President is continuing to disregard the Constitution like never before,” Bachmann said in her State of the Union reaction.
“If a law is politically inconvenient, or he simply disagrees with it, the President believes he can legislative unilaterally without congressional input. This lawlessness is becoming President Obama’s legacy, and not only is it unconstitutional, it reduces faith in his office.”
The STOP resolution would direct the Republican-led U.S. Houes to file a civil lawsuit in federal court to challenge actions Obama has announced in recent years. Bachmann is the only Minnesota lawmaker that has signed on in support, but Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline has called Obama's use of executive action "disturbing."
The lawsuit would seek to void the Obama administration's decision to extend for a year insurance policies that would otherwise have been canceled under the Affordable Care Act. It would also challenge the one-year delay of the law’s s employer mandate requiring companies to offer insurance or pay a penalty.
The lawsuit would contend that each of those actions violated the section of the Constitution setting out that the president "shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
Obama announced Tuesday that will use his executive power to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for workers on new government contracts. The move drew praise from liberal lawmakers, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.
“The President and I do agree – America faces grave challenges in 2014 and beyond. However, what he sees as an excuse for growing the national debt and further government involvement in Americans’ lives, I believe is merely a symptom of the larger problem of too much big government power and overreach," Bachmann said after the State of the Union.
Seats at President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night will be filled with the legislative priorities of the 113th Congress.
On a night when the president lays out his blueprint for the year, members of Congress often choose their guests to convey a message of their own: the person often symbolizes a policy or issue the lawmaker is promoting.
In Minnesota, those issues range from job training and fighting poverty to ending child sex trafficking and repealing President Obama’s health care law.
Here’s a member-by-member look at the guests of the state’s congressional delegation:
U.S. Sen. Al Franken will host Erick Ajax, vice president and co-owner of E.J. Ajax and Sons, a Minneapolis-based metal-stamping company. Franken has introduced legislation that would create a multi-billion dollar grant program to fund partnerships between businesses and two-year colleges to fill job openings in high-demand fields.
Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. John Noseworthy will be U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s guest. A supporter of Mayo's partnerships to help match students' skills with jobs, Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would fund 100 new science, technology, engineering and math-themed high schools and support scientific research.
Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz will be U.S. Rep. Tim Walz's guest. Walz and Kuntz released a joint statement this month calling for passage of transportation funding bills in both houses of Congress in 2014.
U.S. Rep. John Kline will host Keith Anderson, vice chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The tribe is the largest employer in Scott County, which is part of Kline's district in the southern suburbs and exurbs of the Twin Cities.
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen’s guest for President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday will be Vednita Carter, founder and executive director of Breaking Free, a St. Paul-based organization that helps women escape prostitution. Paulsen, the author of two bills designed to combat child sex trafficking, wrote a letter to Obama this month, requesting that he address the issue during the speech.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum’s guest will be Clarence Hightower, executive director of the Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties, an anti-poverty agency. This year, McCollum plans to push for more federal grant money to be distributed to not-for-profit agencies, such as the Community Action Partnership, to tackle poverty.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges will attend President Obama’s State of the Union speech as the guest of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. The two are working on plans to close the achievement gap in the city’s schools and radically reduce the amount of garbage the city sends to landfills, with the eventual goal of reaching "zero waste."
Dr. Julie Anderson, a family physician from St. Cloud, will be U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s guest. A University of Minnesota Medical School graduate, Anderson has concerns about how the Affordable Care Act will affect her practice. Bachmann has been one of Congress’ most vocal critics of the health care reform law.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who will not bring a guest, gave his pass to U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, according to staff.
As a result, Nolan will have two guests – Carri Jones, chairwoman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and Melanie Benjamin, executive director of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Nolan's northeastern Minnesota districts includes five of the six Minnesota Chippewa Tribe bands.
Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline drew $450,000 in campaign contributions during the final three months of 2013, far outpacing his opponents.
Kline’s campaign has $1.6 million banked for a likely November rematch against his 2012 Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Mike Obermueller of Eagan.
Buoyed by 2012 redistricting that added more Democratic and independent voters to the Second District, national Democrats and progressive groups are targeting Kline. But the efforts to unseat Kline have yet to generate a financial windfall for his opponents in the district, which covers the Twin Cities’ southern suburbs and exurbs.
Obermueller gave Kline his closest race in a decade last election, despite being outspent nearly 3-to-1.
This time around, Obermueller entered the race a year earlier, but the money race is shaping up much the same as 2012, with Kline racing away from the competition.
Obermueller’s campaign drew $132,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013 and has $203,000 in the bank, according to a campaign spokeswoman.
David Gerson, a South St. Paul resident who ran in the 2012 Republican primary, is making another push at wresting the party’s nomination from Kline.
Gerson’s campaign has not yet released fundraising totals. Thus far, Gerson’s had trouble drawing donations. At the end of September, his campaign had less than $2,500 cash on hand and was more than $91,000 in debt, mostly from personal loans he used to jumpstart his campaign.
Gerson has been critical of his opponent’s fundraising, especially the donations Kline draws from industries he oversees as chair of the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee.
Gerson sent a note to Republican activists this week, citing a Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington study that showed Kline has benefited from a “155 percent increase in contributions from educational and workforce-related industries” since taking over as committee chairman.
A Washington, D.C.-based group is launching a campaign that seeks to link Republican U.S. Reps. Erik Paulsen and John Kline to the Tea Party.
Americans United for Change is trying to tie 47 swing-district Republicans around the nation, to the conservative movement with “Tea Stained,” a legislative scorecard that ranks lawmakers by votes the group sees as aligned with Tea Party values.
The analysis includes 48 U.S. House votes, including votes to defund the Affordable Care Act and those taken during the government shutdown to fund some parts but not all of the government.
The group argues that Paulsen voted with the Tea Party 83 percent of the time in 2013 while Kline’s loyalty score was slightly lower at 79 percent – and that their voting tendencies don’t differ much from U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, founder of the congressional Tea Party caucus.
“Voters deserve better. Whether they embrace the Tea Party ideology or despise it or fall anywhere in between, they have a right to know where their elected representatives fall on the Tea Party spectrum - not where they say they fall, but how they actually vote,” said Americans United for Change President Brad Woodhouse in a statement.
“What it proves, unfortunately for non-extremists who are represented by Republicans, is that there is no longer a meaningful distinction between the Tea Party and the Republican Party in American politics today.”
The label may not stick for Kline and Paulsen. Neither is officially affiliated with the tea party movement.
Kline already has a Tea Party-backed candidate, David Gerson, challenging him for the Republican endorsement in the Second District, which covers the suburbs and exurbs south of the Twin Cities. Paulsen represents the Third District, which includes most of the western Minneapolis suburbs.
Amid the Tea Party's sagging national popularity, Americans United for Change views both Kline and Paulsen as vulnerable this election cycle because President Obama narrowly won both of the districts, which include a sizeable share of independent and Democratic voters, in 2012.
The scorecard is "highly unreliable at best," said Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey. "Clearly, it's just a campaign tactic. If their point is that John Kline and Erik Paulsen voted pretty consistently against Obamacare, that's not a bad thing."
Kline and Paulsen did not respond to requests for comment.
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