Congressional incumbents in two potential swing districts, U.S. Reps. John Kline and Tim Walz, have healthy fundraising leads over their announced opponents.
In the Second Congressional District, Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline has more than $1.3 million stocked away for his re-election campaign after raising $367,000 during the third quarter.
Kline’s Republican challenger, David Gerson, raised $2,085 during the quarter and has $2,000 banked for his bid, according to data filed with the Federal Election Commission. Gerson challenged Kline in last year’s Republican primary, capturing 15 percent of the vote.
Among the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, attorney Mike Obermueller of Eagan raised $73,000 during the quarter, which includes the months of July, August and September. He has $119,000 cash on hand.
Obermueller is making a second run at Kline after losing to him by eight percentage points in last year’s election. But with roughly a year to go until Election Day 2014, Kline’s war chest is 11 times larger than Obermueller’s.
The second district covers the suburbs south of the Twin Cities.
The campaign finance reports for Democratic candidates, Thomas Craft and Paula Overby, were not available on the FEC website Tuesday afternoon.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz has $238,500 banked for his 2014 re-election bid in southern Minnesota’s First Congressional District after raising $176,648 during the third quarter.
Among the three Republicans seeking to oust Walz, state Rep. Mike Benson of Rochester has $14,707 stockpiled for the race and businessman Aaron Miller of Byron has $54,714 banked. Blue Earth businessman Jim Hagedorn’s finance report was not available on the FEC website Tuesday afternoon.
Benson raised $28,158 during the quarter. Miller loaned his campaign $40,000 and collected another $16,127 in donations.
In the state’s Eight Congressional District, Republican challenger Stewart Mills raised almost $244,000 during the quarter, with Mills and his wife contributing about $10,000 of that total, his campaign reported. Incumbent Democrat Rick Nolan’s campaign finance reports were not available on the FEC website Tuesday afternoon.
Four of Minnesota’s representatives – Democrats Keith Ellison in the Fifth District, Betty McCollum in the Fourth District and Collin Peterson in the Seventh District and Republican Erik Paulsen – do not have announced opponents.
Paulsen raised more than $376,000 and has more than $1.5 million in the bank. Ellison raised $309,000 and has $186,248 stockpiled. McCollum collected $99,219 and has $89,076 in the bank. Peterson has about $227,000 cash-on-hand after raising $83,000 during the quarter.
Click here for campaign finance reports from the Sixth Congressional District, where Rep. Michele Bachmann will not seek re-election.
Low-income advocates pressing for a higher minimum wage told two Minnesota congressmen Monday that they are falling farther behind on their bills and losing sight of the American dream.
“I have paid my taxes and gone to college, yet here I am making $7.25 an hour,” Darcy Landau, an airport worker, said at a forum at a southeast Minneapolis community center. “I owe $80,000 in student loans, and am between a rock and a hard place.”
Advocates are intensifying pressure on Minnesota lawmakers to raise state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2015, up from a $6.15 base hourly wage for large employers – among the lowest in the nation. The fight to raise the minimum wage stands to be one of the most high-profile issues of the upcoming legislative session.
Most Democrats who control the Legislature agree the state’s base wage should be higher, but they can’t agree how high. Many rural Democrats don’t want to raise it so high that it hurts businesses in border communities, where rival businesses in neighboring states could gain a price advantage from paying lower wages.
Many Republicans and business groups have fought hard against raising the wage, saying companies will have to operate with fewer workers at the higher wage.
U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat who represents northern Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, said the nation’s economy rapidly evolving in a way that hurts workers at the bottom end of the wage scale.
“The rich are getting rich, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class are getting crushed,” Nolan told the crowd. “It is the tax policy, the allocation of money in the budget, and of course it is the minimum wage. That is the best place to start.”
Nolan and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat who represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, support measures to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.50 an hour.
“You have got to be able to feed your family working one job,” Ellison said. “It’s a matter of political will and the decisions we have made that allowed us to drift away from the American dream.”
Ellison urged attendees to contact their state legislators and press for a higher wage. He said the GOP plan of lowering government spending and driving down wages, “doesn’t work. It failed.”
Liane Gale, a Green Party activist, criticized Nolan and Ellison for not pressing for an even higher wage, something closer to what many consider a living wage.
“Nine-fifty will not lift anybody out of poverty,” Gale said. “Nine-fifty is not addressing the dignity of any worker here in Minnesota.”
Ellison told the audience that people can debate what the minimum wage should be, “but can we all agree and can we all convince our neighbors to agree the minimum wage needs to go up?”
Gale was not convinced, interrupting: “This is a one-shot opportunity.”
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison was arrested Tuesday by U.S. Capitol Police during an immigration rally on the National Mall.
As protestors marched toward the U.S. Capitol, Ellison and several other House Democrats sat in the middle of First Avenue NW, blocking traffic.
Police led Ellison away in cuffs shortly after 4 p.m.
Javier Morillo, president of Service Employees International Union Local 26, was also arrested.
Ellison’s office said the move was an act of “civil disobedience” designed to urge Congress to pass legislation that would allow the nation’s undocumented immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship.
The march was held on the National Mall even though the open-area park is closed due to the federal government shutdown. The protestors were allowed to rally under their First Amendment rights, the National Park Service said.
Tuesday’s protest comes on the heels of more than 100 rallies around the country Saturday, including one in Minneapolis that drew nearly 2,000 people.
Ellison was arrested in April 2009 in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington as they protested the expulsion of aid groups in Darfur.
After House Republican leaders announced Thursday that they will demand concessions in spending in exchange for raising America's borrowing cap, Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison accused the GOP of plotting to use the debt ceiling as a weapon in the shutdown standoff.
The debt limit, currently at $16.7 trillion, is the maximum amount that Congress has authorized the Treasury Department to borrow to pay for the spending Congress has authorized. The limit will be reached by the middle of next month, leaving the federal government unable to pay all of its bills and risking a default.
Before agreeing to raise the debt ceiling, Republicans want a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act, authority to overhaul the nation’s tax code, construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, offshore oil and gas production and more permitting of energy exploration on federal lands.
The legislation would also roll back regulations on coal ash, block new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gas production, eliminate mandatory contributions to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, limit medical malpractice lawsuits and increase means testing for certain government assistance programs, among other things.
"I think that weaponizing the debt ceiling is bad economic policy," Ellison said Thursday on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes.” “I think it’s bad legislative policy, and I'm very sorry that this has happened. We can negotiate over the budget, we negotiate all the time, but to put something like the full faith and credit of the American economy on the line is just beyond the pale.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, also a guest on the program, explained that increased government spending comes at a cost.
“If you want to [increase] spending, you're going to have to vote for it,” Cole said. “And maybe you want to stop and think about the course that you're on, and that's what we're talking about.”
Ellison said: “Tom's right about this. This is the purpose of the debt ceiling, this way, to say, ‘Look let's stop and look at what we're doing.’ But it's not to use as … leverage and a ransom.”
Earlier Thursday evening, Ellison debated the debt limit and the Affordable Care Act on CNN's "Crossfire."
A bill that will reduce the costs of borrowing for millions of college students passed the U.S. House on Wednesday, a month after congressional gridlock doubled the interest rates on student loans.
This fall, undergraduate students will borrow at 3.9 percent, a slightly higher rate than the 3.4 percent rates they had access just a few weeks ago. Graduates would borrow at 5.4 percent and parents would have access to loans at 6.4 percent. Under the legislative approved Wednesday, rates would be locked in for that year's loan.
After easily passing the House 392 to 31, the legislation is now headed to President Obama, who has already voiced support.
Republican Rep. John Kline, the chairman of the House Educaiton and the Workforce Committee celebrated the vote as a win for Republicans. The GOP has worked for years to link student loan rates to the markets
"I applaud my colleauges on the other side of the aisle for finally recognizing this long-term, market-based proposal for what it is: a win for students and taxpayers," Kline said.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison was the lone member of Minnesota's delegation to vote against the legislation, which ties student loan interest rates to financial markets. Rates will rise if the economy improves, making it more expensive for the federal government to borrow money.
"I voted against the bill because it increases the cost of higher education for future students -- at a time when college tuition continues to rise and the vast majority of families are struggling with stagnant incomes. The 'fix' in the plan means interest rates on student loans could reach 8.5 percent in the next five years, much higher than the current rates," Ellison said in a statement.
Wednesday's vote was the result of a Senate compromise, after members in the upper chamber failed to reach a decision before the July 1 expiration of the reduced rates.
Democrats such as Ellison, Rep. Tim Walz and California Rep. George Miller, the lead Democrat on the House Education Comittee, said the legislation will need tweaking as rates rise, making it more difficult for student to pay off loans.
"This bill helps reduce costs to students and families, but it does not solve the long-term student loan debt crisis," Miller said.