WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's eight House members voted mostly like the rest of the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday on a measure to sue President Barack Obama over executive powers -- the state's three Republicans supported it, the five Democrats voted against it.
At the heart of the House resolution, which authorizes GOP Speaker John Boehner to sue the president, is Obamacare. Republicans say the president has not adequately enforced the law, which they oppose, because his administration has delayed some parts of its implementation, including the requirement that employers provide health coverage.
Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen's spokesman sent over this statement Thursday:
"Congressman Paulsen is concerned about the continued growth of executive power and its impact on our political system. The vote made by the House seeks more accountability of the executive branch through this narrowly defined action. This is more about making sure the president – and any future president – is constitutionally required to faithfully execute our nation’s laws or go through Congress to have them changed."
Joining Paulsen in a yes vote were GOP Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline.
Democrat Rep. Betty McCollum said ahead of the vote she was going to vote "no on the Boehner lawsuit and will instead focus my energy on the needs of the families of the Fourth District."
Democratic Reps. Tim Walz, Keith Ellison, Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan also voted no.
"Republicans have failed to get their work done in Washington and they use stunts like this lawsuit to distract attention from that simple truth," McCollum said.
A decision by the U.S. Patent Office to cancel the trademark registration for the Washington Redskins’ team nickname is a “victory for decency,” said U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.
The team doesn't immediately lose trademark protection and is allowed to retain it during an appeal, which is likely.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder has refused to change the team's name, citing tradition, but there has been growing pressure including statements in recent months from members of Congress, President Obama and civil rights groups.
Native American groups and lawmakers -- who have pressured National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to force Snyder to abandon the name – celebrated the decision.
In May, half of the U.S. Senate – including Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken -- wrote letters to the NFL urging the team to change its name.
“I commend the Native American petitioners and tribal leaders from across Indian Country for their courage to confront this ugly issue head on and strive for both justice and the respect they deserve,” said McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat.
“It is time for NFL team owners to have the courage to speak out and pressure Dan Snyder to change his team’s racist name. Any effort by Mr. Snyder to appeal this ruling can only be viewed as a bigoted attempt to continue to profit from this racist team name at the expense of the dignity of Native Americans.”
The decision from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which found that the team name is “disparaging of Native Americans,” means that the team can continue to use the Redskins name, but would lose much of its ability to protect the financial interests connected to its use.
The case does not apply to the team's logo.
WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's eight House members and both senators collectively urged the Army Tuesday to clarify a new directive expanding legal services to victims of sexual assault in the National Guard.
The Army recently released new rules expanding important legal services to certain victims of military sexual assault, but the rules don't cover National Guard members who become victims of sexual assault outside drill weekends or military duties.
Minnesota's ten members of Congress say the directive will undermine the Minnesota National Guard's ability to "effectively provide support services to survivors of sexual assaults," according to a release.
The letter was led by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and GOP Rep. John Kline and co-signed by Democrat Sen. Al Franken and Reps. Collin Peterson, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan, and Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen.
"Our Minnesota service members should not be impeded from seeking critical services in the aftermath of a sexual assault," the letter said. "The Army must provide clear guidance and direction in order for the National Guard to effectively provide these services authorized by Congress."
The letter comes as the Department of Defense scrambles to deal with the increasing problem of sexual assaults in the military. According to the delegation release today, the DoD found in May that overall reporting of sexual assaults in the military in 2013 was 50 percent higher than it was the previous year -- 5,061 in 2013 versus 3,374 in 2012. Previous year-to-year increases in reporting never exceeded five percent.
There are more than 13,000 soldiers and airman in the Minnesota National Guard.
The much-criticized nomination of businessman George Tsunis to be ambassador to Norway is facing even more opposition, now from the co-chairs of the congressional Friends of Norway Caucus.
The co-chairs – Minnesota U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Erik Paulsen -- are urging President Obama to withdraw Tsunis’ nomination.
“In Minnesota we have a vibrant Norwegian-American population with a rich appreciation for the culture and heritage of Norway,” McCollum said.
“We expect the next U.S. ambassador to possess both expertise and appreciation for Norway and its people. Unfortunately, the current nominee falls far short of this standard. I urge President Obama to withdraw his nomination immediately and instead find a new nominee who will make Norwegian-Americans proud.”
McCollum, a Democrat, and Paulsen, a Republican, join both U.S. senators from Minnesota, home to the United States’ largest Norwegian-American population, in opposing Tsunis.
Earlier this week, Sen. Al Franken announced he will vote against Tsunis if his nomination comes to the Senate floor. Sen. Amy Klobuchar made the same vow earlier this year.
Tsunis, who helped raise nearly $1 million for Obama’s 2012 campaign, was nominated for the diplomatic post nine months ago.
During an appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Tsunis bungled answers to questions and testified that he has never visited Norway. His performance drew a strong rebuke from Norwegian-Americans across the country.
Because the Senate has sole responsibility for confirming ambassadors, McCollum and Paulsen can’t cast votes against Tsunis.
"While ambassadorships are often tied to political support for the President, the answers provided by nominee George Tsunis clearly demonstrate that he is unqualified for this position and may damage an important international bond if confirmed,” Paulsen said.
“The President would serve the Norwegian-American community well by withdrawing Tsunis’s name and nominating somebody that will help our relationship continue to grow and thrive.”
By Allison Sherry
With help from Rachel Stassen-Berger
WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar joined a chorus Friday in criticizing the Veterans Administration and pressed the regional office on wait times for medical appointments in Minnesota's clinics and hospitals.
"The incidents that have been reported at VA facilities in Arizona and elsewhere are outrageous and entirely unacceptable," the two wrote in a letter to Janet Murphy, network director for the VA Midwest Health Care Network in Minnesota.
Franken and Klobuchar specifically asked Murphy for the average number of days veterans must wait to receive appointments at every VA facility in Minnesota.
One of Franken's GOP opponents Mike McFadden pinged the senator earlier Friday for keeping quiet on the VA scandal, in which more than two dozen hospitals and clinics face allegations of long wait times and false record-keeping. In Phoenix, there are allegations the missteps caused multiple deaths.
"Criticizing mergers and talking about Internet fast lanes may generate headlines for Sen. Franken, but it does nothing to guarantee that our veterans have access to quality healthcare when they need it," said McFadden, in an e-mailed statement. He also called for Shinseki's resignation. "Minnesota doesn't need any more out-of-touch politicians like Al Franken."
Franken's office said that two weeks ago, in the wake of the news about several alleged incidents at VA medical centers in Arizona and elsewhere, the senator directed his office to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs to find more information about the wait times for medical care.
Franken and Klobuchar's letter went out the same day Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan called for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation.
Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz didn't go that far Friday, instead calling for a "national review" of all VA medical facilities. Walz is a veteran and member of the Veteran's Affairs committee.
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen has not called for resignation. Rep. John Kline scribed an op-ed on VA issues earlier this week in a local paper, which stopped short of calling for a resignation. Rep. Michele Bachmann, on Fox News, called for his resignation.
All week, Minnesota Republican Congressional candidates blasted Democrats on the scandal. On Thursday, Republican 7th Congressional District candidate Torrey Westrom and 8th Congressional District Stewart Mills also called for Shinseki’s resignation. First District Republican Jim Hagedorn’s campaign sent out a release titled, “Obama-Walz have let down veterans."
Hank Sadler, chair of Veterans for Walz, sharply criticized the "partisan" attacks.
"It's despicable that Republicans running for Congress would use veterans' lives in a blatant attempt to score cheap political points. They should be ashamed," he said, in an email.
First District Republican Aaron Miller had also blasted Walz on May 21, with a release titled, "Our veterans deserve better, President Obama and Congressman Walz are failing them."
On May 27, Kline said: "General Shinseki is a decorated Vietnam veteran and I appreciate his service to our country, but the entire leadership of the VA must be held accountable which is why I’m calling on him to resign – and if he doesn’t, the President should relieve him of his duties."
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