When President Obama visits St. Paul's Union Depot today to unveil a $300 billion transportation plan, most of the state's congressional delegation won't be in attendance.
With Congress in session this week, Democratic U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison were the only member of the delegation that boarded Air Force One with Obama on Wednesday.
An aide for Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken said left Washington, D.C., this morning to attend the funeral of a friend.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is chairing a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on cell phone competition, which she cannot cancel.
"Otherwise she would be with the President as she was just last month in Michigan for the Farm Bill signing," said Klobuchar spokeswoman Brigit Helgen.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz is participating in House Transportation Committee hearing on rail safety.
Obama will also tour the Metro Transit Light Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility in Minneapolis during his Minnesota trip.
Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen invited Obama to visit a Minnesota-based medical device company during his vist, but it's not part of the president's posted schedule for today.
Ahead of a Wednesday congressional hearing on rail safety, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz will host a roundtable discussion with community leaders and first responders today in Winona.
Walz, a member of the House Transportation Committee, called for the Wednesday hearing on the dangers of hauling crude oil and hazardous materials in response to concerns from residents in La Crescent, a town in his southern Minnesota district with a heavily trafficked freight rail route.
The mayors and fire chiefs from La Crescent and Winona are among those expected to attend today’s meeting.
Representatives from the state Department of Transportation, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Gov. Mark Dayton’s office also plan to attend.
One of the Republicans vying to run against Walz in November criticized the congressman’s approach on the issue.
“Moving oil via pipeline, rather than railcar, is about 70 percent cheaper and far safer. Yet Rep. Walz and his liberal buddies block the safe and efficient transport of U.S. energy and then carp about the danger of moving it by other means,” Jim Hagedorn said.
“Mark my words, their next move will be issuance of even more regulations against the railroad industry.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen is urging President Obama to visit a medical technology company during his trip to the Twin Cities on Wednesday.
Paulsen wrote to the president over the weekend, asking for help to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s tax on medical devices.
Money raised from the 2.3 percent excise tax is intended to fund expanded health care coverage for upwards of 30 million Americans under President Obama's health care law.
But Paulsen has called the tax, which began in January 2013, a "tax on innovation."
Minnesota is home to hundreds of medical device companies that employ more than 30,000 people.
Last week, the medical device industry’s major trade group, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, released a survey that says the tax cost the industry tens of thousands of job in 2013.
“This industry is an American success story, but it is being hit especially hard by the Medical Device Tax that passed as part of the Affordable Care Act,” a portion of Paulsen’s letter to the president reads. “With your support, we can repeal this onerous tax and protect jobs, expand high-tech manufacturing here at home, and create and provide more life-saving and life-changing technology to American patients.”
In 2012, the Obama administration threatened to veto Paulsen’s legislation, but congressional support for a repeal is growing.
Paulsen’s bill has more than enough support to pass the Republican-led House, but Senate Democrats have thus far been unwilling to deal a blow to one of the president's signature legislative accomplishments.
Minnesota U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both Democrats, have urged their colleagues to repeal the tax. The state’s entire House delegation also opposes the tax.
Here’s a copy of Paulsen’s letter:
A question about the Affordable Care Act led to uncomfortable silence for three Minnesota Democrats -- U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz – during a town hall forum on farm issues this week in Mankato.
“I thought the Affordable Health Care Act was to save $2500 per family. What happened?” a resident asked the trio about President Obama’s pledge that the health care law would save families money.
After an awkward moment where the lawmakers shrugged and looked to each other for a response, Peterson grabbed the microphone.
“I voted ‘no,’ so I’ll let these guys handle that,” he replied, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Klobuchar and Walz acknowledged problems while defending the law, according to a report from KEYC News Channel 12 of Mankato.
“This health care discussion has got to be broader, it’s got to point out where there’s weaknesses and failures, it’s got to make sure that we’re not leaving people behind or distorting the system,” Walz said. “But don’t pretend that there was some type of safe harbor before this where everything was just peachy keen.”
KEYC issued a clarification Friday after Fox News aired a snippet of the video, claiming the lawmakers were laughing at a man’s frustration with the health care law. State and national Republicans also circulated part of the clip.
A statement from KEYC news director Dan Ruiter indicated that it was Peterson's quip, not the question about the health care law, that sparked the uproarious laughter.
“The story accused all three panel members of laughing at someone else's suffering. It also accused all three panel members of ducking the question. Anyone in attendance that day, or watching the story in its entirety that evening, knows that nothing could be further from the truth,” Ruiter wrote.
For Democrats running for Congress in dozens of districts, the Affordable Care Act could be one of the largest obstacles to their re-election bids in November.
Republicans seeking to knock off Peterson and Walz have hammered them on the issue. Peterson voted against the bill in 2010 but has since opposed Republican attempts to dismantle the law.
Democratic U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison are hosting a women’s economic security forum at the State Capitol today.
The lawmakers will lead a panel discussion on workplace issues for women, including paid family leave, health care, child care, retirement security and equal pay.
Among the guests planning to join Ellison and McCollum are: State House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul; Senate President Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul; Terry Williams, vice president, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota; Lisa Stratton, founder of Gender Justice, a non-profit dedicated to eliminating gender barriers in employment; Patricia Brady, executive director of Workforce Solutions, which runs Ramsey County jobs programs; and Deb Fitzpatrick, director of the Center on Women and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
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