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.

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Three Minnesota Democrats buck their party to back Republican health care bill

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: November 16, 2013 - 3:11 AM

Three Democratic Minnesota U.S. House members — Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson and Tim Walz — bucked their party leaders on Friday and backed a Republican bill that would allow insurers to keep selling policies that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act.

The legislation would grant a reprieve to Americans, including an estimated 140,000 in Minnesota, who would lose their current insurance policies despite a promise from President Obama that his health care law wouldn’t strip away their preferred coverage.

Democrats in moderate districts faced a tough choice with their votes: back legislation that would allow constituents to keep existing insurance plans or rally behind Obama’s signature health care policy.

The bill passed the House 261 to 157. Nearly all 39 Democratic supporters hail from districts where voters favored Republican Mitt Romney or where Obama won by a slim margin in the 2012 presidential election.

Admitting that his administration botched the health care rollout, Obama said Thursday that health insurance companies can extend canceled policies by one year even if they don’t meet the health law’s requirements. The president shouldered the blame for the problems.

Republicans argued Friday’s bill, the Keep Your Health Care Plan Act, would uphold Obama’s promise to let people keep their current health insurance plans. Many Democrats saw the Republican bill as an effort to undermine the Affordable Care Act by allowing insurers to continue selling plans that aren’t compliant with the law.

Democratic Party leaders hoped that Obama’s proposed fix would prevent rank-and-file members from crossing the aisle in support of the GOP bill.

But Republicans ratcheted up the pressure as millions of Americans received notice that they won’t be able to keep their preferred plans. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House Republicans, targeted Walz and other Democrats in potential swing districts who voted for the law in 2010. The lone Minnesota Democrat to vote against the Affordable Care Act when it passed in 2010, Peterson had already announced plans to support the Republican bill.

Minnesota’s House Republicans — Michele Bachmann, John Kline and Erik Paulsen — voted with their party on the legislation. Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum opposed the bill.

The bill may have political ramifications but it has likely hit a legislative dead end. The White House issued a veto threat Thursday.

Bachmann calls for Sebelius to resign over health website glitches

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: October 24, 2013 - 10:20 AM

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann is among the 32 House Republicans who signed a letter to President Obama on Wednesday, urging him to request the resignation of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius because of glitches in the Affordable Care Act website, HealthCare.gov.

“With more than three years to prepare for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we are surprised to see the level of uncertainty, confusion and incompetence that has riddled the Health Insurance Marketplace since October 1,” Bachmann and the other members write.

“Unfortunately, as we have seen in numerous news reports, many Americans have found it impossible to sign up for the required health coverage or to simply learn about the new plans and associated costs. The scope of the problem is so great that, were this a private company or military command the CEO or general would have been fired.”

Democrats have also criticized the health care reform law’s troublesome rollout. On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan said it was time for Obama to “man up, find out who was responsible and fire them.”

But, unlike Bachmann, Nolan stopped short of calling for the dismissal of any specific administration official or contractor.

"There are people like myself who supported the Affordable Care Act, but I'm not oblivious to the fact that this layout has done harm and damage to the brand," Nolan said.

The northern Minnesota congressman is among 11 House Democrats that Republicans are targeting with radio ads criticizing the website.

In the ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee, a woman says, “If you're facing all these issues just signing up, imagine how difficult it could be to get medical care. Finding a doctor's appointment will be a nightmare. And have you looked into how much your insurance premiums will rise?"

The ads are also running in the districts of U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz.

U.S. House fundraising points to incumbent advantage

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: October 15, 2013 - 3:59 PM

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.

GOP targets Nolan, Walz on Obamacare

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: October 2, 2013 - 8:04 PM

The National Republican Congressional Committee today begin airing radio ads attacking House Democrats in swing districts, including U.S. Reps. Rick Nolan and Tim Walz, for refusing to defund the Affordable Care Act

Republicans aim to frame the federal government shutdown around President Obama's health care reform law, also known as Obamacare.

And Walz, Nolan and eight other Democrats are among the targets. The NRCC did not indicate the size of the ad buy or how often they’ll run.

“How out-of-touch is Tim Walz with Minnesota families? So out-of-touch that she voted to shut down the government in order to protect Congress’ taxpayer funded healthcare!” the start of the script for the Walz ad reads.

An identical script will run on ads criticizing Nolan.

Despite the shutdown, the online insurance marketplaces for the Affordable Care Act debuted Tuesday, albeit with glitches.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also went on the offensive this week, running automated telephone calls targeting 63 House Republicans over the budget crisis, including Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen.

The script from the Kline’s call reads:

“While you were sleeping Congressman John Kline shut down the government. You heard that right. But even worse – Congressman Kline is still getting paid – and he’s not listening to our frustration. All because of his demand to take away your benefits and protect insurance company profits.”

The script reads the same for Paulsen, but technically he and Kline are not getting paid during the shutdown. They've requested that their pay be withheld until it ends.

Walz won't support Syria strike

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: September 10, 2013 - 2:19 PM

Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz will not support President Obama's push for U.S. military strikes in Syria.

In a statement released Monday, Walz said he's skeptical that the current proposals would keep U.S. troops out of Syria or prevent their involvement in another foreign conflict.

"While I believe the use of chemical weapons is despicable and the world must take action to ensure that cruel dictators are not allowed to use such weapons without repercussions, at this time I cannot in good conscience support current proposals to take unilateral, military action," said Walz, a former National Guardsman.

Last week, Walz hosted a forum to gather input from residents on whether the United States should take military action in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad's alleged chemical weapons attacks against civilians.

Walz's southern Minnesota constituents respond with a clear message: Stay out of Syria.

"After 12 years of war, the American public has every right to weigh in and expect that their views be represented in Congress," Walz said.

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