On a voice vote with no opposition, the U.S. Senate confirmed Minneapolis attorney Andrew Luger as U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota.
Luger replaces B. Todd Jones, whom President Obama appointed to head the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) last year.
Luger served as assistant U.S. attorney from 1989 to 1992 in Brooklyn, N.Y., and an assistant U.S. attorney in Minnesota from 1992 to 1995, where he focused on white-collar crimes. He is currently a member of the Minneapolis-based Greene Espel law firm, where he specializes in civil litigation and white-collar criminal defense.
The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared Luger’s nomination last month.
Noting that Minnesota has gone more than 880 days without a full-time U.S. attorney, Sen. Amy Klobuchar has pressed for weeks for a full chamber vote on Luger’s confirmation.
Jones served as both Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney and acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for two years until the Senate confirmed him as ATF director in July.
Sens. Klobuchar and Al Franken recommended Luger for the U.S. Attorney position last July. President Obama nominated him in November.
“We need to move ahead on this,” Klobuchar said during a speech on the Senate floor last week.
“Andy is well respected in the law enforcement community … He is committed to building and maintaining strong working relationships and partnerships between federal and local law enforcement.”
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison will be at the White House today when President Obama signs an executive order increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors.
The Minnesota Democrat led the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ effort to push Obama to sign the order.
Ellison spearheaded a letter writing campaign to the president, urging him to circumvent Congress on the issue, to “provide labor stability for the low-wage workers on whom these federal agencies rely to fulfill their mission.” Ellison personally handled one of those letters to the president.
Obama announced plans for the executive order during his State of the Union address. He has cast the move as a way to spur Congress to increase the hourly minimum wage for all workers from $7.25 to $10.10, beginning in January 2015.
The rule will boost wages for a few hundred thousand workers, a small percentage of the more than 2 million federal contractors, White House officials said.
The event is set to begin at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has joined a coalition of 15 Democratic mayors urging Congress to pass a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.
In a letter addressed to House and Senate leaders, the mayors stressed the need for significant reform to address flaws in current U.S. immigration laws that affect immigrants, employers and national security.
The letter signers include city leaders from California to Connecticut, including those from Los Angeles, Boston, Phoenix and Philadelphia.
“As mayors of diverse cities, we see up close the shortcomings of the current immigration system and we keenly understand the need for significant reform,” the mayors wrote.
“As a nation of immigrants, we have a historic bipartisan opportunity to seize both the social and economic benefits of immigration reform. We urge Congress to pass significant, common sense legislation this session.”
The letter makes the case that current undocumented immigrants should eventually obtain citizenship after meeting a series of requirements such as background checks and paying back taxes. Debate over the fate of undocumented workers is one of the biggest challenges to passing immigration legislation, with some Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, opposed to anything that could be deemed amnesty.
“We want to encourage the full integration of all newcomers and thus, any legalization program should include an opportunity to earn eventual citizenship,” the mayors wrote in the letter.
Making the case that “strong families make strong cities,” the letter also stressed the need to reunite families and implored lawmakers to create a clear path to citizenship for young documented immigrants, commonly known as “Dreamers.”
Through the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a larger coalition of city leaders wrote a letter last month conveying a similar message to lawmakers in the U.S. House.
Four Minnesota mayors – Tim Willson of Brooklyn Center, Elizabeth Kautz of Burnsville, Don Ness of Duluth and Ardell Brede of Rochester – signed that letter.
“We believe strongly that maintaining the status quo will further damage the economic, political and social structure of our cities and our country,” the letter read in part. “As Mayors, we have a ground-level understanding of the pressing economic and moral imperatives that necessitate changing our national immigration system, and we urge the House to expeditiously bring legislation to the floor.”
In a set of principles released this month, House GOP leaders endorsed legalization for current undocumented immigrants but stopped short at calling for full citizenship.
But pushback from his caucus led Boehner to scale back plans for passing legislation this year. Citing widespread Republican distrust of the Obama administration, Boehner said passing any bills this year would be “difficult.”
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson spent more than four years toiling over the Farm Bill, but he won’t be at President Obama’s side when he signs the $1 trillion legislation into law.
Peterson declined an invitation from Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to attend the bill signing in her home state.
Among the top four negotiators on the farm bill, only Stabenow is expected to attend the event.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar flew to Michigan aboard Air Force One with President Obama. Klobuchar served on the Farm Bill conference committee that signed off on the bill after the key negotiators reached consensus.
Peterson, the lead Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, is back in his district today attending to prior commitments, his staff said.
Democrat U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, who also served on the Farm Bill conference committee, also declined to attend due to prior commitments, his staff said.
House Agriculture chair Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican, and Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, Stabenow’s ranking Republican in Senate, also opted not to attend.
Lawmakers passed the legislation this week after years of debate over farming subsidies and Republican efforts to reduce financing for food stamps.
The final bill replaces direct crop payments with an insurance program and trims $8 billion from food stamps over the next decade, much less than the $40 billion cut some conservative Republicans pushed for.
Stabenow said she invited all the leading negotiators, Democrat and Republican, to the bill signing at Michigan State University, a leading agricultural research school and Stabenow's alma mater.
During his appearance in East Lansing, the president plans to tout the benefits of farm bill for the nation's economy.
The event marks the third time Obama has held a bill signing ceremony outside of Washington, D.C.
Vice President Joe Biden will visit Minnesota later for this month for a high-dollar fundraiser.
According to an invitation obtained by the Star Tribune, the vice president will be in Minneapolis on Feb. 19 for a dinner at Minneapolis' Bachelor Farmer restaurant.
The dinner will raise funds for the Democratic National Committee with donations topping out for co-hosts at $32,000.
The Bachelor Farmer, which hosted a lunch for President Obama in 2012, is owned by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's sons.
Biden visited Minnesota to rally supporters in 2012, in 2011 he touched down for a fundraiser for the Obama campaign and in 2010 for a fundraiser for Dayton and a rally.
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