WASHINGTON -- A measure to boost tourism to the United States -- via a tax international travelers pay when they visit -- has been included in the massive government spending bill expected to pass Congress this week.
The measure, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, funds Brand USA, a private-public hybrid organization that promotes the United States as a vacation destination abroad.
Half of Brand's budget comes from the private sector, the other half is funded by a fee assessed on the international visitors screened at ports of entry across the United States.
Klobuchar said in a statement Wednesday that tourism in the United States drove billions in U.S. sales every year and created jobs in Minnesota.
"Reauthorizing Brand USA will help us continue to attract more visitors to the United States," she said.
The measure, tucked in the appropriations bill to fund the federal government, reauthorizes the fee for another five years. Brand USA says due to their outreach abroad, an additional 1 million international tourists visited the U.S. in 2013.
Votes are expected by the end of the week.
WASHINGTON -- In her final floor speech, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann started talking about a statue on the top of the U.S. Capitol, moved onto Moses and the Ten Commandments, and then capped it with gratitude for her staff, her donors and the guy who literally drives the trains in the basement of the Capitol.
"It's an honor and it's the ride of a lifetime," she said. "I'm so filled with joy and so much happiness and understanding that the privilege that I have is one of being really a link on a chain. It's gone on for hundreds of years and I stand right here on the soil in the square feet that are the freest square feet in the world."
She said the reason why there is government is to secure for everyone "the rights God gave us." She talked about Moses, who the Bible says delivered the Ten Commandments.
"It's an honor. Where else could we find this level of freedom anywhere in the world?" she said, standing alone on the House floor. "This is the room where the laws of our nation's laws are formulated."
Bachmann thanked her donors. She thanked her "prayer warriors" -- people who prayed for her through her political ups and downs -- and she thanked her staff and some Capitol employees, including James, who drives the train between House Office Buildings and the Capitol. She thanked the constituents in Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District. And she thanked veterans
"It is our job not to think only of ourselves but to think of the generations that are yet to come," she said. "My favorite Americans are people who didn't know they were Americans. They were the Pilgrims."
The 113th Congress is finishing up its work this week. The new 114th Congress is sworn in early January. GOP Rep.-elect Tom Emmer will replace Bachmann, who hasn't said what she is going to do next.
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Collin Peterson was among only three Democrats Thursday who supported a symbolic vote banning the executive branch from deferring deportation of undocumented immigrants -- a direct aim at President Barack Obama's November executive order on immigration.
The vote was not attached to any measure to fund the federal government to the chagrin of some Republicans including Rep. Michele Bachmann. She skipped the vote Thursday. Republican Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen both supported the measure. The Dems all voted against it.
"I just disagreed with the way the president handled it," Peterson said, a couple hours after the vote. "I just think it's going to poison the well so we won't get anything else done."
He noted Thursday's measure was "imperfect" and "mostly symbolic."
Peterson, who was a Republican target last month in his Republican-leaning Seventh Congressional District, takes pride in brokering deals with the other side of the aisle to accomplish legislation.
He often notes the farm bill, which he nursed for years, picked up votes from both GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
"I don't think this (immigration) should be done with executive orders," he said. "Especially when it caused commotion on the other side. I think it's going to make it very difficult to get anything else done."
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Keith Ellison was the only Minnesota House member Wednesday to vote against extending for one year more than 50 expired tax credits for special interests, individuals and businesses.
The tax-extenders package, which gives breaks for 2014, costs $44 billion a year and isn't "paid for" which means it contributes to the national debt. It includes a range of boons for both liberals and conservatives including tax breaks for state and local sales taxes paid and breaks for renewable fuels, wind production and medical research. The measure overwhelmingly passed the House Wednesday and heads to the Senate for a vote next week.
Ellison, a Democrat from Minneapolis, said in a statement Wednesday night he voted against it because it helps corporate America more than working America.
"The bill passed today does little for working families, but lots for corporations already booking big profits," he said.
WASHINGTON -- Calling President Barack Obama "lawless," Rep. Michele Bachmann said Wednesday that he had forgotten the voters' mandate a month ago and urged her colleagues to support a spending bill that would defund the implementation of his executive action on immigration reform.
"I want to know, have members of this body in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate forgotten the message that the American people loud and clear and unmistakably on Nov. 4?" Bachmann said. "Secure our borders, keep our families safe, uphold the laws of the land ... We stand in solidarity with the American worker and the American people and we are going to uphold ... the laws of the land."
The retiring congresswoman from the Sixth Congressional District shared a microphone outside the Capitol Wednesday with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, among others. The gatherings had the trappings of a small Tea Party rally, with several people dressed in period clothing and carrying "Don't Tread on Me" flags.
Bachmann's message arrives at a time House and Senate leaders are trying to hammer out a plan to fund the federal government through next September. Senate Democrats are hoping for a "clean" spending bill that doesn't defund any aspect of the federal government, which technically runs out of money Dec. 11. GOP House Speaker John Boehner earlier this week indicated support for a clean bill, as well, but he vowed they would take a closer look at the president's executive action on immigration next year.
Cruz urged Congress to use its "power of the purse" to defund the president's plan. Several people stood by and yelled "monarchy!" in chorus and said they think Obama has overstepped his bounds.
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