The Republican-led House of Representatives voted Wednesday to delay the tax penalty Americans will pay under President Obama’s healthcare law if they decline to sign up for coverage this year.
The bill passed with support from 27 Democrats, including Minnesota congressmen Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson, backing the legislation.
The individual mandate requires most Americans to be enrolled in health coverage by March 31 or pay a tax penalty. The House legislation would delay the fine for one year.
The bill is expected to stall in the Democratic-controlled Senate and would face a White House veto even if it succeeded.
Peterson, a conservative Democrat, has voted for similar measures before.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a political action committee chaired by former Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, pounced on Nolan’s vote, calling it an “election year conversion.”
“He thinks he can pull a fast one on Minnesotans, right? With this vote, he’ll show them that he’s now protecting individuals from Obamacare, right?” an email from the political action committee read. “Except Minnesotans already know that Rick Nolan is an entrenched supporter of the health care law.”
Supporters of the GOP bill argue that individual consumers should be granted a delay because the Obama administration has postponed the implementation of several Affordable Care Act provisions that apply to businesses.
“No American should have to pay a penalty simply because the roll out of the Affordable Care Act has been so confusing. Moreover, if you’re going to give an exemption to businesses, you should also give an exemption to individuals. It’s only fair,” Nolan said in a statement. “We need to take the time to fix the enrollment glitches and get this right – and in the meantime allow the American people the common sense flexibility this one year delay provides.”
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.
A Republican campaign group that set up fake 2014 election websites for Democrats, including Minnesota’s Collin Peterson, has tweaked the sites to make clear that donations sent through them will benefit the GOP.
The National Republican Congressional Committee recently made the changes after Washington, D.C.-based watchdog groups raised concerns about the sites possibly violating Federal Election Commission rules.
The sites -- including http://www.collinpeterson2014.com – invite people to sign up and donate money. The donation button on the anti-Peterson site now re-directs to a page that identifies the NRCC as the recipient.
"We recently updated our contribution pages, as we frequently do, to highlight our efforts to defeat House Democrats in 2014 and prevent Nancy Pelosi from ever being Speaker of the House again,” NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said in a statement.
Peterson, who represents western Minnesota's Seventh District, dismissed the site targeting him as “silly.”
“I guess it’s just part of their harassment campaign,” he said.
Peterson has not yet announced if he will seek a 13th term in Congress. The NRCC is backing the candidacy of Republican state Sen. Torrey Westrom.
Newly available campaign finance reports highlight the fundraising disparity in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race.
According to documents on the Federal Election Commission's website on Monday, Republican candidate Julianne Ortman raised $234,000 so far for her bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Republican candidate Jim Abeler raised $87,000.
Franken has raised more than $12.4 million for his re-election campaign and had nearly $5 million cash on hand. Republican candidate Mike McFadden raised $2.2 million and had $1.7 million left in the bank at the start of the year. Republican candidate Chris Dahlberg raised far less.
Franken, McFadden and Dahlberg released the summary information from their reports by January 31, back when reports were due to be filed federally.
At that time, neither Ortman or Abeler released details of their fundraising reports. Because Senate candidates do not file their reports electronically, it takes a while for them to be uploaded to the FEC website. Ortman said last week that she had "nearly a quarter of a million dollars in 2013."
House candidates file their reports electronically so their fundraising information is available online when the reports are filed.
See all the fundraising information released by Minnesota's federal candidates for office below.
(scroll to see the numbers)
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.