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.”
Democratic U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and Rick Nolan, Minnesota’s members of Congress on the House Transportation Committee, back President Obama’s proposal to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems.
Obama released his plan this week at St. Paul’s refurbished Union Depot, saying that boosting infrastructure spending was one of the best ways to put people to work.
“I’m certainly on board with the president and his goals here,” said Nolan, a member of the panel’s subcommittee on highways and transit. “It’s essential for jobs, business and our future prosperity and safety.”
In a largely gridlocked Washington, both parties agree that spending on highways and other transportation infrastructure is necessary.
Obama and U.S. Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the chairman of the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee, want tax code revisions to fund the infrastructure improvements.
But how to pay for the upgrades is where they diverge.
The president's plan calls for spending $302 billion over four years. Camp’s plan would raise less than half that total through a one-time tax on corporate overseas profits.
“We’re certainly not going to agree on everything, but let’s make progress where we can, like on a bipartisan, robust transportation bill that creates jobs and makes our communities safer,” Walz said.
Both parties are looking for new funding because current financing for highways is falling short. The 18.4-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax and 24.4-cent-a-gallon tax on diesel fuel haven't been raised in 20 years.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said while traveling with the president that the Highway Trust Fund, which finances the federal highway system, could run dry by August.
With the current transportation bill expiring at the end of September, Obama urged Congress to pass new legislation this summer.
Democratic U.S. Reps. Rick Nolan and Tim Walz are backing a bill that would ban cell phone calls during flights.
Nolan and Walz were among members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who voted to send the bill to the full House today. It was unclear when it would be considered there.
The House bill would prohibit passengers from making calls while airplanes are in the air, despite a recent ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that such calls would not interfere with telephone systems that are on the ground.
Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, introduced the House bill in December. Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison signed on as a co-sponsor soon after.
Walz’s staff said he backs Shuster’s “tap, don’t talk” approach: prohibit phone in-flight cell phone calls, but allow passenger to use their mobile devices to surf the Internet, e-mail and text.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate.
The FCC's proposal would allow airlines to decide whether to permit the calls, but the bills in Congress would mandate an industry-wide ban. The bills include exceptions for flight crews and federal air marshals.
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)
A bipartisan coalition in Congress – including four Minnesota Democrats – is pressing leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to explore potential solutions to the propane shortage in the Upper Midwest.
“As members representing the Midwest, we respectfully write today to request a hearing into the current propane shortage, the long term outlook of Midwestern supply and potential solutions to the problems,” the members wrote.
“As you may know, households and businesses across the Midwest have seen significant spikes in the price of propane fuels during the severe winter cold. Any further reduction in supply threatens to leave our constituents without the fuel necessary to heat their homes and keep livestock and poultry barns warm.”
U.S. Reps. Tim Walz, Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson signed the letter along with lawmakers from Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin also signed the letter.
Last week, Gov. Mark Dayton’s executive council extended an emergency order to alleviate Minnesota’s propane shortage. Suppliers have been unable keep up with demand during the brutal cold that has battered businesses and homeowners.