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.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Jim Spencer and intern Beena Raghavendran.

Posts about 1st District

As promised, Obama vetoes Keystone pipeline bill

Posted by: Jim Spencer Updated: February 24, 2015 - 3:04 PM

President Obama made good Tuesday on a promise to veto a bill approving construction of the Keystone pipeline. In his veto message, the president called the bill an effort to "circumvent" an established review process that needed more time to consider "security, safety and environmental" issues. Republican leaders in the U.S.. House and Senate must now decide if they will try to override the veto. Without a wildly unlikely change in Democratic votes, it will be impossible to override the president's veto and make the pipeline approval law. An override effort move would begin in the Senate and require a two-thirds majority vote, before moving to the House, where another two-thirds majority would be required to make the bill law. The Keystone bill passed the House with Minnesota's three rural Democrats - Collin Peterson, Rick Nolan and Tim Walz - voting for it with Republicans John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer. Democrats Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum voting against it. In the Senate, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both Democrats, voted against Keystone. Both have said they will not vote to override a Keystone veto. Neither will Minnesota House members Ellison or  McCollum. 

Rep. Tim Walz measure requiring VA to build up suicide prevention programs heads to Obama's desk

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: February 3, 2015 - 3:20 PM

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Rep. Tim Walz's measure requiring the Veteran's Administration to evaluate its suicide prevention program and more adequately build up psychiatry services passed the Senate Tuesday 99-0 and now heads to President Barack Obama's desk.

No member of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate voted against the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.

Walz, a 24-year veteran of the Army National Guard, met Clay Hunt when he came to "storm the hill" during a lobbying effort a few years ago. Hunt earned a Purple Heart after being shot in the wrist by a sniper bullet near Fallujah, Iraq in 2007. Despite his injury, he graduated from Marine Corps Scout Sniper School in 2008 and deployed again, this time to Afghanistan

When he returned home to Houston after his tour, he suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was repeatedly put on wait lists by the VA for medical care. He was prescribed more medication than mental health treatment and told his family he felt like a "guinea pig for drugs."

Hunt committed suicide in March 2011 at the age of 28. The 2012 VA suicide data report found 22 veterans die each day by suicide.

A similar measure passed the House last Congress but wasn't taken up by the then Democratic-controlled Senate. Obama is expected to sign the legislation.

"We may never completely end this terrible epidemic ... but if we can save one parent from having to bury their child, one son from losing this mother, or one sister from losing her brother, it's worth trying with all our might," Walz said, in a statement Tuesday. 

Minnesota delegation dates to the SOTU

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 19, 2015 - 3:28 PM

WASHINGTON -- From students to college presidents to business leaders, Minnesota members are bringing a diverse set of guests to tomorrow night's State of the Union address.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar will bring Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) President Peggy Kennedy.

Sen. Al Franken will bring University of Minnesota Student Body President Joelle Stangler

Rep. Tim Walz, D, First Congressional District will bring Army  Ranger Sgt. Thomas Block. He is a Minnesota native and was named Army Times Soldier of the Year for 2014.

Rep. John Kline, R, Second Congressional District -- Staffers did not respond to requests for comment on his guest.

Rep. Erik Paulsen, R, Third Congressional District will bring Minneapolis Police Sergeant Grant Snyder. He is a leader in the Minnesota law enforcement community in combating sex trafficking.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D, Fourth Congressional District will bring Matt Kramer, the president and CEO of the St Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D, Fifth Congressional District will bring Veronica Mendez, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha’s (CTUL) Co-Director.

Rep. Tom Emmer, R, Sixth Congressional District will bring Brenton Hayden, who was named "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" and started his own business at 20 years-old. He is from central Minnesota.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D, Seventh Congressional District gave his extra ticket to North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp so she could bring a couple from her state. The two were among the first responders to a school bus-train crash site last year and helped rescue kids.

Rep. Rick Nolan, D, Eighth Congressional District will bring Sophie Cerkvenik of Britt, Minnesota. Sophie is the daughter of a lobbyist and a senior at Virginia High School. 

Rep. Tim Walz trades Transpo Committee for House Armed Services

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 9, 2015 - 3:23 PM

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tim Walz took on a new committee this week, swapping Transportation and Infrastructure for House Armed Services, which places the 5th-term Democrat on two of the more powerful committees dealing with military and veterans issues.

In a statement, Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to serve in Congress, said he was looking forward to the new challenge.

Only one Minnesotan, Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan, now serves on Transportation and Infrastructure -- a committee historically important to the state, which has a long list of infrastructure needs. The late Rep. Jim Oberstar, who served 36 years in the House, chaired the committee back in the 2000s.

Transpo/Infrastructure was among newly elected GOP Rep. Tom Emmer's top committee choices, but the freshman was placed on Agriculture and Foreign Affairs instead.

Walz's spokesman Tony Ufkin said Friday the committee "isn't what it used to be" with the elimination of earmarks and that Congressman Walz still plans on working on infrastructure needs in his district.

"We kind of feel like you can be a strong transportation advocate, while not being on the committee so I don't think a whole lot has changed here," he said.

Ufkin said his boss getting a slot on Armed Services means he has more venues to push veterans and military reform legislation -- like a personality disorder bill, which looks at veterans who may have been discharged unfairly.

House approves Keystone XL with support of most Minnesota representatives

Posted by: Jim Spencer Updated: January 9, 2015 - 12:25 PM

WASHINGTON - Some of Minnesota's U.S.. House delegation crossed party lines to support a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline Friday.

The Republican-sponsored legislation drew yes votes as expected from Minnesota's GOP representatives John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer. But a majority of the state's five Democratic representatives - Tim Walz, Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson - also vote yes. They were among 28 House Democrats who supported the bill, which passed 266-153.

In interviews with the Star Tribune, all three said they preferred to ship heavy crude oil squeezed from the tar sands of Canada by pipeline rather than by rail.

But Walz said the pipeline issue should not foreclose a push for more renewable energy sources. 

"When you get mired in these issues that become political litmus tests instead of broader-based solutions, it causes you problems," he said. "What I've always said about Keystone is that the people selling it as pushing your gas prices going down are selling you a bill of goods. But those who say if we don't build Keystone, we will not get tar sands crude - that's not going to happen."

With some tar sands oil already being extracted and much more to come, "the question now is what is the safest way to move it," Nolan said. 

Peterson had earlier predicted that President Obama would veto the Keystone bill if it passed the House and Senate. The president renewed that veto threat this week.  

"I don't know if there will be enough votes to override a veto," Peterson said.

Democrats Betty McCollum of St. Paul and Keith Ellison of Minneapolis opposed the Keystone XL.