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, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

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Walz fails on VA leadership bid, remains on committee

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: November 19, 2014 - 8:55 PM
WASHINGTON -- Democratic Rep. Tim Walz didn't make highest ranking Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee Wednesday despite high-profile endorsements from the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans for America and other veterans.
 
He lost out to someone more senior than Walz, Florida Rep. Corinne Brown, who has served on the VA committee for 22 years and will be the first African-American to serve in the post. Walz has been on the committee since 2007.
 
In a statement, Walz called the results disappointing and wished Brown well. "This has always been about doing all I can to advocate for and serve veterans and their families. I will continue to that," he said.
 
Brown had the endorsement of Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Walz, a veteran himself with the Army National Guard, stressed service and experience in solving what he called a crisis within the Veterans Administration.
 
Walz will remain on the committee in the new Congress in January.

Minneapolis pastor launches her own anti-Keystone pipeline effort to Sen. Klobuchar's office

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: November 18, 2014 - 5:46 PM

WASHINGTON -- Senior pastor the Rev. Sarah Campbell was at home Monday on her day off in Minneapolis when she got a call from the American Petroleum Institute asking her to participate in a survey about whether she supported the Keystone pipeline.

The question struck Campbell as funny since, just the day before, she told her parishoners at the Mayflower Church to urge their federal elected representatives to vote against the pipeline, which will carry crude from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

On the phone, Campbell told the surveyor, "I'm absolutely against it. We need to keep it in the ground," she said, but then decided she was curious where the call would take her if she answered another way. "And then I said, 'just a minute, maybe I'm in favor of it'. And she said, 'Ok, let me put you through to Sen. Klobuchar's office.'"

Klobuchar's office received more than 600 calls in the last two days from people both supporting and asking her to vote against the pipeline. The measure was handily passed by the House last week, with three Minnesota Democrats supporting it.

Campbell, who is against the pipeline because of her concern of climate change,helped organize her own call-a-thon to Klobuchar's office. They had about 25 members of the 750-strong church call the office in Minnesota. Another faith-based organization called the Interfaith Power and Light sent an additional 75 faxes.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, the Keystone measure failed by one vote. Both Klobuchar and Franken voted against it.

Iraq and Afghanistan vets group backs Walz for VA leader

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: November 14, 2014 - 12:23 PM

WASHINGTON -- The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America on Friday backed Democratic Rep. Tim Walz to be the highest ranking Democrat on the House Veteran's Affairs Committee.

Walz sought the endorsement from the IAVA -- known to be the more brash, younger veterans service organization, outspoken on VA systemic failures and veterans suicide.

"Mr. Walz, having served for 24 years in the Army National Guard, is the highest ranking enlisted service member to ever serve in Congress, and his military experience has and will continue to significantly enhance the caucus’s contributions to this Committee," the organization said, in a statement. "He has been intimately involved in helping pass legislation to improve care to wounded veterans, to help veterans seeking employment after they leave service, and to eliminate the red tape."

Walz faces a tough battle in his bid to be ranking member of the VA committee primarily because seniority politics often rule in these situations. He is running against the committee's most senior Democrat, Florida Rep. Corinne Brown, who has been on the committee for 22 years and is supported by Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Walz, who served in the Army National Guard in active duty during the recent wars, is stressing service and experience in a legion of lobbying calls and meetings he's having with his colleagues this week on Capitol Hill.

He said in an interview Thursday that there is an opportunity to transform the VA from the top bottom strategically.

"I'm trying to make the case that the problem with the VA was that it was simply putting one foot in front of the other without a strategic plan," he said. "I'm making the case that the hard day-to-day issues ... including veterans suicide ... can be solved if we build coalitions with providers."

Walz, who has served on the committee since 2007, has been outspoken on veterans suicide and on behalf of those suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The committee vote will be held with secret ballots among the Democratic caucus should be held in the next week or two. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar to take role in Senate Democratic leadership

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: November 13, 2014 - 1:05 PM

WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's senior Sen. Amy Klobuchar will chair the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach committee -- a role that gives her additional power in dealmaking with Republicans and special interests on Capitol Hill next year.

The steering commitee's primary purpose is outreach to special interest and outside groups when hammering together compromises.

"This is something I've been doing for years and I think it's a very necessary role right now," she said to a group of reporters at the Capitol Thursday following the announcement. "I take the Republicans at their word. They say they want to move on things."

Though Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken will be in the minority party starting in January, Klobuchar's appointment Thursday by Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid means she will still be in the mix trying to strike bargains with Republicans, she said.

Among problems she hopes to tackle in the next year: tax reform, immigration reform and negotiating a federal standard minimum wage.

"I think there is some opportunity here," she said. "We will know within probably three months if it's real, but I think there is some opportunity now."

Klobuchar is serving her second term and isn't up for re-election until 2018.

Congressman-elect Tom Emmer arrives in Washington

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: November 12, 2014 - 10:29 AM

WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's newest GOP congressman-elect Tom Emmer spent Wednesday on Capitol Hill, participating in an orientation for freshmen members, which includes finding a place to crash here and making a bid on committees.

Emmer, who is replacing Rep. Michele Bachmann from the Sixth Congressional District, said Wednesday he was seeking a spot on the House Financial Services Committee, which regulates banking, commerce and securities and exchanges. Bachmann had a spot on the committee.

Emmer, who made a failed attempt to be Minnesota's governor four years ago, said he looked forward to listening and learning as a newbie on the Hill. He said the gubernatorial bid and this most recent campaign has taught him some lessons.

"Maybe it's focus, maybe it's discipline," he said, over a coffee on an unseasonably warm day in Washington. "I may have grown dramatically ... I'm really excited to get a chance to do some policy."

In addition to Financial Services, Emmer said he was interested in the agriculture and transportation committees. House members generally serve on three primary committees and some subcommittees.

He said among his top priorities is to bring some influence to the Sixth district.

"This office needs to have some influence," he said. "I don't know how long that takes, but I'm willing to learn."

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