U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is taking his case against voter ID laws straight to the Constitution.
He and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, are trying to encourage support for their “right to vote” amendment that will guarantee a citizen voting rights “in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides,” according to the resolution’s text.
Ellison and Pocan are holding a voting rights forum in Minneapolis Thursday, which will feature leaders from Asian American and Somali groups. The members are two of the 32 House Democrats supporting this potential amendment.
The 15th amendment bans denying voting based on race or color; the 19th amendment prohibits restricting voting based on gender; the 26th amendment bars voting restrictions on age. But none of these amendments explicitly give a voting guarantee to all citizens that would nullify states’ voter ID laws.
“We have a crisis of civic participation in America and we need a renaissance of civic participation,” Ellison said.
There are only 27 amendments for good reason — amending the Constitution is arduous. Besides a small amendment on Congressional salaries ratified in 1992 (which was approved 202 years after its submission), a Constitutional amendment hasn’t been ratified in more than 40 years. If two-thirds of the House and Senate approve the right to vote amendment, it can’t be ratified until three-fourths of the states approve it.
Pocan introduced the legislation in the House with Ellison and 23 cosponsors on Jan. 21. It was referred to the Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice on Feb. 2.
Ellison has been passionate about voter ID laws for years; he introduced a bill in 2013 to stop officials from requiring photo identification to cast a ballot or making them use provisional ballots because of lack of photo ID, but no further action was taken on it.
Some type of voter ID law is in effect in 32 states. Eight states, including Wisconsin, require that photo ID is shown before casting a ballot. On March 23, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s voter ID law.
Minnesota isn’t one of these states — its proposed voter ID law failed in 2012 — but the issue is still important to Ellison.
He said that government should reflect the desires of the people, and in the midst of these voter ID laws, there’s a “tremendous opportunity we have to shape our government.”
Many Republicans, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, support voter ID laws to prevent voter fraud.
“This is great news for Wisconsin voters,” Walker said in a release following the Supreme Court’s decline to hear Wisconsin's voter ID challenge last month. “As we’ve said, this is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our voting process, making it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
WASHINGTON -- There has been so much drama with funding the Department of Homeland Security that the effort basically sucked all the energy out of the last two weeks of Congress.
Yet, today, the divided Minnesota House delegation all voted the same: To support a "clean" bill to fund the Department through this September.
The three Republican Reps. Tom Emmer, John Kline and Erik Paulsen joined Democratic Reps. Tim Walz, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson in a yes vote.
Some Republicans last week disagreed with fully funding the Department because they didn't support -- or want to give money to -- enforcing President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration. Obama's executive action prioritized deporting felons, not people working without papers and provided temporary stay in the U.S. for people who have been here more than five years and pass a background check.
Back and forth, the House and Senate squabbled about a so-called "clean" bill -- without restrictions to funds -- versus a bill that stripped money from immigration enforcement.
Emmer, who was elected to replace Rep. Michele Bachmann last November, notably criticized his Republican colleagues over the weekend after the Department came within about an hour of shutting down.
Rep. Nolan said after the vote: "I am pleased to see that one-third of the House Republicans supported this clean bill, and I hope that we can all continue to support full-long term funding measures in the future."
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken said Monday he will not sit in the chamber during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress Tuesday, while his Democratic colleague Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she will be there.
In an e-mail, Franken said the speech had "unfortunately become a partisan spectacle."
The Israeli prime minister, amid his own re-election campaign,accepted an invitation by GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to address a joint session of the Republican-led Congress. The two Republican leaders did not check with the White House or the State Department -- considered a breach of protocol.
Netanyahu is expected to talk about his opposition to talks the United States is having with Iran about its nuclear program. Obama is not expected to meet with Netanyahu when he is in town.
"I'd be uncomfortable being part of an event that I don't believe should be happening," said Franken. "I'm confident that, once this episode is over, we can reaffirm our strong tradition of bipartisan support for Israel."
Franken joins Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, who said earlier this month they would boycott the speech.
Republican Reps. Tom Emmer, John Kline and Erik Paulsen said they will be there, as will Democrat Reps. Rick Nolan, Tim Walz and Collin Peterson.
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.
WASHINGTON -- Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison will skip a planned address by Israeli Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress next month.
Netanyahu accepted an invitation to address Congress by GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader MItch McConnell. Netanyahu has said, among other issues, he will talk about his concerns with President Barack Obama's current talks with Iran over its nuclear programs.
"I find it very disturbing when a foreign leader in the midst of a campaign for re-election is allowed to address Congress for the sole purpose of undermining a foreign policy priority shared by the Obama administration and our European allies to score political points at home," said McCollum, who represents St. Paul, in a statement last night.
Netanyahu's planned speech to Congress is March 3. Election day in Israel is March 17.
In an interview Tuesday, Ellison said he was planning on skipping the speech as well. He was circulating a letter "signed by 20 or so" to urge Speaker Boehner to postpone the speech, he said.
"At the end of the day, the timing is all wrong. There are two problems, the US congress is being inserted in an Israeli election and that he is speaking when we're having a domestic policy debate regarding Iranian sanctions," he said. "I've criticized President Bush as much as anyone, but I always understood he was the president of the United States ... This is a very disrespectful thing to do to the office of the presidency."
Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan's office said he planned to attend the speech. Democratic Rep. Tim Walz's office didn't respond for a comment. Both offices of Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar said the leaders had not made any decisions yet.