WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's two Democratic senators mirrorred their Democratic House colleagues last week and voted against the massive government spending bill over the weekend.
The measure, which passed the Senate 56-40 late night Saturday, funds most of the federal government through next September. It passed the House last week. No Minnesota House Democrats supported it and neither did outgoing Rep. Michele Bachmann.
In statements Sunday, both Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken said they didn't support the spending bill because of a provision that gave wealthy people more influence over campaigns because it lifted some contribution limits to party committees.
"This spending bill included major provisions that were added with no public debate," Klobuchar said Sunday, in a statement, "including measures designed to chip away at campaign finance laws. We need to have these debates in the light of day through an open process and moving forward I will continue to fight to make sure we can find common ground."
Franken said, in a statement, he didn't favor the campaign finance measure either. He also disagreed with a provision in the big spending bill that rolls back some banking rules that were put in place by Congress after the 2008 financial crisis.
"I didn't support this spending bill because Minnesotans deserve a government that helps make the economy work for the middle class and those aspiring to be in the middle class," he said. "After closely studying this legislation, I could not in good conscience vote for it."
WASHINGTON -- Amid the big debates this week to keep the federal government running, three Minnesota Democrats were relishing smaller victories in the final hours of the 113th Congress.
Rep. Betty McCollum got her Global Food Security Act passed late Wednesday. Rep. Keith Ellison got the Federal Housing Finance Agency to agree to $700 million a year to create affordable rental housing units. And Rep. Tim Walz was hoping the Senate would pass his veterans suicide prevention bill and send it to the president's desk.
-McCollum's bipartisan Global Food Security Act, introduced by Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, directs the president to develop a strategy to improve nutrition and strengthen agricultural development with an eye on international aid. Minnesota's biggest food companies, including Cargill and General Mills, were supporters.
-The Federal Housing Finance Agency committed to more than $700 million more to construct affordable rental housing. Ellison's office had been pushing the federal agency to shift resources after learning there was at least an 8 million unit shortage across the country.
-Walz was working across the chamber Thursday to get the Senate to pass his Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, named after a Marine who committed suicide after being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. The House passed the measure earlier this week. The Senate moved to pass it through a manuever called unanimous consent. It was unclear whether that maneuver would work before Congress left town at the end of this week. White House officials said the president would sign the bill if it hit his desk.
WASHINGTON -- A measure to boost tourism to the United States -- via a tax international travelers pay when they visit -- has been included in the massive government spending bill expected to pass Congress this week.
The measure, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, funds Brand USA, a private-public hybrid organization that promotes the United States as a vacation destination abroad.
Half of Brand's budget comes from the private sector, the other half is funded by a fee assessed on the international visitors screened at ports of entry across the United States.
Klobuchar said in a statement Wednesday that tourism in the United States drove billions in U.S. sales every year and created jobs in Minnesota.
"Reauthorizing Brand USA will help us continue to attract more visitors to the United States," she said.
The measure, tucked in the appropriations bill to fund the federal government, reauthorizes the fee for another five years. Brand USA says due to their outreach abroad, an additional 1 million international tourists visited the U.S. in 2013.
Votes are expected by the end of the week.
WASHINGTON -- In her final floor speech, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann started talking about a statue on the top of the U.S. Capitol, moved onto Moses and the Ten Commandments, and then capped it with gratitude for her staff, her donors and the guy who literally drives the trains in the basement of the Capitol.
"It's an honor and it's the ride of a lifetime," she said. "I'm so filled with joy and so much happiness and understanding that the privilege that I have is one of being really a link on a chain. It's gone on for hundreds of years and I stand right here on the soil in the square feet that are the freest square feet in the world."
She said the reason why there is government is to secure for everyone "the rights God gave us." She talked about Moses, who the Bible says delivered the Ten Commandments.
"It's an honor. Where else could we find this level of freedom anywhere in the world?" she said, standing alone on the House floor. "This is the room where the laws of our nation's laws are formulated."
Bachmann thanked her donors. She thanked her "prayer warriors" -- people who prayed for her through her political ups and downs -- and she thanked her staff and some Capitol employees, including James, who drives the train between House Office Buildings and the Capitol. She thanked the constituents in Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District. And she thanked veterans
"It is our job not to think only of ourselves but to think of the generations that are yet to come," she said. "My favorite Americans are people who didn't know they were Americans. They were the Pilgrims."
The 113th Congress is finishing up its work this week. The new 114th Congress is sworn in early January. GOP Rep.-elect Tom Emmer will replace Bachmann, who hasn't said what she is going to do next.
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Collin Peterson was among only three Democrats Thursday who supported a symbolic vote banning the executive branch from deferring deportation of undocumented immigrants -- a direct aim at President Barack Obama's November executive order on immigration.
The vote was not attached to any measure to fund the federal government to the chagrin of some Republicans including Rep. Michele Bachmann. She skipped the vote Thursday. Republican Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen both supported the measure. The Dems all voted against it.
"I just disagreed with the way the president handled it," Peterson said, a couple hours after the vote. "I just think it's going to poison the well so we won't get anything else done."
He noted Thursday's measure was "imperfect" and "mostly symbolic."
Peterson, who was a Republican target last month in his Republican-leaning Seventh Congressional District, takes pride in brokering deals with the other side of the aisle to accomplish legislation.
He often notes the farm bill, which he nursed for years, picked up votes from both GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
"I don't think this (immigration) should be done with executive orders," he said. "Especially when it caused commotion on the other side. I think it's going to make it very difficult to get anything else done."