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.
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.
With fundraising numbers in for U.S. House candidates, the disparities in fundraising are clear.
Incumbents, in both contested and safer seats, have far more cash at the ready for the final stretch before the election.
Explore the congressional map below to view the candidates' campaign cash.
Hover over the chart below to see the candidates' hauls arranged, by district.
Alejandra Matos contributed to this report.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt
Absentee ballots are streaming to election offices across the state but very few of those early voters are new voters, according to a Star Tribune analysis.
Only 5.6 percent of the nearly 34,000 voters who have already had ballots accepted did not vote in the last midterm election year, 2010. Another five percent did not vote in 2010 or 2012, the last presidential election year.
The analysis indicates that despite pushes from both Democrats and Republicans, new voters are not yet availing themselves of the law that allows anyone to vote by absentee.
About 34,000 people voted by absentee ballot as of Oct. 14. Another 6,000, in small, rural precincts, voted by mail.
Of the people who cast absentee ballots, 29 percent also voted absentee in both the 2010 and 2012 elections. Another 31 percent went to the polls in both of those election years.
The analysis also shows that more voters who have already had ballots counted come from Democratic areas than from Republican areas. By county, by Minnesota House district and even by precinct, more ballots are flowing in from areas that lean toward Democrats than lean toward Republicans.
Nearly half of absentee ballots have been cast by voters who live in Democratic House districts, 32 percent came from those in Republican House districts and about 19 percent came from swing districts.
Minnesota voters do not register by party so the Star Tribune does not have access to the personal politics of voters.
Keith Downey, chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, and Ken Martin, chairman of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, have both been pouring over absentee voter list. Both parties have invested in identifying voters by party.
With that data, the DFL and the Republican Party have come up with different results.
Martin, the DFL chairman, said their numbers show that 59 percent of absentee ballots have been cast by voters they have identified as Democrats. Martin said many of those Democrats are infrequent voters -- exactly the demographic they have need to turnout if the DFL is to do well this year.
The Republican Party shows statewide 39 percent of absentee votes so far have come from Republicans, 36 percent came from Democrats and 25 percent came from independent or unidentified voters, Republican chair Downey said.
Across the state, significantly more voters are opting to vote absentee than had in the 2010 election, according to the secretary of state.
Compared to nearly 40,000 accepted ballots as of Wednesday, election officials had only accepted 23,000 absentee ballots by this point in the 2010 election.
This year for the first time, anyone who wants to vote absentee can do so regardless of whether they can show up at the polls on Election Day. Previously, voters would have to offer an excuse for why they needed to vote absentee.
Below, see the number of ballots already cast and accepted, by county.
Updated to reflect more specific numbers.
Wednesday was the latest filing day for U.S. House candidates and the cash is rolling in.
According to Federal Election Commission filings and information from campaigns, Republican Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen lead all candidates in how much cash they have left in the bank. Although neither of their suburban districts are targeted by national outside spending, both have more than $1.5 million in their war chests.
In the targeted western Seventh Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson has raised and spent more than his Republican challenger Torrey Westrom and has nearly twice as much left in the bank.
According to FEC files, independent groups have pumped more than $4.8 million into that district, a thousand-fold more than outside groups spent in 2012. The district which has a Republican tilt but has long sent Peterson to Washington by overwhelming margins.
Outside groups have already spent $6.6 million in the highly northern Eighth District, which has swung between Democratic and Republican representation in recent years.
In that race, the candidates -- Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and Republican challenger Stewart Mills -- have kept competitive in fundraising but Nolan has more cash on hand going into the final stretch. Mills has added to his cash haul by lending his campaign $250,000 so far.
See the other numbers available below. The chart will be updated as more numbers become available.