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 Minnesota U.S. senators

Sen. Franken wins his (complicated) cause celebre: Net neutrality

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: February 26, 2015 - 9:34 PM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken was elated Thursday when the Federal Communications Commission approved rules that ensure Internet providers treat all legal content equally.

"Last spring, I could not have predicted that we would be celebrating this victory today," Franken said, on the Senate floor. "The best principles of our democracy have won out. It's clear that the voices of the American people have been heard. I've often called net neutrality the free speech issue of our time."

Franken has long fought in the weeds on net neutrality. At a Judiciary Committee hearing last year on the issue, there was standing room only because so many "free Internet" activists filled the room to hear Franken speak. Franken often talked about Comcast's "100 lobbyists" on Capitol Hill fighting for the Time Warner merger and challenged fellow Judiciary Committee Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to explain his opposition to net neutrality. Cruz called the issue "the Obamacare for the Internet."

"It was a statement that seemed to demonstrate a basic misunderstanding of what net neutrality is and how the Internet works," Franken said Thursday."Some folks really don't get it."

Franken said thanks to the FCC's ruling -- commissioners split on a party line vote -- he can "stream videos of my amazingly cute grandson just as easily as I can stream a hit TV show."

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. 

Sen. Klobuchar spends weekend in Cuba hearing out locals

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: February 17, 2015 - 3:01 PM

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar spent the long weekend with a couple of other senators in Cuba meeting with government and religious leaders and feeling out business opportunities for Minnesota, she said in an interview Tuesday.

Klobuchar said locals often repeat the date Dec. 17 in conversations -- the day President Barack Obama took significant steps to normalize relations with the country of 11 million, including suspending some rules around banking, credit and travel restrictions.

Congress has to authorize lifting the official trade embargo, though, and travel ban. Klobuchar was the chief author of legislation in the U.S. Senate to lift the embargo introduced last week and she supports another proposal to kill the travel ban. Both measures face some opposition among Republicans and a couple of Democrats, including New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, who is the highest ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee. 

"We met with every day people who had started businesses who are excited," she said. "There is a real interest in buying American products."

Minnesota already exports about $20 million in food to Cuba each year because of a waiver to export food for humanitarian purposes, but Klobuchar and others in the Minnesota delegation think the demand could skyrocket with free trade.

She said Cubans have a couple of top priorities: normalizing currency and getting better access to high-speed Internet and cell phones. She said the technological revolution to come there will open up society.

"Once they get Internet and once they get communications, that's the whole idea, I believe there will be improvements to everything else," she said. 

Klobuchar traveled to the island with Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, both Democrats.

Sen. Al Franken pushes television manufacturers to explain "smart TV" privacy policies

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: February 11, 2015 - 6:15 PM

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Al Franken on Wednesday pressed Samsung and LG to explain how the companies' "smart televisions" voice recognition technology works in light of media reports that the television has the capacity to capture personal conversations.

The Daily Beast reported earlier this week that Samsung smart televisions have a "listening mode" and can record personal conversations. Most worrisome to Franken is the company's privacy policy allows the company to share those conversations with third parties. 

"I'm concerned that Samsung currently does not provide consumers with the information needed to understand how their voice data may be used by third parties," he said, in a statement. "Consumers must be able to make informed decisions about whether and with whom they share that information."

Franken is the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and Law. He is amid a similar battle with Uber, the popular ride-sharing company, regarding how the company may share private rider information with third parties. 

FCC may set open Internet regulations to rein in big providers

Posted by: Beena Raghavendran Updated: February 4, 2015 - 5:24 PM

Big Internet providers may have lost the fight to control the speed and content of what moves on the Internet. Federal Communications Commissioner Tom Wheeler on Wednesday called for regulating the Internet as a utility, which will prevent giant providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from dictating the terms of the marketplace.

In an op-ed for Wired magazine that appeared Wednesday, Wheeler said, "I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone's permission."

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has been one of the Senate’s most ardent backers of what commonly is called “net neutrality.” In a statement Wednesday, Franken called Wheeler’s proposal “a win for consumers, for small businesses trying to compete with big guys, and for innovation... I’m so glad that the millions of Americans who spoke out in support of strong net neutrality rules have been heard."

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn, expressed support for the plan on Twitter, calling it “a huge victory for hundreds of thousands who called, wrote, tweeted for #NetNeutrality.”

The FCC is scheduled to vote on the net neutrality regulations Feb. 26.