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."
WASHINGTON -- Fresh off a re-election win, Democratic Rep. Tim Walz is taking on the party establishment in asking for support to be the top Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Seniority is a big factor in leading committees in Congress, which means Walz's quest will be an uphill battle. Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi is backing the most senior Democrat on the committee, Florida Rep. Corinne Brown.
Walz, a 50-year-old retired command sergeant major in the Army National Guard who just won his fifth term, says he has a keen idea and track record of understanding what veterans need. He has served on the VA committee since 2007 and said the current system was "in crisis."
In a letter Walz sent to fellow House Dems late last week, he said caring for men and women in uniform and their families "has been my number one priority since being elected to the House of Representatives."
Walz cited fighting the scourge of veteran suicide, ensuring veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other toxins receive appropriate care and benefits, and enhancing mental health services to veterans suffering from PTSD as accomplishments.
"Our VA system is in crisis and now, more than ever, Democrats need a strong, respected voice to address these problems head on," he wrote.
Walz's office said Monday the congressman was unavailable for an interview on this topic. Members of Congress return Wednesday to finish work through December before the new Congress starts January.
Walz's primary opponent, Rep. Brown, has served on the VA committee for 22 years.
In a competing letter she also wrote to fellow Dems last week, Brown cited bringing a new VA outpatient clinic to her district and bringing "tens of millions of dollars in funding for the Gainesville VA Medical Center" as reason she should be chosen over Walz.
If selected, Brown would be the first African-American to serve as ranking member of the committee, she said in the letter.
Members vote on committee leadership posts in the next couple weeks.
In a letter sent to Democrats on Monday, Pelosi said seniority should not be the only factor in choosing leaders.
"There was enormous respect for the senior Member, but our colleagues viewed seniority as a consideration not a determination," she wrote.
GOP Senate challenger Mike McFadden's campaign said Sunday they were planning to file a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission Monday alleging Democratic Sen. Al Franken's campaign is illegally coordinating with a Super PAC.
At issue are two ads released roughly the same time that are similar in composition and message. One was launched and paid for by Franken's campaign, the other launched and paid for by Independence USA PAC, an outside group bankrolled by former New York City Mayor and billlionaire Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg, according to FEC reports, has invested $500,000 in television ads to support Franken.
It is against federal law for campaigns to coordinate with outside political groups.
"The similarities in these two ads go beyond coincidence," said McFadden's spokesman Tom Erickson. "On Monday we’ll be filing a complaint with FEC alleging coordination between the Franken campaign and this super PAC."
Franken's campaign called the alleged complaint "desperate."
"This is a silly complaint by a desperate campaign trying to change the dynamic of a race," said Marc Elias, the campaign's lawyer.
McFadden's campaign is among two dozen campaigns already being investigated for illegal coordination after a complaint was filed in October by the American Democracy Legal Fund. The complaint alleges McFadden's camp, along with dozens of others, were illegally working with Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, Crossroads GPS and a number of other Republican outside groups.
LAKEVILLE -- Despite Bill Maher, GOP Rep. John Kline feels good.
Kline canvassed neighborhoods here Saturday with state Senate candidate Jon Koznick saying he felt good about his odds of beating Democrat Mike Obermueller.
Kline's 2nd Congressional District was targeted by HBO liberal television host Bill Maher in his "flip a district" contest. Maher targeted Kline's conservative votes and that the bulk of his campaign contributions come from for-profit colleges. Kline is chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee.
"At a time of frustration and gridlock, I've been able to deliver and get legislation passed. People really like that message because they are frustrated with what they think is gridlock. People have more mistrust in their government than maybe any other time in my lifetime," Kline said, over burgers after canvassing. "I feel like I've been able to convey to them that they can trust me."
Maher visited Northfield in October to tout his "flip a district" contest and why he wanted Kline out. He hasn't been back to Minnesota for any public appearances.
Kline said over the weekend Maher's effort "seems to have fizzled."
"It may have worked in reverse because it turns out I've run into a lot of people who do not like Bill Maher," he said.
Obermueller's message is that Kline is too conservative for the district, which narrowly supported President Barack Obama in 2012. He says Kline's partisanship is to blame for the gridlock in Congress.
"You can't give Congressman Kline a pass on the problems he and his Republican colleagues have caused in Washington DC. Voters have 100% control over their own representation, and they can choose a better representative in November," an Obermueller spokesman said, in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Al Franken and his GOP challenger faced off on Ebola, siding with President Barack Obama, health care and McFadden’s business background in a spirited debate on CBS News Sunday that, at times, had the two candidates yelling at each other.
Much of the debate — both candidates sat at a desk facing WCCO moderators — was punctuated by the candidates interrupting each other as they wrestled to answer questions on some of the most complex issues of the day: how to handle Islamic extremists, how to fix the Affordable Care Act and whether the United States should enact a travel ban from west Africa because of the Ebola virus.
Franken attempted to paint McFadden, a Sunfish Lake businessman, as inexperienced and unprepared to handle the rigors and quick decisiveness required to be a U.S. Senator. McFadden tarred Franken with his 97 percent voting record with President Barack Obama, saying he is part of the partisan problem in Washington.
“I won’t be a rubber stamp for any president,” McFadden said. “It’s an issue because I think this president is leading in the wrong direction … I haven’t met anyone who agrees with another person 97 percent of the time.”
Franken said the bulk of the votes counted are nominations and other smaller matters and that he votes “for Minnesota.”
The two had several volleys before Franken warmed up to full-throated attacks on McFadden’s campaign to unseat him. Franken called him out for not having adequate answers to foreign policy questions and slammed McFadden’s business background, calling him responsible for layoffs and so-called inversions, which allow companies to move operations overseas.
“This is a job where you have to answer questions in real time,” Franken said. “You can’t take cheap shots from the bleachers.”
On fighting Islamic extremists, McFadden said he was disappointed in Obama’s “leading from behind” on the issue. He called Franken’s letter sent earlier this year to the U.S. Department of Justice asking for additional support in Minnesota a “meager, meager effort.”
Franken called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “barbaric” and said he supported a limited bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq to fight ISIS. He said he has been in touch by the Federal Bureau of Investigation since 2009 on Islamic recruitment of young people from Minnesota.
He said McFadden didn’t talk about foreign policy for the first 10 months of his campaign to unseat him.
“There wasn’t anything from you,” Franken said, looking McFadden in the eye. “In the first 10 months of his campaign there was not a word about foreign policy, about terrorism, about public health ... He ducked. And the reason why he ducked was because it is a difficult political decision.”
On Ebola, Franken struggled with answering whether he supported a travel ban, finally saying after being pressed three times that he had “nothing against it” but that he believed it would be insufficient because the majority of travelers from west Africa don’t fly to the United States directly. McFadden said he supports a temporary travel ban, which many international experts call ineffective.
When asked whether he was satisfied with Obama’s handling of Ebola, Franken said, “No, and I don’t think he is either.”
On Obamacare, Franken acknowledged problems with the implementation but said 95 percent of Minnesotans now have health insurance, thanks to the law. He called McFadden’s idea to scrap the plan and put states in charge impractical.
McFadden said states are “laboratories for experiments” and that they — not the federal government — should decide whether to implement an individual mandate.
The GOP candidate said Franken was lying about his company’s involvement with the restructuring of Smurfit Stone, a Montana mill, which closed and laid off 417 workers in 2009.
Once Franken’s campaign began running ads last week on Smurfit, McFadden’s company, Lazard Middle Market, took the deal off its website.
“If you’re a CEO and you don’t take responsiblity for what your company does, what are you going to do as a senator?” Franken said. “Aren’t you embarrassed?”
McFadden said his company didn’t have anything to do with the Smurfit deal. A campaign spokesman said McFadden ran Lazard Middle Market, while the company responsible for the Smurfit layoffs was called Lazard Frères.
In remarks after the debate, McFadden said he didn’t know why details of the Smurfit deal were scrubbed from Lazard’s website this week, right after Franken began running negative ads about it, saying he is on a leave from the company.
“I would encourage you to call Lazard tomorrow and ask them,” he told reporters.
McFadden said he has tried to keep the tone positive during the campaign and was “disappointed” Franken had spent millions damaging his reputation.
“Minnesotans are so sick of these attacks,” McFadden said.