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 -- Senior pastor the Rev. Sarah Campbell was at home Monday on her day off in Minneapolis when she got a call from the American Petroleum Institute asking her to participate in a survey about whether she supported the Keystone pipeline.
The question struck Campbell as funny since, just the day before, she told her parishoners at the Mayflower Church to urge their federal elected representatives to vote against the pipeline, which will carry crude from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
On the phone, Campbell told the surveyor, "I'm absolutely against it. We need to keep it in the ground," she said, but then decided she was curious where the call would take her if she answered another way. "And then I said, 'just a minute, maybe I'm in favor of it'. And she said, 'Ok, let me put you through to Sen. Klobuchar's office.'"
Klobuchar's office received more than 600 calls in the last two days from people both supporting and asking her to vote against the pipeline. The measure was handily passed by the House last week, with three Minnesota Democrats supporting it.
Campbell, who is against the pipeline because of her concern of climate change,helped organize her own call-a-thon to Klobuchar's office. They had about 25 members of the 750-strong church call the office in Minnesota. Another faith-based organization called the Interfaith Power and Light sent an additional 75 faxes.
On the Senate floor Tuesday, the Keystone measure failed by one vote. Both Klobuchar and Franken voted against it.
Candidates for governor, Senate and Congress have spent millions to get dozens of messages on television.
But, with Election Day nearly here, these are the words they really want you to remember.
Here are their final, closing argument television ads.
Republican Jeff Johnson
Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner raised in Detroit Lakes, tailored his final ads to three different parts of the state. In all three ads, Johnson is standing in a sun-dappled, tree stand.
"He's just not up to the job any more," Johnson says of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. "It's time for new leadership in Minnesota."
In two other ads, he claims that he, unlike Dayton, will focus on Greater Minnesota.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton
Dayton's final ad is called "Rising" and highlights the way his campaign believes the state is better since Dayton took office and will be even better if he wins again.
"Mark Dayton knows we have much more to do, to help struggling families, make college more affordable, and help small businesses grow," the narrator says. "Moving forward together."
Republican Mike McFadden
McFadden's final ad shows a contrast -- the country as it is, with the country as it could be.
"Everything is at stake," a narrator reads, as various scenes of Minnesota life flit by. "Our hopes, our dreams, our future....We can make America great again."
Democratic U.S. Al Franken
Franken's final ad, called "Delivered," uses quotations from newspaper editorial endorsements to promote the candidate.
"Newspapers across Minnesota back Al Franken," the ad's narrator says. Video of Franken meeting with various people shows as different voices read selections from the pro-Franken endorsements.
Eighth Congressional District
Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan
Nolan, fighting to keep his northern Minnesota district, closed his campaign with an ad that shows him speaking to a crowd and going hunting. Against that backdrop, Nolan gives his enthusiastic stump speech.
"It's time to do what's right for the middle class," Nolan says in the ad.
Republican Stewart Mills
In Mills final ad, he speaks directly to the camera and makes the ask for viewers' votes.
"Minnesota is my home," he says in the ad, which includes childhood photos of Mills. "I'm Stewart Mills. I approved this message and I'd appreciate your vote."
Both Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken are holding onto leads in a new KSTP-TV/SurveyUSA poll, but Dayton's race in particular has tightened.
The poll, taken Oct. 27-30, found Dayton leading Republican Jeff Johnson, 47 to 42 percent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Hannah Nicollet of the Independence Party had the support of 2 percent, as did Libertarian Party candidate Chris Holbrook. Six percent were undecided or supporting other minor candidates.
The poll found Dayton's support slipping among independents, with Johnson leading by 12 points. Dayton still holds a notable advantage with women voters, though that support has also slipped from previous polls.
Dayton has led Johnson in every independent poll of the race, though what was once a healthy lead has shrunk. A Star Tribune poll published a week ago found Dayton leading Johnson, 45 percent to 38 percent.
The KSTP poll found Franken with a larger lead over challenger Mike McFadden, 51 to 40 percent, though that lead too is smaller than Franken's lead in the last SurveyUSA poll. The IP's Steve Carlson is at 4 percent and Libertarian Heather Johnson is at 2 percent. Four percent are undecided or back other candidates.
Franken, too, has never trailed McFadden in any poll of their race. The recent Star Tribune poll found Franken up over McFadden, 48 to 39 percent, although past SurveyUSA polls showed Franken with a much wider lead than he holds in the new one.
All four of the statewide candidates planned full days of campaigning Monday, ahead of the start of voting on Tuesday morning. Dayton is joining the DFL's bus tour for several events throughout Minneapolis: at Urban League headquarters in the early afternoon, at the University of Minnesota in the evening and then later stops at organized labor offices in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Johnson is holding meet-and-greet stops with Twin Cities voters throughout the day: at a suburban park and ride, in grocery stores and other spots. He's also makinig get-out-the-vote calls and visiting Republican volunteers at several sites.
Franken is also participating in multiple stops on the DFL bus tour. McFadden is flying around the state with Sixth Congressional District GOP candidate Tom Emmer to campaign at greater Minnesota locations.
With days to go until the election, U.S. Sen. Al Franken on Wednesday said that a proposed travel ban to and from Ebola-stricken west African nations, should be extended to third-party countries for travelers not on direct flights, with special considerations for U.S. aid workers.
“I believe that we should have a travel ban on people who are coming from those third (party) countries who aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t medical personnel who are doing that work,” Franken told reporters after a Minnesota DFL Get Out the Vote event. “I think that makes sense but that’s insufficient because most of the people coming from those three countries are U.S. citizens and of course we want to incentivize people do to that work and we want them to be able to come back.”
Franken applauded Gov. Mark Dayton’s Ebola restrictions, which requires a 21-day home quarantine for health workers returning to Minnesota after treating afflicted patients.
Franken’s opponent, Republican businessman Mike McFadden, who supports a travel ban, has repeatedly hammered Franken over Ebola, alleging a lack of leadership, and barraging voters with mailers and phone calls regarding Franken’s early departure from a congressional Ebola hearing last month.
Yesterday the McFadden campaign launched a radio advertisement featuring audio from last Sunday’s debate on WCCO TV when Franken struggled to say whether he supported a travel ban, finally saying 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 directly to the United States.