WASHINGTON -- White House officials confirmed Friday that one of the reasons President Obama decided to visit Minnesota next week was because of the state's recent minimum wage boost.
"We shouldn't have Americans raising their children in poverty," said White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, speaking to reporters at a roundtable. "A very important pillar of the foundation for a viable sustainable economy is having a living wage. We are extraordinarily supportive (of Minnesota) which is part of the reason why we're going there next week."
President Obama will also attend a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser at a private home with Minnesota's Congressional Democrats on Thursday.
White House officials have been mum about Obama's schedule beyond the fundraiser while he's in the Twin Cities. Local DFL officials say they expect the president to do at least one public event, as well.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in April signed into the law the largest minimum wage increase in the state's history, giving raises to more than 325,000 Minnesotans. The move to a $9.50 base hourly wage catapults the state from one of the lowest minimum wages to one of the highest once it is fully phased in by 2016.
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tim Walz was among six Democrats and eight Republicans tapped Wednesday on the House side to work out differences between passed House and Senate legislation to reform the Veterans Administration.
Walz, who served 24 years in the Army National Guard, is a member of the House Veterans Committee.
In a statement, Walz said, "My number one goal as a veteran myself and a member of this conference committee is to ensure our veterans and their families are able to get the care they need, and in a timely manner."
The differences between the House and Senate versions of the reform legislation are not great, staffers say, but both chambers are eager to get VA reform passed and sent to the president promptly.
WASHINGTON -- In promoting legislation that would ban convicted stalkers from purchasing firearms, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Wednesday Congress needs to be "honest and pragmatic" about tighter gun laws and she still has hope for national reform.
At an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress, Klobuchar, along with other advocates for tighter gun control, was introduced by Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly. Giffords, a former member of Congress, was shot in the head during a constituent meet and greet in her Arizona district in January 2011.
She and Kelly are now running Americans for Responsible Solutions, which advocates for tighter gun laws in states and at the federal level.
Klobuchar said she respected America's tradition of gun ownership and that she approaches stricter gun proposals with her Uncle Dick, who loves to hunt, in mind.
"I look at every bill here and say does this hurt my Uncle Dick?" she said.
She called the April 2013 failed Senate vote on expanded background checks one of the saddest days she's had in the U.S. Senate. She said she feels strongly about strengthening gun legislation for stalkers because of her days as a prosecutor, where a lot of heart-wrenching stories of abuse went untold.
"Every single day we have victims of domestic violence and stalking who then become victims of shootings," she said. "I've gotta continue my work in building Republican support on this bill."
Incumbent Democrats Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken both lead all their potential Republican opponents in a new poll.
Public Policy Polling released the poll Tuesday. It showed Dayton and Franken with leads of 10 points or more above the respective fields of GOP candidates vying to challenge them in November. In both races, the Republican challenger won't be set until an August 12 primary election.
In the U.S. Senate race, Franken leads Republican businessman Mike McFadden, 49 percent to 38 percent. McFadden is the GOP's endorsed candidate in the race and seen as heavy favorite in the August primary.
Franken, running for his second term, holds similar leads over the other Republicans on the primary ballot: Jim Abeler (50 to 39), David Carlson (49 to 38), Patrick Munro (50 to 35) and Ole Savior (50 to 33).
Dayton holds similar leads over his possible GOP rivals, though his support tops out slightly lower than that of Franken. In five possible matchups, Dayton is at 47 percent in all of them. Of the Republican candidates, Scott Honour is at 35 percent, Jeff Johnson at 36 percent, Marty Seifert at 36 percent, Kurt Zellers at 37 percent and Merrill Anderson at 35 percent.
Johnson is the endorsed GOP candidate, but none of the candidates has emerged as a clear frontrunner in the Republican primary.
The poll found most voters still know little about the Republican candidates in either race. In the Senate race, 71 percent of respondents said they were "not sure" when asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of McFadden. That margin was even higher for the other GOP Senate candidates.
The poll showed the party's candidates for governor are similarly not well known, with between 61 percent and 80 percent of respondents holding no opinion of them.
There's much less gray area in voters' opinions of Franken and Dayton. Franken, elected by a razor-thin margin in 2008, has a 50 percent approval rating and a 40 percent disapproval rating. Dayton, who also won a close race in 2010, gets a 48 percent approval rating and a 41 percent disapproval.
President Barack Obama got a 44 percent approval rating in the poll, with 50 percent disapproving. The state's other DFL senator, Amy Klobuchar, got a 56 percent approval rating with 32 percent disapproving.
Public Policy Polling surveyed 633 registered voters in Minnesota from June 12-15. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.9 percent.
With Allison Sherry
As President Obama reviews options on ways the United States might help the deteriorating situation in Iraq, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan said today that any American military re-intervention would be a “terrible mistake.”
Less than three years after pulling American forces out of Iraq, Obama is weighing a range of military options, including airstrikes, to quell an al-Qaida inspired insurgency that has seized control of two Iraqi cities.
With Obama and his closest advisors mulling their options to aid the besieged Iraqi government, Nolan said he has hand-delivered messages to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urging the U.S. to steer clear of the conflict. Obama has ruled out sending troops to Iraq.
“U.S. military re-intervention into Iraq, whether by supplying troops, weapons, or support by air or sea, would be a terrible mistake – exacerbating the conflict and drawing us back into a war that has already cost our nation trillions of dollars and thousands of precious lives,” Nolan said in a statement.
“At this critical point, it is the leaders and people of Iraq who must step forward and reclaim their nation. America cannot do it for them, and we should not once again attempt to try.”
The office of GOP Rep. John Kline, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and 25-year veteran of the Marine Corps, declined to comment on the situation. Members of both the Senate and House Armed Services committees have been briefed on the situation by national security officials, according to news reports.