WASHINGTON -- The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America on Friday backed Democratic Rep. Tim Walz to be the highest ranking Democrat on the House Veteran's Affairs Committee.
Walz sought the endorsement from the IAVA -- known to be the more brash, younger veterans service organization, outspoken on VA systemic failures and veterans suicide.
"Mr. Walz, having served for 24 years in the Army National Guard, is the highest ranking enlisted service member to ever serve in Congress, and his military experience has and will continue to significantly enhance the caucus’s contributions to this Committee," the organization said, in a statement. "He has been intimately involved in helping pass legislation to improve care to wounded veterans, to help veterans seeking employment after they leave service, and to eliminate the red tape."
Walz faces a tough battle in his bid to be ranking member of the VA committee primarily because seniority politics often rule in these situations. He is running against the committee's most senior Democrat, Florida Rep. Corinne Brown, who has been on the committee for 22 years and is supported by Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
Walz, who served in the Army National Guard in active duty during the recent wars, is stressing service and experience in a legion of lobbying calls and meetings he's having with his colleagues this week on Capitol Hill.
He said in an interview Thursday that there is an opportunity to transform the VA from the top bottom strategically.
"I'm trying to make the case that the problem with the VA was that it was simply putting one foot in front of the other without a strategic plan," he said. "I'm making the case that the hard day-to-day issues ... including veterans suicide ... can be solved if we build coalitions with providers."
Walz, who has served on the committee since 2007, has been outspoken on veterans suicide and on behalf of those suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The committee vote will be held with secret ballots among the Democratic caucus should be held in the next week or two.
WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's senior Sen. Amy Klobuchar will chair the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach committee -- a role that gives her additional power in dealmaking with Republicans and special interests on Capitol Hill next year.
The steering commitee's primary purpose is outreach to special interest and outside groups when hammering together compromises.
"This is something I've been doing for years and I think it's a very necessary role right now," she said to a group of reporters at the Capitol Thursday following the announcement. "I take the Republicans at their word. They say they want to move on things."
Though Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken will be in the minority party starting in January, Klobuchar's appointment Thursday by Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid means she will still be in the mix trying to strike bargains with Republicans, she said.
Among problems she hopes to tackle in the next year: tax reform, immigration reform and negotiating a federal standard minimum wage.
"I think there is some opportunity here," she said. "We will know within probably three months if it's real, but I think there is some opportunity now."
Klobuchar is serving her second term and isn't up for re-election until 2018.
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.