May 2009

Obama’s Shout-out to Anna from Minneapolis

Thursday, May 28th, 2009


President Obama, in a conference call with volunteers and supporters Thursday, gave a special shout-out to a Minnesota supporter of his new health care initiative.
The thank-you, a transcript of which was distributed by the Democratic National Committee, went like this:
“Millions of Americans have lost their healthcare.  And I’ve heard these stories from many of you, who have, either in email or other forms, told us what’s happening in your lives…
People like Anna Peters in Minneapolis.  She wrote to OFA (Organizing for America) about her mother in law Lynn.  Lynn and her husband Jack worked hard, they saved diligently, they built a solid nest-egg, but when Jack passed away and Lynn suffered a stroke, Anna tells they had no choice but to dig into Lynn’s savings.  And at this point Anna’s fighting daily against insurance coverage that’s threatening to cut of her health insurance and watching their life savings dissipate just on healthcare costs.”

They have newspapers over there?

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

If you read Haaretz or other media outlets in the Middle East, you might already know that Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., is in Syria today for talks with President Bashar Assad.

If you’re relying on your hometown paper, it may be news to you.

Why? Security reasons, House staffers say.  Someone in the State Department or the Pentagon must believe the bad guys only read the Star Tribune and other Minnesota publications, but not Haaretz and other news outlets in their own part of the world.

So once again, we find out about the whereabouts of our representatives in Congress through foreign media sources.

The same thing happened last month when Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., took part on an unannounced congressional delegation to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Constituents in Minnesota remained in the dark until he came back. But not newspaper readers in Pakistan.

A glass that’s nine-tenths full?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

A year after setting an apparent single-session record for vetoes, Gov. Tim Pawlenty was fairly prolific again this year. The governor vetoed all or parts of 30 bills, compared with 34 in 2008.

Since taking office in 2003, Pawlenty has rung up a total of 87 vetoes, all but three of them in the past three years. Not coincidentally, that’s the period when the Republican governor has faced DFL majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

The breakdown this year: 22 vetoes of entire bills, line-item vetoes applied to eight measures. A pair of billion-dollar tax bills were the most high-profile veto victims. A $381 million allocation for a health care program for childless adults was the biggest line-item veto. That money was for the fiscal year starting in July 2010.

But it wasn’t all disagreement. The Legislature sent 179 measures to the governor, meaning he signed off on 149 in their entirety. And if you want to get downright warm and fuzzy, add in the eight bills that he signed with some reductions, and 88 percent of the measures got his signature.

‘He was engaging, he was sincere’

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Freshman Rep. Erik Paulsen, four months on the job, got his first chance to meet personally with President Obama Wednesday night at a White House reception for a few dozen House members.

“He was friendly, he was engaging, he was sincere,” the Minnesota Republican recounted Thursday. “It was good. Relationship-building is important.”

True, the Democrats have won over Paulsen’s vote on a few bipartisan measures, such as children’s health insurance and credit card regulations.  But that’s not why Paulsen thinks he was invited to the White House.

“I get the sense that they’re just working on building relationships. That’s what it’s about,” he said.

The group, made of Republicans and Democrats, got to mingle with Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

“I said, ‘Mr. President, Erik Paulsen, brand new member from Minnesota.’ And he just looked at me directly in the eye and said, ‘How’s it going?’”

The encounter was purely social, but Paulsen said he took the occasion to lobby the president on his upcoming proposal to help small businesses by separating business and personal income for tax purposes.

“He said, ‘Yeah, we should look at that.’”

Remembering D-Day

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., an ex-Marine, is headed for France over Memorial Day to commemorate the  65th anniversary of D-Day.

Kline, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, is travelling with Republican Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Lindsey Graham (S.C.).

They will lay a wreath and lead the official Memorial Day Ceremonies at the Normandy American Cemetery in France on Monday. More than 10,000 American service members gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy to help liberate Europe in World War II. 

This time, Bachmann’s coming at ACORN through the front door

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has not lost sight of ACORN. Undeterred by a recent legislative setback in her efforts block the community group from applying for federal housing assistance grants, the Minnesota Republican said Thursday that she plans to introduce stand-alone legislation targeting ACORN – and presumably others accused of voter registration fraud. 

ACORN, which has registered tens of thousands of low-income voters around the nation, became a major GOP target in the 2008 presidential election. Bachmann made the announcement in a well-attended Capitol Hill press conference. But that will probably lengthen her odds in the Democrat-controlled Congress. 

Her last attempt was through an amendment that somehow got past veteran Democratic lawmaker Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, blocked Bachmann’s amendment, but only after it made it to the House floor as part of a Democratic mortgage reform bill.  This time, it’s probably fair to say that he’ll see it coming. 

It’s all in the headline

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Politicians can be the toughest editors.

Minnesota Republican John Kline, a congressional hard-liner on matters of taxes and spending, saw fit Thursday to attempt a re-write a piece of Democratic legislation called the “21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act.” Kline thought a more apt title would be “A Bill to Saddle Future Generations With Billions in Debt, And for Other Purposes.” 

“The original title for the bill had a nice ring,” Kline explained on his congressional blog, “but it obscures the misplaced priorities of the bill.” President Obama’s massive stimulus package already contains funds to “green” our nation’s schools, he said.  No matter, Democrats preferred the ring of their own title. Kline’s title, proposed as an amendment on the House floor, was rejected. 

Bachmann 6th-most chatty member of Congress

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

She’s not just a TV maven.Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, an outspoken conservative who appears frequently on the Fox news channel, also has been giving her colleagues in Congress an earful.

According to Capitol Words, a website that tracks the daily Congressional Record, Bachmann has been the sixth-most loquacious member of Congress over the past 60 days, registering 33,746 words in that period. That puts her one notch above Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who ranks seventh with 32,864 words.

The words most frequently uttered by Bachmann? Energy (325 times in the past year), followed by tax (236 times), and money (226 times). President Obama, one of her favorite targets, got 137 mentions, while children, one of her personal passions as a foster mother, weighed in at 105 utterances.

The website, doesn’t rate the quality or impact of the lawmaker’s wordsmithing. But if her official pronouncements in Congress are any measure, Bachmann has not sacrificed quantity for controversy.

In case you’re wondering, the five who placed above Bachmann over the past 60days? 1) Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; 2) Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; 3) Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas; 4) Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa; 5) Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

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