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Minnesota Democrats honor Wellstones at D.C. reception

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and the Democratic members of the state’s U.S. House delegation hosted a reception for Paul and Sheila Wellstone in Washington on Wednesday night, highlight the couple’s energetic liberal activism and legislative accomplishments.

The Wellstones, heroes of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, died in a plane crash 10 years and one month ago. Between colorful Wellstone anecdotes and brief, friendly imitations of both Paul (from Franken) and Sheila (from Klobuchar), the senators said they’re working to preserve the Wellstones’ legacy through legislation they’ve worked on over the past several years.

Franken said he’s overseeing the implementation of a law named for Wellstone that require health insurance providers give equal coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatments as they do for physical problems.

“He was just electric, and you could see the passion, and he was never more passionate than when he was talking about access to mental health and substance abuse treatment,” Franken said.

Klobuchar highlighted Senate passage of a bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, a law spearheaded by both Paul and Sheila. Klobuchar said she was proud that every woman in the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, voted for the bill when it passed over the summer.

Klobuchar also said the Wellstones would have “loved” the results of this month’s elections — Minnesota voters re-elected Klobuchar, gave President Obama the state’s electoral college votes, defeated two Republican-backed constitutional amendments and gave control of the state Legislature back to Democrats.

“I was thinking here, the last few months and this incredible election that we had in Minnesota, how much Paul and Sheila would have loved it. It had this feeling, I thought, of their election,” Klobuchar said. “There was just this excitement across the state, and I was continually reminded of them.”

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.

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