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Cuba, GMOs, and steel dumping: Here’s what Minnesota’s congressional delegation wants to get done in 2016

Maybe you made a new year’s resolution this year — exercise more, eat better, stop checking Facebook (or MinnPost!*) at work. Members of Congress have resolutions too, but they can take on a different flavor: as this year’s congressional session begins, MinnPost checked in with Minnesota’s representatives to find out what they want to accomplish in the year ahead.

In statements and conversations with MinnPost, the Minnesota delegation sounded optimistic but urgent notes in describing what members want to get done in 2016.

When asked what their new year’s goals were, Minnesota’s two senators focused on larger themes. Sen. Al Franken, saying it was “impossible” to pick just one priority, said he hoped to build on what he called recent successes in Congress. “Among many things, I’m going to be working hard to finally pass into law my bipartisan legislation to reform how the criminal justice system treats mental health, and I’ll also continue pressing to stop the illegal foreign steel dumping crisis that has rocked the Iron Range,” Franken said.  

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said her top priority was to strengthen the economy, which she said Congress could do by making prescription drugs more affordable, curbing so-called foreign “steel dumping”, and opening up Cuba to U.S. trade, among other things. Klobuchar added that her “immediate goal when we return is to get Minnesota’s federal judge and the Norwegian and Swedish ambassadors confirmed.”

Over in the House of Representatives, Rep. Collin Peterson, who is beginning his 26th year in Congress, said a lot of important work got done in 2015, but maintained he’ll focus on protecting agricultural interests in 2016. One specific thing the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee wants pushed through Congress is the GMO labeling bill the House passed last summer, which would prohibit states and cities from passing their own statutes regarding the labeling of genetically modified foods. “For national companies like General Mills and Land O’Lakes, this is going to be a big problem,” Peterson said. The bill still needs to be picked up by the Senate.

Rep. Keith Ellison listed three priorities for 2016. His most specific goal is passing the Credit Access and Inclusion Act, a bill he introduced that would help low-income individuals build and access credit by including utility and other bill payments in the determination of credit scores. He added that he wanted to boost voter turnout in November and make the economy fairer by raising the minimum wage and protecting access to unions.

A spokesperson said that Rep. Tim Walz has several priorities in 2016, including expanding the middle-class economy and the alternative energy economy, but added Walz “will remain diligently focused on… long-term VA reform that ensures generations of veterans get the care they have earned in the decades to come.”

Rep. Betty McCollum, who is the top Democrat on the Interior Appropriations subcommittee, said her priority in the year ahead is “to produce a bipartisan bill that invests in environmental protection, tribal communities, and our national parks.”

Rep. Rick Nolan, who has focused big on mining issues, will make them a top theme this year: “My top priority for 2016 is fighting the illegal dumping of millions of tons of low-grade, foreign-government-subsidized steel that has idled nearly 2,000 miners on the Iron Range and thousands more steelworkers nationally,” he said.

Two Minnesota Republicans were able to successfully tackle longtime policy objectives last year. Outgoing Rep. John Kline, who helped usher a sweeping K-12 education reform bill into law last year, said his priority this year is helping veterans and troops. “As a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, I will keep fighting — in my final year in Congress — to make sure promises made are promises kept.”

Rep. Erik Paulsen helped secure the (partial) banishment of the medical device tax in the budget deal in December. In 2016, Paulsen said he wanted to focus on a bill he introduced to help find missing children. The Recovering Missing Children Act, he said, “would help law enforcement by allowing them to access — with a warrant — tax information that could potentially solve thousands of kidnapped children cases.”

Rep. Tom Emmer, who begins his second year in Congress, said his top priority will be “protecting and fighting for Americans at home and for our interests abroad.” He said that will include strengthening economic opportunity for farmers and manufacturers, opening up Cuba economically and politically, and setting a concrete strategy to fight ISIS.

*Editors note: Please do not stop reading MinnPost at work. Back ⤴︎

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/07/2016 - 10:33 am.

    Priorities, priorities

    Glad to see that editors’ note at the end of Mr. Brody’s piece…

  2. Submitted by Richard Bonde on 01/07/2016 - 12:54 pm.

    Ed Lotterman’s column – Pioneer Press

    He gave a different point of view on the steel issue on 1/3. And his views are always well informed.

  3. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 01/07/2016 - 02:23 pm.

    I appreciate Emmer’s position on Cuba

    It is consistent with the realities of 2016 and has the backing of Senator Klobuchar and many other members of Congress. Renewing relations with Cuba will be one of Obama’s least controversial legacies as President.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 01/07/2016 - 07:19 pm.

    Many Good Goals

    but I suspect that, now that the World Trade Organization has successfully negated any attempts within the US to have Country of Origin labeling,…

    by imposing MASSIVE fines on behalf of our neighbors to the North and South who claim to be being hurt by such labeling,…

    GMO labeling won’t be far behind,…

    and perhaps those among us who look at international trade agreements as harmless will now begin to see how those agreements move us toward a World Governmental system,…

    which is not elected by the population of any region or nation,…

    but made up of executives and lawyers of big, international business concerns,…

    and the judges located in the international trade tribunals created by these trade agreements,…

    who are increasingly in a position to run EVERY NATION that is a signatory to them.

    Meanwhile, I think I join many other Minnesotans in welcoming a seeming voice of reason and sanity,…

    to a congressional seat whose previous occupant left many people across the planet with the impression that Minnesotans were seriously out of touch with anything resembling reality.

    I never thought I’d have reason to say this, but thanks Rep. Tom Emmer for turning out to be a far better representative of Minnesota than I ever thought you’d be.

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