The D.C. Memo is a weekly recap of Washington political news, journalism, and opinion, delivered with an eye toward what matters for Minnesota. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Thursday.
Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week in Washington, there’s a lot. More than usual. Too many different things. Let’s get on with it.
An Omar story not about Tweets
In 2016, Lowry Grove was a mobile park still home to 90 families. In 2017, real estate developers in St. Anthony were entertaining a grand design familiar to most rapidly changing neighborhoods around the country: What if the land had luxury apartments on it instead?
“The closure of the Lowry Grove mobile home park in St. Anthony really exemplifies what this bill is designed to prevent,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, MN-3, told MinnPost. “Ninety families were kicked out of their homes with little notice.”
Taking the pulse of Minnesota soybean farmers
Soybean farmers in Minnesota are struggling amidst an escalating trade war between the Trump administration and China, with virtually no information from Federal officials as to what will happen next. Read more at MinnPost.
The President on Thursday unveiled a $16 billion bailout for farmers hurt by the conflict.
“That’s a market that farmer’s have literally built with their own funds to be able to trade with the Chinese,” Jamie Beyer, a soybean farmer from Wheaton, told MinnPost. “And that trade was completely stopped last year.”
In her role as the Vice President of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Beyer went visit Sen. Amy Klobuchar to talk about the conflict. “She was pulling her hair. Literally,” Beyer said of Klobuchar. “She said: ‘There’s no plan. No one’s talking to the USDA. There’s no one talking to us. There’s no one working on this trade deal.’”
Since then, Klobuchar has not seen a drastic difference in the way that policy is being made.
“Our country needs to get back to the negotiating table, and making trade policy one tweet at a time is not going to get us there,” Klobuchar told MinnPost. “Bushels of soybeans are sitting in silos and farm families are paying the price. This is real, people are suffering, and small farms are going under.”
The tax Mnuchin
♪ Let me tell you how it will be ♪ On Monday, a Federal Judge ruled that Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin must release President Trump’s tax returns to Congress, days after Mnuchin said he would defer to the courts on if he has the legal responsibility to do so. The Trump administration contends that Congress is not requesting the tax returns for a legitimate “legislative purpose,” and therefore the request should not be granted.
On Wednesday, another Federal judge ruled that the President could not stop Congress from obtaining his financial records via another route — his business with Deutsche bank.
McCollum and mining
Rep. Betty McCollum, MN-4, released legislation this week to mandate that the U.S. Forest service finishes the canceled environmental study on the impact of copper mining in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in the northern part of the state.
McCollum’s move is not surprising considering the pace of actions in the BWCAW. The Bureau of Land Management renewed the lease for Twin Metals Minnesota last week, moving Chilean mining company Antofagasta closer to building the proposed copper-nickel mine. Both Rep. Tom Emmer, MN-6, and Rep. Pete Stauber, who represents the area, were in attendance.
McCollum has been gearing up for a challenge with the Trump administration’s environmental policy deregulatory actions since becoming Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. MinnPost’s Walker Orenstein covered McCollum’s prioritization of the BWCA last year, as well as her expanded influence.
“The policy that gets implemented is influenced by the dollars that are appropriated to them,” McCollum told MinnPost in 2018.
Minnesota delegation pens two bipartisan letters in one week
Something unusual: All ten congressional members from the state managed to agree on not one, but two things this week: 1, asking the President to designate a non-presidential state funeral for the last surviving WW2 Medal of Honor recipient and 2, asking the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to examine Minnesota’s efforts to address veteran homelessness and see if the VA could learn anything.
“This would serve as a distinguished recognition to those who received the Medal of Honor during World War II and all 16 million American men and women who served in uniform during the conflict, including 326,000 Minnesotans.” You can read the full letter here.
House civil-rights vote
Last Friday, the House passed major civil rights legislation (236-173) that would expand civil rights protections to both sexual orientation and gender. While many states do not have laws on the books to offer these protections, Minnesota is one of the handful that does. The Minnesota Human Rights Act, first signed into law in 1973, was the first state legislation to acknowledge these protections as law.
- Yes: Rep. Angie Craig, MN-2; Rep. Dean Phillips, MN-3; Betty McCollum, MN-4, Rep. Ilhan Omar, MN-5.
- N0: Rep. Jim Hagedorn, MN-1; Rep. Pete Stauber, MN-8; Rep. Tom Emmer, MN-6.
- N/A: Rep. Collin Peterson, MN-7, co-sponsored the bill, but was not in attendance during the day for the legislative session.
Although no Republicans in the Minnesota House delegation voted for the bill, eight House Republicans in total voted for the bill, with two of them co-sponsoring the legislation: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Rep. John Katko of New York.
The President Next Door?
On Saturday, Sen. Klobuchar will celebrate her birthday in Des Moines, Iowa.
New Iowa polling from Change Research places Klobuchar at 2 percent, along with Presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Both Sen. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are at 24%, Pete Buttigieg is at 14%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is at 12%, and Sen. Kamala Harris is at 10%. Beto O’Rourke came in at 5%. The poll’s margin of error is ±3.9%.
Also this week, Klobuchar became the 13th candidate to pledge to not accept donations from fossil fuel executives, companies and lobbyists.
The trend of hosting town halls on Fox News continues, but notably, The New York Times reported that Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Fox Town Hall only drew 1.1 million viewers, 500,000 less than Klobuchar’s 1.6 million and less than half of Sen. Bernie Sander’s 2.5 million (good catch from Matt Pearce).
In other news
- Congress on Thursday was said to reach a deal with the White House on $19.1 billion in disaster relief for the U.S and Puerto Rico.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture is moving researchers who cover the “effects of climate change, trade policy and food stamps” in the Economic Research Service out of D.C., in what employees told Politico are part of “a political crackdown on economists whose assessments have raised questions about the president’s policies.” ERS employees voted to unionize earlier this month amidst the threats to move staff positions to other states.
- Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was not selected to be the President’s “Immigration Czar,” provided a list of 10 conditions to the White House if he were to accept the position: “Access to a government jet 24 hours a day. An office in the West Wing, plus guaranteed weekends off for family time. And an assurance of being made secretary of homeland security by November.”
- Members of Democratic leadership attempted to push House Speaker Nancy Pelosi toward impeachment proceedings on Monday, something Pelosi still does not believe is the right course of action.
Quote of the week
“I love ska.” —Bill De Blasio, New York Mayor and Democratic Candidate for President
What I’m reading
The Washington Post: A conservative activist’s behind-the-scenes campaign to remake the nation’s courts.
A compelling deep dive on how untraceable money and media manipulation are being used to rebuild that nation’s courts under a partisan framework.
The Intercept/ICIJ: Thousands Of Immigrants Suffer In Solitary Confinement In ICE Detention
Despite directives that would suggest Immigration and Customs Enforcement do the opposite, an investigation found that ICE uses solitary confinement as a “go-to” to manage and punish immigrants for things as “minor as consensual kissing, and to segregate hunger strikers, LGBTQ detainees, and people with disabilities.”
New York Times: The Internet Security Apocalypse You Probably Missed
No description needed other than this except from NYT’s Sarah Jeong: “The Red Balloon team told us that an attacker could get into some routers and then take down, say, the entire New York Stock Exchange. I think that’s probably the nightmare scenario here.”
Finally, on a lighter note, my predecessor (and fellow California exile) Sam Brodey has a story on where members of Congress go to chat about global annihilation and how to stop a potential nuclear apocalypse.