Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Great River Energy generously supports MinnPost’s D.C. Memo. Learn why.

D.C. Memo: Getting out of your comfort food zone

This week in Washington, Ilhan Omar takes center stage, while Amy Klobuchar will not be center stage at the upcoming debate.

screen shot of sen. amy klobuchar participating in town hall
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week in Washington, Ilhan Omar takes center stage, while Amy Klobuchar will not be center stage at the upcoming debate.

Before we dive in, a quick plug: We just started MinnPost’s summer membership drive. If you appreciate this newsletter — or all the great reporting coming out of our newsroom — please consider contributing so we can keep you informed on the most important stories coming out of D.C., St. Paul and throughout Greater Minnesota.

Okay, shameless plug over: Let’s get on with it. 

Article continues after advertisement

The President Next Door?

What exactly is Sen. Klobuchar’s stance on copper-nickel mining? Environment reporter Walker Orenstein and I tried to find out. Read more.

This week, Klobuchar provided a comprehensive list of executive actions and steps she would take in her first 100 days in office as president. There isn’t a consistent theme, but the list is comprehensive. A few that I found notable:

  • Requiring publicly traded companies to disclose all political spending over $10,000 to their shareholders.
  • Directing the IRS to institute the requirement that tax-exempt organizations that engage in issue advocacy disclose to the IRS the names of individual donors who contribute more than $5,000 per year.
  • Undoing attempts by the Trump administration – many of which have been blocked by courts – to deport DREAMers and immigrants who are living, working and succeeding here under Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforcement Departure.
  • Immediately allowing for the safe importation of prescription drugs from countries like Canada.

And in a New York Times interview, she (and 20 other candidates) were asked 18 questions like: “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?” and “Do you think it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change?”

Article continues after advertisement

The answers were deeply revealing and the video format works well, so take a watch. There were clear and obvious divides on what the candidates know about Israel, for example, and how exactly they characterize the country’s government.  

If you want to mix it up a bit, watch some of the policy answers and then listen to what the candidates’ favorite comfort foods are. For Klobuchar, “A baked potato.” For presidential candidate and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson, “I have no comfort food.” For me, because I’m oversharing today, it’s cacio e pepe (which is basically just cheese, pasta, and pepper, if you haven’t had it).

If you want to watch Klobuchar answer more questions (this time live!), she will be on the debate stage on Wednesday, June 26, for the first night of debates. The debate will run from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m CDT and the first night’s stage will also include:

  • Cory Booker New Jersey senator
  • Julián Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Bill de Blasio, New York mayor
  • John Delaney, former U.S. representative from Maryland
  • Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. representative from Hawaii
  • Jay Inslee, Washington governor
  • Beto O’Rourke, former U.S. representative from Texas
  • Tim Ryan, U.S. representative from Ohio
  • Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator

Candidates currently polling the highest will take the center stage. On this night, that means Warren and O’Rourke. Klobuchar has been polling at around 2 percent in most states, and while being off to the side won’t preclude her from talking, she won’t be directly in the spotlight.

Article continues after advertisement

Other news from the trail

Former Vice President Joe Biden stole the week (again), this time by referencing his amicable relationship with segregationist leaders like former Sens. James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herman E. Talmadge of Georgia. Eastland, among other things, was known for describing black people as “an inferior race.”

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, one of three black senators, critiqued Biden for discussing his relationship with Eastland and Talmadge and suggested he should apologize. In turn, Biden said that it was actually Booker who should apologize.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California had this to say: “He’s done very good work, and he has served our country in a very noble way. But to coddle the reputations of segregationists, of people who if they had their way I would literally not be standing here as a member of the United States Senate, is, I think, it’s just misinformed and it’s wrong.”

A ban on school lunch shaming

On Wednesday, Rep. Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota’s Fifth District, introduced legislation to reimburse schools for families that fall behind on school lunch payments. Standing with her was Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, the beloved Falcon Heights school cafeteria worker who was shot and killed during a traffic stop in 2016. Philando Castile was known for paying for school lunches out of his own pocket, and in March, Valerie raised over $130,000 in his honor to repay school lunch debts in St. Paul.

The media lately has been full of supposedly inspirational stories of generous donors or students saving their allowance in order to pay for their classmates to be able to eat. The bill is intended to be a stark rebuke to the systemic problems that cause that in the first place. The bill is co-sponsored by many members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, where Omar serves as whip. Sen.  Tina Smith has sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

Emmer’s NRCC mandate

Politico has a story Thursday about how some Republicans believe the National Republican Campaign Committee, chaired by Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer, is lagging behind. Something I found particularly interesting is: When asked about a personal attack on a Democrat (the NRCC called New York Rep. Max Rose “little”), Emmer had this to say: “Our communications team has a direct mandate from me and Leader [Kevin] McCarthy to be ruthless.” 

Beyond calling Rose “little,” the NRCC has also charged that California Rep. Mike Levin, who was raised Jewish, supports “anti-semitic conspiracy theories” and argued that AIPAC, a bipartisan pro-Israel advocacy organization, is representative of all Jews.

“His team is inept. They have no idea what they’re doing,” one disgruntled GOP lawmaker told The Hill.

Amending the Trump administration

Omar this week, without much coverage, placed in an amendment to stop a Department of Energy loan program intended to promote renewable energy from being used to fund projects like the Appalachian Storage Hub. ASH is a $10 billion project over 500 square miles that would transport fracking byproducts to turn them into plastics. The amendment, bundled with several others, passed the House 233-200 on Wednesday.  

Concerned community citizens?

The New York Times visits St. Cloud, where some residents and local politicians are pushing back on immigration, saying that Minnesota has gone too far. When asked why they have these beliefs, or how exactly immigrants are impacting their way of life, one resident had this to say:  “They were just —” she told the Times, searching for the words to describe the offending behavior of the Somali-Americans. “They were just walking around.”

In other news

  • Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks refused to provide answers about the Mueller Report to a majority of questions asked by the House Judiciary Committee.
  • The media cycle was engaged on whether undocumented Americans are being detained in concentration camps, after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York called them as such. The wording is charged and makes people uncomfortable, but if you’re going strictly by the definition of the word, it’s hard to say that they are not. George Takei, who was imprisoned in an internment camp as a child during World War 2, said: “I know what concentration camps are. I was inside two of them, in America. And yes, we are operating such camps again.”
  • Matt Pierce at the LA Times has a profile of Jay Inslee titled: “Jay Inslee’s 2020 plan: Become president, save the planet.”
  • Nevada, Texas, and California’s roles have shifted dramatically, and will be critical for Democratic candidate’s pathway to the presidential nomination.

Quote of the week

“There’s not a racist bone in my body.” — Joe Biden, responding to criticism of his relationship with segregationists.

What I’m reading

Splinter: “The Revenge of the Poverty-Stricken College Professors Is Underway in Florida. And It’s Big.”

Splinter’s Hamilton Nolan flew to Florida to talk about the crisis of housing and food insecurity for adjunct professors, and the organizing effort that’s looking to curb it.

The New York Times Mag: “Judge Judy Is Still Judging You”

A comprehensive profile of Judge Judy. Everybody watches Judge Judy. Now you can read about her.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.