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D.C. Memo: There’s a new tariff in town

photo of semi truck driving over bridge
REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
President Trump threatened imposing a five percent tariff on imports from Mexico — to increase to 25 percent by October — to punish Mexico for what he sees as inaction by the country on the flow of immigrants to the United States.

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, a trade war consumes the news cycle while the president is in England debating online with Bette Midler. Clearly, we’re in a good timeline. Let’s get on with it.

New front in the trade war

President Donald Trump continued to talk tariffs this week, this time expanding on a threat to levy a substantial tax on imports from Mexico. The proposed tariffs on Mexican imports will start at 5% this month and increase gradually until hitting 25% in October. The president says he’s imposing the tax because Mexico has not been an effective partner in stopping immigration on the border.

In turn, the Mexican farm lobby has suggested that the Mexican government should target U.S. agricultural goods with tariffs on things like yellow corn and soybeans, two key Minnesota exports. In closed door conversations, the Mexican government has made it clear it will respond in kind should the Trump administration go forward with the tariffs.

On top of this, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, said he will move to block the tariffs if the President follows through. A large number of Republicans in the Senate have been threatening to block the tariffs, which could mean Congress overturning the president’s veto and blocking the tariffs anyway, if he insists on them.

Rural broadband

Lawmakers at the state Capitol in St. Paul have funded tens of millions of dollars for grants to public and private internet providers to build broadband services in rural parts of the state. Yet they’re not on track to meet goals in state law. Read more at MinnPost.

And while many in Congress have made their own renewed push this year to expand broadband across the country, the House and Senate are still figuring out what changes will look like on a federal level. Minnesota’s congressional delegation, however, says they’re committed to making progress on the issue.

“The top line trend is just that the digital divide both in rural areas and urban areas has been very long standing. And remains just as much of a problem as a decade ago,” Joshua Stager, Senior Counsel at New America’s Open Technology Institute, told MinnPost.

“I think finally average people have realized this is a political issue. They’ve been waiting on hold with their cable company for hours and hours and started to think, ‘Maybe I should wait on the phone with my elected official and call city hall?’”

Remembering Don Fraser

Don Fraser, a former eight term Congressman from Minnesota’s fifth district and Mayor of Minneapolis passed away this week.

“In his own quiet way, he always won the day,” George Latimer, former mayor of St. Paul, told the Star Tribune.

MinnPost Columnist Iric Nathanson remembers his time working in Fraser’s congressional office as a staff assistant.

“The office switch did not represent a symbolic gesture on Fraser’s part. It was merely intended to make the office function more efficiently. With a busy schedule of committee hearings and House floor sessions, Fraser saw no need to maintain a large private office that was vacant most of the time, while we staff assistants were squeezed into a small, dingy workroom,” he writes.

“When dignitaries came to the office to meet with Fraser, they were the ones who had to squeeze in the small workspace across the hall from us.”

American Dream and Promise Act of 2019

The House this week passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which would offer a path to citizenship for more than two million undocumented Americans.

It’s not likely that the Senate will take up action on the bill. Minnesota House representatives voted along party lines.

  • YES: Rep. Angie Craig (MN-2), Rep. Dean Phillips (MN-3), Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-4), Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-5), Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-7).
  • NO: Rep. Jim Hagedorn (MN-1), Rep. Tom Emmer (MN-6), Rep. Pete Stauber (MN-8)

The President Next Door?

Sen. Amy Klobuchar continues a rapidfire trek around the country, appearing in Carson City, NV late last week, and Thursday, making dual appearances in Fargo, ND and Duluth, MN.

The biggest primary talk of the week: complicating the primary process for the glut of Democrats running for president, they will now be required to garner 130,000 unique donors to qualify for the third debate. The Democratic National Committee announced last week that the September debates will require that new donor threshold, as well as for candidates to be polling at 2% in four recognized polls.

At the top of the pack, Sen. Bernie Sanders had 525,000 donors in late March. As of May 3rd, Klobuchar had 65,000, making it squarely possible that she will qualify. However, a large number of candidates will likely be disqualified. Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio both have under 65,000 donors (one of the thresholds for the first debate), an uphill battle moving forward.

Some other news from the rest of the bunch.

After last week’s Washington Post story on former Sen. Al Franken, the conversation has waded back into the circumstances around his resignation. Presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttegieg told reporters he: “would not have applied that pressure at that time before we knew more.”

And Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday said he no longer supports the Hyde Amendment, a federal bad on using federal funds for abortion services and a position that differentiated him for the rest of the Democrats running for President. Biden still supported the amendment as late as this Wednesday, drawing ire from pro-choice and civil rights groups.

McConnell will not bring H.R.1 to a floor vote

Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota’s Third District led the charge on H.R.1, the For the People Act, in March. The bill is an expansive package on election and government reform, which some Republicans have called an overreach. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring the bill to a floor vote.

“If there’s anything that unifies all of us, what we all heard, it’s that Americans are sick and tired of the culture of corruption,” Phillips said during a press conference on Wednesday.

In other news

Quote of the week

“I love the Fight Song.” — Sen. Klobuchar, on the campaign trail.

What I’m reading

Open Secrets: World of influence: A guide to Trump’s foreign business interests

Open Secrets prepared an expansive guide to all of Trump’s business interests internationally. It’s over 10 thousand words, but if you’re interested in digging in or using “CTRL+F” for a quick search, highly recommend it.

The Intercept: At Democratic Retreat, Chiefs Of Staff Coached On Schmoozing With K Street

At a recent Democratic retreat for Chiefs of Staff, organizers built in time to talk about how to interact with lobbyists. And included a happy hour to interact with the lobbyists that same day.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: gschneider@minnpost.com. Follow at @gabemschneider.

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