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D.C. Memo: Two times the contempt

Minnesotans object to Trump Cuba policy; NRCC kerfuffle; Jason Lewis contemplates political comeback; and more.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), voted on Wednesday to find Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress.
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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, things never change and we’re still talking about U.S.-Cuba relations like it’s the ’60s. Let’s get on with it.

♫ Havana, ooh na-na. And Minnesota, ooh na-na ♫

Minnesotans across the aisle disagree on a lot of things, but apparently the great unifier is Cuba. From Rep. Tom Emmer, MN-6, to Sen. Amy Klobuchar to Rep. Dean Philips, MN-3, there is a resounding chorus: the president is wrong on U.S.-Cuba relations. Read more at MinnPost.

Emmer, who leads the National Republican Congressional Committee and is in charge of ensuring Republicans take back the House, is usually a reliable ally of the president. But as a co-chair of the House Cuba Working Group, the Sixth District Republican and his colleagues were clear about their thoughts on the Trump administration’s new Cuba policy:

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“Every American should have the right to travel freely. The Administration’s decision to further restrict U.S. travel to Cuba not only infringes upon that right, it undercuts efforts to help promote democracy and improve the lives of the Cuban people,” their statement reads. “The United States’ failed embargo policy towards Cuba over the last 60 years has resulted in the outcome we see today.”

Democrats in the delegation have been just as clear as Emmer.

Rep. Angie Craig, MN-2, told MinnPost the decision is “another step backward on making progress with U.S. and Cuba relations.” Her colleague, Phillips, echoed that sentiment: “The Trump administration’s approach returns us to the same failed strategy that hurts Minnesota businesses — and particularly our farmers, who are already facing too many economic challenges.”

The NRCC behind closed doors

Behind closed doors, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming criticized Emmer’s leadership of the NRCC. Cheney, who outranks Emmer on Republican leadership as Republican Conference Chair, reportedly is concerned about the direction of the party as Republicans try to win back the House.

“Chairwoman Cheney is a generous supporter of the NRCC in addition to being a valued member of our House Republican Conference,” Emmer told Politico. “Her political counsel, along with the legislative agenda she is helping to craft, will be vital to our collective efforts to reclaim the majority in 2020.”

Back to the Elephant Club

Former MN-2 Rep. Jason Lewis said that Republican operatives are encouraging him to make another run for his old seat. Lewis lost to DFLer Rep. Angie Craig in 2018 by over 18,000 votes (around 5%), after Lewis narrowly defeated her in 2016.

On Monday, Lewis is the planned speaker at the Republican Party of Minnesota’s next Elephant Club luncheon, where he will give “his thoughts on politics today and what we need to do to reelect President Donald Trump, gain back control of the U.S. and State House as well as keep control of the U.S. and State Senate.”

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Trump approves disaster relief for Minnesota

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump approved Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s request for a major disaster declaration for Minnesota, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for up to 75 percent of related expenses related to the spring storms.

“The news of incoming federal disaster relief is welcome after an exceptionally difficult transition from winter to spring this past year,” Walz said in a statement. “Minnesota is on the road to recovery, and the assistance granted by this declaration will expedite that process enormously.”

Omar fined in campaign finance probe

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board ruled late last week that Rep. Ilhan Omar, MN-5, misused campaign funds during her time as a state legislator.

Omar must personally reimburse her own campaign account $3,469.23 and pay a penalty of $500.

“I’m glad this process is complete and that the Campaign Finance Board has come to a resolution on this matter,” Omar said in a statement. “We have been collaborative in this process and are glad the report showed that none of the money was used for personal use, as was initially alleged.”

The House pulls pay raises

House Democratic leaders pulled a bill off the floor that would have raised pay for members of Congress, after several of the party’s freshmen in competitive districts raised complaints. Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota’s 2nd District filed her own amendment that would have barred the pay raise.

“I came to Washington to make government work for Minnesotans, bring down the price of healthcare and prescription drugs, and expand economic opportunity for farmers and small businesses in my district,” Craig said in a statement. “With Minnesota families seeing stagnant or falling wages for far too long, taking a pay raise at taxpayer expense is just wrong. I will not support this pay increase for Members of Congress.”

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The President Next Door?

Earlier this week, Sen. Klobuchar was in Cedar Rapids for the Iowa Hall of Fame Dinner, an event that brought out what looked like rabid sports fans but who were actually presidential candidate supporters. Rep. Philips, who has endorsed Klobuchar, also traveled over to show his support.

It’s worth mentioning that, distinct from the rest of the field, Sen. Bernie Sanders spent the day marching with McDonald’s workers striking for a $15 minimum wage.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale told the Star Tribune that he believes Klobuchar would “wear well,” when it comes to the presidential race.

Meanwhile, The New York Times Mag has a profile of the Democratic field in Iowa, with this choice paragraph:

You can of course spin this Rubik’s cube a million different ways and land on a million different profiles that suit any particular argument. For instance, Democrats clearly need to nominate a candidate who is not a white male and who is from the Midwest, preferably from a purple state, and someone whom enough Republicans are down with — or so says the future President Klobuchar.

Two polls that are particularly interesting: a Monmouth poll of potential Nevada voters and an LA Times poll of potential California voters. Both states are critical to winning the nomination, especially since California (and its 475 delegates) has been moved up in the primary season.

In the California poll, Klobuchar is nowhere near the top. She makes the cut with more than .5% support, but the survey also found that fewer than half of voters had an opinion of the Minnesota Senator.

In the Nevada poll, Joe Biden is polling at 36%, followed by Warren at 19%, then Sanders at 13%, than Buttigieg at 7%, than Kamala Harris at 6%, than Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang at 2%. At the bottom tier, Klobuchar’s polling is tied with Tulsi Gabbard and Julián Castro at 1%.

That same Monmouth Nevada poll indicated that 0 respondents prioritized opioid abuse as a deciding issue and only 3% see infrastructure as a deciding issue, the two biggest priorities for Klobuchar on the trail.

Some other news from the trail.

Republicans are concerned about a path to re-election for President Trump. CNN obtained a Trump campaign memo that cites New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Nevada as potential battleground states as a path to victory, also arguing that Oregon and Minnesota could be in play, if it becomes clear that they cannot win Michigan.

In other news

Quote of the week

“I can see Iowa from my porch.” — Sen. Klobuchar, on the campaign trail.

What I’m reading

Mother Jones: Behind the Lines

Shane Bauer’s undercover investigative reporting shined a critical light on exactly how private prisons recruit, staff, and function. Now, Bauer along with the Mother Jones staff, have compiled over 30,000 words on the U.S.’s role in shaping the conflict in Syria. Truth be told, I haven’t had time to read it yet, but I definitely want to pass it along.

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.