WASHINGTON, D.C. — Here’s a look at some of the things that the Minnesota delegation was up to in a week of continued health care wrangling, climate change compromises and transportation tiffs.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced several bills this week, including legislation that would expand high-speed broadband Internet networks and would make it easier for consumers to dispose of prescription drugs in order to reduce teen drug use.
During a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, she also called on the Federal Communications Commission to find a way to promote competition in the cell phone industry.
“Consumers should be free to choose the plan and phone that best fits their needs,’’ Klobuchar said in a statement. “We need to make sure consumers are getting a fair deal. Right now, some consumers have severe limitations in wireless options and are subject to confusing and anti-competitive business practices like early termination fees and other charges.”
First District Democratic Rep. Tim Walz reacted with dismay this week to a report that Veterans Administration facilities had inadequate safety procedures in place to ensure that colonoscopy equipment was sterilized between patients, according to CNN.
“I know we talk about adverse events,” Walz told CNN. “But going in for a routine colonoscopy and later being told you have HIV is not just an adverse event. That’s absolutely catastrophic.”
Walz also celebrated the passage of the war supplemental funding bill, saying that part of the money would go to fund the Department of Defense-Department of Veterans Affairs Vision Center of Excellence.
In a statement, Walz said that the VCE would provide health services to prevent, diagnose, mitigate, treat and rehabilitate military eye injuries.
The bill, which mostly dealt with continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, narrowly passed the House and Senate this week. In the House, Minnesota’s delegation had mixed views of the measure.
Third District Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen introduced his own health care reform plan this week, along with Republican Reps. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Among other things, the “Medical Rights and Reform Act” would limit the government’s role in health care, provide greater tax incentives to small businesses to cover their employees, give low-income families the option to use public funds to purchase private health insurance plans and allow young adults to remain as dependents on their parents’ plan.
“This legislation will lower costs and expand access without stepping in the way of the doctor-patient relationship,” Paulsen said in a statement. “Unlike other proposals in Congress that would eliminate or restrict employer-provided health insurance, this bill also ensures these plans are protected so that every American can choose to keep their current insurance.”
Fifth District Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison secured $1.9 million for STARBASE Minnesota, a program of the Minnesota National Guard that primarily serves inner-city youth. The Minnesota National Guard will use the earmarked money to expand the building that currently houses the STARBASE program.
Sixth District Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann attempted to offer amendments to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill that would have prevented the community organizing group ACORN from receiving federal funding. The amendments were not debated, however, because of a rule implemented by House leadership.
Politico also noted that Bachmann spent more than $100,000 on printing and franked mail in the first quarter.
Seventh District Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, who has emerged as a major obstacle to the climate change legislation in the House, told The Hill this week that significant progress had been made in reaching a compromise.
Peterson had previously locked horns with other House leaders over what role agriculture should play in the new legislation.
“We’ve resolved some of these issues,” Peterson told The Hill on Thursday. “We’re close to having a legislative solution.”
Eighth District Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar released details of his $500 billion transportation overhaul this week, calling for the legislation to be signed into law by October. Although the Obama administration has indicated that it would like to extend the current law by 18 months, Oberstar has remained adamantly opposed to any extensions.
“That puts a Damocles’ sword of uncertainty over the future of transportation,” Oberstar told reporters on Thursday. “It is unacceptable.”