WASHINTGON, D.C. — Here’s a look at what the Minnesota delegation was up to in a week that saw new regulatory reforms for over-the-counter derivatives, continued tussles over health care, and a few beers at the White House.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken ratcheted up the pressure for Medicare reform in the Senate. The Democratic duo introduced legislation with Wisconsin’s Sen. Herb Kohl that would attempt to rectify geographic disparities by implementing a value-index. The measure is similar to one that Klobuchar introduced earlier this year.
In addition, Klobuchar introduced legislation this week that aims to reduce Medicare fraud by requiring direct depositing of all payments to providers.
“As a former prosecutor, I saw firsthand how crooks cheated the health care system and stole money that should have been used to provide care for those who need it most – our seniors and most vulnerable citizens,” said Klobuchar in a statement. “This legislation can save taxpayer dollars as well as the valuable time and resources of our law enforcement officials.”
On another matter, Klobuchar marked the second anniversary of the I-35W bridge collapse in this radio spot.
Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat, will be joined by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in Rochester, Minn., next week to examine three energy projects in southern Minnesota, including a mobile self-contained ethanol plant, cars created and adapted by students at MSU-Mankato that run on solar and electrical technology, and the IBEW Wind Turbine Training Facility.
This week, Walz also introduced a Wind Energy Promotion Act with Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat. The legislation is designed to make it easier for rural America to take part in wind energy production through tax incentives and a grant program.
GOP Rep. John Kline expressed his reservations with President Obama’s approach to reforming the nation’s schools. The administration’s “Race to the Top” competition makes about $4.35 billion available in grants for states to use to accept more charter schools and use performance pay for teachers. Congressional Republicans, however, have called the initiative wasteful, according to the Washington Post.
“We just took a big old checkbook with a $5 billion total behind it and handed it to the secretary and said, ‘Write a whole bunch of checks,’ ” Kline, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, told the Washington Post. “I’m uncomfortable that we’re doing that.”
Rep. Erik Paulsen, a Republican, can expect to feel the heat from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) over health care reform this August. In a continued effort to pressure Republicans, whose districts went for Obama in 2008, the DCCC has launched radio spots and will also be funding robo-calls and holding virtual town hall meetings in 25 Congressional districts across the country. Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is also mentioned as a target.
Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat, will hold a town hall meeting on the health-care reform debate Saturday in Minneapolis.
Bachmann saw her bill to draw attention to families living with hydrocephalus pass the House this week. The bill would designate September as “National Hydrocephalus Awareness Month.”
Peterson won changes in the sweeping food safety bill that passed the House. The alterations would exempt farms, livestock, poultry and feed grain from most of the measure’s provisions. The bill passed 283 to 142. Minnesota’s entire delegation voted in favor of it.
Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Democrat, found support from a leading House Democratic tax writer for his six-year transportation authorization bill. But, Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., said he was still waiting for guidance from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The Obama administration and the Senate have sought an 18-month extension.
Oberstar also applauded a report this week that said the United States could cut half of its carbon emissions from transportation by 2050 with various strategies, including cutting speed limits and imposing road pricing.
Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat, will visit a Youth Conservation Corps worksite in Oakdale on Monday where crews have been building an
amphitheatre this summer with stimulus funds.