Notebook: Klobuchar, 13 Others Push Bipartisan Shutdown Relief

By Don Davis

 U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar rose to become one of the most sought-after political talking heads in recent weeks.

The Minnesota Democrat appeared on numerous cable television and radio news shows and in newspaper stories as part of a bipartisan 14-senator group that helped craft a final deal to end the federal government shutdown and postpone what could have been a government debt default.

She said she thinks the group will continue to meet as needed and could be a vital cog as negotiations on a long-term budget heat up.

“It’s a beginning,” Klobuchar said in a Forum News Service interview. “We have a very strong group.”

Klobuchar sees the group as one that can tackle some ticklish problems, but not necessarily the entire federal budget.

Congress hopes to pass a full federal budget by the next deadline, Jan. 15, and a month or two later agree on whether to continue raising the amount of debt the country can carry.

Klobuchar said the Senate group is encouraging the House to come up with a similar process, although partisanship is much more divisive there. “They have a lot more problems than us right now.”

It is an era where federal lawmakers who band together to work on a problem are called a gang. Not in this case.

“We are not a gang,” Klobuchar said. “We made a pledge never to call ourselves that.”

Get the facts

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee wasted no time correcting President Barack Obama as the president outlined what still needs to be done after the federal government shutdown ended.

Obama said passing a farm bill is his third priority, after a long-term budget and immigration reform.

“We should pass a farm bill, one that American farmers and ranchers can depend on; one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need; one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the long-term certainty that they deserve,” the president said Thursday. “Again, the Senate has already passed a solid bipartisan bill. It’s got support from Democrats and Republicans.

“It’s sitting in the House waiting for passage. If House Republicans have ideas that they think would improve the farm bill, let’s see them. Let’s negotiate. What are we waiting for? Let’s get this done.”

What the president apparently did not know is that the House has passed its farm bill, and a related food stamp funding bill. House and Senate negotiators plan to begin blending the two chambers’ bills Oct. 28.

House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., quickly responded to Obama’s comments with a “fact check.”

Lucas said the House sent its bill to negotiations Oct. 11. At least five of the negotiators come from the Upper Midwest.

Tea party bashing

Some Republicans have joined most Democrats in criticizing right-wing tea party U.S. House members in the federal government shutdown.

“The divide in their party is out there for the world to see,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said fellow Republicans may need to scale back expectations in areas such as balancing the federal budget. He said that work may need 20 years instead of 10 years.

He said he knows Republicans are thinking about their actions. “It is a good time for a timeout and a re-evaluation.”

Tim Pawlenty, former Republican Minnesota governor and presidential candidate, said on CNN: “When you bluff and your bluff gets called, it is embarrassing.”

He said tea party members “overplayed their hand.”

Pawlenty encouraged Americans to stop “throwing labels around” and begin talking about issues.

Those criticizing the tea party mostly focus on the effort to overturn President Barack Obama’s pet project, health care reform. With the Democratic president and Senate in support of Obamacare, the prevailing feeling is that the effort was dead on arrival and Republicans who wanted to get rid of it never had a chance.

 Dayton raises money

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton raised $528,456.76 this year through Sept. 30, his campaign reports.

The governor was not required to release the information, but he has spent more than $263,000.

Dayton is running for re-election next year, with several Republicans looking to unseat him.

N.D.-Minn. case considered

A federal judge is weighing whether to allow a lawsuit North Dakota filed against Minnesota to continue.

The judge heard arguments about the suit questioning the legality of a 2007 Minnesota law that could prohibit North Dakota from exporting electricity made from coal-burning power plants. The law encourages use of renewable fuels, restricting use of coal to make electricity.

The judge will decide whether the case should proceed to a trial.

 Stadium money mislabeled

The legislative auditor says the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority did not properly classify some funds for a new Vikings stadium and urges an immediate change.

Overall, however, most financial procedures were conducted accurately, the auditor reports, as the authority prepares to break ground on a nearly $1 billion downtown Minneapolis stadium.

An audit showed $833,000 spent from funds provided by the team was classified as operating income and expenses. However, the auditor said, the money should have been labeled as planning expenses.

Authority officials agreed with the finding and said they would change their procedure.