Good morning, and welcome to Wednesday. Here’s the Digest.
1. Klobuchar says she doesn’t support all of the ‘Green New Deal.’ Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Tuesday that the “Green New Deal” proposal is merely “aspirational” and that she would likely oppose specific elements of the plan if they came up for a vote. Klobuchar’s comments during a Fox News interview made her one of the only 2020 Democratic presidential contenders to openly cast doubt on the Green New Deal’s viability. Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., all co-sponosored the Green New Deal resolution. “The Green New Deal? I see it as aspirational. I see it as a jump-start,” Klobuchar said.” “So I would vote yes [on the Green New Deal resolution], but I would also — if it got down to the nitty-gritty of an actual legislation, as opposed to, ‘Oh, here’s some goals we have’ — uh, that would be different for me.” Separately, Klobuchar responded to multiple reports that she mistreated staffers in her Capitol Hill office by acknowledging that she has been a “tough boss” — and did not flat-out deny a report she had thrown a binder at one point. On providing economic security to those unwilling to work: “Um, don’t agree with the ‘unwilling to work,'” she said. “I am a Democrat and not a socialist. I actually worked in the private sector for 14 years, and I believe in capitalism,” Klobuchar said, adding that she believed consumer protection laws and antitrust laws were still necessary. “Our country was founded on a strong economic system. And I believe in competition and capitalism.” (Fox News)
2. Other Democrats had warned Omar about anti-Semitic tropes. Last year, before she was elected to the House of Representatives leaders of Minneapolis’ Jewish community fashioned what could be described as an anti-Semitic intervention of Ilhan Omar, a rising star of the left whose remarks had made many fellow Democrats in the Jewish community uncomfortable. State Sen. Ron Latz, a St. Louis Park Democrat who has served in the Legislature since 2002, invited Omar to his house, where a number of Jewish leaders had gathered. It wasn’t an ambush; Omar knew that group was there, and their purpose was to enlighten her. “I don’t mind a policy disagreement. That’s fine,” Latz, who said he has qualms with some Israeli policies, said in an interview. “I accept that she comes from a different place and has a different policy, but those can be expressed in a matter that does not express anti-Semitism with it. She grew up in a refugee camp, and her perspective is different, but I would also respect a very serious attempt to understand the history of the Jewish people and the way that they have been demonized and murdered for their faith.” Latz said the gathering was focused, not a mere social gathering. “We didn’t eat much that I recall,” he said. “We talked.” He declined to attempt to recall exact statements made by him, or others, including Omar, saying that “wouldn’t be fair.” But here’s his summary: “Over the course of about two hours, we shared with her our concerns for things, including language that has references and meanings beyond just the meanings of words. Tropes, dog whistles — call them what you will. We explained to her how hurtful, and factually inaccurate, they were. Most of us came out of that conversation very troubled by the answers we received. I was not convinced she was going to give a balanced approach to policy in the Middle East, and I was not convinced … where her heart is on these things. But we were glad she met with us, and we were hopeful she would be more careful about what she tweeted and she said if she got elected. Frankly, I was hopeful she’d grow in office a little, and understand the media platform she has. Instead, she keeps repeating her mistakes, if you can call them that.” (Pioneer Press)
3. Trump calls on Omar to resign. Omar has apologized for tweets suggesting that members of Congress support Israel because they are being paid to do so. But President Donald Trump on Tuesday called her apology “lame” and said she should resign from Congress or at least not be allowed to serve on committees. The Minnesota Democrat said she had no intention of offending anyone, including Jewish Americans, when she insinuated that lobbyists were paying lawmakers to support Israel. The remark drew bipartisan criticism and a rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Speaking to reporters during a Cabinet meeting, President Trump raised the issue. “Anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress,” Trump said. “I think she should either resign from Congress or she should certainly resign from the foreign affairs committee.” Omar’s statement on Monday was the latest reckoning among Democrats of intense differences in their ranks over the U.S.-Israeli relationship, highlighted by criticism from Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They are the first Muslim women to serve in Congress. Pelosi and other Democrats, including leaders and chairmen, laid down a marker making clear that Omar had overstepped. Republicans called on Democrats to strip Omar of her seat on the House Foreign Relations Committee, but Chairman Eliot Engel stopped just short of that. He said in a statement that he expects his committee members to discuss policies on merits. And though he did not name Omar, he left little doubt that his statement was a response to her tweets. “It’s shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money,'” Engel said. (AP)
4. Walz to continue court challenge of pipeline approval. Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday that his administration will continue an appeal of the Line 3 oil pipeline begun by his predecessor. Last summer, state utility regulators approved the controversial project. Enbridge Energy plans to build a new $2.6 billion pipeline across northern Minnesota to replace the existing Line 3, which is aging and corroding. Former Gov. Mark Dayton’s Department of Commerce appealed that decision. An appeals court ruling last week meant the Walz administration would be forced to decide whether to file its own challenge. “When it comes to any project that impacts our environment and our economy, we must follow the process, the law, and the science,” the governor said in a news release Tuesday, saying his administration would continue his predecessor’s appeal as part of that process. Walz said projects like Line 3 “don’t only need a building permit to forward, they also need a social permit.” He said his administration had met with groups on all sides of the issue. (MPR News)
5. Legislature moves toward extending ‘reinsurance’ program. A couple years ago, the Minnesota Legislature was scrambling to tamp down soaring health insurance rates for people who bought coverage on the open market. Lawmakers approved hundreds of millions of dollars in rebates to chop the cost of monthly premiums. Then they set aside another $570 million to reduce risk for insurers. The “reinsurance” program had the state pay a large share of the medical costs once a policyholder’s claims exceeded $50,000 and until the bill hit $250,000. “The fact is Minnesota’s reinsurance program has worked,” said Kathryn Kmit of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans the payments allowed insurers to hold down premiums the past two years. “Everyone in the individual market, everyone has benefitted from lower health insurance premiums as a result of this reinsurance programs.” Now Kmit’s group and others are trying to get lawmakers to extend the program, and they say it has to happen fast. Health plans will submit their proposed 2020 rates to regulators by the end of March. Slightly different bills to renew the program advanced Tuesday through committees in the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-led House. (MPR News)
6. Bill would end ‘child marriages.’ Kaohly Her was a teenager when an older man caught a glimpse of her at a community event. The next day, his family called her father to ask for her hand in marriage. “I remember hearing my father say to the caller that he would only entertain the thought of us marrying after I graduated from college,” Her said. She did go to college, hours from her home, where she met a different man who became her husband. She got a degree in finance and last fall she ran for and won a seat in the Minnesota House. None of that would have happened if her father agreed to the man’s marriage proposal, she said. Now, Her, a St. Paul Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would bar marriage by any minor in the state of Minnesota and require a proof of age. Under state law now 16- and 17-year-olds can get married with parental consent and approval from a judge in the county where they live. Her’s proposal to change that was approved unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. “We cannot let a practice that reduces a girl’s chance of success, happiness, security, and safety continue,” she said. “We are the adults who know better, so we should protect our children.” (MPR News)