Good morning, and welcome to a snowy Tuesday. Here’s the Digest.
1. Omar apologizes for tweet after Pelosi calls her out. Minnesota DFL U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar is under fire for Twitter exchanges that Democratic allies, along with Republicans and Jewish organizations, are condemning as hateful and anti-Semitic. That criticism intensified Monday afternoon when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top House leaders condemned the remarks and called on Omar to “immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.” Shortly after, Omar apologized. “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” the freshman Democrat wrote in a tweet Monday. “My intention is never to offend my Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be wiling to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when other attack me for my identity. That is why I unequivocally apologize.” But Omar added: “At the same time I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.” The controversy began Sunday night when Omar responded to a tweet from journalist Glenn Greenwald taking House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy to task for threatening punishment against Omar and Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib over their criticisms of Israel. “It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans,” Greenwald wrote. Omar responded: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” followed by a musical note emoji. The line comes from a 1997 Puff Daddy rap song referring to $100 bills. (MPR News)
2. Can Klobuchar break the ‘Minnesota curse?’ Let’s face it: Minnesota has a poor track record when it comes to presidential hopefuls. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s entry into the 2020 presidential race puts her in the company of Minnesota political figures to go after the nation’s top job. In the last century, six politicians who made their name here took a serious shot at the White House. “It is an incubator of ambition,” said James Thurber, a distinguished presidential scholar at American University. A couple of the Minnesotans got tantalizingly close to occupying the Oval Office. But all met the same fate: A loss. Minnesota is far from alone in lacking claim to a president born or politically raised inside its borders. Exactly half the states are in the same boat. Klobuchar put her campaign in motion during a snowy rally Sunday along the Mississippi River. She rhetorically traced the river’s path from its origin in Minnesota through a region that has become political swing turf in presidential contests. “And then down to Iowa, a place where we in Minnesota like to go south for the winter. At least I do,” she said. Klobuchar went on, “And then to Illinois, a state that boasts a lot of extraordinary presidents, from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama.” The comparable Minnesota list, as of now, remains empty. (MPR News)
3. Klobuchar lacks key support from the left in nomination race. A few hours after Sen. Amy Klobuchar joined the Democratic presidential race, Our Revolution Minnesota endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders. A day earlier, the national Progressive Change Campaign Committee said it’s backing Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The moves underscored a key question for the Minnesota senator’s White House campaign: Is she progressive enough to win the nomination at a time when the party’s most liberal wing is ascendant? “Her voting record is safe. It’s very centrist and that’s just not what we’re about,” said Anita Seeling of Minnetonka, vice chair of Our Revolution Minnesota’s board. “We need somebody that’s a champion.” Erik Hatlestad, an organizer for Democratic Socialists of America and a member of the City Council in New London, Minn., praised Klobuchar’s support for the Green New Deal initiative. It calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in a decade. “However, we’re rather concerned that her commitment to other bold and popular ideas isn’t across the board,” Hatlestad said. She hasn’t said she supports a plan known as Medicare for All that would provide universal health insurance, he noted. (Star Tribune)
4. There’s a bipartisan agreement to try to end the legislative session on time. DFL Gov. Tim Walz and top legislative leaders from both parties pledged Monday to work cooperatively toward a smooth conclusion of the 2019 session in May. Walz joined DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka to announce a set of early deadlines for action on this year’s budget work. They want to avoid a potential state government shutdown and a repeat of the chaos seen at the close of recent sessions. Hortman said too often end-of-session negotiations turn into a game of high-stakes poker. She said Minnesotans deserve a better process. “The agreement that we are announcing today puts us on a pathway to have more of the budget conversations in public, and puts us on a pathway to end the session on time with more legislators involved in the bill drafting process,” Hortman said. The first committee deadline is March 15. By May 1, House and Senate floor votes are planned on major finance bills session followed by the appointment of conference committees. Completed conference committee reports are due May 13. The session is scheduled to adjourn May 20. (MPR News)
5. Call for action on CWD. Minnesota needs to take comprehensive action this year to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease, lawmakers and hunters said Monday as they promoted legislation aimed at stopping the outbreak of the fatal brain disease before it becomes endemic in the state’s whitetail herd. Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn is sponsoring several bills that target deer farms to try to stop the disease from spreading from captive to wild deer. Another would give the University of Minnesota $1.8 million to develop faster and more sensitive diagnostic tests that farms and regulators could use on live deer and hunters could use to make sure their venison is safe to eat. “We have known about CWD for over a decade, almost two decades, and it is now more prevalent in Minnesota than ever,” the Roseville Democrat and lifelong deer hunter said at a news conference, flanked by fellow lawmakers and hunters. Chronic wasting disease has been confirmed in 34 wild deer since it appeared in 2016 in a hot zone between Preston and Lanesboro in Fillmore County of southeastern Minnesota. It’s already endemic in parts of Wisconsin. (AP)