D.C. Memo: More action on abortion, Boundary Waters bill inches forward

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WASHINGTON — This week started with the Biden administration imposing restrictions on abortion rights in hospitals. They told them that abortion services must be provided if a mother’s life is at risk.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act preempts any state laws that would restrict or end abortions. These laws were created in response to Roe being overturned by the Supreme Court.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra stated in a statement that “Under law, regardless of where you live,” women have the right for emergency care – even abortion care. “Today, we reiterate that we expect providers will continue to offer these services and that federal law preempts any state abortion bans that are necessary for emergency care.

A hospital found in violation of federal emergency medical treatment laws could lose its Medicare provider agreements or face civil penalties. If a physician is found guilty of violating the federal emergency medical treatment law, they could face civil penalties.

Democratic colleagues have pressed President Joe Biden to take stronger action against abortion. He’s limited by his executive power.

The Democrats took the reins in Congress, even though they knew that their efforts would be unsuccessful if the filibuster rule, which requires at least 60 votes to pass any legislation through the U.S Senate, is repealed.

With Friday’s House vote on abortion rights set for Friday, the week was over. One bill would allow abortion providers to travel freely. The other bill would protect abortion rights beyond Roe v. Wade.

However, these bills do not have the chance to pass the Senate, unlike a similar bill to codify Roe, which was approved in May by the House. Democrats are hoping that the votes on this legislation will frame the issue for the midterm election.

Minnesota legislators are expected to vote according to party lines on the abortion bills.

Jan. 6: The committee’s work continues

This week, the special January 6 committee continued work with witnesses including former Trump aides and right-wing media commentators as well as militia members. The committee demonstrated how Trump’s public statements led his supporters incorrectly to believe that the 2020 election was stolen. They urged them to storm Capitol to stop it from being certified.

Witnesses said that one Trump tweet was a rallying cry to supporters, including far right groups such as the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boy to come to Washington on January 6.

Trump tweeted, “Big protest in D.C. January 6th.” “Be there, will you be wild!”

During the hearing, the seventh evidence of the committee was presented. It showed that, four days after the states voted in the Electoral College elections, a group comprising lawyer Sidney Powell, Michael T. Flynn, and a retired general who briefly served as Trump’s national safety adviser, presented draft executive orders to the former president that would have allowed the Defense Department to seize voting machine.

Pat Cipollone, former White House Counsel, stated that he told Trump supporters that “it’s a terrible thought” in the portions of taped testimony.

Minnesota’s most important swing county

Politico reported this week that Dakota County is among 20 “most important” counties in the country that will decide whether Republicans or Democrats control the House and Senate in 2023.

Dakota County, D-2nd District Representative, is represented in the House by Rep. Angie Craig. Politico stated that Dakota County is different from the other 3,000 counties whose population “sorting into solidly or comfortably red territory”.

“Dakota County is basically split down the middle… The farmland in southern parts of the county tends to be red while the Twin Cities bedroom towns to the north are becoming dependably Democratic. Politico stated that the 65,000-strong city of Lakeville in the county’s middle, however, is still staunchly divided.”

To wrest control from the Democratic Party, Republicans must flip five congressional seats.

Passage of the Omar amendment to human rights

Rep. Ilhanomar, D-5th District had a win this week when she approved an amendment to the $840 billion National Defense Authorization Act.

Omar’s amendment would require that the U.S. military provide “a description about efforts to prevent civilian damage and human rights violations” whenever the Pentagon supports special operations for “irregular warfare” in other countries. For example, the war against terrorism in Iraq or Afghanistan was considered irregular warfare.

This week saw more than 1,200 amendments made to the NDAA. Many were rejected or not considered.

Omar won her amendment but she and other progressives in the House are expected to vote against NDAA. This bill authorizes military spending for troops and weapons systems, and also establishes military policy. Progressives feel too much money is being spent at the Pentagon, and not enough on social programs or other necessities.

Mining: ‘Bring the Circus to Town’

This week, there was another chapter in the Twin Metals underground copper/nickel mine permit case. It is located near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee held a long, often bitter, and hours-long marking up of legislation that Rep. Betty McCollum (D-4th District) introduced to ban permanent hard rock mining in a local watershed.

McCollum stated that the Rainy River Watershed’s proposed sulfide ore mining would cause havoc in the Boundary Waters.

She stated that there is no room to error and no acceptable level of risk. It would be irreparable once it was damaged.”

The committee approved McCollum’s bill on a party line vote.

However, it is not without a lot of fighting.

McCollum’s legislation was also opposed by Rep. Peter Stauber (R-8th District), who is a member. Stauber, who was strongly opposed to McCollum’s legislation, tried to stop it by proposing a series of amendments to the bill.

One Stauber Amendment would prevent implementation of the law until the Commerce Department and Interior Department secretaries complete investigations into China’s use of solar panels made of slave labor through Southeast Asian countries.

Stauber Amendment 2 would stop implementation until federal agencies have access to “the delays this Act might cause for American electric car manufacturers and American consumers who are waiting to buy electric vehicles by making domestic steel unavailable and shrinking their domestic supply chain.” Other comments focused on the economic impact on Minnesota’s schools, towns, and communities from losing mining revenue from the proposed mine.

Stauber claimed that Twin Metals was safe for the environment and would create jobs with good pay.

He said, “I live in this district, and these are my constituents that want these jobs,”

The proposed mine would be situated in a watershed covering nearly 2 million acres that starts in northern Cook and Lake Counties, and flows northwesterly into St. Louis County. It is bordered by Canadian waters.

Last month, a draft Forest Service environmental impact statement called for a 20 year moratorium on mineral development in this area. This report comes after the Department of the Interior in January decided to cancel Twin Metals’ mineral leases for its copper/nickel project.

McCollum and other environmentalists worry that the White House could reverse the permitting decision. This was in direct contradiction to a Trump administration decision not to grant permits for the mine. They want to codify a permanent ban.

On Wednesday, Stauber was assisted by fellow Republicans who offered their amendments. Rep. Lauren Bobert (Republican from Colorado) proposed that the bill be halted until the federal government proved that any minerals imported to fund federally funded infrastructure projects to replace the lost Twin Metals minerals “would not come from mines that use child or forced labor.”

Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), a frustrated Rep., called the avalanche amendments “throwaways”.

He said, “They are meant bring the circus to your town.”

All GOP amendments were ultimately defeated by the Democratic majority of the panel.

McCollum’s bill advanced in the U.S. House, but there isn’t a companion bill in Senate.

McCollum stated that Minnesota Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, both Democrats are currently reviewing the Forest Service study.

She said, “The senators don’t have a position.”

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