DC Memo: More Abortion Action, Boundary Waters Bill Moving Forward

Editor’s Note: This story was updated with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act and the passage of abortion-related votes in the United States House.

WASHINGTON — The week began with the Biden administration acting on abortion rights by telling hospitals they must provide abortion services if a mother’s life is in danger.

The Department of Health and Human Services said the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act takes precedence over state laws that would end or restrict abortions. These laws were enacted following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade.

“Under the law, no matter where you live, women have the right to emergency care — including abortion care,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Today, in no uncertain terms, we reaffirm that we expect providers to continue to offer these services, and that federal law precludes state abortion bans when needed for emergency care.”

If a hospital is found to be in violation of federal emergency medical care law, it could lose its agreements with Medicare and Medicaid and face civil penalties. An individual physician could also face civil penalties if found to be in violation.

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President Joe Biden has come under pressure from fellow Democrats to take stronger action on abortion. But he is limited in what he can do through the executive branch.

So the Democrats in Congress picked up the slack, even though they knew their efforts would fail unless the filibuster rule – which requires at least 60 votes for legislation to pass the US Senate – failed. be eliminated.

The week ended Friday with House votes on abortion rights. A bill would protect the right to travel for abortion services. The other would go beyond Roe vs. Wade in the protection of the right to abortion. Both bills passed the House, with Minnesota lawmakers voting along party lines.

But, like a similar bill that would codify Roe that was approved by the House in May, none of these abortion rights bills have a chance, at this point, of making it through the Senate. So, Democrats hope the votes on the legislation frame the issue of the midterm elections.

The work of the January 6 committee continues

The Jan. 6 special committee continued its work this week with witnesses that included former Trump aides, right-wing media commentators and militia members. The committee showed how the former president’s public statements led his supporters to believe the 2020 election was stolen and urged them to storm the Capitol in an attempt to stop his certification.

A Trump tweet was a rallying cry for supporters, including far-right groups like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys to come to Washington on Jan. 6, witnesses said.

“Big protest in DC Jan 6th,” Trump tweeted. “Be there, will be wild!”

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During the hearing, the committee’s seventh, evidence was presented that showed that four days after the states voted in the Electoral College, a group of Trump allies, including attorney Sidney Powell and Michael T. Flynn — the retired general who had briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser — presented the former president with draft executive orders to sign that would have used the Department of Defense to seize voting machines.

In published portions of some of former White House attorney Pat Cipollone’s taped testimony, he said he told Trump supporters “That’s a terrible idea.”

Minnesota’s “Important” Swing County

Politico said this week that Dakota County is one of the 20 “most important counties” in the nation that will determine whether Republicans or Democrats rule the House and Senate in 2023.

Represented in the House by Rep. Angie Craig, D-2nd District, Dakota County is unlike the roughly 3,000 other counties whose population “sorts into solidly blue or comfortably red territory,” Politico said.

“Dakota County is essentially split down the middle…farmland in the southern part of the county is trending red, while the Twin Cities bedroom communities to the north have turned reliably Democratic. The Town of Lakeville, population 65,000 strong in the center of the county, however, remains firmly divided,” Politico said.

Republicans only need to flip five congressional seats to wrest control of the US House from the Democratic Party.

Omar’s human rights amendment passes

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th District, scored a victory this week with the approval of an amendment she sponsored to the massive $840 billion National Defense Authorization Bill.

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Omar’s amendment would require the US military to provide ‘a description of efforts to prevent civilian harm and human rights abuses’ when the Pentagon supports ‘irregular warfare’ special operations in other countries . The war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, has been considered an irregular war.

More than 1,200 amendments to the NDAA were introduced this week, and most were ignored or rejected.

Although Omar won her amendment, she and other House progressives voted against the NDAA, which both authorizes military spending for troops and weapons systems and sets military policy. Progressives believe that too much money is being spent on the Pentagon and too little on social programs and other needs.

“At a time when Minnesotans are still grappling with soaring costs for basic items like food and shelter, when Republicans are blocking investment in basic needs like health care, we shouldn’t be voting on a defense bill that hands out a record $800+ billion to the Pentagon,” Omar said in a written statement.

“Bring the Circus to Town” on Mining

There was another chapter this week in the saga over the licensing of an underground copper-nickel mine project by Twin Metals near Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee held an often acrimonious hour-long tagging of legislation introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-4th District, that would permanently ban hard rock mining in a watershed. neighbour.

McCollum said the planned sulphide ore mining in the Rainy River watershed would wreak havoc in the boundary waters.

“There is no room for error; no acceptable level of risk,” she said. “Once damaged, it would be damaged forever.”

At the end of the day, McCollum’s bill passed the committee in a party-line vote.

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But not before many fights.

Like McCollum, Rep. Peter Stauber, R-8th District, is a member of the committee. Fiercely opposed to McCollum’s legislation, Stauber attempted to derail it by proposing a slew of amendments that would gut the bill.

A Stauber amendment would block implementation until the Secretaries of the Department of Interior and the Department of Commerce complete an investigation into the “laundering of solar panels built by slaves in Southeast Asian countries “.

Another Stauber amendment would halt implementation until federal agencies “address the delays this law could cause for U.S. EV manufacturers and U.S. consumers waiting to purchase EVs by making domestic metals unavailable.” and reducing the national supply chain”. Others have focused on the economic impact on schools and towns in Minnesota from the loss of mining revenue from the proposed mine.

Stauber argued that the Twin Metals project was environmentally safe and would “create jobs, well-paying jobs.”

“I live in the neighborhood and it’s my constituents who want these jobs,” he said.

The proposed mine would be located in a watershed that encompasses an area of ​​nearly 2 million acres that begins in northern Cook and Lake counties and drains northwest into St. Louis County and Canadian border waters.

A draft Forest Service environmental impact statement released last month called for a 20-year moratorium on mining development in the region. The report follows a January decision by the Home Office to revoke mining leases held by Twin Metals for its copper-nickel project.

But McCollum and environmentalists fear a change in the White House could reverse that permitting decision, which was itself a reversal of a Trump administration decision to grant permits for the mine. So they want to codify a permanent ban.

On Wednesday, fellow Republicans came to Stauber’s aid with their own amendments. For example, Rep. Lauren Bobert, R-Colo., has proposed that the bill not take effect until the federal government proves that all mineral resources imported for infrastructure projects funded by the federal government to compensate for minerals lost due to a Twin Metals mining ban “would not be from mines that use child labor or forced labor.

Frustrated Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., called the avalanche of amendments “disposable.”

“They’re meant to bring the circus to town,” he said.

Ultimately, all of the GOP amendments were defeated by the Democratic majority on the panel.

Although McCollum’s bill advanced in the US House this week, there is no companion bill in the Senate.

McCollum said Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, both Democrats, review the Forest Service study.

“Senators have not taken a position,” she said.

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