Two of Minnesota' most military-oriented politicians went different ways when the U.S. House approved the defense authorization bill.
John Kline, a Republican serving an area mostly south of the Twin Cities, voted against the military funding bill for the first time in his seven years as congressman because it contained what he described as divisive social policies.
Prime among those policies is a provision that has little to do with defense. It would allow greater federal involvement in investigating hate crimes, such as one that resulted in the death of a gay Wyoming man.
"It is a shame that majority (Democratic) leadership would jeopardize a bill that is critical to the success of our sons and daughters in uniform to push their political agenda," said Kline, a 25-year Marine veteran. "Our troops deserve the resources they need to complete their mission, but I cannot sit idly by while Democrats use our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines as political chess pieces to pass a completely unrelated and ill-conceived 'hate crimes' bill which is a direct assault on our First Amendment freedoms."
There were no such objections from U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat who serves most of southern Minnesota and a 24-year Army National Guard member.
He praised a provision giving retroactive payments to National Guard soldiers, who lost out on pay that was due them.
The bill included a Walz amendment to require the defense and veterans affairs secretaries to deliver Congress a report on an electronic records system for veterans that Walz said would improve medical care for them.
Franken: Cut breaks
U.S. Sen. Al Franken does not want drug makers to get tax breaks for marketing their medicines.
The Minnesota Democrat introduced what he called the Protecting Americans From Drug Marketing Act.
"Health care spending is out of control," Franken said. "And this bill represents a small but significant step towards reigning in unnecessary health care costs. There's no reason for drug companies to be getting a boost from taxpayers while Minnesota families are struggling to pay the costs of health care."
Franken estimated that eliminating the tax breaks would bring p to $3.5 billion a year into the federal government.
Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Park Rapids Enterprise. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.