Year in review: five ways Minnesotans influenced national politics in 2021
2021 has been a dynamic year for Congress: the year began with an insurgency on the United States Capitol; lawmakers adopted the US bailout to stimulate the economy and provide assistance to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic; the United States withdrew from 20 years of military engagement in Afghanistan; the delta and omicron variants have jumped; and an infrastructure bill was passed, after years of failure.
Members of the Minnesota congressional delegation attended all of these events and more, and other Minnesota residents played important roles in influencing national politics. While the options are almost endless, here are five major moments the Minnesotans made a difference nationally this year.
1. The Minnesotans at the White House
Several Minnesota residents entered one of the most powerful offices in the world this year. Denis McDonough, a native of Stillwater, is Biden’s Veterans Secretary. Jake Sullivan, a graduate of Southwest High School in Minneapolis, is a National Security Advisor.
Sullivan has been a key player in national security policy surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan this summer, while he was also responsible for directing U.S. policy on cyber attacks and an earthquake in Haiti. The New York Times called it a “figure of fascination and schadenfreude”.
Sullivan’s younger brother, Tom Sullivan, is also fairly high up in government: Tom is deputy chief of staff for policy at the State Department. And the brothers’ wives, Rose Sullivan and Maggie Goodlander, also hold senior positions in the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice, respectively.
The family was also closely linked to Klobuchar’s political life: at various times from 2007 to 2015, Jake was the senator’s legal counsel, Tom was his deputy chief of staff, and Rose was his chief of staff. Talk about a political family in Minnesota.
2. Senator Klobuchar helped local entertainment venues with the act of saving our stages
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed entertainment venues like First Avenue and the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in 2020, and the pandemic continued to rage in 2021, many businesses feared they would disappear for good.
After speaking with First Avenue President and CEO Dana Frank, Senator Amy Klobuchar said she has decided to introduce the Save Our Stages Act, which established the grant program for closed site operators. . The program included $ 16 billion in grants to places such as concert halls, cinemas and museums that were forced to close during the pandemic. The Save Our Stages law was incorporated into a coronavirus relief program that was passed in January, and the program received additional funding through the US bailout that was passed in the spring.
The distribution of funds did not go as smoothly as many would have liked – the Small Business Administration, which was responsible for getting the money back into the hands of business owners, was overwhelmed by demand and demand. grant money was delayed for several months.
Still, the money has helped many local Twin Cities sites stay afloat during the pandemic.
âOne of my biggest worries is that people will think this is a godsend for us,â said Christine Sagstetter, Interim President and CEO of Ordway. “But these [funds] are needed just to make us survive. I also don’t want to deny that there were other people who tried to help us survive, and we were grateful. This community in the Twin Cities is very philanthropic and it is heartwarming.
3. Senator Tina Smith and Representative Ilhan Omar asked for more money for child care
Senator Tina Smith has long been an advocate for more money in the hands of parents and child care providers, and has worked on this issue especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Smith joined with Senator Elizabeth Warren in supporting a $ 50 billion plan to help child care providers facing declining enrollments threatening the survival of the industry.
The $ 50 billion went to the Americans as part of the US bailout, and Minnesota received about $ 550 million in aid from the deal.
Representative Ilhan Omar also drafted an amendment to the Build Back Better law that would put in place a system for what Democrats call universal child care. The system is implemented in stages, where those with the lowest family income would receive free child care and families above the program threshold would still pay no more than seven percent of their annual income in child care costs. of children.
The amendment has been celebrated by child care advocates and parents alike, but the fate of the Build Back Better Act is still not clear in Congress and will not be voted on until next year.
4. Members of Congress from Minnesota have worked tirelessly to get people out of Afghanistan
The first flood of requests began in August, and after a week, Congressional offices were receiving hundreds of calls and emails from relatives and friends of people stranded in Afghanistan as the US military withdrew. from the country.
Third District Representative Dean Phillips told MinnPost how a tweet he sent with contact information people could use to ask for help spread like wildfire on social media. and refugee aid organizations. The tweet and others like it meant that Phillips’ team, mostly in their twenties, were suddenly tasked with working around the clock to help people escape the escalation of the situation in Afghanistan.
“Members of Congress will often take credit,” said Phillips. “But the truth is, the real hard work, the hard work, the very emotional hard work in this case as well, is the result of outstanding young public servants.”
Phillips’ team wasn’t the only one receiving calls and emails around the clock, however – other members of the Minnesota delegation said they were contacted by voters for weeks as they tried. to get their family, friends and colleagues out of Afghanistan.
“The extraordinarily long nights and weekends of the past two weeks have been exhausting but cannot be compared to the emotional toll it places on these families who fear for the lives of their loved ones,” said a staff member at the Phillips team.
5. Representative Emmer sets the stage for Congress to act on cryptocurrency
Representative Tom Emmer focused on the booming cryptocurrency market, and he says he has finally caught the attention of other members of Congress.
For the uninitiated, cryptocurrency is digital money that takes its name from the encryption used to keep it secure. Cryptocurrency uses blockchain technology, a massive, decentralized network of computers that keeps track of transactions. Cryptocurrency can, in some cases, be used to purchase goods and services, but in the United States, it is better known as an investment, functioning the same as stock market investments, with owners buying and selling at as the value of a currency rises and falls.
Now Emmer says it’s up to Congress to make rules and regulations for the new technology, and believes that over the next decade it will be used as much as the regular US dollar.