5th District Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) defended his vote against the Omnibus Appropriations Bill—a 1,200-page, nearly $1 trillion measure whose failure would have threatened to shut down the government.
Ellison criticized the bill for cutting heating assistance and jobs training programs while increasing what he called “wasteful” Pentagon spending and continuing to fund the war in Afghanistan, which he said has gone on too long.
“This bill continues down the Republican Congress’s wrongheaded path for our country,” he was quoted in a news release. “By enshrining the Budget Control Act of this summer, the latest appropriations package maintains handouts to special interests at the expense of the middle class.”
Meanwhile, Ellison is pushing a package of emergency jobs legislation called the “Restore the American Dream for the 99% Act” proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Provisions include the creation of direct-hire programs, grants for on-the-job training, $50 billion for transportation and infrastructure projects and unemployment insurance extensions.
It would also cut $280 billion in defense and weapons programs, in part by withdrawing forces from Afghanistan and halving the number of troops in Europe; increases the tax rate on those who make $1 million or more and add a .03 percent excise tax on the purchase of securities.
“Otherwise known as the Keith Ellison Writes Checks He Cant (sic) Cash Act,” quipped Chris Fields, a Republican challenger for the 5th District seat.
Ellison’s criticism of defense spending followed his vote against the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act for similar reasons. In a news release, he said he opposed the bill because it continued funding the war in Afghanistan and maintained post-9/11 security measures that he said threaten civil liberties.
Lynne Torgerson, another Republican challenger for the 5th District seat, criticized Ellison’s efforts to help Somalis continuing wiring money to their home country.
Sunrise Banks, the last U.S. Bank to provide wire transfers to Somalia, announced that it would be ending the service because it couldn’t guarantee the money wouldn’t go to terrorists and because it wants to push the federal government to improve security.
Ellison said in a Dec. 17 NPR article that the government needs to find a long-term solution.
"Are there better ways to maintain safety and to facilitate transactions that really do need to be made in order to keep starving people alive?" he asked.
But Torgerson said Ellison needs to take a stronger stand.
“Ellison on the wrong side again: banks have stopped sending money because it has been aiding terrorism. Again, Ellison, like he does with CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), fails to ensure no money goes to terrorists,” she wrote on Facebook.
All-American Muslim ads
Torgerson, who praised Lowe’s for its decision to pull advertising from the new TLC’s reality show All-American Muslim—which aims to show Muslims in Dearborn, MI, going about their daily lives. Lowe’s deemed the show to controversial after the Florida Family Association started urging advertisers to withdraw their support.
Torgerson praised both companies on Facebook, writing, “Go Kayak. Go Lowe's.”
By contrast, Ellison was one of 30 representatives who sent a letter to Lowe’s urging it to reconsider.
“We are dismayed that your decision was influenced by an online petition from the Florida Family Association, a group that has advocated discrimination and bigotry in the past,” the letter stated. “Yes, we face threats from radical Islamic extremists, but the millions of patriotic, peace-loving Muslims living and working in America are our best defense against them, and only strengthen the fabric of our nation. We implore you to reconsider your decision and live up to your corporate ideals of diversity and inclusion and the values of tolerance and acceptance that create the foundation of our nation.”
Is Congress Corrupt?
Amid all the debate, public opinion of Congress remains low. Ellison visited the O’Reilly Factor on Dec. 13 to answer the question “Is Congress Corrupt?” with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)—a question that arose following a poll in which 64 percent of respondents rated the honesty and ethical standards of Congress as low or very low
“Well you know, Bill, there’s a lot of Republican voters who feel that they are locked out of the process, too,” Ellison said. “I mean, they have different solutions for the problems than I would propose, but they still feel outside the system. I mean, I think that’s part of what explains the whole Tea Party movement—that people kind of felt that they, the average American, regardless of party affiliation or ideology, weren’t given access to the system.”
Tweeted Fields: “Totally unimpressive! Once again he offers no solutions and doesnt (sic) even understand the depth of the problem.”