D.C. Memo: Omar says ‘no way in hell’ to Israel’s Herzog

13 July 2023

WASHINGTON — Rep. Ilhan Omar said “no way in hell” would she attend a speech by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to a joint session of Congress next week, provoking former Vice President Mike Pence to call the Democratic lawmaker’s remarks antisemitic.

Herzog is visiting Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Israel. But he is part of a far-right Israeli government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who has provoked protests for its attempt to unilaterally enact legislation that would weaken the nation’s Supreme Court and other democratic institutions so his government could more easily create settlements in the West Bank on Palestinian lands.

“There is no way in hell I am attending the joint session address from a President whose country has banned me and denied @RashidaTlaib the ability to see her grandma,” Omar, D-5th District, said on Twitter. Omar and fellow progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, have been barred by the Israeli government from its nation.

“Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address comes on behalf of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, at a time when the government is openly promising to ‘crush’ Palestinian hopes of statehood – essentially putting a nail in the coffin of peace and a two-state solution,” Omar said in her Twitter thread.

Earlier this year, Omar was stripped of a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee by House Republicans who said Omar’s criticisms of U.S.-Israeli relations – and other comments – were “antisemitic.”

On Thursday, Pence, who is running for president, resuscitated those accusations about Omar’s remarks concerning Herzog.

“Israel is one of our greatest and most important allies,” Pence tweeted. “Your defense of terrorists and attacks on the Jewish state are sickening. There is no place for antisemitism in our society. I will never apologize for standing with Israel. Stand with me.”

Nevertheless, a number of lawmakers, besides Omar, are expected to boycott Herzog’s speech.

Simon next president of secretaries of state group

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon was in Washington, D.C. this week to attend a meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and share concerns with fellow officials about the 2024 elections.

“My main concern is that we will see intentional disinformation campaigns aimed at voters,” he said. “In many areas we’re hoping for the best and expecting the worst.”

Still, Simon said he’s “learned a lot” since the 2020 and 2022 elections and his agency is ready to combat disinformation by enlisting non-profits and high-profile individuals in sports, entertainment and government in to counter the expected disinformation campaigns that will spread through social media. He calls the effort a “myth versus fact campaign.”

“It will fall on the shoulders of secretaries of state to push back,” Simon said.

Active for years in NASS, which is composed of both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state, Simon was rewarded by being appointed president-elect of the organization, a position he will fill next summer.

Fischbach bring D.C. lawmakers to Minnesota ranch to talk trade

This year Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-7th District, traded her seat on the House Agriculture Committee for one on the prestigious House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes and trade, among other things.

But Fischbach seems not to have forgotten the agricultural concerns of her largely rural district in northcentral Minnesota, arranging a “field hearing” this week on a cattle ranch in Kimball, Minnesota that featured a panel of lawmakers and a panel of witnesses – who swore there’d be no bull in their testimony – seated among bales of hay.

The issue was agricultural trade and the witnesses largely represented American farmers and ranchers. Don Schiefelbein, whose ranch was the site for the hearing, said he was proud of the family farm, run by seven brothers, their wives and 32 children, as well as their Grandma Frosty.

“We are a good Catholic family,” Schiefelbein said.

The cattleman was concerned Americans are disconnected from their food supply.

“Many Americans don’t know where their food comes from,” Schiefelbein said.

Witnesses asked lawmakers for help in expanding trade and enforcing an existing agreement with the United States’ closest neighbors called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA.)

Fischbach was sympathetic, decrying Mexico’s proposed “unscientific ban” on genetically modified corn.

About 90% of the corn raised in the United States has been genetically modified and Mexico has been a huge market. Corn exports to Mexico in 2022 were worth about $5 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture. Nonetheless, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says genetically modified corn is a human health hazard.

Another sore point is ongoing differences about Canada’s program on ultra-filtered milk, a high-protein product used in making cheese and yogurt. The Canadian program hurts U.S. exports.

Fischbach’s GOP colleagues, Reps. Pete Stauber, R-8th District, and Brad Finstad, R-1st District, also attended the hearing on a waiver because they are not Ways and Means Committee members.

Finstad asked participants to “smell the beautiful smell of farm country because that’s the smell of money and the smell of opportunity.”

“Food and farm security is national security,” Finstad added.

Meanwhile Stauber insisted to the fellow lawmakers who traveled to Kimball “we are not flyover country.”

The hearing sometimes turned from agriculture towards mining. Stauber, who represents the Iron Range in Congress, said “mining is our past and our future.” He decried Biden administration policies, which include a moratorium on more than 220,000 acres of the Superior National Forest and the revocation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a Clean Water Act permit for a proposed NewRange copper and nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.

Former state Sen. Tom Bakk, who now lobbies for TwinMetals, a mining company that wants to establish a copper and nickel mine in area of the Superior National Forest now under a 20-year moratorium, was among the witnesses.

Stauber and Bakk repeated their arguments that critical minerals that could be mined in Minnesota are direly needed for electric car batteries, wind turbines and other clean energy projects.

“You know it makes no sense to me,” Bakk testified. “On one hand we set aggressive goals on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time we are slowing down or halting mining projects that are needed to meet those goals.”

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