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Capital Chatter: Kline says debt panel needs to succeed

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ST. PAUL -- U.S. Rep. John Kline says a committee looking into how to deal with the national debt has no choice but to find a solution.

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The Minnesota Republican told reporters there is no option because without a bipartisan plan from the panel, Washington will see draconian cuts. "They understand the need to do something because the stakes are so high.

The debt dispute and, closer to home for Kline, working out new education laws illustrate problems Washington faces.

"There is a fair amount of frustration, I think, on both sides of the aisle," Kline said.

Still, he added, "there is hope because something needs to get done."

Kline said a big part of the budget answer will be reforming Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly, to save money.

As chairman of the House education committee, Kline said that he expects final work on legislation to replace the controversial No Child Left Behind law to pass this fall. However, upon reporters' questions it became obvious lots of work remains on the toughest issues.

One of those differences is in how the Obama administration is approving waivers to allow some schools to not follow No Child Left Behind. In Kline's view, the administration approves waivers by ordering new policy, policy that he said only Congress can pass.

"All that power shouldn't be sitting there in the executive branch," he said.

Kline wants any new law to forbid such policy decisions, but he may face strong Democratic opposition.

While he said he wants new education laws to be bipartisan, he is ready to push a Republican bill through his committee if that fails.

Farming soldiers

Twenty-two Minnesota National Guard soldiers are heading to Afghanistan on an unusual mission: teach agriculture.

The Guard's Agri-Business Development Team leaves for training Tuesday for a one-year deployment.

"This is a unique and important mission that will take citizen-soldiers working in Minnesota's agricultural sector and seek to leverage their skills and abilities in Afghanistan," said Army Col. Eric D. Ahlness, who commands the unit.

The team includes an agribusiness university professor, veterinarians, livestock specialists and others with ag backgrounds.

"This is a mission that is well suited for the Guard because we are citizen-soldiers with strong skill sets which we've learned in the civilian sector," Ahlness said. "And we do it much better due to the coalition of academia, business and individuals who willingly provide advice, guidance and training to our team."

Want Bachmann eyes?

Michele Bachmann may be eying the presidency, but now anyone can have her famous eyes.

At least anyone with an iPad or iPhone can have eyes like the Republican presidential candidate, or include Bachmann's eyes in photos of others.

New to the Apple App Store is an application that allows users to turn eyes into those like the Minnesota congresswoman displayed on a recent Newsweek cover with the headline "Queen of rage."

"Want that special, extra-intense look?" the app's description asks. "Just slide the 'craziness level' up and see what happens."

A blog about the app shows examples of people with Bachmann eyes, including husband Marcus, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, President Barack Obama, and dozens of other famous and not-so-famous folks (bachmanneyezed.com).

GOP to poll

The Republican Midwest Leadership Conference will include a presidential straw poll when it meets in Minneapolis Oct. 7-8.

"The road to the White House goes through the Midwest," Minnesota GOP chairman Tony Sutton said. "The 12 states that make up the Midwest region include several swing states, Minnesota among them, that will play a pivotal role in the 2012 presidential election. Consequently, the Midwest region will have a significant say in who the Republican candidate is that makes President Obama a one-term president."

The conference will include speeches by governors of Iowa and Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Karl Rove, a senior advisor to former President George W. Bush.

OnStar bows to Franken

OnStar switched course after Sen. Al Franken criticized the General Motors-owned communications and navigation service for its plan to sell information about customers who no longer used the service.

"We realize that our proposed amendments did not satisfy our subscribers," OnStar President Linda Marshall said in a statement.

So to keep nearly 6 million customers happy, Marshall opted against OnStar's previously announced plan.

"OnStar did the right thing today, and I'm glad that so many consumers now won't have to worry about their location information being shared without their consent," Franken, D-Minn., said. "While I'm pleased that OnStar reversed its policy, I still have questions about how that company and others are treating consumers' location information.

One of OnStar's selling points is the technology can notify emergency services personnel if a vehicle has been in an accident, and provide them with the exact location. However, OnStar's location service remains active even if the vehicle owner does not pay for the service and the company had planned selling that information.

Klobuchar challenged

A northeastern Minnesota man says he will challenge U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in next year's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party primary election.

Bill Hamm of Bovey announced he is running against the popular senator for several reasons, including that she has not supported the Second Amendment's provision to allow Americans to carry guns and what he called a "racist-economically biased" war on drugs that she supports. He also complained that Klobuchar, in her first term in Washington, has done too little to fight obesity and to help blacks get jobs.

"Sen. Klobuchar's continued support for the out-of-touch progressive-socialist leaders of the Minnesota DFL has made it impossible to support her or my party's position on (these) issues," he said.

Hamm, an Itasca County native, is a divorced father of three and a Grand Rapids High School graduate. A Vietnam war veteran, with what he calls a mild disability, Hamm has worked most of his adult life in northern Minnesota's forests, mostly doing inventory and forest improvement projects.

Bachmann answers

The old Michele Bachmann is back, and in an Iowa appearance she even took time to answer questions from the public and reporters.

So says Kathie Obradovich, The Des Moines Register's political columnist.

"She engaged voters in a way I haven't seen since before the Iowa Straw Poll," the columnist wrote about the presidential candidate's Cedar Rapids appearance.

Bachmann was more than 20 minutes late, but Obradovich added that "almost counts as punctual for Bachmann."

The Republican Minnesota congresswoman answered questions from the public, something she seldom did during earlier appearances. Taking questions from reporters also was rare.

In Iowa, home of the country's first presidential caucuses, voters expect candidates to be available for one-on-one talks and when in groups they expect still to be able to interact with presidential hopefuls. Some had said Bachmann appeared aloof in her home state.

Mingo friend named

Emily Flesch of Duluth needed little time to guess the name of Gov. Mark Dayton's new puppy: Itasca.

Flesch guessed the name a couple of hours after the only clue was posted on the Facebook page of Dayton's other puppy, Mingo: "Six letters make my brother's name, two of the letters are the same."

Dayton will take Flesch out to his sons' Minneapolis restaurant, The Bachelor Farmer.

The governor got Itasca, born Aug.16, because Mingo needed a companion. Dayton's other dog -- all are German shepherds -- is aging and could not keep up with Mingo.

Plenty of other names were suggested. They included Shilah, Summit, Zippel, Kenyon, Duluth, Morris, Isanti, Norman and Walker.

Fox rejects Tpaw

Fox News Channel turned down former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty when he asked for a job.

Howard Kurtz reports on the Newsweek Daily Beast blog that Roger Ailes, the combative conservative behind the news channel, did not like the fact that endorsed Mitt Romney for president.

"I'm not sure I want to sign you as a paid spokesman for Romney," Ailes reportedly said.

Kurtz said the Ailes-Pawlenty conversation came three weeks after Tpaw dropped out of the presidential race on Aug. 14. Since then, in the few public comments Pawlenty has made, he has joked about needing to find a job.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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