Between breakfast with her family Wednesday morning at the Sheraton South Hotel and the completion of dozens of TV and telephone interviews, 6th District Congresswoman-elect Michele Bachmann of Stillwater was already mapping strategy for her D.C. debut.
“My goal is to sit on the financial services committee where I can affect tax code and I want to be able to sit on the Transportation Committee because I want to build more roads all across the 6th district.”
Conservative Bachmann is the first Republican woman sent to the U.S. House from Minnesota. Democrat Betty McCollum was elected from the 4th District in 1990. She was the first female Minnesota Representative since Coya Knudsen in the 1950s.
Bachmann will be across the aisle from liberal Democrat Keith Ellison of Minneapolis. America’s first Muslim Congressman had barely slept since sweeping to victory, but he spent all day Wednesday at his South Minneapolis campaign headquarters on several domestic and international phone interviews.
As the state’s first black federal lawmaker, Ellison found himself explaining Minnesota’s progressive political traditions to reporters from other states and other countries.
”We don't even call the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party,” he told one caller. “We call it the Democratic Farmer Labor Party.”
He hopes he can trade his newly earned celebrity for a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
“That is an exclusive committee,” Ellison admits, “and it's rare for a freshman to be on such a committee, but you know that would be my first choice.”
Minnesota’s first elected female U.S. Senator, Amy Klobuchar, agrees that energy is a priority. Speaking in Kare11’s Golden Valley studios, Klobuchar expounded: ”One of the committee's I'm interested in is agriculture, because of the energy issue and because of the fact that the farm bill is up in 2007 and that's going to mean a lot to what is our biggest export.”
As for the eclectic liberal/conservative mix of Minnesota’s new faces in Congress, Ellison called it “Diversity. It's natural. It's fine for people to have different points of view and approaches to the world.”
Bachmann suggested, “That we work together in a wonderful, bipartisan fashion.” Senator-elect Klobuchar added hopefully, “I think there's going to be less of this ideology and more of a focus on results and getting things done.”
Whether or not that sentiment lasts is anyone’s guess. The first potential battles could be over those committee assignments in the House. For instance, with longtime Democrat James Oberstar of Duluth in line to chair the House Transportation Committee, a seat for freshman Republican Bachmann might be in doubt or it might be a sign of new cooperation.
Democrat Tim Walz says he's still getting used to being called "congressman-elect."
Walz unseated six-term incumbent Republican Gil Gutknecht in southern Minnesota's First District as Democrats recaptured the U-S House.
Walz is a fomer command-sergeant-major in the National Guard who had been critical of U.S. policy in Iraq during the campaign.
Walz is virtually assured of a seat on the House Agriculture Committee through his friendship with Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson, who will chair the committee now that Democrats have taken the House.
The Mankato high school teacher says he'd also like to serve on the Education Committee.
By Allen Costantini , KARE 11 News
(Copyright 2006 by KARE and the Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)