The week in politics: From Washington to Minnesota

a man holds out a hand to another man holding a pen.
U.S. President Joe Biden (R) gives Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) (L) the pen he used to sign The Inflation Reduction Act with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) in the State Dining Room of the White House August 16, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

It seems surprising and even a little unusual, but lawmakers in Washington have actually been passing bills.

President Joe Biden signed the measure Democrats call the Inflation Reduction Act this week and the news reverberated in Minnesota.

The law is a lot smaller than the "Build Back Better” plan Biden originally wanted, but it's still pretty big. Democrats say it will lower costs for families, combat the climate crisis, reduce the deficit and increase taxes on large companies.

It also caps prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients and for the first time will allow Medicare to begin negotiating some drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

Gov. Tim Walz called it “a big win for Minnesota,” and DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar called it "a historic win for American families."

Republicans have an altogether different take. Remember — this law passed with no Republican votes. They say it will increase taxes on the middle class and add to inflation, even though Democrats insist it will not raise taxes on businesses and families earning less than $400,000 a year.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

“President Biden and the Democrats lied when they promised not to raise taxes on the middle class,” Republican Party of Minnesota Chair David Hann said in a statement. “We will hold Minnesota Democrats in Congress accountable for this massive tax hike this November.” 

Democrats believe passage of the law and other recently enacted legislation has the potential to change the conversation heading into the midterm election.

At an event in Bloomington this week celebrating another law the president signed recently that's designed to bolster the semiconductor industry and help the U.S. compete with China, Klobuchar said Democrats are getting a lot done with those two laws, gun safety legislation and more. And she thinks voters are going to notice what's been happening.

A woman speaking.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Pool, Getty Images

“People during the pandemic and during the four years before that lost a lot of faith in government, and they just saw it as people in the middle of a food fight every single day,” Klobuchar said. “And what we have done this summer is changed the narrative. We have actually gotten things done. Some Democrats only, but a whole bunch of it was bipartisan. And that's important for our country's faith in democracy.”

Klobuchar, who is not on the ballot this year, repeatedly raised the issue of Medicare and drug negotiations as she campaigned for president in 2020 and has pushed the issue in the Senate.

And while some Democrats — including Minnesota U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips — are saying that they don’t want Biden on the ballot again in 2024 — Klobuchar is standing by Biden.

“I’ve made very clear that I am supportive of the president, and and I think he said he's running. I mean, that's what he said. And so I'll support him,” Klobuchar said. 

Meanwhile the talk in the governor's race this week has been about debates, not necessarily the big issues.

Walz declined an invitation from MPR News to debate his Republican opponent Scott Jensen at the State Fair which begins next Thursday.

Candidate Dr. Scott Jensen laughs with a constituent
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dr. Scott Jensen wants more debates with Gov. Tim Walz.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News

Jensen accused Walz of ducking debates.

“He may be running for governor, but the more important question is what is he running from?” Jensen said in a video posted to Twitter. “Because he's clearly not running to a discussion of the issues that you might want. He is not interested in having an open conversation with me in front of you, so you can make the decision you need to make when you cast your vote.”

The two did debate a couple weeks ago at Farmfest in a feisty exchange

The governor said on MPR News last week that he will debate Jensen again, but he said he is wary of giving Jensen a platform where he can spread false information about COVID-19 without being challenged. 

Walz has raised a lot more campaign money than Jensen, so it only makes sense Jensen would want to have more debates where he can get TV coverage and other media attention that Walz can afford to buy through paid advertising. 

Meanwhile the Walz campaign pressed Jensen and his running mate Matt Birk to release their tax returns. Both Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan have released multiple years of their tax returns, and they note that DFL and Republican candidates have done so in past gubernatorial campaigns.