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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published December 19 2010

Minnesota political notebook: Federal tax bill makes strange alliances

St. Paul - The most significant federal tax bill in years passed Congress, and produced strange political bedfellows.

Who would have imagined that conservative tea party star U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann would side with liberals Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum against a tax measure? It may have been just a little less of a surprise that conservative John Kline and liberal Jim Oberstar sided.

Minnesota’s senators, both Democrats, voted for the bill keeping the Bush-era tax cuts in place, although they held their noses while doing so. The House delegation split, and definitely not along party lines.

Voting for the Republican-President Barack Obama compromise were Republicans Kline and Erik Paulsen as well as Democrats Tim Walz, Collin Peterson and Oberstar.

The House approved the bill 277-148 after senators voted 81-19 in favor of it.

One of the problems Bachmann saw in the bill was reinstatement of the estate tax, which many call a “death tax” because survivors must pay.

Bachmann tweeted: “I voted against restoring the death tax, increasing deficit and blowing a bigger hole in the Social Security trust fund.”

“A lot of people are unhappy that the president punted on first down, and I’m one of them,” Sen. Al Franken wrote to supporters, adding that the vote was the hardest he has taken. “Extending the Bush tax breaks for the super-wealthy will explode our deficit over the next two years without doing anything to help our economy.”

Pawlenty first

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty appears nearing an announcement that he will run for president, but he badly trails other better-known potential GOP candidates in the polls.

However, he is first in something.

Craig Robinson, founder and editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, reports that his first Christmas card from a potential 2012 presidential candidate came from Pawlenty.

The governor plans Iowa stops on his book tour next month. Iowa, of course, holds the first presidential caucuses.

Pawlenty’s book, “Courage to Stand: An American Story,” goes on sale Jan. 11. He plans a book tour and by spring is due to announce his presidential decision.

Kline vs. Obama

Bloomberg News reports that incoming U.S. House Education Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., “is considering measures to block an Obama administration plan to tighten for-profit colleges’ access to student aid.”

Kline, who serves the southern Twin Cities and areas to the south, will be Minnesota’s highest-ranking congressman when the House convenes next month.

Bloomberg says the Education Department proposes limiting profit-making colleges’ federal student aid more than that received by public colleges. Kline said he would rather see colleges disclose graduation rates and other information.

“At the very least, you need to push this thing back,” Kline said of the proposal.

At issue is whether for-profit schools are improperly recruiting students and misusing government funds. Kline said that gaining information would be better than punishment.

Prospects dim

The Washington-based news operation Politico reports that Minneapolis and Cleveland are “all but out of the running” for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

The choice apparently has been narrowed to St. Louis and Charlotte, N.C.

“The party seems to be leaning against Minneapolis largely because Republicans held their 2008 convention in St. Paul,” reporter Molly Ball writes.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com