11th Annual Bruce Vento Dinner Welcomed Former Congressman Jim Oberstar

Betty addressed the annual Fourth Congressional District fundraiser

Congresswoman McCollum addressed the Fourth Congressional District's 11th annual Bruce Vento Dinner on Sunday, September 22 at the Prom Center in Oakdale. In honor of the late Congressman Bruce Vento, DFLer's from across the East Metro gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year and to look ahead to the 2013 and 2014 elections. Former Congressman Jim Oberstar provided the keynote address and rallied the crowd to keep fighting for our progressive Minnesota values.

Below is a copy of Betty's speech from the evening.

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Good evening 4th District DFLers!

It is an honor to be at the 11th annual Bruce Vento Dinner. I want to thank our 4th District Chair, J. P. Barone, and the entire leadership team of the 4th District DFL, along with the Vento Dinner organizing committee, for their work making tonight a success and keeping our DFL Party strong.

It is wonderful to have my dear friend Jim Oberstarwith us here tonight.  Jim’s career in Congress was instrumental in making Minnesota a better state and America a stronger nation. Hundreds of thousands of Americans across our nation went to work on good jobs, union jobs, because of Jim’s tireless focus on infrastructure investment.  His expertise on transportation and safety issues resulted in laws that have saved countless lives.  Jim Oberstar’s career as a citizen legislator changed America – for the BETTER! 

And I miss him in Congress.

Tonight’s dinner honors the life and legacy of a dear friend, Bruce Vento.  One night last week I was at a dinner for an important wildlife conservation organization and I had the honor of sitting across the table from President Clinton’s former Secretary of the Interior – Bruce Babbitt.  Over the years we had never had a chance to meet so it was a pleasure to visit with him and we casually chatted together.

Suddenly,  Mr. Babbitt got quiet and he just stared at me. He said, “Wait a minute, Betty.  I know who you are.  You’re Bruce!”

I smiled and said, “Yes. I am Bruce.” And, I could not have been prouder.

Former Secretary Babbitt went on to reminisce about his work with Bruce and Bruce’s tremendous leadership on the environment and for national parks.  Then he apologized for not coming to see me over the years, but then said, “But why would I need to lobby you?  You’re Bruce,  you are are already right on all of the issues I care about.”

Friends, Bruce Vento’s legacy has not been forgotten – not in Washington and not in Minnesota. And, Bruce’s twenty-four years of congressional service is the foundation I continue to build upon.

Jim Oberstar and Bruce Vento were leaders in Congress – Americans first, Democrats second. Yes, they proudly fought for our DFL values – the rights of working people, good schools, and investments in our country that keep our families strong and our future bright.  But they also were willing to work with their Republican colleagues to advance our nation’s most important interests.

Protecting our national parks shouldn’t be partisan. Investing in rebuilding America’s roads and bridges shouldn’t require a partisan fight. Sadly, the Tea Party controlled Congress of 2013 is working to play narrow political games that are backwards, dangerous, and a detriment to the future of this country. The level of partisan dysfunction was on full display this past week.

The Republicans are in their congressional districts crowing this weekend about how they “reformed” food stamps by cutting $40 billion out of the program and kicking as many as 6 million hungry and poor children, seniors, working parents, and disabled adults off the program.  217 Republicans voted for this mean-spirited, cruel and immoral cut to the working poor and our most vulnerable neighbors. That was on Thursday.  On Friday, as you have heard, they voted for the 42nd time to defund or repeal ObamaCare – denying 40 million uninsured Americans the opportunity to access affordable quality healthcare.  They voted to deny tens of millions of people with pre-existing conditions the right to affordable insurance – life saving access to healthcare in many cases. All but one House Republican voted to defund the Affordable Care Act and replace it with … nothing.

What is this Tea Party ideology that we are facing?  It’s not about compassion or justice or opportunity.  It’s not about hope or dignity or a better future. This is a backwards looking group. They want to deny immigrants the opportunity to escape the shadows; They reject the rights of gay and lesbian Americans to marry; They are fine taking food out of the mouths of poor families, and putting an assault rifle into the hands anyone who has the cash to pay for it.

This crowd needs to be removed.  They are not interested in governing. They only want to destroy the government’s ability to deliver a better future for all Americans.

Yesterday, a New York Times columnist (Charles Blow) described my Tea Party colleagues this way:

“Tea Party representatives have been sent to Washington with a singular mission: obstruct Obama. These Kamikaze members of Congress have made the House of Representative a house of horrors, where smart thinking is smothered, where rabble demand respect. These are members of Congress from districts where the distrust of the federal government and the distaste for this president are blinding.”

In the coming weeks Congress and President Obama need to find a way to fund the government for 2014 and increase the debt ceiling so the federal government can continue to operate. As you all know, the Republicans are threatening a government shutdown unless they can extract their concessions for President Obama.

I am standing with our President.  We need a clean continuing resolution to fund the government and a clean debt ceiling increase – no gimmicks, no threatening to default on America’s obligations, no damage to our economy. But if the Republicans want to shutdown the government then they do so at their own peril.

Remember the summer of 2011 when Minnesota Republicans refused to compromise and decided to shutdown our state government.  A year later the DFL took control of the Minnesota House and Senate. If these Tea Party Republicans think they can put their cruel ideology above the interests of the American people they are wrong.  But if they need to test their defund and default strategy I can tell you right now Democrats will be ready to win back the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014!The American people are sick of political stagnation – they want and they deserve leadership and responsible government from both parties.

Next November – Democrats need to give voters a choice with candidates who reflect the needs, aspirations, and dreams of regular Americans. For thirteen years you have given me the opportunity to represent you and serve your families.  It is honor I do not take for granted. My job is to fight for you, and to fight against this Tea Party agenda that is completely incompatible with the values of our DFL Party – and Fourth District families.

The next year is important.  We have a big job to do.  And it starts with re-electing Senator Al Franken and Governor Mark Dayton.  Their re-elections have to be a priority for all of us. Our Minnesota State House members are up and we have seats to defend and a few Republican seats here in the Fourth we need to target and win.

And, I am going to ask for your support once again.  There is work to do and I want to make sure President Obama has a strong ally from Minnesota’s Fourth District advancing our Democratic agenda.

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you for the years of support.  This is the best congressional district in the country and that’s because of the people who live here – you!

Thank you.

 

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