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Capitol Chatter: Westboro leader says picketing is ‘too late’ to save U.S.

By Don Davis

Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- Timothy Phelps says it would be better for members of his Topeka, Kansas, Westboro Baptist Church if they stopped traveling the country to warn Americans that homosexuality is a sin.

"The end of the world is near," the son of the church’s founder said after a short protest of Minnesota’s new gay marriage law on the state Capitol steps.

Given that, the 49-year-old said, his life would be easier if he simply waited for the end.

But, he added, that is not what the Bible says. It orders believers to "go all over the world and preach the Gospel."

"It is done, it’s too late to pray for this nation," he said.

Phelps said Westboro members have picketed, mostly against gays, more than 50,000 times in all 50 states.

"Gays rule the world," he said, which is the reason church members carry signs such as "America is doomed."

Members of the small controversial church often picket at funerals of American soldiers killed overseas, blaming the deaths on gays’ control of the government.

While they did little to incite problems during their Thursday Capitol picket (their anti-gay songs barely could be heard above commotion of about 100 gay-marriage supporters), written material on their Website is harsh: "The only groups worse than the politicians and fags in Minnesota is the nauseatingly phony ‘Christians.’"

Farm bill movement

U.S. Senate leaders appointed members to a panel to negotiate a farm bill deal with the House.

But the House has not done the same.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, R-Minn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., are among those named to a conference committee that eventually might mesh the House and Senate farm bill versions and send a new bill back for final votes.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat who represents southern Minnesota, led a 50-represenative coalition asking House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to appoint House farm bill negotiators.

"Our farmers and ranchers go about their business quietly every day and simply expect Congress to do the same," Walz said. "With only nine legislative work days scheduled in September, we’re burning daylight we don’t have."

In the meantime, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who represents western Minnesota and is the top House agriculture Democrat, said a Republican proposal to cut $40 billion from food stamps and other federal nutrition programs "effectively kills any hopes of passing a five-year farm bill this year."

For years, Congress has combined the funding of farm programs with paying for nutrition programs like food stamps as a way to get both urban and rural support.

However, Republicans who control the House opted last month to pass only the farm part of the bill because they earlier lost an attempt to pass the full bill. GOP leaders promised to pass a nutrition funding bill later.

The Senate bill would cut food stamps $4 billion over 10 years while the new House proposal would cut 10 times that amount.

Rosy gifts

U.S. Sen. Al Franken gave pink roses to gay couples wed early Thursday at Minneapolis City Hall.

The Minnesota Democrat’s note with the roses read: "I give these to Franni every year on our anniversary and so far it’s worked. Wishing you as much happiness as we’ve had over the years."

MNsure to answer

Minnesotans do not understand the state’s new way to buy insurance, known as MNsure, so its leader will answer questions on Twitter.

Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov will answer MNsure-related questions in which the tweets include the hashtag #AskApril between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Aug. 12.

The on line marketplace is to open Oct. 1, with its first policies to begin Jan. 1. It is part of new federal health laws that require mostly on line ways to buy health insurance.

Coleman in campaign

Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman may not be running next year, but he will be an honorary co-chairman of businessman Mike McFadden’s campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Republican Coleman narrowly lost to Franken in a recount following the 2008 election.

Along with Coleman, former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams is honorary co-chairman.

"When I first met Mike, I was impressed with his energy, his commitment to his family and community, and more importantly, his grasp of the important issues facing our state and country," Coleman said. "As a job creator and business leader, Mike has the skills and ability to be an effective senator for Minnesota."

Franken wants vests

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is co-sponsoring legislation to provide state and local governments money to buy more law enforcement body armor.

The legislation would reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program, which provided more than $430,000 to Minnesota last year. The money allowed nearly 140 jurisdictions to purchase more than 1,400 bulletproof vests.

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.