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In the Spotlight: Michelle Fischbach

On nursing homes and pregnancy centers, she has challenged the Biden administration 

Rep. Michelle Fischbach, seen here at the Capitol in December, saw her nursing home staffing bill move through the Ways and Means panel this month.
Rep. Michelle Fischbach, seen here at the Capitol in December, saw her nursing home staffing bill move through the Ways and Means panel this month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Minnesota Republican Michelle Fischbach last week saw the Ways and Means Committee endorse her bill that would block the Biden administration from finalizing a rule to require minimum staffing in nursing homes. 

The rule, proposed last year, requires patients to receive at least three hours of direct care every day and mandates that facilities have a registered nurse on staff at all times. Fischbach’s bill advanced 26-17, with all Republicans and one Democrat voting in favor, echoing the nursing home industry’s arguments that the rule would force facilities to close because they can’t find workers. 

Getting to Congress

Fischbach got her first taste of politics as a teenager, interning for Minnesota Republican Rep. Vin Weber in Washington. Her first elected office was a seat on the Paynesville City Council in 1995. The following year, she was elected to the Minnesota Senate, where she served until 2018, eventually becoming the first woman to preside over the chamber. 

Fischbach automatically became lieutenant governor under the Minnesota Constitution when Democrat Tina Smith, the previous lieutenant governor, was appointed in January 2018 to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat. Fischbach ran for the House in 2020, besting longtime Democratic incumbent Collin C. Peterson.

Her district

Minnesota’s 7th District covers most of the state’s western half and by land area is the 22nd-largest district in the nation. Farms in the district accounted for more than $9 billion in agricultural product sales in 2017, nearly half of the state’s total, according to the most recent data from the Agriculture Department. 

Although the region is politically conservative, prominent Democrats from the 7th have gone on to impact farm policy nationally. Former Democratic Rep. Robert Bergland became Agriculture secretary in the Carter administration, and Peterson served multiple terms as Agriculture Committee chairman. Today, Republicans hold a solid political advantage, with former President Donald Trump carrying the district with 65 percent of the vote in 2020, according to data from Daily Kos. 

What’s new

In January, the House passed Fischbach’s bill that would bar the Health and Human Services secretary from limiting funding for pregnancy centers, defined by the bill as organizations for counseling, baby items and education, as well as medical clinics. More specifically, the centers must support “protecting the life of the mother and the unborn child.” 

Abortion opponents have pushed pregnancy centers as an alternative to abortion clinics. Democrats have largely dismissed efforts to increase resources for these centers, arguing they can be misleading for women seeking contraception or abortion services.

Point of interest

Fischbach initially refused to take the oath of office as lieutenant governor, remaining in her post in the state Senate, allowing Republicans to hold their one-seat majority, the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune reported. She relented and took the oath five months later, after lawsuits challenged her ability to hold both offices concurrently.

The value of 2017 agricultural product sales in Fischbach’s district was corrected in this report.

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