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Keith Ellison Committee Assignments 114th

Analysis

Legislative Metrics

Read our 2017 Report Card for Ellison.

Ideology–Leadership Chart

Ellison is shown as a purple triangle ▲ in our ideology-leadership chart below. Each dot is a member of the House of Representatives positioned according to our liberal–conservative ideology score (left to right) and our leadership score (leaders are toward the top).

The chart is based on the bills Ellison has sponsored and cosponsored. See full analysis methodology.

Ratings from Advocacy Organizations

Committee Membership

Keith Ellison sits on the following committees:

Enacted Legislation

Ellison was the primary sponsor of 2 bills that were enacted:

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We consider a bill enacted if one of the following is true: a) it is enacted itself, b) it has a companion bill in the other chamber (as identified by Congress) which was enacted, or c) if about one third or more of its provisions were incorporated into bills that were enacted (as determined by an automated text analysis, applicable beginning with bills in the 110th Congress).

Bills Sponsored

Issue Areas

Ellison sponsors bills primarily in these issue areas:

Taxation (20%)Finance and Financial Sector (20%)Housing and Community Development (12%)Government Operations and Politics (10%)Commerce (10%)Labor and Employment (10%)Immigration (9%)International Affairs (9%)

Recent Bills

Some of Ellison’s most recently sponsored bills include...

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Voting Record

Key Votes

Ellison’s VoteVote Description
Nay H.Res. 599: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to United States policy towards Yemen, and for other purposes.
Nov 13, 2017. Passed 366/30.
Nay H.R. 5325: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2017
Sep 28, 2016. Passed 342/85.
No H.R. 2146: Defending Public Safety Employees’ Retirement Act
Jun 18, 2015. Passed 218/208.
This vote made H.R. 2146 the vehicle for passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal currently being negotiated. H.R. 2146 was originally introduced as a bill to address issues with retirement funds of federal law enforcement officers and firefighters. ...
Nay H.R. 1191: Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015
May 14, 2015. Passed 400/25.
This bill was originally the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act. On May 7, 2015, the Senate replaced the text of the bill in whole with new text regarding congressional approval of a nuclear energy deal with Iran.
Nay H.R. 2048: Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring Act of 2015
May 13, 2015. Passed 338/88.
The USA Freedom Act (H.R. 2048, Pub.L. 114–23) is a U.S. law enacted on June 2, 2015 that restored in modified form several provisions of the Patriot Act, which had expired the day before. The act imposes some new limits on the bulk collection of ...
No H.R. 5771 (113th): Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014
Dec 3, 2014. Passed 378/46.
Aye H.J.Res. 124 (113th): Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015
Sep 17, 2014. Passed 319/108.
Aye H.R. 1249 (112th): Leahy-Smith America Invents Act
Jun 23, 2011. Passed 304/117.
The Leahy–Smith America Invents Act (AIA) is a United States federal statute that was passed by Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011. The law represents the most significant change to the U.S. patent system since 1952, and ...
Nay H.R. 2499 (111th): Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010
Apr 29, 2010. Passed 223/169.
No H.Res. 801 (110th): Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 3688) to implement the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement.
Nov 7, 2007. Passed 349/55.

Missed Votes

From Jan 2007 to Mar 2018, Ellison missed 471 of 8,477 roll call votes, which is 5.6%. This is much worse than the median of 2.3% among the lifetime records of representatives currently serving. The chart below reports missed votes over time.

Show the numbers...

Time PeriodVotes EligibleMissed VotesPercentPercentile
2007 Jan-Mar21331.4%43rd
2007 Apr-Jun39310.3%8th
2007 Jul-Sep317175.4%85th
2007 Oct-Dec263166.1%76th
2008 Jan-Mar14974.7%64th
2008 Apr-Jun321154.7%71st
2008 Jul-Sep205209.8%89th
2008 Oct-Dec15746.7%96th
2009 Jan-Mar174105.7%86th
2009 Apr-Jun3036019.8%99th
2009 Jul-Sep26872.6%66th
2009 Oct-Dec24662.4%49th
2010 Jan-Mar195189.2%88th
2010 Apr-Jun21952.3%44th
2010 Jul-Sep15174.6%75th
2010 Nov-Dec9944.0%56th
2011 Jan-Mar21252.4%73rd
2011 Apr-Jun281124.3%84th
2011 Jul-Sep2477229.1%100th
2011 Oct-Dec20883.8%69th
2012 Jan-Mar151106.6%83rd
2012 Apr-Jun299217.0%82nd
2012 Jul-Sep15274.6%82nd
2012 Nov-Dec5123.9%56th
2013 Jan-Jan500.0%0th
2013 Jan-Mar8900.0%0th
2013 Apr-Jun21552.3%58th
2013 Jul-Sep20031.5%52nd
2013 Oct-Dec13785.8%83rd
2014 Jan-Mar1481510.1%92nd
2014 Apr-Jun219167.3%84th
2014 Jul-Sep14732.0%61st
2014 Nov-Dec4912.0%55th
2015 Jan-Mar14442.8%62nd
2015 Apr-Jun244114.5%83rd
2015 Jul-Sep13921.4%53rd
2015 Oct-Dec17763.4%78th
2016 Jan-Mar13732.2%44th
2016 Apr-Jun204104.9%75th
2016 Jul-Sep232166.9%91st
2016 Nov-Dec48816.7%96th
2017 Jan-Mar208104.8%83rd
2017 Apr-Jun13664.4%79th
2017 Jul-Sep19910.5%37th
2017 Oct-Dec16731.8%48th
2018 Jan-Mar10100.0%0th

Primary Sources

The information on this page is originally sourced from a variety of materials, including:

Keith Ellison is pronounced:

keeth // E-luh-sun

The letters stand for sounds according to the following table:

LetterSounds As In
E ebed
EE eemeet
K kking
L lleg
N nnot
S ssit
TH ththin
U ucup
UH uhcup

Capital letters indicate a stressed syllable.

This article is about the Congressman. For other people named Keith Ellison, see Keith Ellison (disambiguation).

Keith Maurice Ellison (born August 4, 1963) is an American politician and lawyer who has been the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district since 2007 and Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee since 2017. Ellison is a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL), the Minnesota state Democratic Party affiliate. The district centers on Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs. He is a vice-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a Chief Deputy Whip, and also serves on the House Committee on Financial Services.

Ellison was the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress[1] and, along with André Carson of Indiana, is one of two Muslims currently in Congress.[2] He is also the first African American to have been elected to the U.S. House from Minnesota.[3]

In November 2016, progressive groups and United States senators, including Bernie Sanders of Vermont,[4] supported Ellison for chair of the Democratic National Committee.[5][6] On February 25, 2017, minutes after defeating him on the second ballot, newly elected Chairman Tom Perez motioned for Ellison to be elected his Deputy Chair, which was approved by a unanimous voice vote of DNC members.[7]

Early life, education, and career[edit]

Keith Ellison, the third of five sons, was raised Catholic[8] in Detroit, Michigan, by his parents, Leonard Ellison, a social worker and psychiatrist, and Clida (Martinez) Ellison.[2][9][10] Ellison and three of his brothers became lawyers; his other brother became a doctor. One of Ellison's brothers is also the pastor of the Baptist "Church of the New Covenant" in Detroit.[9] Ellison's youth was influenced by the involvement of his family in the Civil Rights Movement, including his grandfather's work as a member of the NAACP in Louisiana.[2]

Ellison graduated in 1981 from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, where he was active in sports and a senator in the student government.[9][12] At the age of 19, while attending Wayne State University in Detroit, Ellison converted from Catholicism to Islam, later giving the following explanation: "I can't claim that I was the most observant Catholic at the time [of my conversion]. I had begun to really look around and ask myself about the social circumstances of the country, issues of justice, issues of change. When I looked at my spiritual life, and I looked at what might inform social change, justice in society... I found Islam."[13][14][15]

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in economics in 1987, Ellison married his high school sweetheart[8] and moved to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota Law School. While there, he wrote several articles in support of Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. Ellison graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1990.[16][17]

After law school, Ellison worked for three years at the firm of Lindquist & Vennum, where he was a litigator specializing in civil rights, employment, and criminal defense law.[16][18] Ellison then became executive director of the nonprofit Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis, which specializes in the defense of indigent clients.[18] Upon leaving the Legal Rights Center, Ellison entered private practice with the law firm Hassan & Reed Ltd, specializing in trial practice.[19] Ellison has also been regularly involved in community service. He served as the unpaid host of a public affairs talk program at KMOJ radio,[18] and has also often volunteered as a track coach for several organizations, working with youth between the ages of five and 18. He said, "It’s a great community-building device because it’s for all ages and all genders. Everyone can find a way to fit in."[18]

Family[edit]

Ellison and his former wife, Kim, a high school mathematics teacher,[20] had four children between 1989 and 1997.[18] Kim Ellison is not Muslim, but their four children were raised in that faith.[21] During Ellison's 2006 campaign, Kim Ellison revealed that she had been living with moderate multiple sclerosis for several years.[22] Ellison filed for a legal separation from Kim in 2010,[23] and their divorce was finalized on May 2, 2012.[24]

Kim was elected to the Minneapolis School Board in 2012 as vice-chair and in November 2016 as an at-large member.[25][26] In December 2016, the Ellisons' oldest son, Jeremiah, announced his candidacy for Minneapolis City Council.[27] In April 2017, he won the DFL endorsement for that race, over the current incumbent, and in November he was elected to the City Council.

Minnesota House of Representatives[edit]

In November 2002, Ellison was elected to his first public office, as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives serving House District 58B. At the time he took his seat, his party was the smallest House minority in Minnesota history.[28] During this session, Ellison was appointed to the Governmental Operations & Veterans Affairs Policy Committee, the Judiciary Policy & Finance Committee and the Local Government & Metropolitan Affairs Committee. He also spearheaded an ethics complaint against Rep. Arlon Lindner for a speech Lindner made that Ellison alleged amounted to a denial that homosexuals were persecuted during the Holocaust.[2]

Ellison was reelected to his seat in 2004 with 84% of the vote. During the 84th session, he served on the Civil Law & Elections Committee and the Public Safety Policy & Finance Committee. Upon his election to Congress, Ellison's seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives was filled by Augustine Dominguez, a Latino community activist and fellow member of the DFL.[29]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Elections[edit]

See also: Minnesota's 5th congressional district election, 2006

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.(July 2012)

Ellison's House seat was previously held by Martin Olav Sabo, whose announcement of his intention to retire precipitated Ellison's candidacy. At the DFL Convention on May 6, 2006, Ellison won the party endorsement over 9 other candidates, leading 2-to-1 on the first ballot, and winning endorsement on the fourth ballot. In the primary, Ellison faced former state senator Ember Reichgott Junge, Minneapolis city council member Paul Ostrow, and Sabo's chief of staff Mike Erlandson, whom Sabo had endorsed. Ellison won the primary on September 12, 2006, with 41% of the vote.[30] One issue Ellison's campaign opponents raised was the repeated suspension of his driver's license for failure to pay tickets and fines.[31] Ellison had also failed to pay all or part of his income taxes in five separate years between 1992 and 2000, forcing the state and Internal Revenue Service to put liens on his home. He later paid in excess of $18,000.[2][32]

In the November 2006 election, Ellison faced Republican Alan Fine, the Green Party's Jay Pond, and Tammy Lee of the Independence Party. Ellison won the seat with 56% of the vote.[33][34]

Tenure[edit]

Ellison was elected to the House of Representatives on November 7, 2006, and sworn in on January 4, 2007. He garnered national attention with his decision to use an English translation of the Qur'an, translated by British scholar George Sale in 1734, that once belonged to President Thomas Jefferson for his reenacted swearing-in ceremony, which generated praise and criticisms from political pundits.[35]

At the time of his swearing in, Ellison said he intended to focus on wages, housing, "relief and justice for the middle class", and ending the U.S. involvement in the Iraq War.[36] Ellison was also a vocal critic of President George W. Bush's administration, and sought a position on the House Judiciary Committee for oversight.[37]

In his first week as a member of Congress, Ellison voted with the new Democratic majority as part of the 100-Hour Plan to raise the minimum wage, for federal funding of stem cell research, and to allow Medicare to negotiate pharmaceutical prices.[38]

On April 3, 2014, Ellison introduced the Money Remittances Improvement Act of 2014 (H.R. 4386; 113th Congress) into the United States House.[39] The bill would make it easier for nonbank financial institutions such as money service businesses to provide remittance payments internationally.[40] Ellison said that "passage of the Money Remittances Improvement Act is cause for celebration for all diaspora communities, including the Somali and Hmong communities I am proud to represent in Minnesota."[41]

Credit reform[edit]

On May 3, 2007, Ellison introduced a bill to outlaw universal default, the practice whereby credit card companies raise interest rates on customers who are behind on payments to other creditors. The bill was supported by House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank. Ellison, who described the bill as "the beginning of a whole credit reform effort we're going to be pursuing," also announced his interest in limiting high interest rates on credit cards and easing the process for those who have a legitimate need to file bankruptcy.[42] This provision ultimately became law in 2009 as part of the "Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights" portion of the Credit CARD Act of 2009.[citation needed]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus membership[edit]

Candidacy for Chair of Democratic National Committee[edit]

See also: Democratic National Committee chairmanship election, 2017

In the autumn of 2016, Ellison was endorsed by both Senator Bernie Sanders and incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.[51] In November 2016 outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid endorsed Ellison for DNC chair.[52] Obama loyalists were uneasy with Ellison, and began looking for a candidate to oppose him, holding meetings with Obama Administrationlabor secretaryThomas Perez.[53] In early December Ellison's endorsements included the AFL–CIO and several elected officials in Congress, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Martin Heinrich, and Representatives John Lewis, Luis Gutierrez and Tulsi Gabbard, among others.[54]

In November 2016, the Investigative Project on Terrorism published a 2010 speech in which Ellison asked why the United States foreign policy in the Middle East "is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people. A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic?" The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) effectively announced its opposition to Ellison's candidacy, issuing a press release saying that his statement "raises serious concerns about whether Ellison faithfully could represent the Democratic Party's traditional support for a strong and secure Israel."[51][55] CNN also reported on his past support for anti-Semitic and radical organizations and individuals, particularly the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan, but noted they found no anti-Semitic writings or public statements by Ellison, and cited his public rejection of the group "due to its propagation of bigoted and anti-Semitic ideas and statements".[51][56] The New York Times reported that one of the Democratic Party's biggest donors, Haim Saban, said in his 2016 foreign policy forum that Ellison is "clearly an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel person.”[57] Reporters from the Washington Post, Slate and the Huffington Post have described this as part of a smear campaign against Ellison, and note that Ellison's rivals agreed that Saban should apologize for the comments.[58][59][60] Schumer replied to critics, saying that Ellison has supported pro-Israeli policies within the Democratic Party, telling The Atlantic that "while I disagree with some of [Ellison's] past positions, I saw him orchestrate one of the most pro-Israel platforms in decades by successfully persuading other skeptical committee members to adopt such a strong platform."[61]

Opposition also arose from Democrats concerned that Ellison, a sitting congressman, would not be able to devote himself to the position full-time. In response, Ellison pledged that he would resign from Congress if he won the election.[62] Others opposed him on ideological grounds, characterized by National Public Radio as representing the party's division in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary between centrist supporters of Hillary Clinton and the party's left wing, which backed Bernie Sanders. But FiveThirtyEight argued that Perez and Ellison have "essentially identical" ideologies.[51][53][63]

By February 2017, Perez was perceived as the front-runner, according to The New York Times.[64] A member of TYT spotted Ellison and Perez dining together a week before the election was held. Upon being elected chair, Perez quickly motioned for Ellison to be elected "deputy chair", saying, "it is a motion that I have discussed with a good friend, and his name is Keith Ellison". The two newly elected chairs worked together when Perez was labor secretary, and he has regarded Ellison as one of his "best allies".[65][66][67] The position of "deputy chair" does not exist in the DNC's bylaws.[68]

Political positions[edit]

Abortion[edit]

In 2009 and 2011, Ellison had a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America indicating a pro-choice voting record.[69][70]

LGBT rights[edit]

In an interview with the BBC's program Outlook, on November 12, 2010, Ellison was asked to describe his constituents. He answered, "The district I represent is the kind of district where you can have a Member of Congress stand up for religious tolerance and against religious bigotry, against anyone, but also stand up for the rights of gays, too."[71] In Congress, he served as vice-chair of the Congressional Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Caucus.

Gun rights[edit]

In March 2014, Ellison was asked by comedian Bill Maher, "Then why doesn't your party come out against the Second Amendment? It's the problem." Ellison responded, "I sure wish they would. I sure wish they would."[72]

Iraq War[edit]

After President George W. Bush vetoed HR 1591 that provided military funding for the Iraq War because it contained timetables for withdrawal, Ellison and fellow Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum, joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top House Democrats in voting "no" to HR 2206 that provided the funding without any timetables. The bill passed the House on a 280 to 142 margin.[73]

Ellison joined fellow Minnesota freshman Democrat Tim Walz in opposing President George W. Bush's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq.[74]

On January 10, 2007, Bush announced his plans for the Iraq War troop surge of 2007. The gist of this announcement had been known around the Capitol for over a week, and when the Associated Press asked Ellison for his reaction to the idea on January 8, 2007, he stated that it was "way too late, way too little.... So rather than do something small and ineffective, why not get about the business of what we're going to have to do eventually, which is to begin to end the occupation?" Ellison called for an immediate withdrawal in Iraq: "We could describe it as a redeployment or withdrawal, but I think we have run the course in terms of our ability to resolve this conflict militarily. I think we need to have a political and economic and diplomatic engagement, and we need to encourage the forces that are in Iraq to begin to resolve the violence in Iraq." When asked if he would support Bush's call for an additional $100 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ellison said, "I want to see [the request] first, I want to actually look at it, but I'm not inclined to continue to support a war or an occupation that he has no plans to get us out of, and which is so costly in terms of dollars and lives of American soldiers but also Iraqis." The White House, when asked for a reaction to the comments, referred to a previous statement by press secretary Tony Snow: "Democrats will have to decide where they stand on two issues: 'No. 1, do you want Iraq to succeed, and, if so, what does that mean? And, No. 2, do you believe in supporting the troops as you say, and how do you express that support?'"[75]

Iran[edit]

Ellison has supported normalizing Iran-United States relations and reopening an interest section or embassy in Tehran; he was one of only five Democrats in Congress who voted against the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. In a speech to the National Iranian American Council, he said it does not make sense to cut off contact with the Iranian government, because "when we put up an embassy or an interest section in another country, it’s not a gift to them… You’re not doing something for the other country by having someone to look after our interests there, and by withdrawing it, it’s not a punishment.”[76]

Bush administration[edit]

On June 28, 2007, Ellison became a cosponsor of Rep. Dennis Kucinichbill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney for "high crimes and misdemeanors." Ellison's spokesperson, Rick Jauert, said the effort was "largely to send a message" and that Ellison "has no illusions that this is going anywhere and that's fine. We've got more important things to do that affect people's daily lives. He basically signed on out of principle, as an expression of the importance of the rule of law — that nobody is above the law, not even the vice president."[77]

On July 8, 2007, Ellison gave a speech in Edina, Minnesota, where he denounced Bush's commutation of Lewis Libby's sentence: "If Libby gets pardoned, then he should not have the cover of the Fifth Amendment. He's going to have to come clean and tell the truth. Now, he could get Gonzales-itis [referring to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales], you know, with 71 lapses of memory within a two-hour period." He also criticized Bush's White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives saying, "This is basically the Department of Religious Outreach.... It's essentially a public-relations outreach arm for the Bush administration to reach out to the far right of the evangelical Christian movement. That's really all it is."[78]

On July 25, 2007, Ellison voted in the House Judiciary Committee to issue citations of Contempt of Congress to White House Chief of StaffJoshua Bolten and former White House CounselHarriet Miers for "failure to comply with subpoenas on the firings of several federal prosecutors".[79]

Trump administration[edit]

Ellison has declared that he is open to demands to start an impeachment process against President Trump, saying "Donald Trump has already done a number of things which legitimately raise the question of impeachment."[80]

Human rights[edit]

Ellison issued a statement Friday March 21, 2008, that criticized the Chinese government for its Tibet policy and for its relationship with Sudan's leaders 'as they commit genocide on the citizens of Darfur.'[81]

Ellison was arrested along with seven other people including U.S. Representatives James McGovern, John Lewis, Donna Edwards, and Lynn Woolsey for civil disobedience in April 2009 when they spoke at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. to protest that the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, had asked international aid groups bringing food, health care and water, to leave Darfur.[82]

[edit]

Ellison was the second U.S. Representative (after Raúl Grijalva) to endorseBernie Sandersfor president in the 2016 Democratic primary.[83] He endorsed Hillary Clinton after she secured the party's nomination.[84]

Travels abroad[edit]

Middle East[edit]

In late March and early April 2007, Ellison was a member of a congressional delegation on a "fact-finding trip to the Middle East".[85] The group included Representatives Henry Waxman, Tom Lantos, Louise Slaughter, Nick Rahall, Dave Hobson, who were led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The delegation visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall. Ellison called his visit to Islam's third-holiest site, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as "personally moving".[86][87] The group met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and discussed the peace plan devised by the Saudis in 2002.[86] The delegation also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.[citation needed]

The group's visit to Syria was criticized by the Bush administration, which restated its view that the United States should not have diplomatic relations with state sponsors of terrorism. While there the delegation conveyed a message from Olmert to Syrian President Bashar Assad that "Israel is interested in peace if Damascus stops supporting terrorism".[86] In Lebanon the group met with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Speaker Nabih Berri. They also visited the grave of Rafik Hariri and met with his son Saad Hariri.[88] In Saudi Arabia, the group spoke to King Abdullah and his Shura Council of advisers.[89] They praised his peace plan and advocated a greater role for women in his nation's political process. Ellison's inclusion in the delegation was praised by council member Abdul-Rahman al-Zamel.[88][89] Ellison called the king a "visionary leader" and that "Even being in the same country where Mecca and Medina are located was personally uplifting for me."[87] Ellison also said he hoped his presence as a Muslim among the delegation conveyed a message to the Israelis and Palestinians that "people can come together. Reconciliation is possible."[85]

Iraq[edit]

On July 28 and 29, 2007, Ellison was among an "all-freshman bipartisan congressional delegation" visiting Iraq, arranged by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and led by Rep. Jerry McNerney. Before the trip, Ellison told reporters that he would be stopping over in Germany to visit wounded U.S. soldiers being treated there.[90][91] He also stated that he respected any politician who visited Iraq, making note of Republican Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty who went in February 2007, along with five other governors.[90][92] Ellison said, "If this country is going to ask these young people to stand in a war zone, their political leadership should visit them."[90] In Iraq the delegation met with Iraqi and U.S. military officials, including Gen. David Petraeus.[citation needed]

Israel and the Palestinian territories[edit]

Soon after returning home from his trip to Iraq, Ellison joined with 19 other representatives on a week-long trip to Israel sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer led the group and personally invited Ellison to join them for a stay from August 12–18, 2007. The group met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Ellison's spokesperson told reporters that the trip was "a natural extension of his visit to Iraq" and that "the Middle East peace issue is important to the diverse communities of his Minneapolis-area district — from the Jewish Community Relations Council to the patrons of the Holy Land Middle Eastern eatery on Lake Street and Central Avenue. He hears about it every time he goes back to his district." The group traveled to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the northern Galilee region, and Ramallah, and viewed the Israeli border with Lebanon.[93]

During this trip, Ellison stated that Israel did not permit him to travel to Gaza, where a conflict was occurring. In a 2009 interview with reporter Shihab Rattansi, Ellison expressed his disappointment at his inability to see the humanitarian situation for himself. In the same interview, he called for a more open discussion on Gaza, stating: "The people who have a strong sympathy for the Israeli position... dominate the conversation. And it’s really not politically safe to say, look, there are two sides to this, and Israel has not been an angel in this, and certainly there have been people on the Palestinian side who have not contributed to a constructive solution."[94]

During the Summer 2014 conflict between Hamas and Israel, Ellison published an editorial in The Washington Post that called for an end to the blockade in Gaza. Citing his three trips to Gaza since 2009, Ellison suggested that empowering Gazans by ending the blockade would weaken extremists and help move towards final status peace.[96]

Gaza and Sderot[edit]

On February 19, 2009, Ellison and fellow Representative Brian Baird visited Gaza to view firsthand the destruction from the Gaza War and to meet with international and local relief agencies, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. This visit, which Ellison and Baird say did not have the official sanction of the Obama administration, was the first time any U.S. government official had entered Gaza in more than three years.[97] Ellison had this to say about what he saw:

The stories about the children affected me the most. No parent, or anyone who cares for kids, can remain unmoved by what Brian and I saw here.[98]

The following day, Ellison and Baird visited the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon, which were the targets of numerous Qassam rocket attacks, repeatedly launched from within the Gaza Strip.[98]

Norway[edit]

Ellison visited Norway in January 2008 because of Norway's prominent role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and because of the Norwegian-American heritage of many of his constituents. While there, Ellison met with former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, then president of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights. The Star Tribune reported that the "trip underscores Ellison's desire to play a role in the international peace movement."[99][100]

Africa[edit]

In mid-2008, Ellison joined a U.S. House Democracy Assistance Commission delegation that traveled to six African countries, including Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mauritania and Kenya. "The people of the 5th Congressional District [his own] know that, in this globalized world, to have peace and security relies on other people having a modicum of peace and security," Ellison said upon returning. He attended a July 4 reception at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Nairobi, Kenya, where Ellison met Sarah Hussein Onyango Obama, the step-grandmother of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.[101]

Advocacy for American Muslims[edit]

With his victory to the United States House of Representatives Ellison became the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress and the highest Muslim elected official in the United States, with Congressman André Carson elected in 2008, as the only other Muslim serving in the U.S. Congress.[102] Ellison’s election has been seen as inspirational to American Muslims, and he encourages civic empowerment through participation in the political process.[103][104] Ellison generally "downplayed the role of religion in his drive for office,"[105] but he has become active in advocacy for Muslim American civic engagement and civil rights causes on a national level since.[106][107][108][109]

North American Imams Federation[edit]

Ellison during the 2006 campaign
Ellison outside the Capitol in June 2007
Ellison on The Laura Flanders Show, February 2016
Ellison on progressive politics in the United States