Readers of this and other newspapers in the southwest metro have seen the repeated letters to the editor asking why 3rd District Congressman Erik Paulsen doesn’t have town hall meetings and chiding him for lack of access.
So how does Paulsen respond?
He said he is the only member of the Minnesota delegation in Washington, D.C., with open office hours. His office is at 250 Prairie Center Drive, on the second floor of the Star Bank building in Eden Prairie. His staff says the open office hours vary depending on his schedule. They were setting up the next hours, as the most recent was Monday evening.
In addition, Paulsen attends community events. Most recently, he was at the Polar Plunge at Riley Lake Park.
“I have meeting with constituents on a regular basis,” Paulsen said.
He disfavors town hall meetings because people use them to grandstand.
“People turn them into a gotcha moment or a shouting moment,” he said.
Instead, he holds telephone town hall meetings, where constituents can listen into over the phone. The meetings sound like a radio show, he said.
They take calls, and about 12 to 15 people get to ask questions. Anyone who didn’t get their question asked during the telephone town hall, the staff gathers their questions and responds within 24 hours.
Paulsen’s comments came during a meeting with members of the media on Monday morning.
Here are his comments on a handful of other topics:
Even some Democrats in Congress who voted no on the new tax measure are now regretting their decision.
“They are on the wrong side of history, and the wrong side of results,” Paulsen said.
He said often tax legislation revolves around corporate rates, and he said individuals and small business owners are realizing benefits from the new law, too, called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Passed in December, most of its provisions take effect in 2018.
He said the legislation is why there has been larger-than-expected job growth in the first part of this year.
“This is a net-plus for the economy,” he said.
As for the effort to repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, otherwise called Obamacare, he said Republicans should not take an all-or-nothing approach. There is a compromise to be made.
Paulsen said the debate is being done in flashpoints — an all-or-nothing approach — but the political landscape favors an incremental approach, whether it is DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or other proposed legislation.
He said the United States should find a better way to embrace immigrants who come for an education but then must leave.
“They end up competing against us,” Paulsen said.
“With a growing economy, immigration is a key component to filling the jobs,” he said.
Paulsen said he was disappointed the tax reform didn’t involve a component of infrastructure and noted Congress will need to pass a transportation package.
He noted how the federal government streamlined the process for building the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River, and he would like to see that speediness happen for more projects involving the federal government.
He said one answer would be to have more sunset measures in laws so “things are not on autopilot.”
Congress updates its agriculture legislation every five years, so that makes 2018 is a year with a farm bill.
Though the 3rd District of Minnesota is not considered rural, it does have many ag-based corporations — Cargill being the first that comes to most people’s minds — and companies tied to the supply chain and trade associations.
He said Congress will be moving forward with the legislation in late spring.
As widely reported, Paulsen — like much of the Minnesota delegation — opposes President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and alumninum and said broad tariffs can hurt American jobs.
He said the country should not be using national security to impose tariffs on a country-by-country basis, and there needs to be a better process for determining exclusions — products exempted from the tariffs.
America needs to engage in more trade agreements, not less, Paulsen said.
Paulsen was reluctant to talk much about the campaign season — seeking the separate legislative work from re-election work — but he noted his re-election bid will ramp up later in the spring. He said Minnesotans tend to vote the person, not the party.