Town call: Third District Rep. Erik Paulsen holds telephone town hall

Third District Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) held a telephone town hall June 13, intended to update constituents on his most recent efforts in the nation’s capital and offer a
venue for questions to be asked.

After welcoming the several hundred listening constituents on the line, Paulsen kicked off the call with a nod to the ongoing health care debate on Capitol Hill.

“It’s no secret that there’s been a lot of challenges, in terms of the broader health care conversation,” said Paulsen. “But some things have bipartisan support.”

He notched off a few bills with such support, among them legislation that would remove economic barriers and incentivize development and another removing exclusions in Medicare for certain weight loss drugs to address the obesity epidemic.

Paulsen then spoke about a series of initiatives designed to fight human trafficking, which he identified as a personal priority of his. Among those efforts were a bill allowing the state department to use cash rewards for bringing in human traffickers, a bill giving youth-serving organizations access to FBI background checking data and several protections and reporting requirements in that realm for athletic governing bodies.

“This is in direct response to some of the allegations we’ve read about,” said Paulsen, noting some impropriety that had been reported with some United States Olympic teams. “For our Olympic athletes, they should not even have to suspect that this is going to happen to them, and these organizations should not be able to bury these under the rug from families and victims.”

Before turning to questions, Paulsen also touched on some immigration initiatives and gave a shout-out to 109 artists in the area who submitted work to a congressional arts competition that had recently wrapped up.

The majority of the hour-long call, however, was devoted to answering constituent questions. A total of 14 callers were able to ask questions, ranging from health care concerns to the appointment of Robert Mueller.

The elephant in the room, drawing a number of questions, was where Paulsen stood in a variety of aspects with respect to President Donald Trump.

The very first caller, Danielle from Edina, asked Paulsen for his opinion on a number of cuts that concerned her in the Trump budget. Among items receiving cuts were the National Endowment for the Arts, school lunches, meals on wheels, public television and more.

Paulsen registered disagreement with the president’s priorities on many of those counts.

“It did made reductions in a lot of those different areas – Americorps, arts programs, public broadcasting – and I don’t support those reductions,” said Paulsen. “I do think the appropriations process will go in a very different direction than the Trump budget. It was the same way with Obama. Usually, the Legislature moves in its own direction.”

Another caller, John from Minnetonka, expressed displeasure with the president’s performance. He asked Paulsen what he was doing to “make sure [he] had a check on Trump.”

“I still personally believe that we need to continue with the independent investigation of Russian interference into the election,” said Paulsen. “Mueller — I think he’s a very sound pick. He has a proven track record, he’s respected on both sides of the aisle, and he’s moving forward. That’s my viewpoint. I suppose the administration may not be happy that I was calling that out, but I think that’s important to do.”

Another caller pressed Paulsen more directly on how he felt about the president’s policies and performance in general. Paulsen reiterated his support for the probe Mueller is conducting, then pivoted to his support of one of Trump’s priorities, that of tax reform.

“I don’t agree with some of the Trump budget priorities, but I do agree on the need for tax reform,” said Paulsen. “Thankfully, bipartisanly, there is strong agreement that we need to reform our tax system.”

Carrie from Eden Prairie asked Paulsen specifically about bringing the country together, referring specifically to the president’s use of Twitter.

“Trump’s tweets are just so combative,” said Carrie. “He attacks a lot of people. He attacks the press. I’m very concerned about that.”

Paulsen registered some agreement on that front.

“I sort of have just come to ignore it now,” said Paulsen. “I don’t think you’re going to change who he is. Most of my elected colleagues that I talk to, Republican and Democrat, just kind of roll their eyes.”

He referred, later in the call, to the president’s use of the social media platform, when a caller asked about congressional gridlock.

“I get so frustrated with the media,” said Paulsen. “It is interesting how they’ll spend so much time on a Trump tweet, but I can have a press conference with Tim Walz about energy, and there’s no coverage. It’s almost like they only entice you to say something bad about one of your colleagues.”

One caller, however, expressed disappointment that Paulsen had not been more supportive of the president’s efforts since taking office. Karen from Eden Prairie registered support in particular for Trump’s controversial travel ban.

“I am disappointed that you’re not supporting him more on his effort to put a pause on travel from countries that cannot effectively vet people coming into this country,” said Karen.

Paulsen, having criticized the implementation of the travel ban in January, noted some of his criticisms, particularly some individuals bearing green cards having been barred from entering the country. He said that the order had been carried out “ineffectively,” but also said that he supported vetting and a “temporary pause,” though not offering details on what pause he would support.

Other questions were directed toward health care. Paulsen was able to assuage some concerns constituents raised, such as assuring one caller that the American Health Care Act would still cover pre-existing conditions.

At the end of the call, Paulsen encouraged any constituents whose questions he hadn’t had time for to keep reaching out.

“And of course, thank you for joining me tonight,” said Paulsen before hanging up.

  • Lana Slavitt

    Is this a joke? You wrote an article about a congressman holding a TELEPHONE town hall instead of a real in person and publicized town hall with voters?

  • Clara Severson

    Let’s be real here. These are robo calls, NOT town halls. It’s one big “I’m so awesome” promotion by Erik where he gets to avoid any real engagement with constituents.

    This guy hasn’t had a real town hall in seven years. SEVEN YEARS. That is simply unacceptable for a “representative”.

    • KK_nguyen

      I called and asked a staffer to be dialed into his next townhall. I said I had never heard Mr. Paulsen’s speak and felt it was important to be informed. When they informed me it’s beyond their control, I said a recording session would do, I’m interested in hearing Erik’s voice on issues. They told me to call back after hours and listen to the recorded message on the answering machine.

  • Francisco Javier Thayer

    RE: Paulsen’s comment
    “It’s no secret that there’s been a lot of challenges, in terms of the
    broader health care conversation, but some things have
    bipartisan support.” What does he claim has bipartisan support? Certainly nothing in the bill he promoted and voted for. It is really infuriating to see Paulsen trying to frame current healthcare issue facing the nation as a purely academic discussion about the theoretical principles of health insurance rather than what it really is: An attempt by the GOP to massively transfer of wealth in the form of tax cuts for the rich.

  • Jeff Mandell

    I have never received a call to participate in one of these “telephone town halls” and have lived in the district since he took office. It’s a crock of you know what.

    The more important question is why Erik Paulsen hides behind 2 pre-determined questions instead of holding a public town hall meeting. He has not had one of those in over 6 years.

  • Linda Feld

    Mr. Miner fails to capture the true nature of these random calls. There is no prior notice and no way to join the call unless you are randomly chosen. I’ve found being on these calls a very frustrating, isolating experience. Except for the few that get through a screener, all listeners are muted. There is no follow up the Paulsen’s responses. His audience is held captive as Paulsen pontificates on whatever topic he chooses. Our district needs an in-person town hall open to all constituents. Only through a substantive, honest dialogue can we all participate in the governing of our district. I want to interact with my fellow citizens as we learn why Mr. Paulsen votes as he does.

  • Sandra Andersen

    All the questions are pre-screened by a Paulsen staff member in these so-called town halls. So I think we can assume that the screener is showing Paulsen the question before the caller is allowed to ask it. It is my personal opinion that a person who runs for high office should be knowledgeable about all issues and be able to think on his feet. Paulsen apparently doesn’t have the confidence to handle a real town hall meeting.

  • KK_nguyen

    This article is the most information I have ever been given regarding telephone tall halls that have been occuring in my district. I have called Mr. Paulsen’s local office asking when these events were held and if there were meeting minutes or dicussion notes available to the constiuents. The staff always inform me that these are not published events and that requesting to be dialed is beyond their control. I understand the Mr. Paulsen is on the Ways and Means Committee. The @WaysandMeansGOP has been tweeting many elusive details to Tax reform. I wish Mr. Paulsen would hold an in Person Town Hall and allow the concerned citizens the platform to voice concerns for civic, service, arts, and other programs that face budget shortfalls in a tax reform era. I am a mom of young children in elementary school. I am also part of a church community that works hard to elevate people out of poverty. We need our Congressman to be part of community discussions and not a distant decision makers that do not allow civic input from their constiuents. Thank you, Sun Current, for reporting on the town hall.