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.