It’s Time to Restore Our Democracy – and Get Congress Back to Work on the People’s Business
Click on the screen above and I’ll explain why 24-7 campaign fundraising is damaging Congress’s ability to govern, and people’s confidence in our political system.
The Restore Democracy Revolution
By themselves, any of the measures in our Restore Democracy bill would constitute a major boost for our democratic process. Taken together, they are nothing short of revolutionary in scope.
When it comes to our politics and public policy, people’s number one concern is a rigged economic system perpetuated by special interest money and endless campaign fundraising - and they’re not wrong. When you go to Washington you should go to work on the people’s business – not raising money for the next election. To be clear, I don’t raise money on the people’s dime. But the cold hard fact is that many Members of Congress spend more time fundraising than doing the job they were elected to do. So our Restore Democracy legislation calls for an end to campaign fundraising by members of Congress and their challengers while Congress is in session.
Congress’s 24/7 fixation on fundraising at the expense of governing is destroying people’s confidence in our system, discouraging good people from running for public office, and perverting public policy. Reform must happen for our representative democracy to be real and survive.
As former Republican Congressman David Jolly and I told 60 MINUTES last year, recommendations by campaign experts that Members of Congress spend 30 to 40 hours a week at ‘Call Centers’ and Washington fundraisers take a terrible toll on Congress’s ability to solve problems and get things done. No wonder Congress continues to miss legislative deadlines and bring our Nation to the brink of a federal government shutdown year after year. (Scroll down for that story.) You can’t govern from a Call Center.
Along with our Restore Democracy legislation, we are continuing to build support for our bipartisan Stop Act, which would prohibit members of Congress from making any direct requests for money – period. To be clear, the Stop Act would still permit Members of Congress to attend fundraising events and speak to donors. Citizens would still be allowed to contribute to campaigns of their choosing. However, the practice of “dialing for dollars” and making direct requests for money would be a thing of the past. It’s a simple, common sense policy that already applies to judicial elections in 30 states.
The Restore Democracy Revolution
The foundation lies in putting a stop to special interests spending unlimited amounts of secret money to influence government and elections. Our legislation would also put Congress on record supporting small donor-public campaign financing and limiting the campaign season. Moreover, we are calling for full disclosure of all campaign contributions, establishment of national online voter registration and a halt to all voter suppression.
We also call for a return to Congress’s traditional process of Regular Order. Under Regular Order, we compromise and find bipartisan solutions by fully considering every idea and amendment under an open rule – and affording each one an up or down vote. That’s how Congress fixed things, solved problems and got things done for more than 200 years. It’s time to get back to that tried and true method of serving the American people.
We will keep you posted as events proceed. Meanwhile, I want to hear your thoughts. Feel free to contact any of our offices listed below or send me an email.
Duluth Roundtable Focuses on Fixing Veterans Choice, Boosting Quality Care for Rural Military Veterans
Military Veterans tell us the Veterans Choice program is a great idea that’s not working as intended - and we need to be bold, creative and open to new ideas in order to finally get it right.
Our efforts to reform the Veterans Choice health care program intensified in late July as Republicans attempted to take $2 billion dollars away from other essential benefits for military Veterans in order to pay for an extension. I joined virtually every major Veterans organization in opposing that measure, which we defeated. By doing so, we brought Republicans back to the table and secured the funds necessary to extend Veterans Choice - but not at the expense of other benefits our Veterans have earned in service to our Nation.
The Veterans Choice program to provide rural military Veterans with top quality local medical care – without having to travel long distances to VA health care facilities – is a great idea. But Veterans Choice is not working as intended. Rules and regulations are confusing. Providers are leaving the system because of trouble getting paid. And it takes too long to schedule appointments. So we need to be bold, creative, and open to new ideas in order to fix Veterans Choice and get it right.
That was the message Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz and I heard last week from the top VA officials, Veterans Service Officers, health care providers, and military Veterans who attended our Veterans Choice roundtable in Duluth. Congressman Walz is the Ranking Member (minority equivalent of chairman) of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and this is the third time he’s joined me for in-depth discussions on Veterans Choice with local Veterans and health care experts here in our region. In a nutshell, our meeting in Duluth produced five big areas of agreement:
First – Veterans choice needs to be more flexible. One size doesn’t fit all. Top quality care, customer service and accessibility for military Veterans must be top priority at the VA, regardless of what it takes.
Second – the rule that a military Veteran must live at least 40 miles away from a VA clinic in order to get local private care is arbitrary and needs to be revisited. Doctors should decide the best place for a Veteran to receive treatment, regardless of location.
Third – access to 21st Century high-speed rural broadband is absolutely critical for local doctors to provide Veterans with effective Internet-based diagnostics and treatments. That’s one big reason why we’re working so hard in Congress to build support for my 21st Century Broadband Act to expand high speed broadband to 22 million rural Americans – including about 440,000 rural military Veterans – who can’t easily access the Internet today.
Fourth – we need to be creative with public-private partnerships to provide our Veterans with quality care. For example, experts suggest that local private hospitals might be reconfigured to include a VA wing, staffed by VA personnel, to serve military Veterans.
And fifth – we need stop forces in Congress from eliminating the VA altogether. The VA health system is a tremendously successful source of research, innovation and training for military Veterans and the non-VA community alike. We need to build on those successes and create cost-effective, common sense public-private partnerships – not dismantle the system.
Last week marked the third time Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz (on the right in this photo), the top ranking Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has joined me here in the 8th District to meet with local military Veterans and hear their ideas for improving the Veterans Choice program. We are pictured here with Rick and Julie Stoehr, who drove down from Tower to attend the roundtable.
This is Dexter, a five-month old Lab being trained to serve as a comfort dog for military Veterans experiencing combat stress related disorders. Dexter attended our Duluth roundtable with Mike Waldron, his trainer. An Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran, Mike founded the non-profit 23rd Veteran organization to help other Veterans adjust to civilian life.
Nolan Presses “No Government-No Pay” Act as Federal Government Shutdown Looms by Month’s End
Government by crisis management is back. When Congress returns to Washington in September, the House will have just 12 legislative days to raise the debt ceiling so our Nation can pay its bills – and to approve a spending agreement to avoid another catastrophic federal government shutdown. Republican leaders set the legislative schedule and they know these deadlines are coming. But time and again, they have failed to meet them.
The American people send their elected representatives to Washington to fix things and solve problems – not shut down the government and collect a salary for doing so.
That’s why I reintroduced my “No Government-No Pay” Act earlier this year. Under this measure (H.R. 1789), when future Congresses allow the federal government to shut down, members would not be paid until everything is back up and running. Not just a delay in Congressional pay, but no pay at all – ever – for those wasted days.
As I’ve said many times before, it’s time for Congress to start living in the real world, where you either do your job or you don’t get paid. That was the simple truth behind the first “No Government-No Pay” Act I introduced before the October 2013 budget deadlock that shut down the government for 16 days and furloughed more than 800,000 federal employees.
If the federal government closes its doors again, we know what to expect. The 2013 shutdown debacle took $24 billion out of our economy and cost 120,000 good paying jobs. Businesses suffered, products were left sitting on our ports, military Veterans disability claims were stalled, National Parks and Head Start centers were closed and EPA hazardous waste and chemical waste inspections were postponed – just to name a few of the disastrous consequences. I donated my salary to charities in Minnesota’s 8th District during that shutdown and would do so again if Congress fails to do its job and triggers another shutdown crisis.
Copper-Nickel Mining on Minnesota’s Iron Range is Key to Winning the Battle Against Climate Change
I hope you will take time to read and consider this opinion piece I wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune last week.
Mining copper and nickel on Minnesota’s Iron Range and addressing global climate change are compatible, complementary, and essential to our way of life. We have the brains, the technology and the need to do both.
If we attempt to do one without the other, we will end up with neither. The survival of humankind and Planet Earth rests on our willingness to use and embrace all of the knowledge and resources at our disposal to reverse climate change – including the vast deposits of strategic minerals in Northeastern Minnesota. We owe future generations no less. And if we fail, they will hold us rightly accountable.
The fact of the matter is, there would be no viable green economy and no effective means to reverse climate change without mining. Read our full op-ed here.
Our Week in Cambridge
It was a pleasure and a real inspiration to tour Industries Inc. of PHASE (Pine Habilitation and Supported Employment) during our visit to Cambridge last week. PHASE employs folks with developmental challenges to craft beautiful signs and other wood products for sale - just like the one I’m proudly holding in the top picture.
Along with a briefing from Isanti County Sheriff Chris Caulk, we toured the beautiful new Law Enforcement Center in Cambridge. Commissioner Terry Turnquist and County Attorney Jeffrey Edblad are on my left in this picture. Commissioner Susan Morris is next to Sheriff Caulk.
Our Week in North Branch
North Branch Fire Chief Kevin Grote explained the impressive job of fire prevention and fire fighting being accomplished by the community’s 28-member volunteer fire department. North Branch City Councilor Jim Swenson and City Administrator Renae Fry, pictured here with me, joined our discussion.
It was a honor to speak to a packed house at the North Branch Chamber of Commerce luncheon and report on important education, defense and medical research legislation we passed during the spring and early summer.
Our Week in Wadena
On Friday, we toured Homecrest Outdoor Furniture, a remarkable 65-year old operation that employs up to 140 people who manufacture top quality ‘Made in America’ products. Despite competition from low-grade Chinese imports, the business is growing by about 15 percent every year.
Friday also brought us to the Wadena Farmers Market for a briefing on the University of Minnesota’s Power of Produce program to provide children ages 4 to 11 with a $2 dollar token to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables. Power of Produce works in conjunction with the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Naturally, I couldn’t resist these wonderful homemade breads, jams and jellies.
Our Week in Park Rapids
The Heartland Activity and Wellness Connection facility under construction in Park Rapids will provide local mental health services along with a wide range of recreational and business opportunities. Thanks to Better Connection founder and clinical staffer Danielle Lien and other members of the Park Rapids community for providing us with a tour and briefing last week.
Our Week in Brainerd
We were delighted to catch up with Brainerd Lakes area 4-H members and leaders who visited our DC office during the Presidential Inauguration ceremonies in January.
We met with local business people and community leaders to discuss progress in our effort to secure a federal grant to help develop the National Loon Center. Among other environmental projects, the Center will help preserve and protect Minnesota Loons being threatened by invasive zebra mussels and the effects of the BP oil spill. Money for the grant would come from proceeds of the federal settlement with BP.
Meeting with members of Brainerd Peace Action, we discussed the need to put a stop to endless wars of choice in the Middle East and reinvest in America, our people, and human development.
Our Week in Chisholm
There is a special piece of art being created at the entrance of the City Hall in Chisholm where one of our congressional offices is located. Pictured above is Kim Woods (left) and Shawn McCann (right) prepping the sketching template for a 3D Chalk drawing they’re doing of the Iron Man for Chisholm’s upcoming Doc Moonlight Grahams Days community celebration. Kim and Shawn have been traveling the world painting 3D art on sidewalks and streets.
Our Week in Grand Rapids
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr held an informative session at Timberlake Lodge last week focusing on mining, forestry, and tourism. Presenters included Tom Clarke of EPR Iron Ore. Mr. Clarke presented an update on Magnetation and the former Essar site he recently purchased. Forty business leaders, elected officials, and community residents - including Nolan Field Staffer Jordan Metsa - attended the meeting.
Coming Up in Minnesota
- With Congress still in recess for the August District Work Period, I’ll be traveling throughout the northern reaches of Minnesota’s 8th District meeting with local business leaders, elected officials and folks from all walks of life. I get some of my best ideas from the people I’m so proud to represent, so if you see me in your community, please take a few minutes to stop and share your thoughts on the many challenges facing our region, state and Nation.
Honoring the American Flag with a Dignified Retirement
Hats off to the National Association of Counties (NACO), the National Sheriffs Association and the National Flag Foundation for their new program to help retire worn or tattered American Flags in a dignified manner. These Official U.S. Flag Disposal Boxes are appearing all over the Nation, including St. Louis County right here in Northeastern Minnesota. You can now drop your aging U.S. Flags in boxes located just outside the Veterans Service Office in the Hibbing Annex Building, and on the ground floor of the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth. Or, you can bring your Flag to any American Legion Post for proper handling.
Nolan in the news...
GO MN: Minnesota Republicans condemn white supremacist violence
StarTribune: U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan: The green economy needs Minnesota mining
ECM Post Review: Hard work and bipartisanship produce real results for Minnesota and nation
Post Bulletin: US House Agriculture committee hears from Minnesotans on next farm bill
For more on the issues in this newsletter...
Click here to learn more about our work on Government Reform.
Click here to learn more about our work on Veterans issues.
Click here to learn more about our work on the Environment.
Click here to learn more about our work on Mining.
Click here to learn more about our work on Jobs and the Middle Class.