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Tracking Minnesota’s political scene and keeping you up-to-date on those elected to serve you

Where Minnesota's delegation stands on GOP healthcare bill

As the House prepares to vote later today on repealing the Affordable Care Act, here’s what Minnesota’s federal representatives have been saying about the bill:

Rep. Tim Walz, D-1:

In a statement this week, he criticized the bill for leaving millions without health insurance, cutting care for the most vulnerable and failing to provide relief to many southern Minnesotans, including farmers and small business owners. “To make matters worse, this legislation has the potential to make health insurance even more unaffordable for rural Americans,” he said.

Rep. Jason Lewis, R-2:

He tweeted this week, “Important improvements to the AHCA, including more support for our seniors!” He said in a recent statement that the legislation lowers premiums, gives universal access to quality care and lets the patient choose a plan that works, not one that the government thinks they should have.

Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-3:

He tweeted this week, “The [GOP bill] means patient-centered health care w/ lower costs, more choice for families & individuals in Minnesota & the rest of the country.” He said it provides more support for older Americans, offers tax relief and offers immediate relief from a one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-4:

“President Trump and Speaker Ryan are rushing because Minnesotans and Americans continue to learn how harmful this bill really is,” she said in a video update this week. She criticized the bill for causing millions to lose their insurance and causing insurance premiums to increase, especially for seniors.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-5:

He recently tweeted that the GOP healthcare bill would be a disaster for all Americans, but that “women would get hit worst.”  He issued a statement this month saying that President Trump’s support of the bill “leaves no doubt that he is just as bad as Congressional Republicans - harming millions of working Americans in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich.”

Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6:

He supports the bill, though he hasn’t made any statements this week. Two weeks ago, his office sent the Star Tribune a statement saying that he heard stories every day from constituents who are struggling under the Affordable Care Act and that he was reviewing the text of the GOP healthcare plan “because I believe, unlike the lawmakers who passed Obamacare, it is important to know what is in a bill before we vote on it.”

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-7:

He hasn’t been clear about his stance on the legislation, though we’re awaiting a response from his communications office. He was the sole Democrat to vote for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act in January 2016, and one of 34 House Democrats to vote against the original legislation in 2010.

Rep. Rick Nolan, D-8: 

He criticized the bill this week for causing 24 million people to lose their healthcare if enacted, while giving billions in tax cuts to the richest Americans. "Some pundits have described it as one of the biggest transfers of wealth and travesties perpetuated on the American people in American history," he said. 

Sens. Franken, Klobuchar question Neil Gorsuch on big business

WASHINGTON – Minnesota senators sharply questioned federal Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch during Wednesday’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, grilling him on whether he’d be protect the interests of ordinary people over corporations.

Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are among the nine Democrats on the 20-member Senate Judiciary Committee, where President Trump’s nominee coasted through three days of hearings and will receive a vote next month before his confirmation goes to the full Senate.

Franken assailed corporate policies that prevent customers and employers from filing lawsuits and restrict them instead to settle grievances through arbitration – what he called a permission slip for corporations to opt out of the civil justice system.

He asked Gorsuch if it was fair to enforce arbitration in all cases, describing how a Minnesota soldier who lost his legs in Iraq saw his house foreclosed upon and was prevented from filing a class action suit involving other service members.   

“I’m a big believer in jury trials,” said Gorsuch, adding that he’d worked with colleagues to make litigation cheaper, faster and more accessible.

When Franken asked if the blocking of the suit was unconscionable, Gorsuch said that if he was a lawyer that would be an argument -- and that he’d possibly ask Congress to revisit the nearly century-old Federal Arbitration Act.

Franken said he was worried about various 5-4 decisions on the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts that had restricted people’s rights to a jury trial “and that’s why frankly there’s so much at stake here … There’s a sort of core group of cases in which the Roberts court continually has ruled in favor of corporations and against workers and consumers that’s what this is about.”

Noting that Trump’s election was supposed to be about the little guy, Franken added that Democrats were trying to figure out whether they’d see a continuation of bias toward big money “where the weight shifts against the little guy and for the big guy.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said Franken’s discussion of arbitration had been compelling, “but I don’t see exactly how that applies to the judge sitting in front of us.” He said that was a matter that should be handled through legislation.

Klobuchar pressed the nominee on the unanimous Supreme Court decision issued Wednesday that required schools to provide better services for special education students. The ruling rejected a standard set by Gorsuch on the appeals court in 2008, in which he ruled that a Colorado school district didn’t have to pay for the private school tuition of an autistic boy.

“A student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimus progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all,” the Supreme Court ruled.

Klobuchar told Gorsuch that requiring educational standards to be merely more than "de minimus,” or minimal, creates more of a ceiling than a floor for students.

Gorsuch said that he had followed precedent in his ruling, and questioned that Klobuchar would suggest that he and other appeals judges were out of the mainstream in their legal reasoning.

Later in the day, Klobuchar also questioned him about antitrust issues, though Gorsuch, who has taught antitrust law, was somewhat circumspect on the topic. When she asked him if the court had made antitrust enforcement too difficult, and what he said in his classes about it, Gorsuch said that he tried to expose his students to all views on antitrust issues so that they could make up their own minds.

“I believe that’s an important function as a teacher, not to be a doctrinaire but to be challenging,” Gorsuch said.

He did acknowledge the problems of courts making antitrust enforcement too difficult, saying they would lead to a lack of competition that produced higher prices and lower output, and praised the original federal regulations in that area for still being vital today.

Additionally, Klobuchar asked how he taught a 2008 controversy regarding the Federal Trade Commission’s criticism that a report by the U.S. Department of Justice on cracking down on monopolies was too favorable to big corporations.  

Gorsuch said he tried to expose his students to all the learning that’s available and that his course was comprehensive and one of the more difficult classes at the law school.

“So you don’t want to weigh in on this debate?” she asked.

“Oh, senator!” he said. “There’s no way you’re going to get me to weigh in on this debate.”

Photo at top: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), second left, talks with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) before Durbin questioned Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, of the third day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, March 22, 2017. Photo by Gabriella Demczuk of the New York Times.