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Nolan opines on Trump, health care in Duluth town hall

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, DFL-Crosby, answers questions at a town hall at Denfeld High School Thursday. (Lisa Kaczke / lkaczke@duluthnews.com)

Although it was a listening session on health care and President Donald Trump's proposed budget, residents took the opportunity to question Rep. Rick Nolan about a myriad of topics in Duluth on Thursday.

More than 100 people attended the session, one of seven that Nolan, DFL-Crosby, is holding in the 8th District during the U.S. House's two-week recess. In response to residents' questions on Thursday, Nolan discussed his stances on the recent attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, on the president's proposed budget and regulation cuts and on the proposed PolyMet copper mine. Nolan also confirmed to the audience that he's still considering a gubernatorial run.

When an audience member asked Nolan about the chances that Trump will be impeached, Nolan responded, "I'd say they're probably pretty good." He said he supports the establishment of an independent commission to investigate ties between Russia and Trump's associates and that it needs to be investigated because "it's a real threat to our country, our republic."

Nolan said, "I give you my word," when he was encouraged to protect the 8th District's residents if federal regulations are eliminated under Trump's administration.

"They want to repeal a century of progress, that's how serious what's going on in Washington is. They want to repeal the regulation that gave us water we can drink and air we can breathe. They want to repeal the regulation that gave us a healthy, safe working place. They want repeal just about everything on social, on economic, on everything and it's really quite astonishing. I find it hard to believe. Not a lot of gratitude there," Nolan said.

On health care, Nolan pointed out that Trump's proposed budget cuts 18 percent of the National Institute of Health's funding and eliminates the 21st Century Cures Act as well as Moonshot cancer cure funding. Additionally, Republicans want to remove requirements that health insurance providers cover hospitalizations, emergency services, pharmaceuticals and people with pre-existing conditions, he said.

It has consequences — people will wait until they're in a late stage of cancer to see a doctor instead of catching it early, then receive a more grim diagnosis and more expensive treatment, he said. He added that "equally egregious" is that the Republicans wanted to provide a tax cut for the wealthy in the same legislation that would cut health insurance for 24 million people by repealing the Affordable Care Act.

"It is so shameless. It is so egregious. It is so reprehensive. There is no way on earth that I would ever entertain for a moment supporting or accepting anything like that," he said.

A Carlton County resident, who didn't want to be identified, pointed out that she lost her health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and she now purchases insurance on her own. She has cancer and was kicked out of a treatment study due to her insurance situation, she said, adding, "The people in Washington are not doing the people's work."

Nolan responded that he likes a lot of the Affordable Care Act, but there are things that need to be fixed. He said he ultimately supports a single-payer health care system.

Nolan said he will support fully funding the U.S. Coast Guard, which Trump has proposed to cut by 14 percent in his budget proposal. In addition to employing Twin Ports residents, the Coast Guard inspects cargo that comes into and leaves Duluth and they do good work, Nolan said.

Residents favoring and opposing the proposed PolyMet copper mine repeatedly questioned Nolan's stance on the project in Thursday's listening session. Nolan said that it's critical that the project prove that it can be done right and pointed out the lengthy process of scrutiny and approvals that PolyMet has gone through.

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