Nolan gives front-row assessment of changeover
With the inauguration looming Friday, Rick Nolan figures to enjoy a choice view of Donald Trump being sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.
"Seating at the inauguration is based on when you were first elected to Congress," said Rep. Nolan, DFL-Crosby, whose initial stint in the House of Representatives fell between 1974-80. "As far as members of Congress, I'll be third closest to the president."
Nolan will sit alongside Rep. Don Young of Alaska and Rep. John Conyers of Detroit — first elected in 1963 and 1965, respectively.
"Four years ago I was entitled to that, but I decided to sit with the class I got elected with," Nolan said. "This time I'm going to take my seat up front, why not?"
As close as he will be to Trump in a literal sense at the inauguration, the 73-year-old Nolan's position near Trump also would appear to be a figurative one. Since the election, Nolan has hewed closely to the the President-elect on a series of economic issues — including approving of infrastructure reform for job expansion and the renegotiation of trade deals.
In a column written for the News Tribune on Jan. 1, Nolan's ending paragraph came close to Trump's mantra, "Make America Great Again," when Nolan wrote: "I'm hopeful President-elect Donald Trump will ... work with us to turn America toward a more positive and productive direction."
In an interview with the News Tribune last week, Nolan applauded Trump at turns and expressed apprehension on other topics.
Nolan praised Trump for his influence in dissuading the GOP-led House of Representatives earlier this month from dismantling the Office of Congressional Ethics.
"The first battle between Democrats and Republicans and Trump weighs in on the side of the Democrats to not do away with an independent ethics group?" Nolan said. "If you give a guy a chance he will surprise you sometimes."
But while both men call for tax reform, Nolan wondered aloud whether or not Trump would forget his working-class voters and press for tax breaks among what Nolan calls "the super rich." Nolan said he and others would prefer to close loopholes enjoyed by the wealthiest Americans.
"I'll be the first to speak up and oppose him and let him know where I stand, but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt as we start this journey — on infrastructure, trade and budget," Nolan said. "I'm less confident about what he's planning to do with tax reform and that it will resemble anything I'd like to see."
Nolan forecasts having more difficulty dealing with the majority in Congress than he does the incoming president. The Republican majority under Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is "feeling pretty frisky and the reason they're feeling that way is a sense of mandate," Nolan said.
Nolan worries a conservative agenda will pass unvetted by the deliberative tools known as "regular order" and "open rule." Nolan described Ryan as a leader who courts bipartisan discussion more regularly than his predecessor John Boehner did, but still does it inconsistently. In taking up the hot topic of Israeli settlements already this session, Congressional Republicans objected to the United States abstaining from a United Nations vote on the issue. There was no room for discussion, Nolan said.
"That's how we find common ground and common-sense solutions," Nolan said, citing 2015's transportation spending package — the first in a decade — as an example. Ryan made room for all-comers' opinions in that case.
On repealing the Affordable Care Act, seemingly priority No. 1 on any list of Republican mandates, Nolan talked as if he'd read tea leaves. Instead of walking it back, he projected Congress would work toward further solutions to close the gap on rural and urban price disparities that see people in the country pay more for healthcare for having fewer options thus less price competition.
"The Republicans are coming to acknowledge there's a whole wide range of benefits that flowed from the Affordable Care Act," Nolan said. "Part of the problem with the ACA was not what it did, but it was some of the things it didn't fix. My guess is they'll re-enact ACA and give it a different name."