As he works to elect more Republicans to the U.S. House, Rep. Tom Emmer faced a full house at Scandia City Hall, and took pointed questions about health care, the environment and racism.
Emmer, a former state representative and conservative talk radio host, has represented the 6th District, north of the Twin Cities, since 2015. The third-term congressman now chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee and leads the effort to recruit and elect Republicans across the country.
President Trump carried Emmer’s district by 26 percentage points in 2016.
The president was barely mentioned by name during the hour-long town hall in Washington County as Emmer answered questions on topics ranging from possible war with Iran to Minnesota copper-nickel mining and highway construction.
One audience member asked Emmer why he does not believe President Trump is a racist.
Minnesota's congressional delegation voted along party lines last month on a resolution condemning Trump after he said in a tweet that Rep. Ilhan Omar, of Minneapolis, and three other congresswomen of color should go back to their ancestral countries.
In total, four congressional Republicans voted for the resolution that said “President Trump's racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.” It passed the Democrat-led House of Representatives in a 240-187 vote.
He told the town hall audience that remarks from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were taking valuable time away from other pressing issues.
"My point was, we are more than 200 days into this new Congress, we don't have anything to show for what we've been doing,” Emmer said in an interview later. “The new majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has accomplished literally nothing.”
Emmer said Democrats are too concerned about investigating the president. Last week, two committees heard testimony from Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, whose report did not find conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the election. But Mueller said the report did not clear the president of obstruction, either.
“They're entirely focused on the Mueller report. They're entirely focused on everything but the issues that most concern Americans," Emmer said.
Town hall attendees seemed most concerned about health care.
Joan Del Rio of Linwood Township said her insurance premium is too high.
“I can’t go to the doctor even though I pay $560 a month because I go and I incur more bills and my income is finite,” Del Rio said. “Please do something about that.”
Emmer has said he supports creating a system where insurance can be purchased across state lines and moves with an individual, which he says extends coverage and encourages competition. He used health care as an example of why voters shouldn’t choose Democrats again to lead the House in 2020.
“The new Democrats that have been elected came into office last January proudly announcing they are socialists and they’re here,” Emmer said, and described a single-payer system favored by some on the left.
In an interview after the meeting, Emmer said given the rhetoric on the Democratic side, he believes Republicans will surge back in 2020, after midterm losses in 2018.
“And I will tell you what, once the Republicans succeed they better govern, because I think America is frustrated with both sides of the aisle at this point.”