As Rep. Erik Paulsen votes for tax bill, his staffer stonewalls concerned seniors

All three Minnesota Republicans in Congress voted for the tax bill.

All three Minnesota Republicans in Congress voted for the tax bill.

The U.S. House passed the Republican tax bill Thursday afternoon along party lines, though 13 Republicans broke ranks to vote against the proposal.

The bill contains big tax cuts for corporations and millionaires, which it pays for by eliminating deductions for student loans, medical expenses, and on state and local sales and income taxes.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would raise deficits by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, which Congress will have to pay for. One way to find extra money: cutting the cost of supporting America’s most vulnerable. If the GOP tax bill passes both chambers, the Office of Management and Budget would be required to seize $136 billion from mandatory spending programs like Medicare, which could be slashed by $25 billion in 2018. 

Minnesota's five DFL members voted against the bill, as did all other Democrats in the House. Its three Republican representatives, Erik Paulsen, Tom Emmer, and Jason Lewis, all voted to pass the tax cut.

As Paulsen was preparing to cast his vote, about 50 seniors with the Minneapolis Regional Retiree Council protested outside his Eden Prairie headquarters, and delivered a letter to his office asking him to protect Medicare.

Lucy Olson of Edina warned that small tax deductions for the middle class would not be enough to offset the elimination of medical expense deductions for seniors, who have immense healthcare bills. Looming cuts to Medicaid and Social Security would also harm nursing home patients, she said.

“So what happens when money runs out? You put the seniors out in the street. It’s a very cruel proposal. I’m very sad about that.”

Mel Schultz, a veteran who also lives in Edina, questioned the sincerity of Paulsen’s Veterans Day shout out to West Lutheran High School in Plymouth.

“That’s sheer hypocrisy. How could he do it?” Schultz asked. “How could he say one thing and do something else? [The bill’s] going to hurt a lot of veterans, a lot of elderly people, and he just praised veterans earlier this week.”

Paulsen’s outreach coordinator Alex Stanford placidly listened to the seniors’ complaints, then deflected their questions about what senior groups the congressman consulted about the impacts of the bill, or whether Paulsen has held any in-person to listen to seniors' concerns.

Stanford claimed Paulsen has recently held "more than 100" town halls, and that he himself had personally attended "dozens." He declined to name one, stated no schedule is publicly available, and refused to explain how constituents should learn one is upcoming in the future.