On Tuesday, March 10, Congressman Rick Nolan visited UMD to discuss legislation with students from the Political Polarization class, the Public Opinion class and students from the Political Science Association.
The discussion lasted an hour and a half with topics ranging from establishing a public-private system of campaign financing to returning the U.S. House to a system of “Regular Order.” According to a press release, the latter means no bill would be considered on the floor of the House without going through committee process.
“Each bill would be considered under an open rule, with amendments debated fully and openly and given an up or down vote. Conference committees would be required to meet in full, and resolve House-Senate differences with a vote of the full committee,” the release said.
Attendees and Congressman Nolan also discussed the issue of gerrymandering, which Nolan says “have made all but 35 districts ‘safe’ for incumbents at election time.”
Students appreciated the chance to talk to someone in office about the topics they’re currently studying.
“Even though the public sees that (the House is) kind of divided, it’s actually a bit more uniform than we see,” said sophomore Christopher Wagner. “It helped clear up some of my questions on his bill, too.”
Senior Trish Oyaas felt similarly.
“I’m in the class, so it was great to hear from the congressman about what’s going on in congress from a firsthand perspective.” Oyaas added that it’d be great to interact with politicians in class more often.
It was clear that the students in the class were already engaged with and knowledgeable about politics, but Congressman Nolan understands that this isn’t reflective of the larger population. One of the main themes of the evening was the lack of participation in politics, from the perspective of both citizens and politicians.
“It’s no secret that the recent congress is the most unproductive, unaccomplished congress in history,” Congressman Nolan said. “Few people are bothering to vote anymore, there’s been a tremendous loss of confidence in the system and we need to change the way we do politics.”
Nolan proposed legislation that he says would solve this problem. Nolan’s Restore Democracy legislation was first introduced in the 113th congress and he plans to reintroduce it in the 114th congress.
Though Nolan is a Democrat, he stressed the importance of bipartisan participation and engagement from both parties in addition to more involvement from people who never or rarely vote.
“(Politics) impacts every aspect of their lives, including the longevity of their life itself,” Nolan said. “So get involved. If you want to have something to say about your life, you better devote a few minutes to current events and politics.”
Nolan added that he is not particularly interested in the debate over small versus large government.
“I try to urge people to get over the argument of whether or not we need more government or less government. What we need is government that — if it’s going to be involved — let it be in a positive way,” Nolan said. “That’s not necessarily more or less, it’s just better.”
BY APRILL EMIG
Arts and Entertainment Editor