Congressman ‘Rip Van Winkle’

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Newly sworn-in Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., says he feels a bit like Rip Van Winkle. “At times it feels like I was in the Congress, I took a nap and I woke up and here I am, I’m still in the Congress,” Nolan tells Jansing & Co.

But 32 years after first leaving Congress, Nolan says he woke up and found a dramatically different landscape. “My first term, we worked 48 out of 52 weeks. And most of those were four and five-day weeks. We were in committee, we were all fully engaged, getting to know one another. This past Congress and the current Congress, they’re scheduled to work 32 out of 52 weeks. And most of those weeks not much more than a couple of days.”

Nolan, a centrist Democrat, first served three terms in the House of Representatives from 1975 to 1981. After leaving Congress, he started his own business, U.S. Export Corporation, and worked with the Minnesota Governor to build and operate the Minnesota World Center in St. Paul. But after more than three decades away from Washington, Nolan decided to make another run and says he feels like he can still make a difference. “This country has been so good to my generation. The country’s in trouble, I feel like my previous experience and legislative politics and the last 32 years of experience in business and community service—I feel better prepared than ever before.”

Topping Nolan’s agenda is campaign finance reform. “Right now, members of Congress are expected to spend 30 hours a week in call time dialing for dollars,” says Nolan. “That’s time we used to spend in governance…you can’t run a country that way, you can’t run a business that way. We need to take the toxic influence that money’s having on campaigns and elections and we need to go to work four and five days a week like everybody else in America does.”

With battles on the debt ceiling and sequester ahead, Nolan says all the committees in Congress should be meeting to propose cuts and changes instead of leaving the process to last-minute crisis management by the political leaders.

Congressman 'Rip Van Winkle'

Updated