U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn Town Hall

U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn speaks during a town hall event Wednesday at the Hormel Historic Home in Austin. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

AUSTIN -- Remarkably, it wasn't until near the end of Rep. Jim Hagedorn's town hall event in Austin that the impeachment inquiry into President Trump came up, and it was brought up by Hagedorn himself. 

"I'll be flat out: I oppose the impeachment process," Hagedorn said, a proclamation that drew applause from roughly half of the 60-member audience at the Hormel Historic Home. "I don't think that they've done this right from the beginning."

The Democratic-led House, under Rep. Adam Schiff, has been taking testimony into Trump's attempt to force the Ukraine government into investigating former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in an effort to damage his Democratic rival's prospects.

The hearings have taken place behind closed doors, with opening statements released to the public. But inquiry is expected to enter a public phase in the coming weeks. 

Hagedorn said he doesn't believe the inquiry is going to "amount to anything," because there was "no underlying crime." Even though Trump asked the Ukrainian president to look into the Bidens, the military aid was eventually released to the Ukrainian government and an investigation by Ukraine was never conducted.

Thursday's town hall had its raucous moments, featuring energetic back-and-forths between Hagedorn and members of the audience. Some people shouted back at the first-term Republican for failing to answer the question or providing specifics.

The town hall appeared to be equally divided between supporters and critics, with one side applauding Hagedorn and other side occasionally jeering him.

Here are four issues that were brought up and how Hagedorn responded to them. 

How to bring affordable, accessible health care to people in the U.S.

Hagedorn said Minnesota had a health care system that worked for most people before the passage of Obamacare. Up to 94 percent of the population had insurance, and people with expensive, pre-existing conditions were served in high-risk pools. 

"By and large, if we should have done anything, we should have sent that model around to the states," he said. 

He argued that Obamacare "in a lot of ways destroyed insurance markets." There are many places in Southern Minnesota where the number of insurance companies willing to do business are "very limited." And premiums and co-pays on the individual insurance market are so high that the "underlying insurance is worthless."

Hagedorn said he supports opening up competition across the country through association plans offered by small businesses and unions. He said there also needs to be price transparency and high-risk pools for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Will anything get done in the current Congress?

Not likely. Hagedorn said it was unlikely much would get accomplished in the current session. But he said a top priority should be passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a sequel to the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

"There isn't an agriculture group in this country that doesn't say this is a priority," he said.

Hagedorn argued that the new agreement would be improvement over NAFTA, because it would benefit dairy farmers by opening up markets in Canada. 

"That's a good thing, whatever we can do for the dairy farmer," he said. "We are losing dairy farmers."

What would Hagedorn do to deal with U.S. debt, which has risen to $23 trillion?

Trump said the debt has grown under Democratic and Republican presidents. He said the country has been able to manage it because of low interest rates. The U.S. pays about $300 billion annually in interest on the debt, but if interest rates rise, that part of the debt could double or more. 

"The debt is a big problem. It's going to unravel at some point," he said. 

Hagedorn said any long-term solution will require a willingness of both parties to declare a truce and possibly form a commission. He said that when former speaker Paul Ryan proposed budgetary reforms, he was savaged by the other party and attack ads appeared featuring granny being thrown over a cliff. 

"(We need a) truce where we can reform Medicare and Medicaid, where we can discuss how we reform it, make it better and still help the American people," he said. 

How would Hagedorn deal with climate change?

Hagedorn argued that the climate has been changing since "God created the world." He said he was opposed to the Green New Deal that would address climate change and economic inequality. 

"When you get down to it, I'm not willing to risk the U.S. economy over it," he said. "A better way to mitigate it would be to deal with the effects and move people around rather than turn the economy upside down." 

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