- Campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy in 1968
- Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1969-1973
- Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974 and served until 1981
- Again elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2021 and served until 2019
- Joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Supported abortion up until birth
- Supported illegal immigration, the DREAM Act, DACA and sanctuary cities
- Supported Obamacare and single-payer
- Supported massive government funding of infrastructure and federal jobs programs
- Supported affirmative action
- Opposed voucher programs
Rick Nolan was born on December 17, 1943, in Brainerd, Minnesota. He attended St. John’s University and then transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he earned a BA in “high-school social studies” in 1966. Nolan then did postgraduate work in public administration and policy formation at the University of Maryland, and in education at St. Cloud State College. He served as a staff assistant to U.S. Senator Walter Mondale in the Sixties, and in 1968 he campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. Thereafter, Nolan was a social studies teacher in Royalton, Minnesota from 1968-72; a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1969-73; and a three-term Democratic congressman representing Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975-81.
He then left politics and founded the U.S. Export Corporation, where he served as president until 1986. At that point, Democratic Governor Rudy Perpich appointed Nolan to the Minnesota World Trade Center, where he was president from 1987-94. Nolan also spent a number of years as the owner of Emily Wood Products, a small sawmill and pallet factory in northern Minnesota.
In 2012 he returned to politics, winning election to Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives where he served until 2019. He was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
On the premise that that all women should have an unrestricted right to abortion-on-demand at any stage of pregnancy, Nolan has voted:
- against a proposal to prohibit the federal funding of any abortion services or any health insurance plans that cover such services;
- against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act of 2015, which sought to prohibit abortions from being performed on any fetus that had reached the 20th week of its gestation period—except in cases where a pregnancy endangered the mother’s life or was the result of rape or incest; and
- against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a bill requiring healthcare practitioners who are present during an attempted abortion that results in an infant surviving the procedure, to exercises the same degree of care as would be provided to any infant born at the same gestational age, and to immediately transport and admit the infant to a hospital.
With regard to immigration, Nolan has enthusiastically declared his support for such policies as the DREAM Act and a path-to-citizenship for millions of illegal aliens currently residing in the United States. He supported President Barack Obama‘s 2012 “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) executive action which guaranteed that most DREAM Act-eligible individuals would be granted legal status, work permits, access to certain publicly funded social services, and protection from deportation for a period of two years. And in 2015 Nolan voted against the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act, which called for the cessation of federal funding to any state or local governments that restricted law enforcement from looking into the citizenship or immigration status of criminal suspects within their jurisdiction. The congressman also believes that all U.S. residents, regardless of immigration status, should be eligible for various social services.
Nolan avidly supported Obamacare as a valuable piece of legislation that may ultimately serve as a stepping stone toward the adoption of a single-payer system administered by the federal government. In an August 2017 interview, he characterized single-payer arrangements as “fundamentally American” and added: “Countries that have single payer do better for significantly less money. They do better in terms of life expectancy, and they pay less. And it’s the way that we simply have to go.”
On August 24, 2015, Nolan announced his support for the international agreement that the so-called “P5+1” nations (United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China) had recently negotiated with Iran in an effort to slow down that nation’s nuclear-weapons program. “[I]n an imperfect world,” said Nolan, “there is no better alternative to the agreement. If the deal is rejected, our allies will desert us, international economic sanctions will fall apart, and a terribly expensive and destructive war in the Middle East will become a real possibility as Iran redoubles its efforts to develop a nuclear bomb. And Israel, our one true ally in the region, will be put in terrible danger.” While the agreement placed some temporary restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, it virtually guaranteed that the Iranians would be able to develop nuclear weapons within a decade or so.
By Nolan’s reckoning, the federal government can and should play a major role in helping a foundering economy to recover—specifically, by injecting mass sums of money into infrastructure and federal jobs programs. Says the congressman: “We need to be building and resurfacing critical highways, replacing bridges, building and modernizing public facilities such as waste water treatment plants, and investing in modern high speed rail, universal broadband and wireless Internet access, as well as expanding investments in education and human development.”
On the premise that the effects of past and present discrimination continue to harm nonwhites and women on a regular basis, Nolan maintains that employers in the private sector should be legally required to implement affirmative-action hiring and promotion policies that give preference to members of those demographics.
Vis-à-vis other matters of import, Nolan opposed the use of voucher programs designed to enable low-income parents to send their children to private schools; supports a steeply progressive tax structure where high earners pay much higher tax rates than everyone else; believes that U.S. defense spending should be reduced dramatically; and opposes Voter ID laws as fundamentally racist schemes that are intended to suppress minority voting.
For an overview of Nolan’s voting record on a range of additional key issues, click here.
Further Reading: “Rick Nolan” (Ballotpedia.org, Votesmart.org, OnTheIssues.org); “Dem Rep. Rick Nolan: Single-Payer Health Care ‘Fundamentally American’” (Washington Times, 8-24-2017); “Nolan Announces Support for Iran Nuclear Agreement” (8-24-2015).
- “Rick Nolan” (OnTheIssues.org); Rick Nolan’s Voting Record on Abortion (Votesmart.org)
- Rick Nolan’s Voting Record on Immigration (Votesmart.org); “Nolan on DACA: These People Have Done Nothing Wrong” (Brainerd Dispatch, 9-10-2017); “Rick Nolan” (OnTheIssues.org)
- “Rick Nolan” (OnTheIssues.org); “Nolan On The Issues” (HometownSource.com, 10-31-2012).