Senator Amy Klobuchar

Just four months until
the Iowa Caucuses and candidates are ramping up
the time and money spent in Iowa. We sit down with
democratic presidential hopeful and Minnesota
Senator Amy Klobuchar on this edition
of Iowa Press. Funding for Iowa Press was
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October 4 edition of Iowa Press. Here is David Yepsen. ♪♪ Yepsen: Midwestern
values, a centrist bipartisan approach. Our guest today hopes that
is a recipe for winning over Iowa democratic
caucus goers in 2020. Amy Klobuchar served
8 years as the chief prosecutor in Minnesota’s
largest county. In 2006 she became the
first woman elected to the U.S.
Senate from Minnesota. She was re-elected to a
third term last November by a 24 point margin
winning in many areas Donald Trump
carried in 2016. Senator Klobuchar joins
us now at the Iowa Press table. Senator, welcome. Klobuchar: Well,
thanks David. It’s great to be
here with you. Thank you. And Kay and
Clay, thank you. Yepsen: Joining us across
the table are Clay Masters, Political
Reporter and Morning Edition Host on Iowa
Public Radio and Radio Iowa News Director
Kay Henderson. Henderson: Senator, we
have a number of issues we want to talk about but
first a couple of quick questions about the
impeachment inquiry underway in the House and
an investigation in the Senate Intelligence
Committee. Knowing what you do as we
sit here right now do you believe the President has
committed impeachable offenses? Klobuchar: Well, I think
that that is a very major possibility and it’s one
of the reason I called for impeachment. I wouldn’t have called for
impeachment if I didn’t think that that
was a possibility. And unfortunately with
each day the evidence to me seems stronger and
stronger and stronger. Just this last few days we
found out that he was not just trying to dig up dirt
on his opponents when calling the head of the
government in Ukraine, it also as reports show
extended to Australia and China. So it is literally like he
is going around the world inappropriately calling
world leaders asking them to investigate
his opponents. And you look back to
the founding of our Constitution, James
Madison at the Constitutional Convention
actually said the reason we have these impeachment
provisions in the Constitution, why he
argued for them, was he feared that a President
would betray the trust of Americans to what he
called foreign powers. And that is exactly what
it appears is happening here. There are now, we’re now
revealed a text back and forth with diplomats who
seem to be doing the bidding of the
administration and trying to figure out if they
could make a deal with a new relationship with
Ukraine in exchange for this investigation. It’s outrageous to me
and we have a solemn responsibility to allow
the House to go forward and then the Senate will
be the jurors and we’ll see what the evidence is. Henderson: Is there a
danger for the country in that it increases rather
than decreases the polarization? Klobuchar: I hope that’s
not the case and I’ve been somewhat buoyed by the
fact that there have been a few republican governors
that have called for this impeachment proceeding to
start, that we have had one republican congressman
do that and significantly Iowa’s Senator Grassley
actually spoke out to defend the whistleblower
after the President had really coined the
phrase, a spy, about the whistleblower when this
was by news reports a CIA agent feeling that he had
an obligation to come forward about a security
risk for our country’s security and Senator
Grassley was very strong in his language that a
whistleblower should be allowed under the law to
come forward with reports and shouldn’t be attacked
or threatened with execution as the President
of the United States did. Masters: Taking a look at
this presidential race, polls have shown you in
the single digits for quite a while now, but the
latest Iowa poll showed that 80% of voters are
still trying to figure out what they’re going to
do on caucus night. What do you do to convince
them that you’re the choice? Klobuchar: Well, I think
this is still early on and Iowa voters are discerning
and they get to know the candidates and
that is my hope. They should just call
their friends and relatives in Minnesota,
hopefully they’ll get a good verdict about me and
a good report card because I’m someone that does my
work, I listen to the people, I go out to rural
areas a lot, I’m the only one on the debate stage
that asked to be on the Agriculture Committee and
have been very proud of the work we’ve done there
negotiating three Farm Bills. I’ve been very involved
in rural issues. I’m also someone that of
course is from the middle of the country and there’s
I think only two of us right now on that stage
who are from the middle of the country and the
Midwest and I think that is an important attribute
for the voters in Iowa. And then finally, I’m
someone that gets things done. I have passed over a
hundred bills where I’m the lead democrat, much
more than any of my opponents that are in
the Senate right now. And I think at this moment
where you’ve got this guy in the White House that
is making things up, that literally goes after
people all the time, that you don’t necessarily want
the loudest voice in the room, we already have
that, you want something different. And I’m someone that tells
the truth, I have people’s backs. I think that people if
they are tired of the extremes in our politics
and they are tired of the noise and the nonsense
then they should think about me because I’m
someone that wants to be the President for not half
of America but for all of America. Henderson: Turning to
some of the issues which differentiate
the candidates. Let’s start with
Medicare for all. The poll that Clay just
mentioned indicated that Iowa democrats at least
are worried that if your party focuses on this too
much that that could be a loser in 2020. Others in the party are
very insistent that the country needs to move
to address health care problems and this they
argue is the solution. Why do you differ from
Senator Sanders, the author of the Medicare
for all legislation? Klobuchar: Well, first I
want to say my thoughts are with Senator Sanders. We’re friends. We came in together. He was just in my state a
few weeks ago and himself said that we are personal
friends and so I’m thinking of him and Jane
and hopeful he’ll be back on the campaign
trail soon. But we just have a
difference of opinion on this. I think we have the same
goal and I want people to remember that about
democrats, that we have a unified goal to make
sure we don’t repeal the Affordable Care Act right
now which would take away so many protections like
allowing people to stay on their insurance if they
have a pre-existing condition, could affect
nearly half of America. This President is trying
to do things like that right now. So I always try to remind
people that we may have some different policy
ideas right now but what unites us is bigger
than what divides us. What I would do to bring
down the cost of health care is different than
Medicare for all. I would actually put
forward a public option and that would allow
people to decide if they want to buy into that if
they are in the Affordable Care Act coverage or you
could even do it outside of it. You could do it with
Medicare or Medicaid and that’s different than
throwing everyone off their current insurance in
four years which is what that bill says on page 8
and that was my memorable line in the debate where
I sort of ribbed Bernie a little bit and said, I
know you wrote the bill, but I read it and on page
8 that is what it says. And I don’t think that’s
the best interest of Americans and certainly
not for the people of Iowa. That being said, we can’t
just rest on our laurels and say everything
is fine. It’s not fine. People want cheaper health
care and they want to be able to cover their
families and they want to be able to have less
expensive prescription drugs which is something
that Bernie and I have worked together on
extensively and introduced a number of
bills together. Henderson: Republicans are
already running ads in Iowa that Iowans are
hearing, they say the public option is
unaffordable, taxes will go up, they say that
democrats are purveying socialism with this. Don’t you run a danger in
trying to counter that kind of argument? Klobuchar: Well, first of
all, I am not a socialist. I believe in capitalism. I was in the private
sector for 14 years and that is an important part
of my experience that I haven’t been able to talk
about a lot but I think it’s very important to who
I am, and a lot of people in the private sector and
I think that we aren’t talking about it enough. Secondly, I think that the
republicans are going to throw all kinds of stuff
at our candidates and the important thing for us
is to make our own case. I’m not on
Medicare for all. I chose to not be on
that bill because of my concerns that I
just went over. But they’re going to throw
it at people no matter if you’re on it or you’re not
on it and the important way you get at this
is by having your own optimistic, economic
agenda for this country, not going down every
rabbit hole with Donald Trump, calling him out on
what he hasn’t kept his promises on. He said that pharma prices
would go down so low your head would spin. He said that on Fox News. They have gone up in
double digits for common drugs like insulin. And our goal is to get
things done and to make sure that people who voted
for him and about 10% of his voters voted for
Barack Obama, that’s one estimate, I don’t know
what it is in Iowa, we’ve got to show those people,
bring them with us, not shut them down and say,
look he promised you this, he promised you this, he
promised you that, it hasn’t come true. Levees are breaking
because he didn’t invest in infrastructure. Climate change,
nothing is happening. Immigration reform,
nothing is happening and he has made it worse. And then you go to health
care and prescription drugs, he has
made it worse. We’ve got to
make that case. Masters: Another thing
that Senator Sanders was talking about four years
ago that many other candidates in the race are
embracing, free college tuition, canceling
student debt. You don’t go that far. Why aren’t you
embracing it? Klobuchar: I embrace more
affordable college and paths to success and there
are many different paths to success. So I’ll start with my
plan and then tell you my issues with theirs. So my plan is free one
and two year community college. That’s something Barack
Obama wanted to do. Why? Well that is the fastest
area of growth in this country right now. I was just at Abraham
Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs and saw the
trade program they have going on there. That is because they
forecast to have something like 6,000 open jobs, many
of them involve degrees that are not four year
degrees, many of them really well paying,
welding, plumbing, all of these things. So the idea here is free
one and two year degrees would help not just the
community college, of course the students and
our economy, but also the high schools that are
trying to struggle with how to pay for having the
students do this at the same time, do
the right thing. Secondly, for those four
year degrees, double the number of programs. That is for people who
need help, not for rich kids, for people
that need help. Extend it for families
making $100,000 or less and double the programs
from $6,000 to $12,000 a year. I know it doesn’t fit on
a bumper sticker but it’s the right thing to
do for this economy. Tie the loan payback for
people going to in demand jobs that we need. Yepsen: Senator, we’ve got
way too many questions and not enough time. Student debt, forgiveness
of that or not? What do you want? Klobuchar: First of all, I
would lower the interest rate. I figure if millionaires
can refinance their yacht students should be able
to refinance their loan. But then I would also take
the program we have now for loan repayments
for like teachers. It’s a good program. Betsy DeVos is
screwing it up. I would make it work and
that means you work in that area for 10 years and
then you get your loans paid back and I would
actually extend it into in demand occupations,
there’s a list of them, things like nursing and
technology to try to steer some of our students into
the jobs that we need them to have. And there are all
different levels of education levels
for those jobs. But I think the bottom
line is this, we’ve got to fit our education plans
into our economic plans and needs for our country. That is how you
make it work. And what I’m afraid is if
you just say to, first of all, why would you pay for
rich kids to go to college when you have limited
needs and a mounting debt? That makes no sense. That is what these plans
do, they can’t deny it, that is what they do. And something like over
10% of kids at public colleges come from
families that make over $200,000 a year. That is what they would
be doing, they would be giving them free college. Secondly, I don’t think
carpenters should have to pay for the kids of
wealthy people to go to college. Secondly, you don’t want
to steer everyone to a four year degree. A lot of kids want to do
one and two year degrees. What we should be doing
is figure out if someone decides to be a janitor,
someone decides to work in a nursing home, how do you
make it so they can raise their family? That means increasing the
minimum wage and making sure that we’ve got good
health care and good child care and retirement
for them. That’s the key. It’s not trying to make
everyone go on one path. Henderson: Shifting
to gun policy. For years those of us
who have been covering democrats on the campaign
trail have heard democrats say we’re not going to
take away your guns, we just want
background checks. Now you do have some of
your colleagues calling for confiscating guns. How has that
changed the debate? Klobuchar: I don’t think
it has greatly changed the debate. I think that we all
agree on so much. I think we should have a
voluntary buyback program instead of mandatory. But that being said,
the key is that the republicans haven’t done
one of these things. We don’t even pass my bill
to close the boyfriend loophole that basically
says that if you have been convicted of serious
domestic abuse against your wife then you
can’t get a gun. That’s what the
law says now. But if it’s your
girlfriend you can. And yet half the domestic
homicides involve dating partners. Secondly, we don’t even
have the universal background
checks fixed yet. Mitch McConnell won’t let
that come up for a vote or fixing the Charleston
loophole which basically says hey, cops should be
able to finish their jobs vetting before they
issue a gun permit. Those bills are right now
ready to pass and they unify every single person
on that debate stage in the Democratic Party. Assault weapon ban,
limitations on magazines, those are things that
I would do if I was President. So that is what we need to
do and we can have debates on some of the other
issues on the side but mostly those are the major
things because no matter what buyback program you
have if people can go out and buy a new assault
weapon it’s not going to work. Yepsen: Clay has
the next question. Masters: This is a
question about climate change. You’re a Midwesterner
running for President. You no doubt know that
many farm groups are opposed to more
regulation. On the topic of climate
change what kind of policy would you put in place so
you’re not angering these farm commodity
groups or farmers? Klobuchar: I love taking
the stage in New York City during the town hall,
being asked a similar question and stood up for
our farmers because I see farmers as part
of the solution. We put a pilot program in
the Farm Bill that had broad support that
actually rewarded farmers for say planting winter
crops and other things that could actually
capture carbon and be part of the solution. So I see it that way. I see it as part of the
solution as we look at plantings and new
technologies and just as Tom Harkin’s leadership
showed with the CRP and CSP and EQIP programs
that are focused on conservation in the Farm
Bill, you can also do that with climate change. So that’s one thing. I think the second thing
is we all know we’ve got to do something. Look at those levees
breaking out in western Iowa. Look at the flooding that
we saw in eastern Iowa. And this just
doesn’t stop. So it’s got to be
a combination of infrastructure. I came out with a clear
infrastructure package for roads, bridges, levees,
you name it and it is also about putting back in
place the clean power rules, the gas mileage
standards that this administration has gone
backwards on and then coming up with very strong
legislation to tackle climate change which
includes putting a price on carbon. Yepsen: Another question
in this campaign is the issue of tariffs and our
trade war with China. How would you as President
stop the Chinese from stealing our
intellectual property? Klobuchar: I would push
them but not the way this President has done. Yepsen: Haven’t other
Presidents already done that? Klobuchar: We have reached
a point where we have to do something but we do
it best with our allies. And what this President
has done is he has used a meat cleaver, maybe a
tweet cleaver to deal with this problem. And we all know that China
is a bad actor, they’ve stolen intellectual
property as you’ve noted, they have manipulated
currency, they have subsidized industries,
I’ve seen that in Minnesota with
the steel dumping. But that’s an interesting
story because at the end of the Obama
administration we took that on bigtime, we passed
legislation, we went after them for dumping illegal
steel that they weren’t supposed to allow getting
into our country, flooding the market with it
at cheap prices. We took that on by itself,
not with tariffs on Canada and Mexico, we took it
on and went after it and guess what, they started
reopening the iron ore mines. That’s where my
grandpa used to work. And so I know you can do
this with pointed efforts. But in this case he went
so broad and made so many threats, there’s an old
saying in trade policy, keep your promises and
keep your threats, and he has done neither and so
then we become a laughing stock for the world and
we’re not able to actually negotiate with our
partners on our side. So I would go back to the
negotiating table and not have involved some of our
allies in this in terms of assessing tariffs on
them and moved ahead. Henderson: You mentioned
your infrastructure plan. There appears to be
republican agreement that something should be done
to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. What in your view would
be acceptable to both parties? Klobuchar: Well, this is
something the President promised on election night
and we have seen really nothing. This is taking — the
money to pay for it — so what I would do, and this
is why he’s backing away from it, I would take the
portions of his tax bill that don’t help regular
people, that is when he went on the corporate tax
rate all the way down to 21%, even if you bring it
up to 25%, which is still a significant reduction,
you get $400 billion over 10 years. Each point was
$100 billion. And then you add in the
changes he made to the international taxes which
didn’t help regular people. That’s $150 billion. You put in an
infrastructure financing authority with a carve out
for rural and you make sure that you’ve got
these by America bonds. Together it comes to over
a trillion and you use that and I promise you the
republicans want to move on this, there’s just a
guy that’s not leading in the White House. Henderson: Broadband is
also an issue in rural Iowa. Klobuchar: That’s
part of my plan. Henderson: Do you need to
make broadband a utility, a regulated utility? Klobuchar: I think you can
do broadband, the way I have put this forward,
there’s a big problem with financing it. We can use money from the
universal service fund, you can use all kinds of
funding basis for this if we have the
wherewithal to do it. They’ve hooked up the
entire country of Iceland and we can’t seem to
hook up rural Iowa. So I have a plan to
get this done by 2022. I always have deadlines. And I think you can do
that without making it like a regulated utility. Masters: Let’s say you
become the democratic nominee for President. There are people in Iowa
who see what is going on with immigration at
the southern U.S. border as a crisis. What do you do to
address border security? Klobuchar: Comprehensive
immigration reform. This is something that had
republican support as well and this is something,
especially in the Midwest, and what this is about,
it’s a path to citizenship and it actually reduces
the deficit by $158 billion in 10 years. You take part of that
money once you pass the immigration reform, which
we have done before in the Senate, and then you can
use a portion of that money for better order at
the border, with better processing in these cases
and those three northern triangle countries where
so many of the asylum seekers are coming from,
allow them to seek asylum in their home country. These are sensible
solutions, ones that this President doesn’t want
because he wants to play politics with those
asylum seekers. That’s what he does. He likes to use
them as pawns. I look at it more as
what’s best for Iowa? What is best for Iowa is
to make sure we have our workers in our fields and
that we have workers in our factories, to make
sure that we have a sensible immigration
system and we vet people and we do this
in a smart way. Henderson: If you’re
elected President how would you propose
implementing the Renewable Fuel Standard? Klobuchar: This is
a very timely topic. I was just out in Council
Bluffs with Congresswoman Axne at one of the ethanol
plants there, the very one that the President had
gone to when he made his promise he was going to do
something about ethanol waivers, that he is now
just this weekend starting to act on, but to me it’s
too little too late and they’ve already lost 4
billion gallons of ethanol toward this standard
across this country. So what I would do is
make sure the levels are appropriate so they
actually help grow this industry. Oil has been having their
way for way too long. I would stop the subsidies
on big oil that make it very unfair. And then I would also make
sure we have incentives in place to move to
cellulosic and other forms of ethanol. And then finally I would
make this waiver process greatly reduced. It’s supposed to be just
for a handful every year and make it transparent so
people know who is getting the waivers instead of
us finding out, Senator Grassley and I, after the
fact that it’s Exxon and Chevron. Yepsen: Another issue of
concern to a lot of caucus goers is Social Security
and the soundness of Social Security. How do you keep the Social
Security fund sound? Klobuchar: Well, first of
all Social Security is our most important safety
net in this country. I am a strong
believer in it. And what I would do is
right now it is projected to go insolvent by 2034
and that’s not a good place to be. So what I would do is pass
the bill as President and push it forward that says
right now you pay into Social Security up to
$133,000 a year, put in a donut hole so you don’t
pay for a while after that, and then once you
start making over $250,000 a year, that’s a good
salary, then you pay in again. And that would actually
keep it solvent going forward. Yepsen: Just a
couple of minutes. Klobuchar: And then I
would not privatize it. Henderson: As an attorney
and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee would
you change in any way the terms for members
of the U.S. Supreme Court or the
method by which the court is constituted? Would you expand
the court? Klobuchar: I’d
be open to that. None of this will even
matter if we don’t win this election
and win the U.S. Senate, which is my
argument that I’ve won every red county
every time. That has got to be our
focus right now and I know a lot of people are
talking about this but there’s no way to do
it unless we win big. As far as doing
that, I’m open to it. The most important thing
immediately there’s going to be a number of
retirements on the Supreme Court, or at least one,
and other places I would predict, I’m
just guessing. And so I would put forward
very good judges that follow the law and it’s
not just the Supreme Court it’s also the circuit and
district courts and you’ve got to start right away
with a plan to get this done. That got delayed during
the Obama administration because we were in the
middle of the economic downturn but it has
to happen right away. Yepsen: Senator, we’ve got
less than a minute left and I’ll leave it to you. What is the most important
thing you want democratic caucus goers to remember
about you on February 3rd? Klobuchar: That I bring
people together and that is what I’ve done in every
race by bringing in a coalition of democrats,
including a fired up base, we had the highest voter
turnout last time when I led the ticket as well as
independents and moderate republicans. If we want to get any of
these things done that we’re talking about
whether it’s climate change, immigration
reform, bringing down the cost of health care, we’ve
got to win big and that’s me. And I’m also someone that
governs with a command of details, as I hope you’ve
seen today, but also from the heart and bring people
with me and that is what Iowa is all about, that’s
what our politics are all about in Minnesota, and
I think we need a little dose of that in
Washington, D.C. Yepsen: Senator, thank you for
your time, appreciate it. Klobuchar: Thank you. Yepsen: And we’ll be back
next week with another edition of Iowa Press at
our regular times, 7:30 Friday night and
Noon on Sunday. So for all of us here at
Iowa Public Television, I’m David Yepsen. Thanks for
joining us today. ♪♪ ♪♪ Funding
for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the
Iowa Public Television Foundation. The Associated General
Contractors of Iowa, the public’s partner in
building Iowa’s highway, bridge and municipal
utility infrastructure. I’m a dad. I am a mom. I’m a kid. I’m a kid at heart. I’m a banker. I’m an Iowa banker. No matter who you are,
there is an Iowa banker who is ready to help you
get where you want to go. Iowa bankers, allowing you
to discover the genuine difference of Iowa banks.

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