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Amy Klobuchar on her top 3 priorities as president

Democratic presidential candidate and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Thursday her first priority as president would be reentering the U.S. in the Paris climate accord, the international deal President Donald Trump withdrew from last year.

“My first priority on day one is to sign us back” into the deal aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, Klobuchar told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff.

Klobuchar said her second and third priorities would be ending policies that undermine the Affordable Care Act, and protecting so-called “Deamers,” young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, as well as migrants living in the U.S. through the Temporary Protected Status program.

The remarks come two days after Klobuchar unveiled a list of 137 actions she would take in her first 100 days in the Oval Office, more than 100 of which she said she can do through executive action.

In the NewsHour interview, Klobuchar also weighed in on the discussion around former Vice President Joe Biden’s comments about working with segregationists in the Senate after he joined Congress in the 1970’s, saying it’s important to call such politicians out on their beliefs.

“I work with people where I don’t agree with them on everything,” Klobuchar said. “But you have to stand your ground on certain issues and find common ground.” She added: “As president, I think you have to be willing to negotiate and meet with anyone.”

Other highlights from the interview:

  • On Iran: Amid growing tensions with Iran after a U.S. drone was shot down in the region, Klobuchar said Trump should go to Congress for authorization of military force if he is serious about taking action. She also said that as president, she would reenter the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump pulled out of last year. “If I was president, we would negotiate ourselves back into the agreement — the nuclear agreement — to make sure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon,” Klobuchar said.
  • On connecting with rural voters: Klobuchar acknowledged she does not have the same name recognition as some of her 2020 competitors. But Klobuchar argued her experience as a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee would help her connect with rural voters, including in the key early voting state of Iowa, Klobuchar said she has“dealt with rural America as much as practically any of the other candidates running, and that’s going to be important in Iowa.”

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In just six days, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota will take the stage for the first 2020 Democratic Party presidential debate. She's one of 23 candidates in that crowded field competing for the nomination.

    Welcome to the "NewsHour," Senator Klobuchar.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    Well, thank you, Judy. It's great to be on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, as we say, there are 23 of you. So, my question…

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    But who is counting?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But who's counting?

    So, what makes Amy Klobuchar stand out? Why should voters choose you over any one of these others to go up against President Trump?

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    I'm the candidate from the heartland. There's just a few of us from the middle of America.

    And, as you know, we had a little trouble there in the last election, and I have consistently won in the Midwest in very red congressional districts every time, every place, and every time I have run. So that's one thing.

    The second is that I have a focus on what I think matters to the people of this country, and that is bringing back the heart and the strength of our democracy.

    We have someone in the White House who tries to fracture that community, fracture that heart every day. And when you look at my track record, I have been able to bring people together. I have passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat, in the middle of all this gridlock, since I have been in Congress.

    And I am someone that can lead the party to victory and lead the ticket beyond even the presidential race.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, this week, you put out a list of 137 priorities, you said, for the first 100 days you would be in office as president.

    That's a big number.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    What matters most on this list to you? What are your priorities?

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    Well, my first priority on day one is to sign us back into the international climate change agreement, stop the assault on our health care.

    You literally — there are so many things a president can do. Over 100 of these are things that a president can do without Congress. You can just stop these court cases in which they're trying to basically repeal the Affordable Care Act, throw people off their health care if they have preexisting conditions.

    And then a third I mention is just the status of the dreamers and people here on legal temporary status, again, something that you could do without having to deal with Congress.

    And not that I don't think we need to do those big bills when it comes to pharmaceutical prices and other things, which are my top priorities, but there's things you can do immediately.

    And I think there's a sense of urgency. People are weary after years of Donald Trump. They want to get back to moving forward for this country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm asking you about that in part because, as you know, in 2016, Hillary Clinton was criticized by some for having a lot of plans, but not having an underlying, simply stated message.

    What is your simply stated message?

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    My message is to bring the heart and the strength back to America, to give the people of this country a government that's as good as they are.

    And, right now, President Trump has brought us into chaos, whether it's his escalation of — with the looming crisis with Iran, all of his own making, by getting out of the agreement, or whether it is the fact that he said he'd bring down pharmaceutical prices, and now we literally have thousands of drugs that have gone up in price astronomically since he came into office.

    These — there are things that need to be done in this country. And he literally has been sitting on the economy, something that basically he inherited because of resiliency of our workers and our businesses, and not taking on the challenges we have today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You mentioned Iran. We know the Iranians shot down an aircraft-sized U.S. drone overnight. What should the U.S. do right now?

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    We should be working with our allies. We should be using diplomacy. We should be making sure that we do all to not escalate this right now.

    And what I fear is, even if you take the president at his word that he doesn't want to go to war right now, he has put in place a number of things, most predominantly getting out of that agreement, how he has proceeded with his saber-rattling by tweet, leaving the implementation of that agreement in the hands of China and Russia, where we don't want to give them leverage, or our allies.

    And I'm afraid, with the kind of people around him, when you don't have a General Mattis anymore, and he just lost his acting secretary of defense, that he doesn't even have people around him that are going to be giving him sound advice when it comes to how to deal with this.

    So, my answers would be this. Number one, if he is serious about doing anything there, he has to go to Congress for an authorization of military force. He cannot rely on the 9/11 al-Qaida authorization of military force. And that's something we hope to be voting on next week.

    And then, secondly, if I was president, we would negotiate ourselves back into the agreement, the nuclear agreement, to make sure that Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That the U.S. pulled out of.

    A question about former Vice President Biden, leading in all the polls. He has created a stir among Democrats this week with comments he made about, back in the 1970s, he said he had good working relationships with a number of senators who had very different views, senators on the far right of the political spectrum. But he said he worked with them in order to get things done.

    Senator Cory Booker has taken issue with that and said, that's not the model for how to make America a safer place, especially for people of color.

    You are known for working across the aisle. Do you think it is a mistake to work with people who have fundamentally different values?

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    Well, in this case, you're talking about a segregationist.

    And I think, if you are asked about working with someone like that — this was way before my time — I think you have to call them out on it. You're not going to lie. And if your Vice President Biden, you can't lie and say you didn't work with them. But you have to always call out people for what they are and make it very clear that, while you may have worked with them on something that you disagree with, something that that extreme — and I think that seeing it in the context…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That being a segregationist would have disqualified…

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    Not — it would have — it means that — he's just looking back at a time, talking about it. I think it's important to call them out.

    The second thing I would say is that we're living in a very different time right now, at this moment in time, where we have a president in the White House who basically said there were two sides after Charlottesville.

    Well, there's only one side, the American side, because the other side is the Ku Klux Klan.

    So, how I look at this, I work with people where I don't agree with them on everything. That is true. But you have to stand your ground on certain issues and find common ground.

    And how you talk about it right now, when so many people feel that they are being pushed out, and that this is a president that goes after immigrants, goes after people of color, does it blatantly, does it subtly, does it by tweet, does it by words, that you have to be able to recognize that when you are the leader of the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But let me come back to the question, is there anywhere where you would draw a line? Is there anyone you wouldn't work with?

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    Well, right now, for instance, you — as a president, I think you have to be willing to negotiate and meet with anyone.

    And this has been something that President Obama talked about a lot, right, that you have to be willing to talk to people like Kim Jong-un.

    But the problem is — and these are dictators, right? The problem is, are you going to do it for a certain result, or do it, like what President Trump seems to do, as a distraction, where he says, I love the guy? You have got to do it with purpose and stand your ground.

    I think this week's news that we have learned more about Saudi Arabia and the evidence that the prince actually ordered this killing of a journalist for an American newspaper and the dismemberment, that's why you saw the Senate just today go after those arms sales, because there's a difference between being willing to talk to someone and then being very clear when you disagree with them, or when they're a thug, or when they do something that's racist, that you have to say it.

    And I think that is the issue that we're talking about here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Last question, pure politics.

    You talk about having Midwestern values.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    You're from Minnesota. Next door is Iowa.

    There are already people who are saying, Amy Klobuchar has to either win or come very close in Iowa if she's going to be viable.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    Well, I believe I have to be viable in terms of getting in the top group. I don't think I have to win it, because there's a whole country to run in.

    But we have a really good operation down there. I'm, I think, number six in Iowa. That means I'm ahead — I'm ahead, Judy, of…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Can you come in sixth and be viable?

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    I'm — no, I think I have to come in that top five, six. But I'm number six. And that means I'm ahead of 18 people. So I'm a glass-half-full person.

    And it also means that we just started out. We don't have — I don't have the name identification, even in Iowa, of some of my colleagues that ran for president before or have bigger states.

    And so it's on me, as time goes on, to get out there, to bring my message. I am the candidate that's a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, that has taken on the oil companies when it comes to biofuels, that has dealt with rural America as much as practically any of the other candidates running. And that's going to be important in Iowa.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy Klobuchar, less than a week away from that first debate.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    I'm excited.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you very much.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    Thanks, Judy.

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