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Sen. Klobuchar Assesses Voters' Message

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's hear now from a member of the Democratic Senate majority, which is soon to be a Senate minority. That's Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat in her second term. Welcome to the program.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, thank you very, very much, Steve. It's great to be on.

INSKEEP: How would you describe last night's defeat for your party?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, it's very difficult. Of course you have some amazing people like Kay Hagan and Mark Pryor and Mark Udall, who really were people that worked in the middle - very civil and strong leaders, and that's difficult for all of us. And I think it's difficult for the country in that you had people that were moderates that are now gone or will be gone in January. So that's hard for us.

The second thing is of course what you were talking about with the congressman, is moving forward. And I think when you look at the selection - and there will be a lot of not just Wednesday morning quarterbacking like we're doing today, but throughout the week. I think we know the map was very difficult on the Senate side with so many red states. We know that the president's approval rating is way down.

And then finally, I think this will be interesting - is if candidates like in Minnesota, where we just bucked the national trends and our two House members won and our governor and Senator Franken won by significant margins in a state that the president did win by seven points, but we have a - it's a purple state. Our legislature did go Republican.

INSKEEP: Yeah, that's what I wanted to mention. Since the legislator went Republican, I mean, it's been a very strong Republican week here. What message were the voters sending to you?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think the general message of course is the economy. When you look at exit polls, the people, they know there's been some improvement, but, boy, it hasn't helped all of them. And that gets to some of these issues that we want to see passed, minimum wage, some of the - increases, some of the - student loan changes. But I will say this - is that the gridlock that you've just talked about clearly has affected people. And the president is - the party that's in power, and I think that our incumbents had a lot of blame for that. And I think some of this is not all about the Democratic side. I think we know that the next few months are going to be critical. I'm glad the president is bringing the Republicans over to the White House.

Yesterday I talked to five of my Republican senator colleagues, including Senator Cornyn, who's in leadership, and they expressed genuine interest in our working on things. The specific things that I talked about with Lindsey Graham, were immigration reform of course, also tax reform. No one knows it better than Minnesota. We've got a bunch of money dumped overseas, and we've got inversions going on. And we would like some of that money to be incentivized to come back...

INSKEEP: Let me stop you there for a second. I've got a couple of questions here...

KLOBUCHAR: Sure.

INSKEEP: ...In the next couple of minutes if I could, Senator Klobuchar. First, you mentioned gridlock and moving forward. Congressman Schweiker suggested that legislation could now go through both the House and the Senate and get to the president's desk and force him to decide to sign it. But of course, you as the Senate minority will have the power, as Republicans did, to block legislation. Will you be working with Republicans or obstructing as Republicans did?

KLOBUCHAR: I think we will work with them. I will tell you, in the next two months, we have ambassadors to confirm and a lot of those bills that were mentioned were - I have one of them that passed the House, and Senator Cruz had objected to it. It wasn't sitting on anyone's desk.

INSKEEP: Ted Cruz.

KLOBUCHAR: And so we have the issues - I have actually six of these bills, and it wasn't because they were sitting on a Democratic desks. And my hope is that we can get them through now that the election is over. And then we have the big-ticket items that I just mentioned that go into the next year. So I think you're going to find a number of Democrats who've already been meeting - 20 of us with Lamar Alexander and Chuck Schumer on how we can get the amendment process to work.

INSKEEP: You mentioned a Republican and a Democratic senator there. Now, Mitch McConnell who will be the majority leader has said he owes it to the American people to try to repeal Obamacare one more time. Will Democrats allow an up or down vote on Obamacare in the Senate?

KLOBUCHAR: Again, I think that would be going into the next year where it will be the Republicans that will be making those decisions. And...

INSKEEP: But you can block a vote or allow a vote. You can filibuster it or not.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I don't - I really don't care about doing an up or down vote myself. I think there's a lot of good things in the bill. But I think what's more likely that you will see - and it will not happen that it will be repealed because of the president's veto and because of a number of, as you point out, Democrats in the Senate if there's a vote or not...

INSKEEP: About 10 seconds.

KLOBUCHAR: What's most important is modifications, and I think you'll see some change.

INSKEEP: OK, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Thank you very much for taking the time.

KLOBUCHAR: Very good. It was great to be on. Thank you.

INSKEEP: She is a member of the Democratic majority, soon to become a minority. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.