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CNN "Newsroom" - Interview with Amy Klobuchar



I'm pleased now to be joined by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota. It's very good to have you.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thank you. Thanks, Poppy.


HARLOW: I'm looking at -- looking at the numbers in the state that both of us call home, it is devastating.


HARLOW: NPR is reporting that one in two black workers in Minnesota, one in two, have applied for and are relying on this unemployment assistance and 450,000 Minnesotans are relying on that $600 extra a week. What should they expect to happen?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I can tell you what we should do and that is pass the Heroes Act that has already passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives. And what that bill does is simply extend the unemployment.

I rarely quote the President of the United States, Poppy, but let's go for it. It was the President that said two days ago, it is going to get worse before it gets better. Well, we all know that's true and that's why you don't end unemployment benefits.

You have 30 percent of Americans having trouble making their housing payments this month. We know we are not yet through this. And that's why the Heroes Act and the proposal we want to pass in the Senate would actually include all the funding we need for testing.

There have been huge delays for testing. I know someone in Minnesota who sat in his basement for six days because it took that long to get the tests back. Something we haven't seen since the beginning of the year. And there he was, while his family is upstairs.


KLOBUCHAR: He can't help out and it turns out he doesn't have it. Those kinds of stories are happening all over America.

HARLOW: You know this personally. Luckily, your husband who contracted it in March is ok. But he was hospitalized, your 92-year-old father had it. You thought he might die, he's ok. We're so glad.

But in the state of Minnesota, we looked at the data this morning, Senator. Cases have risen 30 percent in the state of Minnesota in just the last three weeks. Finally the governor of Minnesota Tim Walz has yesterday mandated masks indoors. But did that come too late? Should it have come sooner?

KLOBUCHAR: You know, the governor actually has been, I think, doing a good job of balancing all of this. The economy slowly opening and our numbers, our health care system has over time gotten well-prepared for these cases.

But what we are seeing in Minnesota simply reflects the national trend. I think it was last week 31 states saw increases. And it is every reason why we need a president who can lead. Why this president miscalculated this from the very beginning, was more worried about his tweets that day and every day than saving lives. And as a result, there's been no long-term plan and certainly no compassion for what's happening in this country.

HARLOW: Well, there's been a lot of tweeting, as you know, about mail- in voting. Something you're very passionate about. Just this week on Tuesday, the President tweeted "The mail-in voting unless changed by the courts will lead to the most corrupt election in our nation's history."

Obviously, you have proposed the National Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020. It would expand -- expand early voting. It would also expand mail-in voting to all states. You have got 36 cosponsors but they're all Democrats. But the chairman of the committee, Roy Blount, I know he voted against it, but he has expressed an openness to you to work on this issue.



KLOBUCHAR: Yes and he and I --

HARLOW: So are Republicans telling you behind closed doors they're worried about hearing that from the President and are you going to get them on board to actually do something about it?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes. First of all, Roy Blount has both to me privately and publicly talked about how he wants to work together to try to get some funding here. We originally got $400 million in the first bill and there's a lot more need now.

And you have Republican governors and Republican secretaries of state across the country asking for this funding. This is a change in our voting. So many more people, no matter what happens in Washington, are going to be voting by mail. They want to vote early. If they do want to go to the polls, and they want to do so safely.

We shouldn't have to choose in this country between putting ballots in the mailbox and putting people in the hospital. This just isn't right and we should be able to do this. And that's why we're trying to push for the election money in this bill.

HARLOW: Yes. Let me ask you about a proposal you -- legislation you put forward in March. It actually hasn't gotten a lot of -- a lot of attention. I'm not really sure why because it's fascinating. It was touted this week by Steve Case, AOL cofounder on the show.


HARLOW: And it would put taxpayer money behind start-ups instead of just propping up existing businesses, which matters a lot. Your argument here is do what Israel did effectively in the 90s. Prop up start-ups, particularly minority-owned and women-run in the middle of the country where a lot of the C money (ph) doesn't go -- and help build the economy.


HARLOW: I get it. My question to you is how do you prevent a bunch of Solyndras, right? Or the government picking winners and losers? How do you protect against that?


Well, you put better requirements in the law with the grants and you do everything. But my point here is this. it's that we have to start thinking not just about today, which we have to do every day with this president because he's not doing his job.

But we have to think about the day after tomorrow and that will be what are we going to do to rebuild our economy. In the words of Joe Biden to build back better.

And part of this means making sure that we have start-ups, new ideas, small companies and that not everything is about biggest companies. Now what I'm afraid is happening as you saw with the recent attempt of Uber and GrubHub to merge and that was somewhat rejected. That would have meant that 90 percent of the home delivery food market would be in the hands of two companies -- DoorDash and then that merged company.

So the point is that we're seeing more and more big and we need to be promoting what's made America great. Good ideas, new ideas, small company start-ups and that's what that bill is about.

HARLOW: We'll watch if that gets traction.

Let me just end of this because obviously there's a reckoning on race in this country as there needs to be. But when you talk about the city of Minneapolis where you are the chief prosecutor for a year, the Minnesota legislature this week passed a major police accountability and reform bill. And yesterday, we heard this from the Attorney General Bill Barr. Listen.



WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We had that terrible event in Minneapolis, but then we had this extreme reaction that HAS demonized police and called for the defunding of police departments.


HARLOW: Well, the Minneapolis city council as you know voted unanimously to take the first step that could move toward abolishing the police in the city of Minneapolis. Do you support that?

KLOBUCHAR: I do not support defunding the police. I have made that very clear as has our governor in Minnesota and many others, including, by the way, Vice President Biden.

But what we need to do is make some very important changes that will save lives. What happened -- the murder of George Floyd -- was an outrage. We literally saw on video a man's life evaporate before our eyes.

So what do you need to do to stop that from happening? One is a prosecution of the case which I'm very glad Keith Ellison is undertaking.

Two is making sure that we ban chokeholds and the Minnesota law which was passed by the only legislature in the country where one houses Republicans and one houses Democrat does that to a limited extent. I think we need to do it in a bigger way nationally.

The third thing is better training and better exchange of information. There are -- when I listen to the attorney general, once again trying to be divisive instead of bringing the country together -- there are many good police officers out there. We all know that.

But when you have people like Derik Chauvin out there that do what we saw him do on video, you have to change the rules. You can't let that happen again. And that is why I was so disappointed that our Republican colleagues didn't join us in passing the bill that passed the House, that Senators Booker and Harris sponsored here in the Senate on police reform.

HARLOW: There's still time for everyone to compromise and make progress on that.

KLOBUCHAR: There is. That is exactly right.

HARLOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar --

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: -- thanks for your time.

We'll be right back.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.