Transcript: Sen. Amy Klobuchar on "Face the Nation," December 16, 2018

Klobuchar: Ruling would set Obamacare "on fire"

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota that aired Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar a key Democratic voice on the Judiciary Committee. Senator, good to have you here.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: Thank you so much. It's great to be on, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We had this significant decision out of Texas on Friday with this federal judge striking down Obamacare as unconstitutional and you have tweeted, "now it's on us and the Democratic attorney generals. Let's get to work." What does that mean?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Well what that means is because you have an administration - and you just heard it - that basically is standing while the house is burning down and instead of going in there and putting out the fire they're throwing lighter fluid on it in terms of tweets and rhetoric and things they're saying. The ruling was absurd. Justice Roberts and a conservative court has already ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional unlike what Mr. Miller said. And in fact you can have part of it not exist and you can still have the rest of it protect Americans. And that is exactly where this is headed and I can say that this is about first of all throwing people off of their insurance. No protection with preexisting conditions, kids staying on their parent's insurance until they're 26 years old. A very popular and important protection. Medicaid expanded for millions of Americans. That's what we're talking about here. And for them just to throw up their hands and say, "well I'd be great if we just started from scratch." That's not what the American people believe. Just look at the results from the last election.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Barrasso who was just here said that he does think there's room for legislation to protect preexisting conditions. One of the things that would get thrown out with this ruling if it's upheld. Would you--

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: But I just mentioned a number of other things that would also have to be done. So the best thing here--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But is there room for Democrats to work on those sort of issue specific things with Republicans?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: There's always room to work on things but the best way - and what I believe will happen - is this will be stayed in court. So it continues to take effect. Then it will go up on appeal. It will be upheld. But what we should be doing is governing from opportunity and not chaos. That means doing something about pharmaceutical prices and passing my bill to allow Medicare to negotiate for less expensive drugs for our seniors and letting less expensive safe drugs come in from other countries so that we can actually have competition doing something about premiums with reinsurance and some of the things going on in the states. So yes there are things to do but we should be working to improve the Affordable Care Act not just throw it out and set it on fire.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You heard some disagreement among Republicans on how to do that. There's also disagreement within the Democratic Party on how to handle healthcare. Former Attorney General Eric Holder says it's time now to move to some version of Medicare for all and end this nonsense. That was his reaction to Friday's ruling. Do you agree with him?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: We need universal healthcare and there are many ways to get there. That is one of them. The other is to at least expand Medicare to age 55. There's a number of bills that I'm part of including allowing the expansion of Medicaid which I think is something we're not talking enough about that Senator Schatz from Hawaii is leading. And then of course allowing for an expansion of Medicare. So there's many things we can do. But right now with an administration in place that seems bound and determined to take away people's health care we have to protect the ability of people to even have their health care exist because they are talking about throwing them off for preexisting conditions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As we mentioned you sit on the Judiciary Committee. I want to ask you about some testimony before your committee this week from Customs and Border Patrol. We mentioned the - the case here of this seven year old from Guatemala - this migrant girl who died tragically after passing into U.S. territory. Should the commissioner of CBP, said to you during that testimony that this had happened? It wasn't disclosed until days later.

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Yeah, I just went back and looked at that testimony. I look at the face of that sweet little girl - 7-year-old Jakelin Caal. She looks like the faces of the kids that were in my daughter's second grade class. And he came and testified before us and I asked him if he regretted any of the Trump immigration policies and he said he did, but he didn't even mention that this had happened. Under law they're supposed to tell Congress within 24 hours if someone dies. So we clearly have to get to the bottom of that. But the second thing is comprehensive immigration reform, so that we can have some order at the border and that we can have a smart plan that works for our country, including a path to citizenship and doing something about states like mine where we don't have enough workers in our fields and in our factories. Making sure that we have smart policies that work with fencing and other things. And that's not what they're talking about what they're talking about is chaos.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What- are you laying responsibility on the U.S. government for this little girl's death?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: I just want to get it investigated and figure out exactly what happened. But what I do believe is that if we just keep playing games with people's lives - that's what they're doing - they're playing games with people's lives. They're playing games with a shut down which last time cost twenty billion - the Ted Cruz shut down - for our economy. They are playing games with members of Congress, they take the leaders of Congress into the White House and create a media circus instead of just sitting down and negotiating. Do I think that we can avoid a shutdown? Of course, I do. Because there's people on both sides of the aisle that want to find common ground. I think that's possible. But the way that they're acting is not furthering the attempt to make sure that our government is steady at a time when the stock market is careening and we've got a judge throwing out the healthcare bill.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to quickly ask you about a sexual harassment bill that you have been a- a key voice on. But to answer the criticism from the White House, don't Democrats need to show some flexibility to avoid the shutdown?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: We have suggested so many things, comprehensive immigration reform that passed the Senate would have brought down the debt by one hundred fifty eight billion and there was significant funding in there for border security. We just did it with the dreamer's deal that was bipartisan that was suggested. So of course we're willing to work with them. But as pointed out by Speaker Pelosi, there aren't the votes for that wall.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does your sexual harassment bill become law? Do you have any idea?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: We're very excited president is going to sign into law. This is a bill that finally says to America we got rules in place that don't protect politicians, that protect victims and it's time to clean up this mess.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Senator.

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Margaret.