Speaking in Dubuque on Saturday, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar promised to build bridges over rivers and the nation’s political divide should she win her 2020 presidential bid.
Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, told a crowd of more than 225 at 7 Hills Brewing Co.’s event center that they need look no further than the Mississippi River for evidence of the demand for infrastructure overhauls in the U.S.
“No one knows this better than the river cities,” she said. “You know the need to update our locks and dams. You know the importance of bridges and rails and doing more on our roads.”
She took a swing at President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to address infrastructure needs — promises she said are yet to bear fruit.
“Instead of just talking about it, I’m going to put forward a major infrastructure package,” Klobuchar said.
Her plan to fund those investments: ditch the Republicans’ 2018 corporate tax cuts. She said the move cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars.
“Think about how much infrastructure that could buy Dubuque,” she said. “Think about what that could buy in terms of child care, in terms of paid family leave. There are ways to pay for this. But a budget is values. President Trump just showed his values when he put out that budget that would cut Medicare by hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Instead of sticking with a partisan message, though, Klobuchar painted herself as the country’s best bet to see some bipartisan productivity in the next administration.
“What is even more meaningful after those horrific, murderous shootings we saw in New Zealand, now is not the time in our country where we should be emphasizing divides,” she said. “Now is the time when we should be crossing the river of our divides to a higher plane in our politics.”
Klobuchar pointed to her bill with Iowa’s Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to allow personal importation of pharmaceuticals as proof of her willingness to cross the aisle when need be.
“It would mean that we can get less-expensive drugs from other places,” she said. “In Minnesota, we look across the border because we can see Canada from our porch and see those prices and say, ‘Come on!’”
Lowering the cost of pharmaceuticals was a big thrust of Klobuchar’s speech Saturday.
She touted another bill she co-sponsored with Grassley aimed at “anti-competitive pay-for-delay deals” — as described on Grassley’s website. The bill targets huge pharmaceutical companies’ practice of paying off manufacturers of cheaper generics to keep the less-expensive drugs out of the market longer.
In addition to lowering drug costs, Klobuchar used that bipartisan bill as an example of her goal to reform antitrust laws to better hinder monopolies.
Klobuchar’s message to her Republican colleagues in the Senate: “If you really care about innovation and entrepreneurship, you will work with me so our laws on antitrust are as sophisticated as the companies who are trying to monopolize.”
The Minnesota senator said she wants to replace Trump’s strategies with what she called an “optimistic economic agenda for this country.”
“Simply, we should be a country that makes stuff, invents things and exports to the world,” Klobuchar said. “We need homegrown talent and we need homegrown products.”
Klobuchar said her vision of growing that talent pool, the country’s workforce, is to bolster two-year degrees and trades education to provide for the jobs open across the country.
She said she thinks her path to success in 2020 will be sticking with what she said has worked for her so far — bipartisanship and understanding the needs of Middle America’s voters, red and blue.
“I meet people where they are,” Klobuchar said. “I talk to Republicans. I talk to independents. But it’s not that I don’t stand my ground on the issues. You know I do.”
Klobuchar has her detractors. The Republican National Committee painted her with the same brush as other candidates in the Democratic field who might lean further to the left.
“As the only 2020 contender from the Great Lakes, Amy Klobuchar has abandoned traditional Midwestern values in favor of the plush socialist agenda of her comrades,” according to a press statement from RNC spokeswoman Preya Samsundar. “Klobuchar has focused her campaign around the ideals of coastal Democrats, championing policies like the Green New Deal, government-run health care, depriving our border of security and higher taxes.”
Suellen Flynn, who asked about Klobuchar’s plan to address the mental health crisis in Iowa, came away from Saturday’s speech satisfied.
“I am very impressed by the bills she’s been able to get through and am impressed with the knowledge she had on the topics I care most about, especially mental health,” Flynn said.