KLOBUCHAR: “This is not a radical change. What is radical is people who are undermining our democracy.”

KLOBUCHAR: “And I want to make clear to your viewers today, this is not a liberal/moderate divide.”


WASHINGTON – In an interview with Rachel Maddow tonight, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight of federal elections and campaign finance law, once again called for changes to Senate rules in order to pass federal voting rights legislation following her trip to Georgia with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Klobuchar noted that changes to the filibuster have previously been made over 160 times to pass major legislation, create government agencies, and address pressing issues like the national deficit and defense.

“The federal government responded when there were civil rights violations, the federal government responded throughout history when things have happened. And it's on us right now,” Klobuchar told Maddow. “This is not a radical change. What is radical is people who are undermining our democracy. That’s what’s radical, and it is on us to right it.”

The full transcript of the interview is available below and high-resolution video is available for TV download HERE and for online viewing HERE.

Rachel Maddow: Joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar. She’s Chair of the Rules Committee. She’s one of the lead sponsors of the Freedom to Vote Act. She traveled to Georgia with Vice President Harris today, she just returned to D.C. tonight aboard Air Force One with President Biden. Senator it’s great to see you, I know it’s been a long day, thanks for being here.

Klobuchar: Thanks, Rachel. I was just –

Maddow: Go ahead. 

Klobuchar: Just before we get into what’s going on in the Senate, which is the key question, I did want to say President Biden's speech was wonderful tonight, as was Vice President Harris's. But there was this moment where he talked about how there’s a moment in time, and this has happened through history, where time basically stops. He brought up the bomb blowing up in that church in Birmingham. He brought up when John Lewis crossed that bridge, and when he got hit, and people got killed, and people got injured. And he brought up January 6th. There are those moments, and this is one of those moments. It didn't begin on January 6th, it didn’t end there. It's been a concerted effort. You know, and you just talked about it on your show. Over 400 bills introduced across the country, many of them passed, to take people's rights away to vote. As Reverend Warnock has said repeatedly, “Some people don't want some people to vote.” That is what’s going on, our very democracy depends on it. This is a moment when time stands still, and that is the argument we're making to these two senators. 

Maddow: I was also struck, Senator Klobuchar, with the argument the President made about the way that partisan shift on this issue has changed over time. The way he went out of his way, you know, speaking in Atlanta, speaking in blue dot Atlanta, in now what is blue state Georgia, talking before a very supportive audience. But making the case in part by talking about how Republicans until quite recently unanimously, all but unanimously, supported voting rights and the Voting Rights Act. People like George W. Bush. People like Strom Thurmond. He had an extensive reflection on Strom Thurmond, the anti civil rights icon, who in the end supported the Voting Rights Act. And this is something that even Republicans found necessary to do by massive margins in the past. That is both an indictment of Republicans but also of Democrats who won't do what needs to be done in order to get it passed. I wondered about what your reflections were on him talking so much about how the partisanship around this issue has calcified in a way that we’ve never seen before? 

Klobuchar: I think it makes the case, right? Because there’s many of us – as you know, I cherish the work I've done across the aisle. I've passed a bunch of bills, I think I’ve mentioned that quite a few times on the presidential debate stage. But the point is that right now, they're not playing on this right now. Even though, and that's why I think he felt it was important to make the case, in the past, democracy triumphed. It's more important than any divides between us. But right now, because of the shadow, the large shadow of Donald Trump over the Republican Party, there are very few people that are willing to stand up like you're seeing with Liz Cheney, with the January 6th Commission, that she's willing to stand up, over in the House. And there’s just not that happening in the Senate right now when it comes to voting rights. And the case that I've made to my colleagues in those rooms, where we want it to happen, to quote "Hamilton," is that the filibuster has -- it is unbelievable, changes to the filibuster are not radical. They've happened 160 times, Rachel. Changes have happened where bills have been passed without the 60 vote: 1977 national gas policy; 1980, Selective Service System; 1987, national defense bill; 1995, endangered species bill. The Bush tax cuts. The Trump tax cuts through reconciliation. What just happened with Mitch McConnell and the debt ceiling. History is riddled with exceptions and changes that were made. And it was Robert Byrd himself, and I've said this to Senator Manchin several times, who once said, “you change the rules when there are changed circumstances.” Well Rachel, an all-out assault on our democracy is a changed circumstance. 

Maddow: We're going to see if we believe Senator Schumer about the timing here. As soon as tomorrow, as late as Monday, Martin Luther King Day, we are going to see a vote in the Senate. Is there anything else we should look for ahead of that vote in terms of conversations, events, pronouncements? Or we just wait to see how it’s going to go when the roll call happens? 

Klobuchar: There's a lot of drama right now, I’ll give you that, but I think that’s good – that’s democracy. We are negotiating, we're talking to both senators, groups of people. Our whole voting group that has been involved from the beginning, including of course Senator Schumer and Senator Merkley and Kaine and King and Tester and Padilla, and Warnock, it is a group that is not giving up. And as are other senators that have been involved and meeting with Senator Sinema. Because people feel so strongly about this. And I want to make clear to your viewers today, this is not a liberal/moderate divide. There are two senators who are working through this with us, but there are a whole bunch of moderates and people from states, like Senator Tester of Montana, who have seen good democracy rules. Then suddenly, after 15 years, you have same-day registration taken away in that state. Yet thousands of people have relied on that. Just one example that you don't always hear about. That is this all-out assault on democracy across the country. When you look through history, and we were there in Georgia, where history happened – federal government response. They may not do it right away, but we can't wait anymore. The federal government responded when there were civil rights violations, the federal government responded throughout history when things have happened. And it's on us right now. We’re just making the case to these two senators, as vociferously – and I’m giving you a lot of the arguments I use all of the time – as we can. This is not a radical change. What is radical is people who are undermining our democracy. That’s what’s radical, and it is on us to right it. We can always have differences of opinion, Democrats and Republicans. But our job is to make sure, as you pointed out earlier in the show, that votes are counted fairly, that people aren't doing sham audits and fake certifications, and they're not throwing people off of election boards, and they're not taking and dismantling those election boards. Those things would be solved through the Freedom to Vote Act, that simply sets minimum federal standards for the country grounded in the U.S. Constitution, which clearly says, never questions, that Congress can make or alter the laws regarding federal elections.

Maddow: Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Chair of the Rules Committee in the Senate and one of the lead sponsors of Freedom to Vote. Senator, thank you for joining us tonight. As you say, a lot of drama here right now. We look to you to understand it. Thanks for being here. 

Klobuchar: Okay. Thank you, Rachel.

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