WASHINGTON – In an interview with Rachel Maddow, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight of federal elections and campaign finance law, reiterated her commitment to protecting Americans’ voting rights.
“Your viewers should know that we have a Justice Department filled with people like Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, who are committed to enforcing the Voting Rights Act and the bills that are right now on the books. We're going to be mobilizing in state legislatures across the country. We're going to work to fund elections, something that we can do with mail-in ballots and the like,” Klobuchar said.
She continued: “But none of it – I want to make clear, Rachel, why I worked so hard this year – none of it will be a replacement for the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, because that would have finally put the standards into law…I will not give up this fight.”
Maddow: Joining us now live is the Senior Senator from the great state of Minnesota, Senator Amy Klobuchar. Senator, I know you are in the thick of it. Thank you for joining us tonight, thanks for taking a moment to give us your perspective. Tell us what has happened today and into tonight.
Klobuchar: First of all, I love that you played that clip of Maggie Hassan. I love Maggie Hassan. She’s so strong. She stood up and made the case like no one ever could. Secondly, what's happened tonight is we had a first vote that just occurred to get on the bill. And both Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema, who are cosponsors of the bill that we worked with them on all summer, the Freedom to Vote Act that I’ve been leading – and they did vote for that, because they support the bill, and I think that’s important to know. But now is going to be the second vote. And that is where the argument really pivots. Because to me, if you're serious about voting rights and you so well pointed out, Rachel, how many times there's been exceptions and 160 times we changed the process. I could add to that compensation for victims of space accidents – that we changed the numbers for. You could go through history, it’s replete with examples, and why? Because senators wanted to get things done, because they came to Washington to do things, and when they saw an obstacle in their path – still allowing the filibuster to stay in place – they made practical changes to get things done. Sometimes on small things, and sometimes on really, really big things, like Supreme Court justices, which Mitch McConnell did; like the Bush and Trump Tax Cuts – the Trump Tax Cuts, the recent ones for the wealthy – all on 51 vote margins.
Maddow: Senator Klobuchar, you have been telling this history in various ways throughout the debate and particularly as the debate has become more and more heated and more and more focussed on this point. I find myself frustrated by the assertions from Senator Manchin and from Senator Sinema that it would be unprecedented, that it’s never been done before, that there is nothing in history that suggests you can have a 50 vote threshold for voting on a bill like this. Like it would be something – you'd need to be able to move mountains. I wondered if you had any perspective on that. Clearly you know the history, clearly – Senator Manchin today, he didn’t just say it, he put up a board on the floor of the Senate giving an ahistorical, untrue statement about these things. I wonder how you and your colleagues are handling that.
Klobuchar: We keep making the case. I think we know we're pretty sure how this is going to end tonight. But what’s been important for me is that we have every other senator on board. Your viewers should know, we have an election coming up. And neither of those two are up. But there are strong possibilities for taking over Senate seats across the country. If we get to 52, that's a whole different ball game when it comes to the Senate rules and getting this done. Your viewers should know that we have a Justice Department filled with people like Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, who are committed to enforcing the Voting Rights Act and the bills that are right now on the books. We're going to be mobilizing in state legislatures across the country. We're going to work to fund elections, something that we can do with mail-in ballots and the like. So, there is so much work that we can do, including fixing the electoral college. But none of it – I want to make clear, Rachel, why I worked so hard this year – none of it will be a replacement for the Freedom to Vote Act, because that would have finally put the standards into law. Because everyone knows what's happening here. You know, get rid of same-day registration in Montana. That counts, 8,000 people used that in the last election, it’s been in place for 15 years. Get rid of registration during the last month, the runoff period of Georgia. 70,000 people registered at that time. Those things were put into law with what one court described another voting rights suppression law as surgical precision. We're going to continue to see that, and I will not give up this fight.
Maddow: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, busy night for you and your colleagues. Thank you for helping us understand it. I know you’re still in the middle of it.
Klobuchar: Dr. Martin Luther King once said that disappointment is finite, but hope is infinite. Let's not forget that.
Maddow: I couldn't say it better and I have nothing to say in response. Thank you, Senator. Good luck. Thank you.
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