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At Houston debate, Klobuchar opposes Medicare-for-All plans

As in prior debates, Klobuchar mostly refrained from calling out other candidates by name.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaking during Thursday night's presidential debate in Houston, Texas.
REUTERS/Mike Blake

With the few moments Sen. Amy Klobuchar had to speak Thursday night on a stage with nine other presidential candidates, viewers got to hear a breadth of information about the candidate — from Klobuchar’s record in the Senate, to her record as a prosecutor, to how exactly her health care policy would differ from her opponents if she’s elected president.

As in the prior two debates, Klobuchar mostly avoided back-and-forth sparring, which also meant less speaking time to discuss her own policy ideas. Other candidates were less reticent: Sen. Bernie Sanders constantly challenged former Vice President Joe Biden on foreign policy and trade. And Biden took aim at Sen. Kamala Harris’ proposal to ban imports of AR-15 assault weapons with executive action, calling it unconstitutional and not possible. Harris responded at length and joked, “Yes, we can.”

But on health care is where all the candidates showed the most disagreement — even from Klobuchar, who has refrained from calling out other candidates by name in prior debates. Klobuchar started by referencing her work in collaboration with Sanders to drive down insulin costs and then took aim at Medicare-for-All, calling it too far to the left for many Americans.

“While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill. And on page eight — on page eight of the bill, it says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it.” (“I’ve actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said earlier in the night.)

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While pushing back on other’s records, Klobuchar also had to defend her own. “During your eight years as a prosecutor in Minnesota, there were dozens of incidents where black men were killed by police. Critics say that too often you sided with police in these cases,” said Linsey Davis, one of the debate’s moderators. Did Klobuchar wish she did things differently?

“That’s not my record,” Klobuchar responded, saying she took on the police chief in Minneapolis and made sure outside investigators looked at the shootings.

But Klobuchar conceded that she’s changed her mind, saying “I now believe it is better for accountability if the prosecutor handles them and makes those decisions herself.” As Hennepin County Prosecutor, Klobuchar did not pursue charges against officers that had killed black county residents, instead deferring to a grand jury.

As in prior debates, Klobuchar used some of her time to talk not about what she would do as president, but about issues she’s facing right now as a leading Senate Democrat. She criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for refusing to schedule a Senate vote on gun safety legislation that’s already passed the House.

“If you want action now, we got to send a message to Mitch McConnell. We can’t wait until one of us gets in the White House. We have to pass those bills right now to get this done,” she said of three gun regulation measures already passed by the House. “Because we cannot spare another innocent life.”

Overall, Klobuchar made her pitch more clearly and succinctly than in prior debates, both by not being cut off and clearly distancing herself from the more left-leaning health care policies proposed by others on stage. She said she is the best candidate for the job because she’s from the middle of the country, because she has “grit,” and because she’s the candidate to ensure “that everyone should have that same opportunity” she’s had.