U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar received eight questions — and just over eight minutes of total talk time — during the first Democratic presidential debate Wednesday night. Here’s a roundup of what the Minnesota Democrat was asked and how she answered, according to transcripts released by NBC News.
Moderator: Senator Klobuchar, you've called programs like free college something you might do if you were, quote, "a magic genie." To be blunt, are the government programs and benefits that some of your rivals are offering giving your voters, people, a false sense of what's actually achievable?
Klobuchar: Well, first, the economy. We know that not everyone is sharing in this prosperity. And Donald Trump just sits in the White House and gloats about what's going on, when you have so many people that are having trouble affording college and having trouble affording their premiums.
So I do get concerned about paying for college for rich kids. I do. But I think my plan is a good one. And my plan would be to, first of all, make community college free and make sure that everyone else besides that top percentile gets help with their education.
My own dad and my sister got their first degrees with community college. There's many paths to success, as well as certifications.
Secondly, I'd used Pell grants. I'd double them from $6,000 to $12,000 a year and expand it to the number of families that get covered, to families that make up to $100,000.
And then the third thing I would do is make it easier for students to pay off their student loans. Because I can tell you this: If billionaires can pay off their yachts, students should be able to pay off their student loans.
Moderator: You're one of the Democrats who wants to keep private insurance in addition to a government health care plan. Why is an incremental approach in your view better than a sweeping overhaul?
Klobuchar: Well, I think it's a bold approach. It's something that Barack Obama wanted to do when we were working on the Affordable Care Act. And that is a public option.
I am just simply concerned about kicking half of America off of their health insurance in four years, which is exactly what this bill says. So let me go on beyond that.
There is a much bigger issue in addition to that, and that is pharmaceuticals. The president literally went on TV, on Fox, and said that people's heads would spin when they see how much he would bring down pharmaceutical prices. Instead, 2,500 drugs have gone up in double-digits since he came into office. Instead, he gave $100 billion in giveaways to the pharma companies.
For the rest of us, for the rest of America, that's what we call at home all foam and no beer. We got nothing out of it.
And so my proposal is to do something about pharma, to take them on, to allow negotiation under Medicare, to bring in less expensive drugs from other countries.
Moderator invites Klobuchar to weigh in on other candidates’ responses on health care, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s assertion that he passed abortion rights legislation as governor:
Klobuchar: I just want to say, there's three women up here that have fought pretty hard for a woman's right to choose. I'll start with that.
And then I just want to make very clear, I think we share the goal of universal health care. And the idea I put out there, the public option, which the governor was just talking about, this idea is that you use Medicare or Medicaid without any insurance companies involved, you can do it either way. And the estimates are 13 million people would see a reduction in their premiums, 12 more million people would get covered.
So I think it is a beginning and the way you start and the way you move to universal health care.
Moderator: [Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro] wants to no longer have it be a crime to illegally cross the border. Do you support that? Do you think it should be a civil offense only? And if so, do you worry about potentially incentivizing people to come here?
Klobuchar: Immigrants, they do not diminish America. They are America. And I am happy to look at his proposal. But I do think you want to make sure that you have provisions in place that allow you to go after traffickers and allow you to go after people who are violating the law.
What I really think we need to step back and talk about is the economic imperative here. And that is that 70 of our Fortune 500 companies are headed by people that came from other countries. Twenty-five percent of our U.S. Nobel laureates were born in other countries.
We have a situation right now where we need workers in our fields and in our factories. We need them to start small businesses. We need their ideas.
And this president has literally gone backwards at a time when our economy needs immigrants. And so my proposal is to look at that 2013 bill that passed the Senate with Republican support, to upgrade that bill, to make it as good as possible and get it done. It brings the doubt down by $158 billion.
It gives a path for citizenship for citizen — for people who can become citizens. And it will be so much better for our economy in America.
Moderator: You've said you would negotiate yourself back into the Iranian agreement. Can you argue that that nuclear pact as it was ratified was a good deal?
Klobuchar: It was imperfect, but it was a good deal for that moment. I would have worked to get longer sunset periods, and that's something we could negotiate, to get back in the deal.
But the point is, Donald Trump told us when he got out of it that he was going to give us a better deal. Those were his words. And now we are a month away from the Iranians, who claim now that they're going blow the caps on enriching uranium. And the Iranians have told us this.
And so that's where we are now. He has made us less safe than we were when he became president. So what I would do is negotiate us back into that agreement, is stand with our allies, and not give unlimited leverage to China and Russia, which is what he has done.
And then, finally, I would make sure that if there is any possibility of a conflict -- and we're having this debate in Congress right now -- that he comes to Congress for an authorization of military force. I would do that.
And this president is literally every single day 10 minutes away from going to war, one tweet away from going to war. And I don't think we should conduct foreign policy in our bathrobe at 5:00 in the morning, which is what he does.
Moderator: Senator Klobuchar, the Iron Range. I'm curious. Gun confiscation, right? If the government is buying back, how do you not have that conversation?
Klobuchar: Well, that's not confiscation. You could give them the offer to buy back their gun.
But I'll say this. I look at these proposals and I say, does this hurt my Uncle Dick and his deer stand, coming from a proud hunting and fishing state? These proposals don't do that.
When I was a prosecutor, I supported the assault weapons ban. When I was in the Senate, I saw those moms from Sandy Hook come and try to advocate for change, and we all failed. And then now these Parkland kids from Florida, they started literally a national shift.
You know why? It's just like with gay marriage. When kids talked to their parents and their grandparents, they say I don't understand why we can't put these sensible things in place, they listen. And if we get bested by a bunch of 17-year-olds t's the best thing that ever happened.
Moderator: On the issue of civil rights, for decades -- on the civil rights and demographics, honestly, and politics, for decades, the Democratic Party has counted on African-American voter turnout as step one to winning elections on a national level. Democrats are counting on the Latino community now and in the future in the same way. What have you done for black and Latino voters that should enthuse them about going to the polls for you if you're your party's nominee?
Klobuchar: My life and my career and my work in the Senate has been about economic opportunity. And to me, this means better childcare for everyone in this country. And when you want an economy that works, you need to have retirement that works, you need to have public schools that work. And you also need to make sure that those communities are able to get those jobs of the future, the STEM jobs.
In fact, Donald Trump, one of the first bills that he signed of the 34 he signed where I was the lead Democrat -- OK, that's a first up here -- was one that was about that, making sure minority community members could share in those jobs.
So to me, this is about a few things. It's about an African-American woman that goes to a hospital in New Orleans, says her hands are swollen, and then doctor ignores her and her baby dies. It's about the fact that African-American women make 61 cents for every dollar a white man makes.
So in short, we need, one -- and I will do this in my first 100 days as president -- we will work to make sure everyone can vote at this table, everyone can vote in this country and we will also go to the next step of criminal justice reform. Senator Booker and I worked on that First Step Act, but we should go to the second step act, which is to help all our communities across our country.
Moderator: What is the biggest threat — what is — who is the geopolitical threat to the United States?
Klobuchar: Two threats, economic threat, China, but our major threat right now is what's going in the Mideast with Iran.
Klobuchar: Three things to know about me. First, I listen to people and that's how I get things done. That is my focus. I have a track record of passing over 100 bills where I'm the lead Democrat. And that is because I listened and I acted. And I think that's important in a president. Everything else just melts away.
Secondly, I'm someone that can win and beat Donald trump. I have won every place, every race, and every time. I have won in the reddest of districts, ones that Donald Trump won by over 20 points. I can win in states like Wisconsin and Iowa and in Michigan.
And finally, yeah, I am not the establishment party candidate. I've got respect, but I'm not that person. I am the one that doesn't have a political machine, that doesn't come from money. And I don't make all the promises that everyone up here makes.
But I can promise you this. I am going to govern with integrity. I'm going to, I'm going to govern for you.
This transcript has been edited to remove interruptions.