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CNN Live Event/Special
CNN Hosts Town Hall With Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Presidential Candidate. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 22, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Thanks for watching CNN's Presidential Town Halls, live from Manchester, New Hampshire. They start right now.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. And welcome to a CNN special democratic presidential town hall event. I'm Chris Cuomo. We are at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. This is the first presidential primary state. Now tonight, you're going to hear from five of the top democratic presidential candidates on the same stage for the first time.
You've got Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Each gets one hour, but tonight is different from other town halls. The potential questioners, entirely students and young adults, representing more than 30 states nationwide.
Now to pull this off, CNN has partnered with Harvard University's Institute of Politics which just released its youth poll, examining the political opinions of young Americans. And also, we're with the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, right here at Saint Anselm in New Hampshire.
Who has the best pitch for that all important young vote? Tonight, you're going to get a great look at that. Now, first up, in a return town hall here at Saint Anselm, is Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, pitching herself as the candidate who can defeat President Donald Trump in the Midwest. Welcome, Senator. Please, come on out.
Senator, a pleasure. Please.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All right, thank you. Wow, thank you. Very good.
CUOMO: It's good to have you.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
CUOMO: Let's get right to the questions. Let's start with news. We have the fallout from the Mueller report as a topic. Our first question in our audience is John Our, a freshman at Harvard at Cape Cod, Massachusetts. What do you have, John?
JOHN OUR, STUDENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Hi, Senator.
KLOBUCHAR: Hey, John.
OUR: You serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
KLOBUCHAR: That's right.
OUR: Should the House - should the House Judiciary Committee move forward with impeachment proceedings against President Trump?
KLOBUCHAR: OK. So I believe very strongly that President Trump should be held accountable. When you look through that report, it is appalling, some of the things that were going on. And you could see time and time again, maybe you've read parts of it, that was his advisors that held him back.
So I believe, first of all, we need to have hearings in both the House and the Senate and not just with Attorney General Barr. We need to bring director Mueller before the United States Senate, right? Because, otherwise, we are never going to get to the bottom of it. The impeachment proceedings are up to the House.
They're going to have to make that decision. I am in the Senate, and I believe that we are the jury. I've always believed this from the beginning to the end. I'm a former prosecutor. I believe you look at the evidence to make decisions. So if the House brings the impeachment proceedings before us, we will deal with them. But let's look at what Director Mueller said.
He said there were two ways for accountability. One was Congress, and we're going to start seeing that with these investigations, and the second is other investigations, right? There's cases going on in your home state of New York. There's cases going on all over the country. But there is a third way to hold this president accountable and that is by defeating him in the 2020 election. And I believe I can do that.
CUOMO: Senator, just to give them a quick sense, do you believe that anything you've read and processed in that report could have the word impeachable attached to it?
KLOBUCHAR: Any -- first of all, I believe I'm the jury here, so I am not going to predispose things. I'm not going to say it is or isn't, but I will say is there is very disturbing things that would lead you to believe there's obstruction of justice.
I asked Attorney General Barr these questions. I said, "Well, if the president or if anyone would try to change the testimony of a witness, would you consider that obstruction?" I asked him a series of questions, and I'm really looking forward to asking him those again because several of them he answered yes and several of them he wouldn't say. And a lot of that you see right in the middle of the report. CUOMO: All right, next question. Elijah DeVaughn, sophomore at Harvard
from Compton, California. He interned for Senator Kamala Harris last summer, but he has not decided which candidate he supports yet.
KLOBUCHAR: Very good.
CUOMO: Let's see what happens. Elijah?
KLOBUCHAR: All right.
ELIJAH DEVAUGHN, STUDENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY Senator, you're often criticized for having been a tough on crime prosecutor who took part in the war on drugs, increasing your county's prison population.
These prosecutions disproportionately affected people of color. I personally know of these plights as my father missed the first 13 years of my life as he was incarcerated for a nonviolent drug related offense. What would you do as president to remedy the terrible effects of these policies?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, thank you. And I think you point out when you're in a job like the one I had, you think a lot about what justice is really all about. And I will say one thing we should know is during my time in that job where I managed the biggest prosecutor's office in our state, we actually did see African-American incarceration -- prison incarceration go down by 13 percent.
And a lot of that was that we used drug courts and we tried to find other ways to get justice because I always like to say you don't like to see repeat customers when you are in the D.A.s office.
And one way you can insure that you don't is by getting them treatment. So I have been a big believer in drug courts at the state and federal levels. I've lead that effort on the federal level. The second thing is I think that our offices, both police offices, county attorney's offices need to reflect the population we serve.
And I work very hard to bring people of color into our office and we were a lot better for it and a number of them then rose up, big surprise, and became judges. The other thing is the way we handle cases when they come in.
And I worked with the innocence project when I was the D.A. not only to review all of our cases but to bring in a new type of doing eye witness I.D. so that instead of looking at each one, one at a time or having them all together; you would look at each picture so you would have to make an evaluation and it's been shown to decrease our racism in the system and discriminatory decisions by witnesses.
The other thing we need to do is not just pass the first step back and I was proud to be a co-sponsor of that legislation, which we'll finally reduce our federal drug sentences, the non-violent drug sentences like you're dad had. But it also would work a second step back, would help us to say to the rest of the country hey, 90 percent of the people incarcerated are incarcerated in our state and local jails. So doing something on the federal level is good but we have to create incentives to bring those sentences down as well on the state and local level.
There is racism in our criminal justice system. There has been racism in our criminal justice system for a long time and we must pledge to fix it. One last thing, I have put out a plan for a clemency board so when I am president, yes I want to hear from the Justice Department and what their views are when you look at pardons.
But I also want to hear from a group from the outside that's going to look at these cases because when you see some of the cases like a woman that President Obama pardoned named Josephine, she literally served 24 years.
24 years. She hadn't sold the drugs herself, she didn't do the drugs, she was a middle person. We don't want to see more Josephines out there. We want to have a justice system that's actually just.
CUOMO: All right. And part of this issue obviously is going to involve opportunities to education. That takes us to our next question. Max Weinberg. Max is a junior studying political science at New England College in New Hampshire. He's from New York. Max.
MAX WEINBERG, STUDENT, NEW ENGLAND COLLEGE: Hi Senator.
KLOBUCHAR: Hi Max.
WEINBERG: There are many candidates that support free college and student loan forgiveness. You have stated that you are not for either of those. As a current college student about to graduate with a lot of debt, why should I vote for you?
KLOBUCHAR: OK. Because I actually want to get something done when it comes to student loans. I've had my own student loans. When I met my husband he had tens of thousands of student loans. Good news for you guys, I married him anyway.
And I have seen the impact of student loans. So here's my idea, let me put it out there right here. First of all, you have got $1.5 trillion in student debt right now in this country. You've also got a lot of home mortgage debt; you have a lot of credit card debt. There is just a lot of debt.
Our government also has a lot of debt. So the first thing I would do is allow students and no matter how old they are, former students to refinance their student loans at that rate that's a little above 3 percent we could even go lower to find some even better rate than that. But that's what I think we need to do to bring the interest rate payments down for those Americans that still have the student loans.
The second thing I would do is expand Pell Grant and make it easier for people to use Pell Grant. Those aren't loans, those are grants. Depending on your income level to make that easier as well as the amount of money that you get. The third thing I do is bring back the -- President Obama's plan for free community college.
Those are two year degrees and that gets a lot of students a good start. My own sister didn't graduate from high school. She had a hard time then and she went and worked in manufacturing and then she later went and got her GED and then after that she went to community college and she got her degree there.
It took years. And after that she finished her four year degree and is now gainfully employed. There are a lot of paths to success in America but we can all agree that we want to make college more affordable and I think this is the way we do it.
We look at -- also there's loan forgiveness. If you go I hope you follow a lot of people that go in this path of public service.
CUOMO: Like Senator Warren.
KLOBUCHAR: Right. People that go into those careers that's loan forgiveness. I strongly support that. I think we can do also expand that into in demand jobs. Yes, you look like you have a follow up Chris.
[19:10:00] CUOMO: Well, I was listening. And -- you know look, this is the audience to have this conversation with. So many of these kids are going to see six figures in debt before they'll see six figures in salary. It's daunting.
So Senator Warren says we'll forgive the debt. If you make under $100,000 we'll forgive up to $50,000 or your parents make under a hundred. What do you think of loan forgiveness and plans that are more generous on the outside than your own?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I would target the loan forgiveness at those that -- for instance, I brought up people that went into public service, in demand locations and in demand jobs that we have in our economy.
And I wish I could staple a free college diploma under every one of your chairs. I do. Don't look, it's not there. I wish I could do that but I have to be straight with you and tell you the truth and that is that your generation is an incredible generation.
And you get a lot of grief. Right. They say that kids your age are -- live in their parent's basement more than any other generation. Is that your choice? No. It's because we have saddled you with a bunch of debt with jobs that often don't have benefits with them. All right.
They say crazy things about your generation. Some of my favorite ones are that you have contributed to getting rid of paper napkins. OK. That's smart because you chose to use paper towels. All right.
Or they have said that your generation is getting rid of diamond rings. Well that's because you have too much student debt. So you go through all these things and what I see in your generation is the least racist generation we've ever had in this country. It is the most diverse generation that we've ever had in this country.
It is a generation that cares most about the world around them then we ever have had in this country. So you deserve more than to be saddled with more and more debt. All right. So everything that I have proposed to you, I have found ways to pay for it that I think makes sense that we can actually get done.
We can repeal regressive portions of that Trump tax cut where so much of the money went to the top. We can change the way we handle something called the carried interest loophole where hedge fund managers get to have their taxes at less of a rate than everyone else.
We can change the way we do capital gains tax, which is another way that we could literally bring in hundreds of billions of dollars. Those are ways that we can pay to make sure that everyone can afford college because one size doesn't fit all.
CUOMO: All right. Jennifer Shannon. Jennifer is a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire studying political science and history. She's from Massachusetts. Has a question about the wage gap. Jennifer.
JENNIFER SHANNON, STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE: Hi Senator.
SHANNON: A man who is equally or lesser qualified than I am will automatically make more money than me. So my question is what will you do to close the wage gap and make sure that women are paid at a fair rate.
KLOBUCHAR: Right. Pass the Equal Pay Act. That would be a very good thing. We already passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act. That was something that we were really proud of that made it easier for women to contest these kinds of cases when they're in the work place.
I think also making it easier for women to get the kind of jobs they should. I would love to pass the ERA right. Get that cemented into law across the country and then make sure we have role models across the country because you know that movie "Hidden Figures?"
I love that movie, all right. But women leaders, African-American women especially, shouldn't be hidden figures anymore. They should be real leaders in the board room. They should be leaders in the U.S. Senate like we're already starting to see and they should be leaders in the White House.
And when you have a woman president, I have a funny feeling we're finally going to get child care policy done in this country, right. We're going to make the kind of changes that we want to see to make it easier for working families and for everyone to achieve things because otherwise our economy is going to be stagnant if everyone can't have a seat at the table.
Because the old joke we always used to say for women candidates is that if you're not at the table, you're on the menu. So that's what's happened.
CUOMO: All right. And one of the things that applies most evenly across the country, no matter what you make, healthcare. And we have a question on that from Graham Macklin. Sophomore at Harvard, studying economics. He's from Massachusetts. What's your question?
GRAHAM MACKLIN, STUDENT, HARVARD: Thank you. Senator, in a perfect world, which countries healthcare system would you like to see the U.S.'s most closely resemble and what specific policies do you plan to take to move in that direction?
KLOBUCHAR: Okay, well, I'm not going to pick a particular country, just because I think our country can be the best, if we make some changes. But there are clearly some models that we should look at that combine our system with making things better. Now let me talk about what I think we need to do in America, as opposed to some other country that may not quite fit our situation.
I think, first of all, we need to bring down premiums -- and they're affecting everyone and I'd note on the Affordable Care Act's side, for people, young people, it's had a major impact. One, you can keep on your parents' insurance until you're 26, right. Two, we've seen half of the young people who are uninsured, they've become insured because of the Affordable Care Act, which is a big deal. And three, one out of six of you actually have preexisting conditions.
So if we get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which is what this president is trying to do, all of those benefits will go away. So my first focus is making sure we keep that in place, but we improve it by bringing premiums down. You can do that many ways. One of my major proposals is to bring back that Public Option idea that's been floating around, that should have been put in, in the first place. That gives you a choice. You could do it with Medicaid, you can do it with Medicare, so that you have a less expensive option to pick from.
The other thing I would do is to bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals. Everyone in this auditorium here knows someone that's been hurt by the high cost of prescription drugs. My own daughter has allergies and she carries an Epi Pen everywhere she went. So when I saw that cost of Epi Pens double, triple, quadruple, like we saw a few years back, I took it on. I took it on on social media, I took it on at the State Fair Booth, I took it on (LAUGHS) on on TV -- and we won that fight.
But not every family is going to be able to take on every single price increase. We need competition by having negotiation for Medicare prices. You might think, it doesn't affect me because I'm not on Medicare. Well, guess what. That'll bring down the prices for everyone. We should bring in less expensive drugs from other countries, like Canada. We can see, practically see Canada from our porch, when we're up here. Right? And they have less expensive drug prices than we have in America.
We can stop this horrible practice where big pharmaceuticals pay off, they literally pay off generics to keep the prices and the competition off the market. That's bad and we can fix this.
CUOMO: This is one of the distinguishing issues tonight to discuss, especially with you, Senator, because you're the only senator tonight, who is not cosponsoring the new Medicare For All Bill -- and I wanted to put that in the context of something we learned from our partnership with the Harvard Institute of Politics.
The Youth Poll says that the majority of likely young voters are for it. So, this audience, 52 percent of the likely voters here for Medicare For All; you're not. What's your sell?
KLOBUCHAR: Okay. Let me go. So I want to bring down your healthcare costs. I think I've explained that and I think you've got to believe me on this. I have been out front taking on the pharmaceutical companies and was out front as an advocate for the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning.
But I want to get to Universal Healthcare and I want to get there fast. And one of the ways we do that is first of all, we can immediately do something to bring down those premium prices with something I'm not going to go into, but it's cost-sharing something, by the way, Senator Shaheen, the great senator from New Hampshire, has worked on, as well as re-insurance. But then the next big thing is to get that Public Option in place. Because then you don't have any middlemen. You have competition. You have people that will go over there and I believe in big ways, once you have that set up in the right way, which is why the insurance companies were fighting against it. And that is a way you get there.
Without suddenly dismantling the entire system, which was very difficult to do when we put the Affordable Care Act in place. If anyone remembers that, you guys were pretty young; it was a few years ago. But it was a hard thing to do. And what I want to do is, what do the doctors say? Do no harm. (LAUGHS) And I think we do no harm and do us much better by getting that Public Option in place immediately.
And no one has taken on pharmaceutical companies. You guys all know someone that has diabetes, right. You all know someone that's struggling with our cost of insulin. We had a guy in my state who's a restaurant manager, he's 26 years old, who was on his mom's health insurance and then when he had to get off it and had to afford his own insulin, it had gone up from $17 a vial to $1200 a month. He couldn't afford it. He started rationing and he died. That happened in our country.
So if we keep putting in presidents like this one, who basically has said he wants to do something about pharma and then he puts his plan out and the stock goes up; that actually happened. Okay? What we need to do is put someone in who has a track record of taking on pharma, who is willing to get it done and actually has a track record of passing bills and working across the aisle, especially on pharmaceuticals --
-- to get it done. I'm that person.
CUOMO: Well, that's a good segue. Because the policy ideas are only as good as your ability to put them into practice, by winning the election and that's what our next question's about.
CUOMO: Aiden (ph) Pierce. Aiden is a freshman at Saint Anselm College studying International Relations from Massachusetts. Aiden's got a question about how you win with a specific group. Go ahead.
AIDEN PIERCE: Thank you, Senator, for taking my question.
KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Aiden.
PIERCE: Donald Trump won the 2016 election in large part because he appealed to a discontented middle class in the American heartland. How do you plan on winning back both their trust and their vote?
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. Well, I guess you look at what I've done. And that is that I am someone that runs in a purple state. It is a state that when I first started running for office, the other senator was Republican, the governor was Republican and three of our four constitutional offices were Republican. And then I started running. And every single time I have run, I have won every single congressional district in my state, including Michele Bachmann's. Okay?
That's when you guys are supposed to cheer. Okay?
All right. So.
I --and I didn't do that by selling out on my principles. I did that by going not just where it's comfortable, but where it's uncomfortable. I did that by meeting people where they were, by going to farms, by going to small town cafes, by winning the right way -- and they didn't agree with everything that I've said and they still don't, but they trusted me.
They trusted me with their money. They trusted me with their ideas, and they trusted that I was going to go to Washington to have their back. And I think we need that kind of message. We need that kind of messenger, if we're going to win this. And I just, last election in 2018, Donald Trump had almost won our state; that's why he just went back there two weeks ago -- I came back two years later and won 40 of the rural counties that he won.
I think that it is not just the middle of the country; it's really the entire middle class across the country, that we have to have policies and ideas and bread and butter ideas that show that we have their back. And it doesn't matter the color of anyone's skin -- if we need to show we have their back. And the problem is... that message got lost. Because Donald Trump likes to divert you, every single day. Right?
You know what he does. He sends out a Tweet to try to control the message. Well, when he did that to me, when I announced my candidacy in the middle of a blizzard and he made fun of me for talking about climate change -- by the way, Happy Earth Day -- when he made fun of me --
When he made fun of me for doing that --
I said, ah, hey, Donald Trump, the science is on my side. And I'd like to see how your hair would fare in a blizzard.
You know, Mr. Umbrella Man. Okay?
CUOMO: All right.
[19:20:00] KLOBUCHAR: So the point here is that yes, what happened in 2016; we had a great candidate with great policies. We had Russia coming in, invading our election, which we've learned more about it in the Mueller Report. And by the way, I don't care if they do it with tanks or they did it with missiles, this time they did it to our election and they did that. We had --
We had never run against anyone like Donald Trump. Well, we learned how to do that in 2018. And that means, yes, sometimes standing your ground and your values, sometimes ignoring him and sometimes using a little humor. All right? Because a lot of things he says are just completely absurd and we need to take it to the people in Minnesota and Wisconsin and across the country and that's how we win this election.
CUOMO: All right. Let's use that as the end of Round 1.
We'll take a quick break. We're going to be right back with more from CNN's Special Democratic Presidential Town Hall Event here in Manchester, New Hampshire. Stay with CNN.
CUOMO: All right. Welcome back to CNN's Special Democratic Presidential Town Hall Event with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.
The first of five presidential town halls tonight; we are just getting started. What a range of great questions in that first round. I think we'll match it and better it this time. Let's start with Thomas (ph) Satterthwaite. He's a sophomore at Harvard from Rhode Island. Thomas, your question is about frozen pizza.
THOMAS SATTERTHWAITE: It is.
SATTERTHWAITE: Hi, Senator.
SATTERTHWAITE: In 2010 you petitioned the USDA to keep frozen pizzas in school lunches, therefore allowing for the sauce to be counted as a vegetable, in order to support the business of Minnesota frozen foods company. Amid the obesity epidemic that has plagued this country for decades, to what extent do you believe that the financial interests of corporations in your home state should outweigh the health of American's next generation?
KLOBUCHAR: Okay. That's a big question.
First of all, I made clear in a New York Times article a few years later when I was asked about that, that it was just a letter that I had sent. We were in the middle of the downturn and it was a little more, I would say, complex in terms of the language; but it's a fair criticism. And so I'd said I'd regretted sending that letter. It was about trying to keep a company afloat in a really small town that employed a bunch of people. But I think that nutrition is paramount for this country and that's why way before I was running for president I said that that was a mistake. All right?
So let's talk about the bigger issue, which is nutrition. And that is that we need to have healthier foods in kids' lunches. We need to have healthier foods available to people, no matter how much money they have. And that's why, as a member of the Agriculture Committee and one of the few members of that committee that's running for president right now, I have been a major advocate for better school lunches, more nutritious school lunches. I actually had a bill also for pre-school school lunches, to make sure that those are more nutritious as well. Because --
CUOMO: What does that mean in the context of frozen pizza? (CROSSTALK)
KLOBUCHAR: It means things like --
CUOMO: This will be unpopular with this crowd.
KLOBUCHAR: No, but he --
CUOMO: They think frozen pizza is a food group --
KLOBUCHAR: That's okay.
CUOMO: But do you think it should be --
CUOMO: -- be allowed in school lunch?
KLOBUCHAR: It is. It is. I'm not sure what the status of it right now, but this is about how it was counted.
CUOMO: What do you think about frozen pizza?
KLOBUCHAR: No, I didn't think that frozen pizza with tomato sauce on it, I do not believe should be counted as a vegetable. Let me make that clear --
CUOMO: No, I get it. But should it be in lunches?
KLOBUCHAR: I think that is sometimes in lunches. I'm not -- I want to know what the FDA says.
CUOMO: But should it be?
KLOBUCHAR: As long as you have other things with it, right? As long as you have real vegetables with it, and as long as you have other things with it.
And I'm looking at my daughter right now -- by the way, she is here. She is 23 and please be nice to her because how would you feel if it was your mom up here being asked about pizza.
CUOMO: Calling her out in front of everybody.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, there she is. Exactly, exactly.
But I have seen -- she went to a school actually that's a little different than your school. And her school was I think in high school it was in middle where something like 90 percent free and reduced lunch, maybe even a little higher than that. And that was a school in Minneapolis she went for several years and I get to be in the lunchroom and saw what it was like for these kids that couldn't afford lunch.
They were all -- I think everyone in her class at one point was an immigrant except her. And there were kids in the lunchrooms that were treeing to get stuff but they would get a donut and eat that instead. A lot of the kids were getting stuff out of the vending machines to bring home for dinner. That's happening right now in America, and I know because my daughter only went to public school and for a number of years she went to public schools where the vast majority were free and reduced lunch.
So, you asked me where this comes from and why I brought it up because I've lived it. I lived it. And I know how it important it is for these kids.
CUOMO: All right. So, let's talk more about education. Our next question is from Adriana Fernandez. She's a sophomore at Saint Anselm College, and a U.S. citizen, originally from Nicaragua.
ADRIANA FERNANDEZ, STUDENT, SAINT ANSELM COLLEGE: Hello, Senator.
FERNANDEZ: My question is our current secretary of education is attempting to slash funding from special needs programs. What are your ideas regarding the federal responsibility to the education system?
KLOBUCHAR: Sure. Well, thank you so much, and let's mention the name of that education secretary is Betsey DeVos, OK? Someone that I strongly opposed and I just think shouldn't be in her job. And so it is no surprise to me --
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
KLOBUCHAR: It is no surprise to me these things keep happening, and she not only has tried to defund special education, but she also has tried to get rid of the Special Olympics funding, if you watched any of this. And I think we noted that literally just a few trips back to Mar-a-Lago and back with the president could have funded the Special Olympics funding. That is true statistic.
So I think our job in government is to represent everyone, and it is particular to represent people that maybe can't write a check themselves, right? Or maybe can't even write themselves or maybe need help? Maybe they're in a wheelchair. Maybe they have physical disabilities, maybe mental disabilities. But our job is to standby them. I remember being in a small town parade in Minnesota a few years ago and a mom was pushing a baby carriage and she pointed at her toddler and she said, this is my boy, he's only 3 years old and he has Down syndrome. This is what a pre- existing condition looks like.
And that was the moment I thought to myself, OK, what we've been saying out here about free existing conditions, finally people know what it means. It means things like disabilities. It means things like if you're a victim of domestic violence. If means things like if you have diabetes or you have cancer or your mom has a certain disease.
So, we not only need to stand up when it comes to disability funding, including education funding with IDEA, and you probably know what I'm talking about here, but it is the federal government putting mandates on the states and then not putting the money with it. But we also need to stand up when it comes to health care for people with disabilities.
And when you check these things off with what this administration has done, they want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and those protections. That hurts the disability community. They want to reduce the funding for special ed and for the Olympics which then had a reverse on because there was such a public outcry. That hurts people with disabilities, and they haven't done anything to fund education for people with disabilities. So I give them since you're all students, an "F."
CUOMO: All right. You mentioned earlier, Senator, it's Earth Day.
CUOMO: On that issue of climate, I want to bring in Madeleine Woods, a senior at Harvard from Colorado. She was raised on a wolf sanctuary.
CUOMO: With environmentalists and conservationists.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. So, that is like super unique.
So, hello, Madeleine, and congratulations on that.
MADELEINE WOODS, STUDENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Hello. Oh, thank you.
I don't have much choice in it but it was a great childhood.
So, speaking of the climate, you backed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal. Now, while I was raised in a wolf sanctuary, I actually come from a very rural isolated town where people criticized the Green New Deal and found it laughable that they were being told how to care for their environment by people from large cities. So I know you have a lot of rural voters. How do you plan to improve
rural communities in the discussion on climate change?
KLOBUCHAR: OK, that is really a great question, thanks. So it's Earth Day, and for too long, we have been debating whether climate change is happening. My favorite moment of this when John Oliver finally decided to put 100 scientists on his stage in white coats, 99 of them were on one side, and one on the other, to show that the scientific community says it's happening.
And I think what's important as you look at the goals in the Green New Deal and no one thinks we're going to dot every "I" and cross every "T" in a short period of time, but we need those goals. We need the energy of young people and people that really want to move on climate change.
So, this is what I say to my rural voters. I say look at what's in front of you, because for too long we've been talking about it on more of a coastal issue, which is true, rising sea levels, you just saw the Greenland sheet again was in the news today, hurricanes.
But let's talk about the middle of the country where we need to political support. And I personally think someone from the heartland could do a good job of that. What do we see in front of us? This is what we see -- floods all over Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri.
This is important so I'm going to finish this. We have got -- I feel you creeping over my shoulder, not in a Trumpian manner.
KLOBUCHAR: Just like you're there and like --
KLOBUCHAR: And this is, like, really, really important.
So, this woman in Iowa, Fran, she is literally standing with me with binoculars on looking at her house which is submerged under water and she says to me this is where I live with my husband and my two 4-year- olds, and I said is the river right there? She says, no, the river is 2 1/2 miles away.
Ours is a house that's over a century old. There's still horsehair in the plasters, but this time for the first time the water came into my house. That's climate change. Or you look at the wildfires in Colorado or Arizona, or you think that dad in northern California outside of Paradise who's driving his little girl in the car with their house presumably burning behind them, and the flames are lapping over their car and he's singing to her, singing to her to calm her down.
Climate change isn't happening 100 years from now. It's happening right now, and that's why as your president on day one I would get us back into the international climate change agreement, all right? That's day one. (APPLAUSE)
KLOBUCHAR: On day two -- on day two and day three, I would bring back the clean power rules that the Obama administration worked out that will make a big dent in this. I will bring back -- I will bring back the gas mileage standards that they just left and said, oh, sorry, I know you car companies were ready to do it, but guess what, you don't have to. That's what they did.
And I would propose sweeping legislations for green buildings and new ideas and we need to do this. Because guess what, it's you guys, not me. It's my daughter and you guys that are going to be inheriting this earth, and that's why we need you on the front line, all right?
CUOMO: Our next question is actually one I've never heard before in one of these town halls.
KLOBUCHAR: Oh, that really bodes well for me. I think I'll sit down. OK --
CUOMO: If it were coming from a reporter, then you got to worry. This is a -- this is a young man named Zach Smith. He's a freshman studying politics at Saint Anselm College from Massachusetts.
What's your question?
ZACH SMITH, STUDENT, SAINT ANSELM COLLEGE: Good evening, Senator.
KLOBUCHAR: Good evening.
SMITH: My question is what is one aspect of your life as a politician that you wish the public better understood?
KLOBUCHAR: OK, that's a good one.
So, my life as a politician. I think that I wish people better understood why I have made such a priority and why I care so much about people who get in trouble with drugs and people who get in trouble with drinking and how I believe that there are grays in this world and that not everything is an extreme, that people can mess up and go onto do great things, and that's where that belief comes from.
So, in my case, when I was growing up, my dad had a big drinking problem. He is -- I love my dad so much. I just saw him about a week or so ago.
He is a distinguished journalist. He's now retired. He is 91 years old. But and in his words he can't get a lot of drinks in the assisted living facility. OK, that's good.
But the point is his AA groups still visit him because that's how in his own words was pursued by grace. He had two DWIs. He got another one. And back then, 20 years later, the laws had changed and it forced him to go into treatment.
And I was there with him with his minister, and with his lawyer and I talked about how it had hurt my life and my sister's life, how we would wait for him to come home all the time, how we would vanish sometimes and be gone, and what it meant to be growing up with that.
So what I saw in my life was because he got treatment and because actually the government pushed him into treatment, it changed his life. He ended up staying married for the third time, but he did. He ended up really being able to spend time with me and my sister like he had never done before.
And I want other people to have that same right, whether they get hook on opioids, you've got New Hampshire one of the biggest opioid epidemics across the country. Whether it means they got hooked on meth, no matter what it is that people have the right to have that treatment.
And in the case of opioids, by the way, you know who I'd have pay for that treatment? The pharmaceutical companies that got people hooked on the drugs to begin with. That's what we have to do.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
KLOBUCHAR: So if you asked to understand what motivates me sometimes and why I can believe in tough love and why I believe you have to set expectations and standards for yourself and the people around you, and why I believe that everyone has that same right to have that life that my dad eventually had is because of my own life experience, and I think it's so important as you guys think about if you want to go into public service to have people come from all kinds of different backgrounds.
We have in the Senate people that grew up pretty rich and then we have people like me who grandpa was an iron ore miner who had to quit school and a dad who struggled with alcoholism and a mom who was a teacher who taught school until she was 70 years old. She taught second grade because she didn't have enough money because my parents got divorced.
OK. That's my life. And somehow I ended up being elected as the first woman senator in the state of Minnesota and a candidate for the president of the United States of America.
OK, that is what this country is about, all right?
KLOBUCHAR: Look behind the thing.
CUOMO: It's a good end for round two.
CUOMO: Good end for round two.
KLOBUCHAR: Oh, good.
CUOMO: Let's take a quick break. We're going to be back with more questions from Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar right after this.
KLOBUCHAR: All right.
CUOMO: Welcome back to CNN's special Democratic presidential town hall event. First up tonight is Senator Amy Klobuchar. We've covered a wide range of issues, not this one that we're taking on yet.
It is a veteran specific-issue and a very important one. We should bring in Timothy Bishop. Timothy is a graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School and a former Army officer who served for seven years, including two missions in Afghanistan.
So, first, Sam, thank you for your service.
CUOMO: What's your question?
TIMOTHY BISHOP, FORMER U.S. ARMY OFFICER: Senator Klobuchar, thank you for being here tonight.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. And thank you for your service.
BISHOP: No worries.
KLOBUCHAR: I love how you down-play it, but it's not.
BISHOP: Despite nearly 15 years of efforts, veterans still commit suicide about 1 1/2 times the rate of average Americans. That's affected a lot of people I know and a lot of people I've served with. What would you do as president to try to stem this epidemic?
KLOBUCHAR: OK, thank you so much. And to me, this is an unbelievable thing that's going on. And we saw it coming out of the Iraq war, out of Afghanistan. We saw people come home, and recently as you know, they've even committed suicide sadly at veterans facilities, in the parking lot.
So what I would do is make sure we have the resources to help them when it comes to mental health. Being sick physically should be treated the same as being sick mentally, all right? And that means --
KLOBUCHAR: That means having the type of psychiatrists and psychologists and counselors that we need. That means things like the broader subject for all people, it is the Mental Health Parody bill that my -- former senator from Minnesota who we sadly lost in a plane crash, Paul Wellstone, worked so hard on. And that simply says insurance companies have got to handle mental health things just like they handle physical health things. So, that's one thing for everyone.
But when it comes to the veterans, a lot of them as you know go home to small towns across America. Sometimes they don't have the kind of access especially if they're in the reserve. So they're just coming back sporadically to our V.A. facilities. So we have to do a lot better job when they're coming back to evaluate them, to see what they need, to touch base with them.
If they don't have a facility near them to make sure they can see doctors and counselors and others to help them. This is a scourge to our country because when these vets signed up to serve, there wasn't a waiting line, right? And they come back to America and they need a job or they need education or they need health care, including mental health care, there should never be a waiting line in the United States of America.
CUOMO: Next question comes from Olivia Ferdinand. She's a sophomore studying government at Harvard. She's from Connecticut.
OLIVIA FERDINAND, STUDENT AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Hi, Senator.
KLOBUCHAR: Hi, Olivia.
FERDINAND: One of your main policy proposals is a $1 trillion infrastructure investment. Even though many of us have grown with roads and bridges crumbling around us, infrastructure is not as flashy as other policies.
KLOBUCHAR: Oh, I'll try to make it flashy. Sewer lines? Come on. Water systems.
If you live in Flint, it's a pretty important thing, but keep going. All right?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
FERDINAND: Definitely. So how do you make infrastructure an appealing issue for young voters?
KLOBUCHAR: Sure. I was actually recently in Nashville and we were talking about this at Fisk with some of the students there, and for a lot of students and young people, they don't have cars, like my daughter. So they care about transit whether you're in a big city or a medium-sized city and you want to get to where you are.
Manchester, actually, this area has one of the highest percentage of people in the country, if not the highest, that doesn't even have access to any kind of commuter rail, yet they need workers to come up to work in their jobs. So I think you need to talk about not just roads and bridges, very
important. I had that bridge fall down just a mile from my house in the middle of a summer day. Yes, that kind of infrastructure matters, but it's also about transit, it's also about crumbling schools literally in Baltimore, they had some schools, I see some heads nodding, that didn't have heat this last year.
And we have a president right now in the White House that claimed on election night, oh, I remember that night, he claimed that he wanted to do something about infrastructure and all he's done is put a package forward that was about $200 billion -- and I showed how we can pay for this, including with the Infrastructure Financing Authority, bonds, and then, of course, direct federal investment by repealing those portions of the tax code that, by the way, the new Republican tax bill.
Do any of you guys have money in the Bahamas? Then you're OK. All right? Because they got $150 billion off of people to help wealthy people just by doing the changes they made there.
So there's a way to pay for this and we have to move on it and it can't just be rhetoric. You guys once again when it comes to infrastructure, if you don't have subways at work or buses that get you to places where you are and you don't want to get a car or you can't afford a car or you have a car and you only want to bring it certain places, infrastructure matters to you.
Did I do my job? OK. Good. All right. Thanks.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. He told me once when I was on his show he said generations of Cuomo have lost by running on infrastructure.
KLOBUCHAR: I'm like, that's not really true. They won as governor of New York, but continue on.
CUOMO: Better than creeping after you.
KLOBUCHAR: You're so far away now.
CUOMO: I know.
KLOBUCHAR: All right. OK. All right. OK.
CUOMO: So let's talk about this as a larger issue. Let's bring in Sarah Tropeano. Sara is a junior at Saint Anselm College, studying business and marketing. She's from Massachusetts. Important cultural question.
What do you have?
SARAH TROPEANO, STUDENT, SAINT ANSELM COLLEGE: Hi, Senator. You are a key figure in the Judge Kavanaugh hearing and many female voters formed a strong opinion on your politics. If you had one thing to say to young female voters or college students, what would it be and why?
KLOBUCHAR: OK. Well, I would say that please run for office. Right now, I think we have something like -- we're now up to over 25 women in the Senate. That's good because in the history of the Senate we've had over 2,000 men and something like 50 women.
I was on Trevor Noah's show, and he said if a nightclub had a ratio like that, they would shut it down, OK?
So I would suggest that you run for office. That you get involved in campaigns. And, by the way, it doesn't have to be a presidential campaign, although I'd love to have you sign up for mine and you can text Amy at 91990 or you can go to our website at amyklobuchar.com.
I did that, team, thank you.
So, we would love to have you involved in our campaign and I'm sure my friends who are running as well would like that. But you've got to run yourself. You can get involved in nonprofits.
And one of the things we learned from the Kavanaugh hearing, we have added some great women to the Judiciary Committee. But for so long, until about two years ago, it was just two of us. Two women and like 22 men. Those are the ratios that we're talking about.
And that moment, by the way, was another moment for me where I was just trying to do my job and ask him questions and you know that was an issue of Dr. Christine Blase Ford and her courageous testimony.
When I was trying to sink up what he said and what she said, if you remember he went after me and said, have you ever blacked out? And I said, you know what, I want you to answer the question, right? I want you to answer the question. And when you have alcoholism in your family, you don't mess around with stuff like that.
And he ended up coming back and apologizing to me, but I think you saw at that moment if any of you watched that that you can be strong and firm but you don't have to go down and act like he did to be in public service in this country.
CUOMO: Quickly before we say good-bye. On that note, what is one thing that you hope your daughter has in her lifetime that you didn't have in yours?
KLOBUCHAR: Oh, well, I hope that she can go through her life without people asking you things like can a woman actually beat Donald Trump? Answer, yes.
KLOBUCHAR: I hope that she can go through her life, an issue we haven't talked about, without having that fear of guns in the hands of people that shouldn't have them and that is something that I pledge to you as your president, and this is something that should matter to your generation, I will take on in a big way. It is a crime that we don't have universal background checks and that we haven't done anything to further that issue.
And I'll end with this because you guys, this is your moment. When I look at the arc of the last year and what we've been through the last two years, you start the day after Donald Trump got sworn in where women and men peacefully marched all over this country. You go to day ten when he put out that horrible anti-Muslim order, remember that? The anti-refugee order where people spontaneously showed up at the airports, including a bunch of young people.
You go to day 100, my favorite march, the march for science. My favorite sign, what do we want, science? When do we want it? After peer review.
You go through the fall on this incredible victory for dignity and decency and against racism. Doug Jones got elected in the state of Alabama.
And then you go to day 429 when those Parkland you students captured the attention of the world. They spoke out. That is your generation.
And then we took over the House of representatives. Why? Because you didn't just talk to each other, you voted. And you didn't just vote, you talked to your parents and your grandparents.
I've been working on that issue a long time. The moms in Sandy Hook tried their best and couldn't get it done. When I was in law enforcement, we tried to get it done.
And if we get bested by a bunch of 19 and 20-year-olds, that's the best thing I ever heard. So vote and get involved. Thanks.
CUOMO: Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you very much and good luck going forward.
KLOBUCHAR: All right.
CUOMO: Next up, Senator Elizabeth Warren. Stay with CNN.