by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor
Minnesota’s senior senator, Amy Klobuchar, expressed confidence after the government shutdown ended last week, saying there will not be another shutdown when the continuing resolution ends Jan. 15, 2014.
Sen. Klobuchar returned to Minnesota from Washington, D.C., Thursday night following a bipartisan agreement to fund the government and avoid default. She has been credited as one of the key members of Congress who negotiated a deal to end the 16-day shutdown.
On Friday morning Klobuchar was promoting a farm bill by making an appearance in Golden Valley. She recently was named a senate conferee working toward passage of a farm bill.
She then stopped by the corporate offices of ECM Publishers Inc. in Coon Rapids to visit with the ECM Editorial Board.
“Some say we have kicked the can down the road and while an agreement is important, it’s nothing you can celebrate and dance on the table about,” Klobuchar said. She said it is a spirit of bipartisanship that led Congress to a solution to end the shutdown.
Asked why she feels confident another shutdown will not happen, Klobuchar said she “is just listening to what Mitch McConnell has said and looking at what a lot of other Republicans have been saying.” McConnell is the senate minority leader. She said she was also looking at the impact of what just happened and as to what it means to the Republican Party if it happened again.
Klobuchar said a responsibility also lies with the Democrats to get something passed or see the next round of cuts going into place.
In addition to budgetary actions, Klobuchar said Congress must also pass a farm bill, an immigration bill and a transportation bill. The U.S. Senate has already passed these bills.
Prior to an agreement being made, Klobuchar said her husband, John Bessler, questioned why she was home on a Sunday before the Senate was to reconvene last week. Klobuchar said he suggested that the two should go see the movie, ”Gravity,” because it’s about people “aimlessly circulating around in space and trying to get home.”
Klobuchar said “a lot more work” needs to be done by Congress.
“My hope is that our policies will be helping and not hurting,” she said. She admitted that the shutdown was frustrating to her and to many others.
A mini-agreement to end the shutdown resulted from bipartisan action in the House and the Senate, said Klobuchar, a Democrat. She saluted Republicans Sen. John McCain, of Arizona; Sen. Mark Kirk, of Illinois; Sen. Mike Johanns, of Nebraska; Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska; and Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, for being key players in working out a deal.
Klobuchar pointed to Tea Party resistance as being a factor that made it difficult for Congress to compromise and to find common ground. She said moderate Republicans made compromise happen.
The shutdown cost the country billions of dollars in lost economic gain, Klobuchar said.
Just hours after Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed legislation ending a government shutdown and increasing the statutory debt ceiling, Congress’ two budget chairs, Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, and Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican, pledged they would try to find areas of agreement on longer-term fiscal challenges.
The dynamics are now different after the settlement, Klobuchar claimed. She said she believes there will be more rational behavior in Washington.
“It was ugly and chaos,” Klobuchar said in describing conditions in Congress during the shutdown.
Klobuchar was part of a movement by female senators to solve the government shutdown and debt limit issues. Laughing, Klobuchar said, “We had a few good men, too.”
In assessing her role of reaching across the aisle, Klobuchar said two-thirds of her bills in the Senate since she was elected in 2006 have been authored with Republicans.
Klobuchar is currently a part of a group of female lawmakers who try to get together monthly. She recently invited the women to her house for a Minnesota potluck dinner. Each attendee, including all Republican senators, brought food from their state, including salads, salmon and hot dishes.
“We have developed true friendships,” Klobuchar said.
During her visit with the ECM Editorial Board, Klobuchar also talked about other issues, including Obamacare, the farm bill and the immigration bill.
She said Minnesota is in far better shape rolling out its health exchange program, known as MNsure, than other states. She admitted there are significant problems with the health exchange websites.
“My take is they had better fix it soon,” Klobuchar said.
Adoption of a farm bill like what was crafted in the U.S. Senate will result in a debt reduction of $24 billion, Klobuchar said.
Klobuchar said she believes the Senate passed “a very good bill” on immigration reform. She said the bill would save $160 billion in debt reduction in 10 years and $700 billion in debt reduction in 20 years.
Howard Lestrud can be reached at [email protected].