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Amy Klobuchar doesn’t think America is ready for Medicare-for-all and free college yet

The Green New Deal is among the policy proposals she’s deemed an “aspiration.”

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar Announces Candidacy For President
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announces her presidential bid in front of a crowd gathered at Boom Island Park on February 10, 2019, in Minneapolis.
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Amy Klobuchar isn’t here to join the progressive food fight.

Klobuchar, a three-term Minnesota senator who recently announced her bid for the presidency, firmly cleared up where she stands on progressive policy priorities, including Medicare-for-all and free college, during a CNN town hall on Monday.

While she said she supports the intentions of several of these proposals, she doesn’t exactly think they’re plausible just yet.

“I think it is something that we can look to for the future, but I want to get action now,” she said when asked about Medicare-for-all. As she explained, she sees Medicare-for-all as a “possibility” down the line and thinks pursuing a “public option” could be a more immediate alternative. Klobuchar cited her support for a bill from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) that would enable states to give all residents the ability to buy into Medicaid.

Unlike Medicare-for-all, which would guarantee government-run insurance coverage for all Americans, a public option would mean that the government — state governments, under the Schatz bill — offers its own alternative to private insurance.

Klobuchar also weighed in on Sen. Bernie Sanders’s popular free college idea.

“I am not for free four-year college for all, no,” Klobuchar said. “If I was a magic genie and could give that to everyone and we could afford it, I would.” Instead, she pitched an expansion of Pell grants, free two-year community college, and streamlined refinancing programs.

“I think they are aspirations. I think we can get close. I don’t think we are going to get rid of entire industries in the US,” she said, when asked about the goals of the Green New Deal. “This is put out there, as an aspiration, in that it’s something that we need to move toward. Do I think we could cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ in 10 years? Actually, I think that would be very difficult to do.”

Klobuchar said the actual legislation would include compromises and noted that her climate platform would center on bringing back Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan and gas mileage standards.

As evidenced by her town hall answers, Klobuchar is setting herself up as a straight-talking moderate who doesn’t shy away from calling out the challenges that certain policy proposals could face.

Rather than duke it out with some of her fellow 2020 contenders in a contest over progressive bona fides, Klobuchar is leaning heavily into her centrist ones.

Klobuchar responds to allegations about how she treated her staff

The senator also addressed a question about her alleged treatment of staff. As multiple reports from HuffPost, BuzzFeed, and Yahoo News have detailed, former Klobuchar staffers describe a hostile work environment filled with belittling comments, unpredictable bursts of anger, and a vindictive focus on retaliation.

According to Yahoo’s Alexander Nazaryan, Klobuchar would “grow irate at staffers who find work elsewhere, calling their new employers to have the offers rescinded.”

Klobuchar pushed back against these critiques but offered little in the way of explanation beyond a self-described commitment to “high expectations” on Monday.

“Am I a tough boss sometimes? Yes. Have I pushed people too hard? Yes,” she said during the town hall, highlighting her experience managing hundreds of people as a partner in two law firms and as Hennepin County attorney in Minnesota. “I have kept expectations for myself that are very high. I’ve asked my staff to meet those same expectations, and the big point for me is I want the country to meet high expectations, because we don’t have that going now.”

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