Sen. Amy Klobuchar sits down with University of Minnesota professor Larry Jacobs at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Thursday, Oct. 6. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.
At one time Sen. Amy Klobuchar may have rather led the Senate Judiciary Committee or a similarly high-profile panel, but chairing the Senate Rules Committee has placed her in the middle of arguably the most important issue of this American moment: The future of democracy.
Klobuchar used a speech at the University of Minnesota Thursday to highlight issues that were once considered sacred and inviolable but in the era of President Donald Trump are now contested ground.
“We believe in the peaceful transition of power,” Klobuchar said Tuesday. “That is the fundamental part of the American democracy that has made us a country envied around the world and strengthened our economy and strengthened our people. So that’s what’s at stake here right now as we talk about democracy.”
As the Senate Rules chair, Klobuchar recently steered bipartisan support for a bill to overhaul the Electoral Count Act in wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Trump’s lawyers sought to use some creaky language in the 1887 law to claim Vice President Mike Pence could use his position overseeing the count of electoral votes to reject some states’ tallies. Pence rejected that analysis, which became the rationale for some Trump supporters to roam the Capitol looking for him during the sacking.
The Klobuchar bill, which will likely head to the Senate floor after the November election, will clarify that the vice president’s role in accepting electoral votes is strictly ceremonial, which will eliminate any ambiguity and temptation to pressure the vice president to alter the results of the election.
The legislation also prevents states from submitting electoral votes that aren’t in line with the will of the states’ voters. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will support the bill unless it undergoes drastic changes.
Klobuchar on Thursday discussed several recent events that have undermined democracy and voting rights — ”horrors,” she called them — and the ways to combat these efforts, including the Electoral Count Act becoming law. Beginning with Jan. 6, she walked through recent ways election deniers have attempted to undermine voting and democracy.
The third-term DFL senator and 2020 presidential candidate called out all the election deniers that are running for office in November. The majority of Republican candidates running in the U.S. have denied or questioned the 2020 election results, according to a census of election deniers by the Washington Post. Klobuchar said the solution for this is to drive up turnout.
She also addressed election misinformation, citing the influence of behemoth social media companies, for which she said antitrust laws were a solution.
“We have so much consolidation in the tech industry. We’ll never know what bells and whistles they could have developed,” Klobuchar said. “There is little incentive when you’re a monopoly to truly fight disinformation.”
Klobuchar has aggressively pushed for antitrust laws, particularly for Big Tech companies like Google and Amazon. Her antitrust legislation has not been scheduled for a floor vote.
Klobuchar’s talk on Tuesday was part of a Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ public speaker series.
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