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Klobuchar reflects on what the Democrats should take away from the midterms

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

And the big news, of course, is that Democrats will hold the U.S. Senate. This after the call came in last night in a super-tight race in Nevada. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has won reelection. She was up against Republican Adam Laxalt, who had the backing of former President Donald Trump. We're joined by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota. Good morning, Senator.

AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, good morning, Ayesha. I remember we talked last on election night, so we'll just say a lot has happened.

RASCOE: A lot has happened since then. You were confident on Tuesday night. But Democrats have officially now held the Senate majority, without needing to wait for that runoff in Georgia. So put that in perspective for us.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, this was an incredible, incredible week. And a lot of it had to do with our candidates never giving up. I talked to both Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez Masto last night, and they just were, of course, exuberant. But also just this feeling - that they had a purpose. We had these incredible candidates who had experience, who knew how to get things done. And I think one of the reasons we won - in the words of Senator Schumer, the reason that there wasn't a red wave is because Democrats had a blue wave of accomplishment. And we basically defied the tides of history. And it had to do with our candidates. It had to do with our purpose. I think American people understood that the effects of the pandemic were worldwide and that, yes, it was hard. It is hard, but we had the right solutions.

RASCOE: You know, this is a big win for Democrats. But even if, you know, Democrats win in Georgia, you're still going to have a slim majority in the Senate. So what is the mandate for the party? What's the big takeaway from voters?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, we know that it's not easy for people right now. And so the No. 1 mandate is to help people bring down costs, make sure, unlike the Republicans, that we don't mess around with their Social Security and their Medicare because some of the things Republicans said on that front, I think, really concerned the people of this country - bring down costs more in pharmaceuticals, do all we can to get our economy in a place that works for everyone.

The second one is codify Roe v. Wade. Now, we don't know what's going to happen with the House, but that is one of the focuses of something we'd love to get done. We don't know if the Republicans will play ball. I'd get rid of the filibuster to do it. So that's something we'll see. That was the message from the voters. And the third thing is protect our democracy. Their candidates who were so extreme - so many of their election deniers have lost. Some of those races you don't talk about all the time on NPR or on any station. That's, like, the secretary of state's race.

RASCOE: We did talk about the secretary of state...

KLOBUCHAR: Oh, we did?

RASCOE: ...Race a lot on NPR.

KLOBUCHAR: OK. Good.

RASCOE: Yes...

KLOBUCHAR: Good.

RASCOE: ...Actually.

KLOBUCHAR: I'm very glad. But as you know, including in my home state of Minnesota, a lot of the election deniers lost. And so that is including in states all across this country. So that's a very cool thing about this election. Not all of them, but a bunch of them lost. So it shows Americans care about democracy. I would love, one, immediately get the Electoral Count Act passed - something I've been working on as chair of the Rules Committee - before the end of the year and then move into more voting legislation. So that's something else that we should be doing.

RASCOE: I want to talk to you about - I mean, you said on abortion rights that you would be willing to get rid of the filibuster to get that to happen. Obviously, in the last term that - Democrats were not able to do that. I guess, so what would be different now? And Republicans, almost certainly, if they take the House, will not want to play ball on on abortion. So what can be done differently?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, we have other - first of all, there's other things we can keep trying to pass to allow all kinds of things, like Catherine Cortez Masto's provision to allow women to cross state lines to make sure they can get their health care. There are some other things we can do. But our No. 1. focus is that. I think you just try again. Let's see after the election how they feel about that, when they blocked the will of so many citizens of this country.

RASCOE: You know, the midterms just happened last week, but there's already serious talk of 2024. You ran for president last cycle. Are Democrats stronger if President Biden runs again?

KLOBUCHAR: I've been very clear that I support the president. I know he has said that he plans to run. I know he's going to be making the final decision in the next few months. So let's let him make the decision. I think Democrats have shown, with all we have done with gun safety bill, with the semiconductor bill so we make things in America again, making sure we bring down costs of pharmaceuticals - finally do something about climate change. That's what we did with a 50-50 senate.

And when Raphael Warnock wins his runoff, which he will on December 6, we will continue working, yes, in a difficultly close House and Senate. But we've been able, with the White House, to get things done. So that is our plan. That's our focus. And the voters voted in record numbers in midterms. They care about our democracy. They care about our country. And we're really proud. We defied the tides of history when the president's party usually loses tons of seats.

KLOBUCHAR: We kept the Senate, and let's see what happens in the House. So it's a great week for democracy.

RASCOE: Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, thank you so much for speaking with us.

KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Ayesha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.