On Monday night, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy debated Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders on the topic of health care — specifically, the Graham-Cassidy bill under consideration in the Senate. Out of the four lawmakers participating in the debate, Klobuchar is probably the most low-profile — but behind the scenes, she's been one of the most productive legislators in the Senate, and her name frequently comes up as a possible Democratic presidential candidate.
A graduate of Yale and the University of Chicago law school, Klobuchar first ran for office in 1998 when, at the age of 38, she was elected to the Hennepin County attorney's office at the age of 38. Although she only won that first election by less than one percent, voters approved of the job she did, as nobody ran against her during her reelection campaign four years later. During her time as Hennepin County prosecutor, Klobuchar focused on prosecuting violent crimes, and successfully lobbied to make drunk driving a felony in the state.
After leaving the prosecutor's office, Klobuchar ran for the Senate and won — thus becoming the first woman elected to the Senate from Minnesota. She was reelected to the Senate in a blowout six years later.
There are plenty of lawmakers in Washington who give a lot of interviews and speeches but don’t actually do very much legislating. Klobuchar is not one of those lawmakers: In 2016, Medill News Service reported that she had sponsored or co-sponsored more bills that actually became law than any other Senator during that session of Congress. A total of 27 pieces of legislation backed by Klobuchar were passed into law that year, including a bill to fight opioid addiction as well as a bill intended to crack down on human trafficking.
Currently, Klobuchar sits on the the Senate’s powerful Judiciary Committee. She’s also the ranking member of the Rules Committee, which is responsible for managing the Senate’s rules and, more pertinently, overseeing any legislation regarding federal elections. It was from that capacity that Klobuchar pushed for an independent investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as well as the possibility that Donald Trump's campaign may have colluded with Russia, an allegation Trump and the White House vehemently deny.
“Why did all of this happen?," Klobuchar said, according to the Star-Tribune. "Why was the Trump campaign so focused on placating Russia and making them happy when they have been ruthless to our allies and ruthless trying to attack us?” Her effort was a success, as former FBI Director Robert Mueller is now leading an independent investigation into all things related to Trump-Russia and the election.
Klobuchar's involvement in the health care fight is personal: Two decades ago, her daughter was born with a rare condition that prevented her from swallowing — but the hospital kicked her out after 24 hours. Thankfully, her daughter recovered (although not after being fed through a tube for the first year and a half of her life), and Klobuchar — who was still a private citizen then — successfully lobbied the state legislator to pass a law granting 48 hour hospital stays to all new mothers.
She told that story on the debate stage Monday, and explained why she opposes the Graham-Cassidy bill.
"I believe politics is about making people's lives better, but this bill — it doesn't do that," Klobuchar said at the town hall-style event. "It kicks millions of people off of insurance, it raises the premiums. It basically passes the buck to the states, but it doesn't give them the bucks to cover people. So, that's why I think that we need to work together on plans already underway to fix the Affordable Care Act and put the politics aside, and focus on people first."