MUSCATINE — In her ninth trip to the first-in-the nation caucus state and first trip to Muscatine, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, kept her presidential campaign event intimate in the sticky 86-degree weather.
About 60 people sat under umbrellas Wednesday morning on the patio of Missipi Brew downtown to hear the senator's plans for her presidency firsthand, a week after the first primary debate. In front of an "Iowa loves Amy" banner, Klobuchar highlighted plans for infrastructure, health care and mental health.
To beat Trump in the election, a candidate needs "big, bold plans" for voters, including attracting moderate Republicans and independents who want a change, Klobuchar said. She has them, but will make promises that are "grounded in reality."
Klobuchar said her first campaign proposal is a $1 trillion dollar plan to fund metro and rural infrastructure. She would reverse "many of the regressive measures" in Trump's 2017 tax cut plan, such as incentives for those who put money overseas.
That law was "all foam and no beer" for the middle class, she said, echoing her remarks during the debate about Trump's campaign promises.
If the corporate tax rate was increased from 21% to 25% — it was 35% before the 2017 tax bill passed — there would be approximately $400 billion across 10 years to spend on infrastructure. Her plan includes funding for roads and bridges, mass transit, updated rail and schools in metro and rural communities. Rural broadband, clean water and energy, airports, seaports and inland waterways also make the list.
Klobuchar's mental health plan is based on "hearing from people out there," she said. She proposed $100 million in mental health program funding to come from an estimated $40 billion in lawsuits charging opioid manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies that "lied about how addictive their products would be," she said. She said the essentials of her plan include early detection of mental health issues, having personnel and beds available, and getting people back to work after addiction recovery.
Klobuchar said Trump has not fulfilled his campaign promise to reduce prescription drug costs, and more than 2,000 drugs have increased in price by double digits since he was elected.
She wants to reduce health care premiums, stop the privatization of Medicaid in states like Iowa, and take on pharmaceutical companies, something she called a "passion" since she arrived in Washington in 2007. She touted her work on the bill to allow Medicare to negotiate on behalf of seniors for lower priced drugs, and pointed to the safe, less expensive drugs from Canada and other countries.
She shared a story about a young man from Minnesota who had aged off his parents health insurance, and even with a good job, couldn't afford the cost of his insulin. He rationed his medication and died as a result.
For attendee Cindy Bryant of Muscatine, the anecdote was familiar. The 65-year-old told Klobuchar she takes insulin and it's going to kill her to pay for it. She wanted to know what the senator would do as president to take on pharmaceutical companies and work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the self-proclaimed "grim reaper," to get progressive policies through.
Klobuchar said Democrats need to win back the Senate, but even without a majority, she would find a way to work with McConnell.
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But "on some of these policies we're going to be able to push through just because their constituents are so mad," she said. "Then there are other (policies) where we're just going to have to get the public behind us and push them that way. We have done that before in this country and we can do it again."
Getting a Democrat in the White House would help, she said. Democrats will do that "by having your own optimistic economic agenda," not engaging him on every post on social media. And it helps to use humor, she said.
"I am particularly good at that," she added.
"The palm tree in my living room would be a better president than what we have now," Bryant said after the event. She liked Klobuchar's approach.
"You've got to use humor, you've got to try to work with them and then if it doesn't work you need to go to the people," she said. "It's time for the people to stand up. And I hope if they do then we won't have to worry about it."
Bryant pays $12 a month for her insulin, but in December when her Medicare Part D coverage gap begins, her cost will be $500 per month. Living on Social Security and a pension, Bryant said $500 is a lot of her income. She has asked the same question of Democratic candidates U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker during their area visits, and each gave similar answers to Klobuchar. Bryant thought Klobuchar would be one to take action.
"Amy's very good at telling people what she believes and what she wants to do," she said, "and I have no doubt that if she got in there, she'd do it."
“To make this all work we've got to have fair elections,” she said.
Klobuchar also said she would get dark money out of politics by pushing for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and make it easier for people to vote by passing the voting rights reauthorization and protect elections with paper ballots.
Klobuchar needs to meet one of two qualifications to participate in the second round of debates July 30 and July 31 in Detroit. The senator needs to poll at 1 percent in three separate caucus state or national polls, or raise money from at least 65,000 unique donors.