Klobuchar disagrees on Medicare for All, defends her record as Hennepin Co. prosecutor

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., responds to a question Thursday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston.
David J. Phillip | AP Photo

Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar defended her record as Hennepin County prosecutor during a debate with nine of her fellow Democratic presidential candidates Thursday night.

The DFLer has faced criticism from some African-American activists for not charging police in any officer-involved shooting during her tenure. Police shot and killed 25 people, and four others died in custody while Klobuchar was the county's lead prosecutor from 1999 to 2007.

Klobuchar pivoted in response to a moderator's question and said her staff prosecuted criminals who were preying on the black community.

"There was a kid named Byron Phillips that was shot on his front porch. No one had bothered to figure out who did it,” said Klobuchar. “When I came into that office, we worked with the community groups, we put up billboards, we found the shooter and we put him in jail."

Klobuchar conceded that she left police officer charging decisions to grand juries, but said she now believes that county attorneys should make those calls.

Earlier in the debate, the Minnesota Democrat also voiced her opposition to Medicare for All, saying it’s a bad idea to take away private insurance from Americans.

She said she's worked with Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on lowering prescription drug prices, but she disagrees with his push for universal government-sponsored health insurance.

"And while Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill,” she said, prompting laughter from the audience. “On page 8 of the bill, it says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it. And that means that 149 million Americans will no longer be able to have their current insurance. That's in four years. I don't think that's a bold idea, I think it's a bad idea."

Klobuchar said she wants to create a public option that would allow people to buy into a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid.

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