Interviews with Sens. Rockefeller & Klobuchar

Interviews with Sens. Rockefeller & Klobuchar

By Rachel Maddow Show - April 5, 2010

MADDOW: Also joining us now by phone is the Democratic senator from the state of West Virginia, Jay Rockefeller.

Senator Rockefeller, thank you very much for giving us your time tonight. Appreciate it.

SEN. JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA (via telephone): Thank you.

MADDOW: What are you hearing about the accident so far and the rescue efforts? Can you add anything to what we know thus far?

ROCKEFELLER: Probably not a great deal. The-and I think that‘s important. I think it‘s incredibly important we get these highly emotional, highly traumatized, highly professionally complex and very mysterious, what are the circumstances, what caused it, lots of smoke, lots of traffic, everything clogged, nobody able to move anywhere-it‘s very important not to say more than you actually know.

If people tell me there are seven people dead, and that‘s what they

have, or that there‘s 21 or 28, depending upon who says it, who are still -

that being 49 still waiting to see what happens to them, that makes me worry very deeply. Primarily because it is underground, and when I‘ve been underground in situations like that, or after that, it‘s-it‘s a really, really scary situation. You don‘t know where you are.


The dust that Ken Ward was just talking about, the smoke that he was just talking about, disorients people. There are chambers-and I don‘t know whether Massey Coal has them or not, but they‘re required to-for oxygen breathing so that miners can go. At every single step or cut in the mine, they can go into one of those oxygen mine and put that on, and it carries them for a long period of time.

There are also wire ropes, because people can‘t see, it‘s pitch-black. And smoke, and panic, and chaos, that they can hold on to that wire and just follow the wire, and it will eventually lead them out of the mine or at least to where the elevator will come down and pick them up.

But it‘s-I think it‘s wrong at this point to speculate on more than we actually know. And I think what we have to concentrate on-I‘m going down tomorrow morning-and I think what you have to concentrate on is: one, that it is a horrible time to be in the family or the circle of friends of a miner, either dead or in danger or in general. Secondly, in that you have to-that‘s where you have to put your main work, when you go down there, is just into being with them, usually in churches, with preachers. It‘s very emotional, very powerful, very awful-and finally, very Appalachian.

And the second part is the professionalism of the rescue mine teams. People have no idea, these people train all the time. They have state competitions. They have county competitions. They have intercompany competitions-constantly training to be able to go in and rescue people.

But they have to know what the problem is. They have to-they have to be able to see to get in. They have to be able to get down into the mine. Maybe the man-the vehicle in which you get into the mine has been burned. Or maybe the shaft on the way down is not operating.

So, we‘re working right now in a world of mystery, and tremendous human tragedy. Hopefully, things will begin to sort themselves out. But I think the grave mistake now is to try to speculate on what might be. What we know is bad enough. And if it‘s what we hear, this would be the worst disaster since Farmington in the early ‘70s. As Ken Ward said, this is something that is in the sadness of all the glory of West Virginia characteristics, fighting and climbing hills all the time, this is-this is the tragic part.

MADDOW: Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, thank you so much for joining us tonight. The whole country is pulling for those West Virginians and that mine tonight, and for their families. Thank you, sir.


(Commercial Break)

MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, hello, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks for coming in.

KLOBUCHAR: As you see, I‘m wearing the wrong color to be on the Supreme Court.

MADDOW: Well, your microphone is black.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, that‘s correct.

MADDOW: It‘s very slimming.

KLOBUCHAR: And also, there are all those old speeches of mine that you would find. Remember the Sotomayor "wise Latina"?


KLOBUCHAR: Where I called myself a wise Slovenian. So, this is over before it even started.

MADDOW: I don‘t know, if you really got this Slovenian people behind you in America-



MADDOW: -- a political bloc.

KLOBUCHAR: It‘s a small but mighty country. That‘s right.

MADDOW: Is it flattering to be mentioned? Is it just awkward? Is it both?

KLOBUCHAR: No. It is. But I love my job now. And as you know, as you pointed out with the Senate, there‘s a lot of work to be done there.


KLOBUCHAR: And I think we need people that are willing to push the envelope to get things done, to work across the aisle and get things done. And I think that we‘ve started to. I remember the last time I was on, you referred to the Senate-do you remember this?

MADDOW: As a dysfunction junction.

KLOBUCHAR: As a dysfunction junction.

MADDOW: That‘s right.

KLOBUCHAR: But I will say the train has left the station now.

Well, we passed health care reform. We passed the jobs bill. We passed the extenders. We now have more to do on that. We got the FAA reauthorization, aviation, travel promotion. We‘re moving.

And part of that, and I think part of the answer to the filibuster, as much as I‘d like to see reform and hope we do it, but it‘s calling people out. When they slow down the process, when Jim Bunning gives his finger not just to the media but to every employed worker in this country, we call them out. We‘ve started being more aggressive about calling people out when they‘re doing these things.

And if you want to lead to true bipartisanship, I think you have to be honest with the American people about what‘s happening.

MADDOW: But the Bunning story is, I think, a telling one because it is true that Democrats and some Republicans even called him out when he blocked unemployment benefits for all those people in the country. Now, Republicans are blocking unemployment benefits again, and Republicans in leadership positions are saying things like, we‘re all Jim Bunning now. So, we should have stood with Jim Bunning the first time around. We‘re all going to do that now.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, at their own peril. And that‘s what I think-when you look at Supreme Court justice nominee and whoever it‘s going to be, the point of this is that the American people want us to keep working on jobs, financial regulation, to move forward on homegrown energy. And they do it at their own peril if they want to devote the summer to blocking a nominee.

And when you look at, say, Sotomayor, who they claimed was-they called her all kinds of names, 95 percent of the time, she voted with a Republican nominee when she was on a three-judge panel. And most scholars that looked at her record said she was basically a moderate, that she wasn‘t extreme.

And so, I actually believe in reality here, that some of the names that have been put forth that the president could nominate, who clearly would be Democratic nominees. But when you look, say, at Lindsey Graham, what he said at Sotomayor, remember that speech. It was pretty courageous.

He said, "Look, I wouldn‘t have picked her, but my job is to look at who‘s qualified. Do they have the qualifications, and I‘m proud to vote for her." And I‘ll never forget that moment. That‘s what I‘m hopeful will happen here as well.

MADDOW: Senator, I think it‘s not an accident that it was Senator Jon Kyl this weekend who floated the idea of again, filibustering a nonexistent nominee for a vacancy that doesn‘t exist, because he‘s already outraged by the prospect of this nonexistent person. But Senator Jon Kyl made those same comment within a week of the election in 2008. At that point, he was already talking about filibustering a Supreme Court nominee.


MADDOW: They‘re-on the other side of the aisle, they see some political advantage to mounting a filibuster campaign here, as historic as it would be.

KLOBUCHAR: They do. But in the end, on the Sotomayor case, as you know, they backed down. There were a lot of people within their own party who had different feelings about her. They didn‘t want to piss off every Hispanic voter in the country.

They knew that she had some qualities. It didn‘t mean they all voted for her, but they sure-you know, they asked her tough questions and then the hearing got done, and she got confirmed. And I‘m hopeful that will happen as well in this case.

MADDOW: Optimism.



MADDOW: But I can feel it. I can feel it in the room.


MADDOW: When I look at that graph that I showed in the intro here of the filibuster-over time, it looks like a half pipe, it makes me think, hey, this needs to be fixed. Hey, this is a problem, it‘s being abused. Does it make you feel that way too?


MADDOW: Does it make people in the Senate generally-


KLOBUCHAR: Especially some of the newer senators that have come in, that aren‘t just, you know, steeped in the tradition of this wonderful filibuster, we see it as a problem. A lot of us have managed organizations and we like to move forward and get things done. So, there are a lot of efforts to reform.

I will point out the last person successful in reform was Walter Mondale from Minnesota. It was 67 votes and he got it down to 60.

So, a number of us are saying, well, can we get it down some more? Can we still allow for this debate? Can we allow for people to stand on the floor and push the filibuster so they have to own what they‘re doing?

If they want to filibuster unemployment benefits for people who are out of work for no fault of their own because Wall Street messed up, are they going to take to the floor and do that day after day after day? That‘s another reform that we‘d love to see.

MADDOW: And you‘d support that?


MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota-thank you very much for joining us tonight. And I-I think you could talk them into pink robes.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, that would be a very touch.

MADDOW: It looks really good on everybody.

KLOBUCHAR: Especially on Scalia.

MADDOW: I was going to say, especially on Alito. But you‘re totally right. It‘s Scalia.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

MADDOW: Thank you, Senator: Appreciate it.


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