Sen. Amy Klobuchar had an answer ready for local journalists who asked her this week about the fiasco in a human trafficking bill that held up the confirmation of attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch because of an abortion provision.
“No one is really looking back at the past,” she said when asked about a mistake in her office that allowed the abortion provision into the bill.
Of course, someone’s always looking at the past in politics and in this story, it’s Politico, which this week provided a behind-the-scenes look at the snafu, for which Klobuchar said she took full responsibility while blaming the mistake on a staffer.
That, Politico said, is a move “that’s generally frowned upon in the Senate.” It’s not the first time the senator has blamed a staff member for a problem, however.
But it worked. Yesterday morning, a smiling Klobuchar was on the front page of the Star Tribune, the story framed as a breakthrough for bipartisanship.
“We’ve been able to work across the aisle,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a quote emblazoned above the Klobuchar article. He was the lead GOP negotiator in unwinding the impasse.
Compare that quote to the one in Politico.
“There was a lot of angst over this because it was hidden in plain sight. And you have a bunch of high-priced, elite, law school-educated staff who surely can read it,” Cornyn said. “I just don’t find that plausible.”
According to Politico, Senate leaders in Klobuchar’s own party pushed her aside, worried that having made the blunder, she was in too big a hurry to make it go away.
During the closed-door lunch last month in the Senate’s Lyndon Baines Johnson Room, what irked some senators was Klobuchar’s initial refusal to take responsibility for the error, according to lawmakers who described the exchange. She pointed to the number of aides and Democrats who serve on the Judiciary Committee who pored over the bill and also missed it.
“I want women in our caucus to be treated with respect — and I want them to have a voice,” Cantwell said Tuesday when asked about the dispute between Leahy and Klobuchar. While Cantwell acknowledged that male senators often confront other male senators, “if I feel like someone is trying to push one of our [female] colleagues, I’m going to say something about it.”
Leahy and Klobuchar downplayed the dispute Tuesday. The senior senator from Vermont wrote in an email that he worked with Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Murray — along with Klobuchar — to break the impasse.
But Klobuchar said this week that she was responsible for breaking the logjam, the result of an epiphany she had while driving in a Moorhead corn field.
Asked about the tension by Politico, Klobuchar dropped the same line she did for the local media. “Nobody is really talking about that today. We’re talking about how we move forward.”
Klobuchar’s office this week said the aide who made the mistake still works for the senator.
With a memoir soon to be published, and rumors that she has higher aspirations, Klobuchar’s challenge on a national stage will be to find a better answer.
“We’re not talking about that today” is blood in the water for the national political media.