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Kirsten Gillibrand On Impeachment, Medicare For All, & Taking On Special Interests

Ali Oshinskie for NHPR

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand presents herself as a fighter – and a winner, seemingly unfazed by low poll numbers.  Speaking on The Exchange, the New York Senator said she believes she can win over red, blue, and purple parts of the country, touting her popularity in conservative parts of her home state.

"I've never backed down from a fight. I take on the fights that other people won't, and I actually win. And that's been my story," she said. 

(For the full conversation listen here. Excerpts in this story have been edited slightly for clarity and brevity.)

Gillibrand called President Trump’s recent statements suggesting he would be open to receiving information about a political opponent from a foreign power “shocking.”

“And it's something that is unprecedented and just shows how far afield this President is from basic ethics,” she said.  In response, Gillibrand recently reiterated her call for impeachment proceedings.

A strong supporter of abortion rights, Gillibrand defended her pledge to nominate only judges who would uphold Roe v. Wade. “These are personal decisions. They’re health care decisions; they’re economic decisions; they’re moral decisions. And a woman has a right to make all those decisions.”

"You have got to get the money out of politics."

Just this past week,  Gillibrand earned a spot on the debate stage,  after recently meeting the threshold of 65,000 donors set by the DNC. 

She will appear on the second debate night, June, 27, along with nine other candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Medicare for All

Gillibrand has worked with Sanders on Medicare For All in the U.S. Senate but first presented her own plan in 2005, when she ran for Congress.   

“Routinely, insurance companies are putting profits over people and that to me is the definition of greed,” she said. “So I want to displace that market through competition of a not-for-profit public option.”

Gillibrand said letting all Americans buy into Medicare at a price they can afford would lead to a “mass divergence away from private, for-profit insurance companies into this public option.”

This week the American Medical Association – the largest group representing doctors – rejected the idea of Medicare For All, instead supporting the idea of building on the Affordable Care Act.

That has not appeared to dissuade Gillibrand, who continues to excoriate the insurance industry.

“I don't believe that you can get to health care as a right and not a privilege with a for-profit insurance industry….because the for-profit insurance industry has a goal of quarterly profits. They have a goal of shareholder values, and they happen to pay their CEOs millions of dollars.”

Gillibrand said she believes most Americans would switch to the not-for-public option, transforming health insurance into an earned benefit like Social Security.  “It should be a social safety net. It should be social insurance, because if it's a right and not a privilege, that's how you build it.”

This reform would also mean taking on the pharmaceutical companies, which she said have held too much sway over Congress.  

Credit Ali Oshinskie for NHPR

On Climate Change:

Gillibrand called climate change the greatest threat to humanity and called for  a worldwide competition among countries to solve the problem.  

“How about instead of a space race with Russia, how about a green energy race with China? How about a call to action to America's youth: You are going to be the inventors and solution finders of our future. You're going to be the ones that are going to breakthrough. Just like when John F. Kennedy said I want to put a man on the moon in 10 years --  not because it's easy but because it's hard.  I want to get to net zero carbon emissions in the next 10 years not because it's easy but because it's hard.”

On gun laws, campaign finance reform:

Gillibrand says she changed her view of guns and gun laws ten years ago, after being elected Senator and visiting different parts of New York state, including communities affected by gun violence. Gillibrand said she now supports universal backgrounds checks and banning large-capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons.

“I would also make significant investments in mental health and trying to have intervention programs for young people in grade school, high school, and college who are right now falling through the cracks and tend to often be our shooters that end in massive gun death.”

Gillibrand has also disowned the NRA, which years ago gave her an A rating. She is calling for publicly funded elections to help diminish its power, along with the influence of other special interest groups.

“I can't reiterate this enough: You’ve got to get the money out of politics,” she said. “You’ve got to take on the special interests and the corruption in Washington, and frankly I believe I'm the only candidate who has the courage to do that because that's what I've been doing for my entire twelve years in public service.”

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