U.S. presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar pledges to work for Hurricane Michael disaster relief

Mitch Perry photo

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar came to Tallahassee this week, and was immediately asked about a federal-state issue that’s top of mind for Panhandle residents: Hurricane Michael relief.

Klobuchar said she is confident that a disaster relief bill that includes funding for hurricane victims in the Panhandle and in Puerto Rico can happen soon, but admits that “time is not on our side.”

So far, federal dollars for Hurricane Michael relief have been stuck in Washington gridlock, six months after the nearly Category 5 storm slammed into the Panama City area and carved a devastating path through the rural Panhandle.

“There’s absolutely no reason that we can’t work this out given that the House bill included the kind of funding that we’d like to see and we want to have the funding for Florida,” Klobuchar told reporters gathered outside the House Democratic office in the Capitol  Tuesday afternoon. “And we also want to include the new funding for the disasters we’ve seen in Iowa and Nebraska, so it really brings in senators and house members from all over the country from both parties.”

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation recently reported that insurance losses from Hurricane Michael now are more than $5.8 billion.

U.S. Senate Democrats rejected a massive federal disaster relief bill earlier this month because they claim that the $600 million for food aid to Puerto Rico is vastly insufficient, and that the island needs more disaster relief funds.

Klobuchar dismissed the suggestion that the bill should address disaster relief in the continental U.S. immediately, and return to Puerto Rico later on.

“They don’t seem to want to help Puerto Rico,” she said of Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration. “And there is no reason why we can’t do all of this together. We have to get this done and we will.”

The 58-year-old Klobuchar was reelected to her third term in the U.S. Senate from Minnesota last fall, and the event announcing her candidacy for president was memorable, happening in the the middle of a driving blizzard in February.

When asked if she supports a Medicare for all health care system, she countered by saying she wants to get to “universal health care,” and says she would do that by supporting a number of proposals, including allowing for a “public option” for Medicaid and/or Medicare to create a government-run health insurance agency that would compete with other private health insurance companies in the U.S.

“That’s what we originally wanted to do with the Affordable Care Act and it didn’t happen,” she said. She also says she would enact her own proposal allowing Medicare to negotiate the best possible price for prescription drugs if elected president.

Klobuchar began her day in South Florida, where she says she learned more about the crisis in Venezuela. She is on the record in support of removing President Nicolas Maduro and replacing him with Juan Guaido, the 35-year-old head of the National Assembly.

In her meeting with the Florida House Democratic caucus before her meeting with media, she says she was informed about a variety of statewide issues, including the issues about Amendment 4, the constitutional amendment that restored the voting rights of former felons last year.

Klobuchar says she will be returning to Florida “time and time” again.

She says she intends to appeal not only to Democrats, but independent voters, including moderate Republicans. She says that’s how she’s been so successful in a purple state like Minnesota.

Florida’s presidential primary will take place relatively late in the election cycle next year, on March 17. More than half of the states will already have conducted primaries or caucuses by then.

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