Klobuchar downplays Green New Deal as 'aspirational,' addresses binder-tossing report

Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who launched her presidential bid at a snow-covered address in Minneapolis on Sunday, told Fox News on Tuesday that the "Green New Deal" proposal is merely "aspirational" and that she would likely oppose specific elements of the plan if they came up for a vote.

Klobuchar's comments made her one of the only 2020 Democratic presidential contenders to openly cast doubt on the Green New Deal's viability. Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., all co-sponosored the Green New Deal resolution.

"The Green New Deal? I see it as aspirational. I see it as a jump-start," Klobuchair said on "Special Report with Bret Baier." "So I would vote yes [on the Green New Deal resolution], but I would also -- if it got down to the nitty-gritty of an actual legislation, as opposed to, 'Oh, here's some goals we have' -- uh, that would be different for me."

Separately, Klobuchar responded to multiple reports that she mistreated staffers in her Capitol Hill office by acknowledging that she has been a "tough boss" -- and did not flat-out deny a report she had thrown a binder at one point.

According to a Buzzfeed News report, "one aide was accidentally hit with a flying binder, according to someone who saw it happen, though the staffer said the senator did not intend to hit anyone with the binder when she threw it."

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the snowy rally where she announced she was entering the race for president Sunday. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the snowy rally where she announced she was entering the race for president Sunday. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The outlet also cited numerous staffers claiming Klobuchar routinely sent late-night emails and berated her subordinates over minor details and missteps. Some critics have charged that the insinuations in the reports are sexist against women in managerial positions.

"I don't know, it's all anonymous. I will say that I'm proud of our staff," Klobuchar said. "And yes, I can be a tough boss, and push people -- that's obvious. But that's because I have high expectations of myself, I have high expectations of those who work for me, and I have a high expectation for our country. My chief of staff has worked for me for six years, my state director for seven years, my campaign manager for 14 years."

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Asked specifically whether she had thrown a binder at someone, Klobuchar responded: "If you look at that story, I think you'll see it said something about me throwing a binder down -- not at somebody," Klobuchar said. "I just know that I should be judged, and I will take responsibility for, everything that happens on this campaign."

The Minnesota Democrat, who has taken some moderate positions on Capitol Hill, distanced herself from several elements of the Green New Deal proposed by New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, when asked in rapid-fire succession for her thoughts by host Bret Baier.

A document sent by Ocasio-Cortez's office to NPR last week stated, "We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast."

A FAQ and background materials posted -- and later removed -- from Ocasio-Cortez's website stated that the Green New Deal would provide "economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work."

On air travel, Klobuchar responded: "I am not for reducing air travel."

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On achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in ten years: "I don't think that is going to happen in the next few years, but you can imagine, by new technology -- and by the way, that includes nuclear and everything else -- that we can get to a better place."

"I see it as aspirational."

— Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, on the Green New Deal

On providing economic security to those unwilling to work: "Um, don't agree with the 'unwilling to work.'"

"I am a Democrat and not a socialist. I actually worked in the private sector for 14 years, and I believe in capitalism," Klobuchar said, adding that she believed consumer protection laws and antitrust laws were still necessary. "Our country was founded on a strong economic system. And I believe in competition and capitalism."

The official Green New Deal resolution submitted to Congress did contain the goal of promising a job to "all people of the United States" -- but did not include the language of those "unwilling to work."

Supporters at the Klobuchar rally Sunday. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Supporters at the Klobuchar rally Sunday. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

"I think we should put in better building standards," Klobuchar said, in response to the Green New Deal resolution's goal of upgrading all buildings in the U.S. to make them more environmentally friendly. "I would like to see, on day one, to get back into the international climate change agreement. Uh, we are the only country not in it. I would like to see us put in place those clean-power rules again."

The Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords in June 2017. The U.S. has since cut carbon emissions more than several countries that criticized the U.S.' departure from the agreement.

Meanwhile, labor unions -- a key liberal voting bloc -- this week sounded notes of caution on the Green New Deal.

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Some other top Democratic politicians also have sought to pump the brakes on the Green New Deal. For example, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, appeared unimpressed when asked about the plan's aspirations to replace planes with high-speed rail.

"That would be pretty hard for Hawaii,” she laughed.

And, last Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared to dismiss the plan: “It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Pelosi told Politico. “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”

Separately, Klobuchar suggested that Democrats and Republicans working on a compromise deal to avert another federal government shutdown should find a way to keep nonviolent offenders in the country. Congressional negotiators revealed Monday evening that they've reached "an agreement in principle" on border security funding that includes more than $1.3 billion for physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Talks nearly collapsed over the weekend after Democrats pushed to reduce funding for detention beds to curb what they've called unnecessarily harsh enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A proposal to cap at 16,500 the number of detainees caught in areas away from the border — a limit Democrats said was aimed at preventing ICE overreach — ran into its own Republican wall.

In this Jan 15, 2019 image, a section of newly-replaced border wall separates Tijuana, Mexico, above left, from San Diego, right, in San Diego. Border Patrol officials say some Mexican homes and structures encroach on U.S. soil posing a dilemma for authorities when replacing the wall. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

In this Jan 15, 2019 image, a section of newly-replaced border wall separates Tijuana, Mexico, above left, from San Diego, right, in San Diego. Border Patrol officials say some Mexican homes and structures encroach on U.S. soil posing a dilemma for authorities when replacing the wall. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Although Klobuchar said she had not yet reviewed the specifics of that tentative deal, she added that she broadly supported the idea of limiting enforcement actions against nonviolent illegal immigrants, and opposed a lengthy border wall.

"I would say you look at people who have committed crimes -- serious crimes, and that should be, of course, your number-one enforcement priority. My problem is, they've been going after, say, professors in Minnesota" who initially "came in undocumented" but have lived in the U.S. for "a number of years."

"What I don't like about what's going on is that they seem to be targeting certain people that have maybe even tried to apply for citizenship and done the right thing," Klobuchar said. "So, the way you solve this is what we've done in the Senate, with bipartisan immigration reform."

Klobuchar called drug smuggling a "major problem," but said they typically come in through ports of entry, citing Homeland Security statistics showing that narcotics are typically seized where its agents have the most presence.

The combined North and Patrick Henry High School drum corps keeps warm in the parking lot Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, before taking part in Sen. Amy Klobuchar's announcement to run for president from a snowy Boom Park, in Minneapolis. (Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)

The combined North and Patrick Henry High School drum corps keeps warm in the parking lot Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, before taking part in Sen. Amy Klobuchar's announcement to run for president from a snowy Boom Park, in Minneapolis. (Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)

Asked whether she supports legislation that requires employers to prioritize hiring qualified American workers first, prior to hiring a guest worker in the country on a visa, Klobuchair said the idea made sense as part of larger reforms.

"I mean, I like that part of what we have in place right now, and I think we could strengthen it with our H-1B visas and some of the others," Klobuchar said. The H-1B visa permits employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in certain occupations.

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The Minnesota Democrat also took aim at freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who faced a bipartisan wave of criticism this week, including a rebuke from House Democratic leadership, for weekend tweets in which she suggested the U.S. relationship with Israel was “all about the Benjamins, baby.”

"There is just no room for those kinds of words," Klobuchar said. "I think Israel is a beacon of democracy, and I've been a strong supporter of Israel, and that will never change."

Fox News' Bret Baier contributed to this report.