Senator Amy Klobuchar may be more attuned to the realities of the novel coronavirus than most: In her professional life, the Minnesota Democrat and former 2020 presidential candidate is working to legislate stimulus packages to help Americans get through the crisis. And in her personal life, she had to watch from afar as her husband, John Bessler, was hospitalized with COVID-19.
For 10 days, Bessler’s temperature was over 100 degrees, Klobuchar tells TIME’s Senior White House Correspondent Brian Bennett during the TIME 100: Finding Hope virtual summit, which gathered the world’s top leaders to discuss the pandemic, how to confront it, and how the country will recover from it. But his condition eventually improved. “On the fifth day in the hospital, he took a good turn and his oxygen levels improved,” she says.
Though her husband is doing much better now, Klobuchar’s work is far from over. She’s stumping for former Vice President Joe Biden, her former rival, as he continues his bid to best President Donald Trump in the November election.
Electing Biden has perhaps never been more important, the Senator argues: “It really bothered me that this President, at the Republican Convention, said the words, ‘I alone can fix this,’ Klobuchar says of Trump. “And then when we’re in this major crisis of unprecedented dimensions with people’s lives on the line, he literally says ‘I’m in the backseat for the governors,’” referring to Trump’s recent rhetoric that seems to punt responsibility to the states.
Amid the virtual town halls she is hosting for the former vice president, some political pundits have suggested Biden may pick Klobuchar to be his own running mate. But Klobuchar says she and Biden have not discussed it. “I never had any talks [with] him about any of that, because for me, what’s important is winning this election,” she said. She also refused to speculate about what she would say if he asked her to join his ticket: “I am not engaging in the hypotheticals,” she said. “We’ve got to deal with this pandemic, and we’ve got to do it as quickly as possible.”
She’s keeping up with her Senate responsibilities, too. In March, she worked to help Congress pass $400 million for safer voter measures—such as funding for vote-by-mail, expanded early voting and online registration, and additional poll workers and voting facilities—before the General Election. “I think everyone remembers that scene of the people of Wisconsin standing in line in homemade masks and garbage bags, just to risk their lives basically,” Klobuchar says of Wisconsin’s problematic primary.
Compared to the average person, Klobuchar may have an outsized impact on how the country will rebound from the chaos this pandemic unleashed, but her Thursday conversation also showed that, in some ways, the virus is the great equalizer: like many of us have experienced during virtual happy hours with loved ones, and video conference calls with coworkers, her broadband connection cut out a couple times.
“I hope that you and your family stay healthy and safe,” Bennett said at the end of their talk.
“Well, we will,” Klobuchar responded. “And we will improve our internet service.”
This article is part of #TIME100Talks: Finding Hope, a special series featuring leaders across different fields sharing their ideas for navigating the pandemic. Want more? Sign up for access to more virtual events, including live conversations with influential newsmakers.
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