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Sen. Stabenow Outlines How Democrats Will Move Forward Under Trump


We're joined now by one of the new members of the Democratic leadership in the Senate, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow. Hi.

DEBBIE STABENOW: Good to be with you.

SIEGEL: Senate Democrats seem to be talking about seeking common ground with Donald Trump. Where is some common ground that you see?

STABENOW: Well, our feeling is that the responsible approach is to work with the president when he is proposing something that's good for working people and for the economy, like an infrastructure investment if it's real, if it's paid for and doesn't bust the deficit. In fact, we've been proposing that for some time. And it's interestingly been the Republicans in the House and the Senate who have blocked it. So...

SIEGEL: So infrastructure is one area of cooperation. Elsewhere?

STABENOW: Yes, infrastructure is one area - fair trade issues. I have legislation on currency manipulation, to get tough with China and other countries. I have legislation called Bring Jobs Home Act to close loopholes that are incentivizing jobs going overseas. So if he really wants to help working people and create jobs, count us in. But if he wants to just divide people in our country or keep the system rigged for the wealthy and the well-connected, count us out.

SIEGEL: Democrats did so poorly with rural votes, white rural votes in Michigan that the Free Press, the Detroit Free Press - their model was so thrown off they made a very, very late call on election night. Since you're in charge of the messaging arm of the Democratic leadership in the Senate, what's the message next time to white working-class voters, voters in rural areas that can turn that vote back to the Democrats?

STABENOW: Well, we need an economy that works for everybody. And that means that everybody trying to hold on to the middle class or get in the middle class has got to know that their lives are going to improve. I don't think we have a middle class or an economy unless we make things and grow things, so that's where I focus. And we're going to be laser-focused on communicating with folks what it is we are working on and standing up for. And we're going to fight for them.

SIEGEL: What's the message to young voters who turned in unusually high numbers to third-party candidates this year?

STABENOW: Well, they have a big stake in this. It's going to be important that they stay engaged and speak out. There are a lot of areas where there's tremendous risk for young people and for the future of our country, whether it's global warming in our economy, clean energy economy. We have yet to see if we will see any movement on the costs of college and education. We have a whole range of issues that are seriously, seriously threatened related to Supreme Court and the Trump nominees, whether it be marriage equality, civil rights, human rights - a whole range of laws.

SIEGEL: Well, there's a Supreme Court question you're going to face very soon. Senate Republicans have blocked President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. They will now presumably welcome Donald Trump's nominee to fill the vacancy on the court. Will Democrats or should Democrats take part in that confirmation process without protest, or do you risk accepting a precedent that the Supreme Court nominations can be ignored in the future if there's ever a presidential election a year away?

STABENOW: Well, there's checks and balances in the United States Senate, and Republican colleagues chose not to participate in advice and consent and move forward to even have a hearing on President Obama's nominee. As Republicans now move forward on President Trump's nominee, we will participate in questions and investigate positions and then cast our votes. And if the person does not reflect what is best about America, there will be a great deal of opposition. But we will certainly take it step by step.

SIEGEL: Filibuster?

STABENOW: That's very possible. It depends on the nominee.

SIEGEL: Well, Senator Stabenow, Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, thanks for talking with us.

STABENOW: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: November 18, 2016 at 12:00 AM EST
We incorrectly said Sen. Debbie Stabenow is a new member of the Democratic leadership. In fact, she currently serves as vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and will become chair of this committee in January.
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