Scrap the Electoral College? Gabbard says not yet during Concord stop

  • Presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, walks under an umbrella through the village while heading to a campaign stop at a brewery in Peterborough, N.H., Friday, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, visits Peterborough. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 3/22/2019 5:04:47 PM

She’s known as a progressive four-term congresswoman from Hawaii.

But when it comes to some high-profile progressive litmus tests facing the 2020 Democrats running for the White House, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s on the fence.

Gabbard, a National Guard officer and Iraq War veteran who was the first Hindu elected to serve in Congress, wasn’t on board with calls by fellow progressives to end the Electoral College and scrap the Senate’s filibuster rule – two longstanding political traditions and institutions.

“There are reforms that need to take place to make it so that our votes are being cast and counted and represented in the outcome of our elections,” Gabbard said Friday in Concord. “I think there are pros and cons to the existing Electoral College and to getting rid of it.”

Gabbard returned to the Capital city in the evening for a town hall conversation at New England College’s Main Street location that was moderated by former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Marchand. Earlier in the afternoon, she headlined a town hall at New England College’s main campus in Henniker.

An increasing number of Gabbard’s rivals for the nomination have been supportive of scrapping the Electoral College and having the national popular vote determine the winner of presidential elections.

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton topped Republican nominee Donald Trump by nearly three million votes in the 2016 election, but Trump won the presidency thanks to his convincing margin in the Electoral College.

Gabbard seemed to jab at fellow Democrats.

“I think it’s unfortunate that too often these calls for changes come about by the side that has lost or suffered as a result of the Electoral College,” she said

Gabbard said she’s also not sold on the elimination of the filibuster, the longstanding Senate tradition requiring 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to advance a bill, effectively allowing the minority party to block legislation.

“This is a conversation I think that’s important for the American people to have,” she said.

Gabbard added that it’s “important for us to look at how we solve this or make changes that are not based on partisanship. Often it is the party that is in the minority that is calling for bringing about those changes and then once they get into the majority, they say ‘no, absolutely not. We’re not going to change this.’ ”

Right now, the filibuster is actually helping Senate Democrats, allowing them to slow or stall legislation that the GOP Senate majority and Trump White House might support. The president himself has called for an end to the filibuster, only to be met with opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Democrats hoping to pass a sweeping progressive agenda if they win back the White House are concerned their proposals could get bottlenecked in the Senate, where Democrats have a shot at winning back control – but have little chance of grabbing a 60-member, filibuster-proof majority.

Gabbard said she doesn’t have reservations about another popular idea with progressives: financial reparations for descendants of slaves.

“I’ve actually co-sponsored a bill – HR 40 in the House of Representatives – that would put together a commission that would look at the damage that has occurred because of our country’s dark history with slavery and to figure out what is the best way to bring about those reparations,” she said. “I think we need to bring about reparations, it’s really a question of what is the right way and how.”

She also highlighted her support for increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, raising the nation’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, and she said she’s considering supporting a guaranteed basic income for all adult Americans, a plan being pushed by long-shot Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

Gabbard is also targeting American military interventionism across the globe, and her support for “Medicare for All,” key policy points in her presidential campaign. Gabbard was in town as part of a jam-packed three day swing through New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House.

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