5th Annual Sidley Austin Forum: Making Progress Amidst Polarization
June 16, 2021
NYU Washington, DC hosted the 5th Annual Sidley Austin Forum with a keynote address by the honorable Amy Klobuchar, United States Senator for Minnesota, Chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee and Chairwoman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights.
The polarized politics of the times raises the core question of whether - and how - our leaders can overcome partisan conflicts to address major challenges facing the nation. In her years in the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass landmark legislation to end human trafficking and confront the opioid epidemic. She has also been a proven leader on bipartisan consumer rights legislation and initiatives. In her address, the Senator will speak to the requirements of making progress in an era of polarization, and an expert panel will follow to discuss the prospects for this progress in the current Congress.
The panel included Bob Bauer, Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at NYU Law and Co-Director of the Legislative and Regulatory Process Clinic in Washington, DC who also served as moderator, Yamiche Alcindor, the host of Washington Week, White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour and a political contributor to NBC News and MSNBC, Sarah Binder, Professor of Political Science at the George Washington University, and Paul Kane, Senior Congressional Correspondent & Columnist at The Washington Post.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar is the first woman elected to represent the State of Minnesota in the United States Senate. Throughout her public service, Senator Klobuchar has always embraced the values she learned growing up in Minnesota. Her grandfather worked 1500 feet underground in the iron ore mines of Northern Minnesota. Her father, Jim, was a newspaperman, and her mother, Rose, was an elementary school teacher who continued teaching until she was 70.
Senator Klobuchar has built a reputation of putting partisanship aside to help strengthen the economy and support families, workers, and businesses. In 2019, an analysis by Vanderbilt University ranked her as the “most effective” Democratic senator in the 115th Congress.
Senator Klobuchar has always understood that her first duty is to represent the people of Minnesota. She acted quickly to obtain full funding to rebuild the I-35W bridge just thirteen months after it tragically collapsed into the Mississippi River. She worked across party lines to expand education and job opportunities for returning service members, fought to ensure that Minnesota National Guard members received the full benefits they earned, and helped turn Minnesota's ground-breaking "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" program into a national model. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Klobuchar worked to pass several bipartisan Farm Bills to strengthen Minnesota’s rural economy and give farmers the certainty and support they need.
Since arriving in the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has worked with Democrats and Republicans to get things done. She led the effort to pass landmark pieces of legislation to end human trafficking and combat the opioid epidemic. She fought to pass the most significant consumer product safety legislation in a generation, keeping foreign toxic products off our shores and out of our stores, and pushed the cell phone companies to enact more consumer-friendly policies. Additionally, her efforts to protect consumers have resulted in the largest furniture and airbag recalls in American history.
As a member of the Joint Economic Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Klobuchar has been a leader in working to implement a competitive agenda to ensure businesses have the tools they need to grow and create good jobs in their communities and support them during the pandemic. She has authored legislation to lift the trade embargo with Cuba as well as legislation to help small businesses tap into new markets abroad and foster the creation and growth of new businesses across the country. She has successfully advocated to take action to combat illegal steel dumping. As co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, Senator Klobuchar has been a leading advocate working to connect every American to high speed internet once and for all. She has also passed significant legislation aimed at boosting funds for STEM education and led national initiatives to boost American tourism, including a long-term reauthorization of Brand USA, which helps attract international travelers to destinations throughout the United States.
Senator Klobuchar also serves as the Chairwoman on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, where she has worked to reinvigorate America’s antitrust laws and restore competition to American markets. In this capacity, she introduced legislation to give federal enforcers the resources they need to do their jobs, strengthen prohibitions on anticompetitive conduct and mergers, and make additional reforms to improve enforcement. As The Washington Post recently noted, “The moderate but meaningful proposals provide a launchpad for cross-aisle cooperation, a goal of much of the senator’s legislative handiwork.” She has also introduced bipartisan legislation to lower prescription drug prices by cracking down on “pay-for-delay” agreements, the practice of brand-name drug manufacturers using pay-off agreements to keep more affordable generic equivalents off the market.
Senator Klobuchar is also the Chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, where she has worked to ensure fairness, transparency, and efficiency in government. During a Joint Session of Congress to receive each state’s electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election, she led the defense of challenges to Arizona’s and Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, working with a bipartisan group of her colleagues to stand up for our democracy.
As a leader on election legislation, along with then Rules Committee Chair Senator Blunt, she led the successful inauguration of Joe Biden at a critical time. She helped pass the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate and has authored legislation to automatically register eligible voters when they turn 18. She has also led efforts to improve election security and prevent foreign interference in our democracy, and successfully secured $1.2 billion to strengthen states’ election infrastructure and help protect them from future attacks by foreign adversaries. In addition, in her role on the Judiciary Committee she has been active in advocating for legislation focused on civil rights, criminal justice, and immigration reform.
As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Senator Klobuchar has worked on behalf of Minnesota’s farmers, agriculture workers, and rural communities by fighting to expand access to broadband, support food assistance programs, and provide coronavirus relief to livestock producers. She has also introduced legislation to encourage the use of renewable fuels and invest in data related to farming and agriculture to inform best practices.
Before serving in the Senate, Senator Klobuchar headed the largest prosecutor’s office in Minnesota for eight years, making the prosecution of violent criminals her top priority while increasing the office’s focus on white collar crime. She led the effort for successful passage of Minnesota’s first felony DWI law and received the leadership award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Her safe schools initiative, community prosecution efforts, and criminal justice reforms earned national awards from both the Bush and Clinton Justice Departments. She worked with the Innocence Project to advocate for videotaped interrogations across the country as well as innovative eyewitness processes to protect against false identifications. As a private citizen and before being elected to public office, Senator Klobuchar was the leading advocate for successful passage of one of the first laws in the country guaranteeing 48-hour hospital stays for new moms and their babies.
Her work has gained national recognition. Vogue magazine described her as “personable, popular, and pragmatic,” The New York Times described her as a “former prosecutor with made-for-state-fair charms,” and Working Mother named her as "Best in Congress” for her efforts on behalf of working families. “Want to reform antitrust? Amy Klobuchar knows where to start,” The Washington Post headlined its opinion piece on her sweeping antitrust legislation, the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act. She has received numerous awards from the National Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union for championing farmers and rural communities. She has been recognized for her work on behalf of children and consumers, and Refugee International gave her the Congressional Leadership Award for her work to support refugee communities. She received an award from the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) for her work to fight sexual assault in the military, and the Disabled American Veterans honored her work to improve the lives of America’s veterans. She also received the “Outstanding Member of the Senate Award” from the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition and the “Above and Beyond Award” from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve for her commitment to developing a supportive work environment for employees serving in the Guard and Reserves.
Senator Klobuchar was the valedictorian of her Wayzata High School class. She graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and the University of Chicago Law School. Her senior essay in college, published as the book "Uncovering the Dome," chronicles the 10-year-history behind the building of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and is still used at colleges and universities across the country.
Senator Klobuchar is married to John Bessler, a native of Mankato, who attended Loyola High School and the University of Minnesota. Senator Klobuchar and John have a daughter, Abigail.
Bob Bauer, Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence, NYU Law and Co-Director, Legislative and Regulatory Process Clinic
Bob Bauer is Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at NYU Law, and Co-Director of NYU’s Legislative and Regulatory Process Clinic. He served as White House Counsel to President Obama, and returned to private practice in June 2011. In 2013, the President named Bauer to be Co-Chair of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which in January of 2014 submitted to the President its findings and recommendations in "The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration."
Bauer was General Counsel to Obama for America, the President’s campaign organization, in 2008 and 2012. Bob has also served as co-counsel to the New Hampshire State Senate in the trial of Chief Justice David A. Brock (2000) and counsel to the Democratic Leader in the trial of President William Jefferson Clinton (1999).
He is the author on books on campaign finance law and articles on various topics for law reviews and periodicals. He is a contributing editor of Lawfare and writes legal commentary for Just Security, and has published opinion pieces in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic and other publications. In 2000, he received the "Burton Award for Legal Achievement" for his legal writing.
Yamiche Alcindor, host of Washington Week, White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour and a political contributor to NBC News and MSNBC
Yamiche Alcindor is the White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; the moderator of Washington Week, the weekly public affairs show on PBS; and a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC. She often tells stories about the intersection of race and politics as well as fatal police encounters. She is currently covering the administration of President Joe Biden and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Before that, she covered the administration of former President Donald Trump and the impact of his policies and rhetoric on vulnerable populations domestically and internationally. As a White House correspondent, she has covered a range of issues including the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on black people and communities of color, the protests following the death of George Floyd, and the consequences of former President Trump's immigration policies.
Previously, Alcindor worked as a national political reporter for The New York Times and a national breaking news reporter for USA Today. In 2020, Alcindor was named the recipient of RTDNA's John F. Hogan Distinguished Service Award, IWMF’s Gwen Ifill Award and the White House Correspondents' Association's Aldo Beckman Award for Overall Excellence in White House Coverage. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and was named the organization's 2020 Journalist of the Year.
Alcindor earned a master's degree in broadcast news and documentary filmmaking from New York University and a bachelor's in English, government and African American studies from Georgetown University. A native of Miami, Fla., Yamiche is married to a fellow journalist and is the daughter of Haitian immigrants who met while attending Boston College.
Sarah Binder, Professor of Political Science, George Washington University
Professor Binder's work focuses on the politics of legislative institutions, including their origins, development and impact on policy outcomes. She is also an editor of the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog. Her most recent work examines the ways in politics and economics intersect to shape the governance of and decision making by the Federal Reserve.
Professor Binder's most recent book is The Myth of Independence: How Congress Governs the Federal Reserve, co-authored with Mark Spindel (Princeton, 2017). Her previous books include Advice & Dissent: The Struggle to Shape the Federal Judiciary, co-authored with Forrest Maltzman (Brookings 2009), Stalemate: Causes and Consequences of Legislative Gridlock (Brookings, 2003), Minority Rights, Majority Rule: Partisanship and the Development of Congress (Cambridge, 1997) and Politics or Principle? Filibustering in the United States Senate, co-authored with Steven S. Smith (Brookings, 1997). Her work has also appeared in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and elsewhere.
Paul Kane, Senior Congressional Correspondent & Columnist, The Washington Post
Paul Kane has covered Congress since 2000, when he started at Roll Call with a beat focused on the Senate leadership agenda. He started with The Washington Post in 2007, covering topics such as the congressional response to the 2008 financial crisis and the Obama-Republican fiscal wars. He now writes a regular column on Congress and its interactions with the Trump administration.