Democratic Candidates Debate in Des Moines, Iowa
Former Vice President Jospeh Biden;
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (South Bend, IN);
Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN);
Senator Bernie Sanders (VT);
Tom Steyer; and
Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA);
Wolf Blitzer (CNN);
Brianne Pfannenstiel (The Des Moines Register); and
Abby Phillip (CNN)
BLITZER: Live from Drake University in Iowa, this is the CNN Democratic presidential debate, in partnership with the Des Moines Register. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with CNN's Abby Phillip and the Des Moines Register's chief politics reporter Brianne Pfannenstiel.
PHILLIP: The top six Democratic presidential candidates are in place. This is their final debate before the first votes of the 2020 presidential campaign. The Iowa caucuses are 20 days away.
PFANNENSTIEL: Before we begin, a reminder of the ground rules. You'll each receive 75 seconds to answer questions, 45 seconds for responses and rebuttals, and 15 seconds for clarifications. Please refrain from interrupting your fellow candidates, as that will count against your time.
BLITZER: All right, so let's begin right now. Just this month, the United States and Iran were on the brink of war, which has reignited the debate over America's role in the world and which of you is best prepared to be commander-in-chief. So let's have the debate right now.
Senator Sanders, why are you best prepared -- the best prepared person on this stage to be commander-in-chief?
SANDERS: Yes, I think my record speaks to that, Wolf. In 2002, when the Congress was debating whether or not we go into a war in Iraq, invade Iraq, I got up on the floor of the House and I said that would be a disaster, it would lead to unprecedented levels of chaos in the region. And I not only voted against the war, I helped lead the effort against that war.
Just last year, I helped, for the first time in the modern history of this country, pass a War Powers Act resolution, working with a conservative Republican, Mike Lee of Utah, which said that the war in Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia, was unconstitutional because Congress had not authorized it. We got a majority vote in the Senate. We got a majority vote in the House. Unfortunately, Bush vetoed that and that horrific war continues.
I am able to work with Republicans. I am able to bring people together to try to create a world where we solve conflicts over the negotiating table, not through military efforts.
BLITZER: Vice President Biden, you talk a lot about your experience, but some of your competitors have taken issue with that experience, questioning your judgment in voting to authorize the Iraq war. Why are you the best prepared person on this stage to be commander-in-chief?
BIDEN: I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to give the president the authority to go to war if, in fact, he couldn't get inspectors into Iraq to stop what -- thought to be the attempt to get a nuclear weapon. It was a mistake, and I acknowledged that.
But right -- the man who also argued against that war, Barack Obama, picked me to be his vice president. And once we -- once we were elected president, he turned -- and vice president, he turned to me and asked me to end that war.
I know what it's like to send a son or daughter, like our colleague has gone to war in Afghanistan, my son for a year in Iraq, and that's why I do it very, very reluctantly. That's why I led the effort, as you know, Wolf, against surging tens of thousands of troops into Afghanistan. We should not send anyone anywhere unless the overwhelming vital interests of the United States are at stake. They were not at stake there. They were not at stake in Iraq. And it was a mistaken vote.
But I think my record overall on everything we've done has been -- I'm -- I'm prepared to compare it to anybody on this stage.
BLITZER: Senator Sanders, you have been attacking Vice President Biden's vote on the Iraq war, but you recently acknowledged that your vote to authorize the war in Afghanistan was also a mistake. So you both acknowledged mistakes. Why should the American people trust your judgment more?
SANDERS: Well, it's a little bit of a difference. On that particular vote, every single member of the House, including myself, voted for it. Only Barbara Lee voted against it.
But what I understood right away, in terms of the war in Iraq, the difference here is that the war in Iraq turned out to be the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country. As Joe well knows, we lost 4,500 brave troops. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. We have spent trillions of dollars on that endless war, money which should go into health care and education and infrastructure in this country.
Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and Rumsfeld had to say. I thought they were lying. I didn't believe them for a moment. I took to the floor. I did everything I could to prevent that war. Joe saw it differently.
BLITZER: Vice President Biden?
BIDEN: I was asked to bring 156,000 troops home from that war, which I did. I led that effort. It was a mistake to trust that they weren't going to go to war. They said they were not going to go to war. They said they were just going to get inspectors in.
The world, in fact, voted to send inspectors in and they still went to war. From that point on, I was in the position of making the case that it was a big, big mistake. And from that point on, I've voted to -- I moved to bring those troops home.
BLITZER: Senator Klobuchar, you've publicly questioned Mayor Buttigieg's experience when it comes to being commander-in-chief. Why is your time as a U.S. senator more valuable than his time as a U.S. naval intelligence officer in Afghanistan and as mayor?
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Wolf. And I have been very clear that I respect the mayor's experience very much in the military. I just have different experience.
I've been in the U.S. Senate for over 12 years. And I think what you want in a president is someone who has dealt with these life-and-death issues and who has made decisions.
I will look at my position on the Iraq war first. I wasn't in the Senate for that vote, but I opposed that war from the very beginning. In my first campaign for Senate, I ran against a Republican who ran ads against me on it, but I stood my ground. When I got to the Senate, I pushed to bring our troops home.
Then I have dealt with every issue, from Afghanistan to keeping our troops with good health care after what we saw with Walter Reed and being part of an effort to improve the situation for our troops in a very big way with our education and with their jobs and also with their health care.
I think right now what we should be talking about, though, Wolf, is what is happening right now with Donald Trump. Donald Trump is taking us pell-mell toward another war. We have a very important resolution. We just found out today that four Republicans are joining Democrats to go to him and say: You must have an authorization of military force if you're going to go to war with Iran.
That is so important, because we have a situation where he got us out of the Iranian nuclear agreement, something I worked on for a significant period of time. As president, I will get us back into that agreement. I will take an oath...
BLITZER: Thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: ... to protect and defend our Constitution.
BLITZER: Thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: And I will mean it.
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator Klobuchar. We're going to continue talking about who's best prepared to be commander-in-chief. Mayor Buttigieg?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I bring a different perspective. There are enlisted people that I served with barely old enough to remember those votes on the authorization after 9/11, on the war in Iraq. And there are people now old enough to enlist who were not alive for some of those debates.
The next president is going to be confronted with national security challenges different in scope and in kind from anything we've seen before, not just conventional military challenges, not just stateless terrorism, but cybersecurity challenges, climate security challenges, foreign interference in our elections. It's going to take a view to the future, as well as the readiness, to learn from the lessons of the past. And for me, those lessons of the past are personal.
BLITZER: Senator Warren, in our new CNN-Des Moines Register poll, almost a third of your supporters say your ability to lead the military is more of a weakness than a strength of yours. Why are you best prepared to be commander-in-chief?
WARREN: I believe the principal job of the commander-in-chief is to keep America safe. And I think that's about judgment. I think it starts with knowing our military. I sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee. I work with our generals, with our military leaders, with our intelligence, but I also visit our troops. I visit our troops around the world.
I've been to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Jordan, to South Korea. I've been to lots of places to talk with our troops. And I fight for our troops, to make sure that they get their pay, that they get the housing and medical benefits that they've been promised, that they don't get cheated by giant financial institutions.
You know, I have three brothers who were in the military, and I know how much our military families sacrifice. But I also know that we have to think about our defense in very different ways. We have to think about cyber. We have to think about climate. We also have to think about how we spend money.
We have a problem with a revolving door in Washington between the defense industry and the Department of Defense and the Pentagon. That is corruption, pure and simple. We need to block that revolving door, and we need to cut our defense budget.
We need to depend on all of our tools -- diplomatic, economic, working with our allies -- and not let the defense industry call the shots.
BLITZER: Mr. Steyer, you worked in finance for decades and have never held elected office. Why should voters believe you have the experience or judgment to serve as commander-in-chief?
STEYER: I worked internationally around the world for decades. I traveled, I met with governments, I met with businesses, and I understand how America interacts with other countries.
And you asked what is the reason that the -- the experience really counts, and to me, I believe that Senator Warren made a great point. It isn't so much about experience, it's about judgment.
If you've been listening to this, what we are hearing is 20 years of mistakes by the American government in the Middle East, of failure, of mistakes. So the real question is judgment.
And if you look who had the judgment, it was a state senator from Illinois with no experience named Barack Obama who opposed the war. It is a congresswoman, Barbara Lee from Oakland, California, who stood up against the original vote, who was the only person in Congress.
So I would say to you this: An outside perspective, looking at this and actually dealing with the problems as they are is what we're looking for now. I agree with Senator Warren. We are spending dramatically too much money on defense. The money that we're spending there, we could spend in the other parts of the budget, and it's time for someone from the outside to have a strategic view about what we're trying to do and how to do it.
BLITZER: Senator Sanders, in the wake of the Iran crisis, Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei has again called for all U.S. troops to be pulled out of the Middle East, something you've called for, as well. Yet when American troops last left Iraq, ISIS emerged and spread terror across the Middle East and, indeed, around the world. How would you prevent that from happening again?
SANDERS: OK, I'm going to tell you, but before I tell you that, let me tell you something else. [laughter]
And that is -- and I don't know if my colleagues here will agree with me or not. Maybe they will. But what we have to face as a nation is that the two great foreign policy disasters of our lifetimes were the war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq. Both of those wars were based on lies. And right now, what I fear very much is we have a president who is lying again and could drag us into a war that is even worse than the war in Iraq.
To answer your question, what we need to do is have an international coalition. We cannot keep acting unilaterally. As you know, the nuclear deal with Iran was worked on with a number of our allies. We have got to undo what Trump did, bring that coalition together, and make sure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon.
BLITZER: Vice President Biden?
BIDEN: I was part of that deal to get the nuclear agreement with Iran, bringing together the rest of the world, including some of the folks who aren't friendly to us. And it was working. It was working. It was being held tightly. There was no movement on the part of the Iranian government to get closer to a nuclear weapon.
And look what's happened. He went ahead -- and it was predictable from the day he pulled out of the agreement, Trump, what exactly would happen. We're now isolated. We're in a situation where our allies in Europe are making a comparison between the United States and Iran, saying both ought to stand down, making a moral equivalence.
We have lost our standing in the region. We have lost the support of our allies. The next president has to be able to pull those folks back together, re-establish our alliances, and insist that Iran go back into the agreement, which I believe with the pressure applied as we put on before we can get done.
BLITZER: So just to be clear, Vice President Biden, would you leave troops in the Middle East or would you pull them out?
BIDEN: I would leave troops in the Middle East in terms of patrolling the Gulf, where we have -- where we are now, small numbers of troops, and I think it's a mistake to pull out the small number of troops that are there now to deal with ISIS.
What's happened is, now that he's gone ahead, the president, and started this whole process moving, what's happening? ISIS is going to reconstitute itself. We're in a position where we have to pull our forces out. Americans have to leave the entire region. And quite frankly, I think he's flat-out lied about saying the reason he went after -- the reason he made the strike was because our embassies were about to be bombed.
BLITZER: Senator Klobuchar, what's your response?
KLOBUCHAR: I would leave some troops there, but not in the level that Donald Trump is taking us right now. Afghanistan, I have long wanted to bring our troops home.
I would do that. Some would remain for counterterrorism and training.
In Syria, I would not have removed the 150 troops from the border with Turkey. I think that was a mistake. I think it made our allies and many others much more vulnerable to ISIS. And then when it comes to Iraq, right now, I would leave our troops there, despite the mess that has been created by Donald Trump.
At the briefing we had last week, I was the only person on this stage that asked a question of both the secretary of defense and the secretary of state. And I asked them about imminent threat, but I also asked them what their alternatives were. And they gave very vague, vague answers.
I asked them, where is the surge of diplomacy that we would be seeing if I was president? And I asked them where they were going to leave the Iraqi people. Time and time again, you see that this president puts his own interests, his private interests, in front of our country's. I would put our country's interests first as commander-in- chief.
BLITZER: Senator Warren, leave combat troops, at least some combat troops in the Middle East, or bring them home?
WARREN: No, I think we need to get our combat troops out. You know, we have to stop this mindset that we can do everything with combat troops. Our military is the finest military on Earth and they will take any sacrifice we ask them to take. But we should stop asking our military to solve problems that cannot be solved militarily. Our keeping combat troops there is not helping. We need to work with our allies. We need to use our economic tools. We need to use our diplomatic tools.
Now, look, I understand, there are people on this stage, when it comes to Afghanistan, for example, who talk about 5 more years, 10 more years. Shoot, Lindsey Graham talks about leaving troops there for a hundred more years. No one has a solution and an endpoint. We need to get our combat troops out. They are not helping create more safety for the United States or the region.
BLITZER: Vice President Biden, is Senator Warren right?
BIDEN: Well, I tell you what, there's a difference between combat troops and leaving special forces in a position. I was part of the coalition to put together 68 countries to deal with stateless terror as well as failed states. Not us alone, 68 other countries.
That's how we were able to defeat and end the caliphate for ISIS. They'll come back if we do not deal with them and we do not have someone who can bring together the rest of the world to go with us, with small numbers of special forces we have, to organize the effort to take them down.
BLITZER: Mayor Buttigieg, you served in Afghanistan. Who's right?
BUTTIGIEG: We can continue to remain engaged without having an endless commitment of ground troops. But what's going on right now is the president's actually sending more. The very president who said he was going to end endless war, who pretended to have been against the war in Iraq all along -- although we know that's not true -- now has more troops going to the Middle East.
And whenever I see that happen, I think about the day we shipped out and the time that was set aside for saying goodbye to family members. I remember walking with a friend of mine, another lieutenant I trained with, as we walked away, and his one-and-a-half-year-old boy was toddling after him, not understanding why his father wasn't turning back to scoop him up. And it took all the strength he had not to turn around and look at his boy one more time.
That is happening by the thousands right now, as we see so many more troops sent into harm's way. And my perspective is to ensure that that will never happen when there is an alternative as commander-in-chief.
BLITZER: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: Wolf, in America today, our infrastructure is crumbling. Half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck. Eighty-seven million people have no health care or are uninsured or underinsured. We got 500,000 people sleeping out on the streets tonight.
The American people are sick and tired of endless wars which have cost us trillions of dollars. Our job is to rebuild the United Nations, rebuild the State Department, make sure that we have the capability of bringing the world together to resolve international conflict diplomatically and stop the endless wars that we have experienced.
BLITZER: We're going to get to everyone, but, Vice President Biden, you criticized President Trump's decision to kill the Iranian general, Soleimani, without first going to Congress. Are there any circumstances, other than a direct attack on the United States, where you would take military action without congressional approval?
BIDEN: I ran the first time as a 29-year-old kid against the war in Vietnam on the grounds that the only way to take a nation to war is with the informed consent of the American people. The informed consent of the American people.
And with regard to this idea that we can walk away and not have any troops anywhere, including special forces, we -- there's no way you negotiate or have been able to negotiate with terrorists.
You have to be able to form coalitions to be able to defeat them or contain them. If you don't, we end up being the world's policeman again.
They're going to come to us. They've come to us before. They'll come to us again. So it's a fundamental difference than negotiating with other countries. It's fundamentally the requirement that we use our special forces in small numbers to coordinate with other countries to bring together coalitions.
BLITZER: Mr. Vice President, just to be clear, the Obama-Biden administration did not ask Congress for permission multiple times when it took military action. So would the Biden doctrine be different?
BIDEN: No, there was the authorization for the use of military force that was passed by the United States Congress, House, and Senate, and signed by the president. That was the authority. It does not give authority to go into Iran. It gave authority to deal with these other issues.
BLITZER: Mayor Buttigieg?
BUTTIGIEG: That authorization needs to be replaced.
BIDEN: Exactly. And we tried to.
BUTTIGIEG: When we lost troops in Niger, there were members of Congress who admitted they didn't even know we had troops there. And it was all pursuant to an authorization that was passed to deal with Al Qaida and 9/11. And often, Congress has been all too happy to leave aside its role. Now, thanks to Democrats in Congress, that's changing. But the reality is, year after year, Congress didn't want to touch this, either, because it was so politically difficult.
Fundamental truth is, if our troops can summon the courage to go overseas into harm's way, often on deployment after deployment, then we've got to make sure that Congress has the courage to take tough up- or-down votes on whether they ought to be there. And when I am president, anytime -- which I hope will never happen -- but anytime I am compelled to use force and seek that authorization, we will have a three-year sunset, so that the American people are included...
BLITZER: Thank you.
BUTTIGIEG: ... not only in the decision about whether to send troops, but whether to continue.
BLITZER: Thank you. Senator Warren -- we're going to get to everyone -- but, Senator Warren, what about you? Are there any circumstances, other than a direct attack on the United States, where you would take military action without congressional approval?
WARREN: Well, imminent threat. But we need an authorization for the use of military force before we take this nation into combat. That is what the Constitution provides and that is what as commander-in-chief I will do.
But I just want to be clear. Everyone on this stage talks about nobody wants endless war. But the question is, when and how do you plan to get out of it?
You know, on the Senate Armed Services Committee, we have one general after another in Afghanistan who comes in and says, you know, we've just turned the corner and now it's all going to be different. And then what happens? It's all the same for another year. Someone new comes in and we've just turned the corner.
We've turned the corner so many times, we're going in circles in these regions. This has got to stop. It's not enough to say some day we're going to get out. No one on the ground, none of our military can describe what the conditions are for getting out. It's time to get our combat troops home.
BLITZER: Mr. Steyer, would a President Steyer use military force as a deterrent? And if not, under what circumstances would you take military action?
STEYER: I would take military action to protect the lives and safety of American citizens. But what we can see in the Middle East and what this conversation shows is that there is no real strategy that we're trying to accomplish in what we're doing in the Middle East.
Obviously, Mr. Trump has no strategy. He is going from crisis to crisis, from escalation to escalation. But if you look further over the last 20 years, including in the war in Afghanistan, we know from the Washington Post that, in fact, there was no strategy. There was just a series of tactical decisions that made no sense.
So we really have to ask ourselves in the Middle East, what are we trying to accomplish? I agree with Vice President Biden. To do it, we should definitely be doing it in coalition with other countries. And I want to point out that, as we do that, we're confronted by this issue which everyone is talking about.
But at the same time, there's a gigantic climate issue in Australia, which also requires the same kind of value-driven coalition-building that we actually should be using in the Middle East. We need to ask ourselves, how are we going to provide a world that is safer for Americans, where we can prosper more? And every single thing we should do should follow into that strategy. And it's just not happening in Washington, D.C.
PHILLIP: Mayor Buttigieg, another critical issue you'd face as president is the threat of nuclear weapons. Last week, President Trump said, quote, "As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon." Would a President Buttigieg make that same promise?
BUTTIGIEG: Ensuring that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons will, of course, be a priority, because it's such an important part of keeping America safe. But unfortunately, President Trump has made it much harder for the next president to achieve that goal.
By gutting the Iran nuclear deal -- one that, by the way, the Trump administration itself admitted was working, certified that it was preventing progress toward a nuclear Iran -- by gutting that, they have made the region more dangerous and set off the chain of events that we are now dealing with as it escalates even closer to the brink of outright war.
Now -- yes?
BUTTIGIEG: In order to get that done, we've got to work with our partners. The Iran nuclear deal, the technical term for it was the JCPOA. That first letter "J" stood for "Joint." We can't do this alone, even less so now after everything that has happened.
Which is why it will be so critically important to engage leaders, including a lot of new leaders emerging around the world, and ensure that we have the alliances we need to meet what I believe is not just an American goal, but a widely shared goal around the world to ensure that Iran does not become a nuclear-armed country.
PHILLIP: Mayor Buttigieg, to be clear, would you allow Iran to become a nuclear power, yes or no?
BUTTIGIEG: No. Our security depends on ensuring that Iran does not become nuclear. And by the way, we've got a lot of other challenges with nuclear proliferation around the world.
Despite this president's coziness with Vladimir Putin, we actually seem to be further away from being able to work with Russia on things like the renewal of START. We've got to move toward less, not more nuclear danger, whether it is from states, from stateless potential terrorist actors, or anywhere else around the world.
PHILLIP: Thank you, Mayor Buttigieg. Thank you, Mayor Buttigieg. Senator Klobuchar, if you become president, it's very possible there won't be an Iran nuclear deal for the United States to rejoin. Given that, how would you prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon?
KLOBUCHAR: I would start negotiations again. And I won't take that as a given, given that our European partners are still trying to hold the agreement together. My issue is that, because of the actions of Donald Trump, we are in a situation where they are now starting -- Iran is starting to enrich uranium again in violation of the original agreement.
So what I would do is negotiate. I would bring people together, just as President Obama did years ago, and I think that we can get this done. But you have to have a president that sees this as a number-one goal.
And in answer to the original question you asked the mayor, I would not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. And then you have to get an agreement in place. I think there are changes you can make to the agreement that are sunset, some changes to the inspections, but overall, that is what we should do.
And I am the one person on this debate stage, on the first night of the very first debate, when we were asked what we saw as the biggest threat to our world, I said China on the economy, but I said Iran, because of Donald Trump. Because I feared that exactly what happened would happen: enrichment of uranium, escalation of tensions, leaving frayed relations with our allies. We can bring them back, understanding this is a terrorist regime that we cannot allow to have a nuclear weapon.
PHILLIP: Vice President Biden, I want to ask you about North Korea. President Trump has met with Kim Jong-un three times. President Obama once said he would meet with North Korea without any preconditions. Would you meet with North Korea without any preconditions?
BIDEN: No, not now. I wouldn't meet with them without any preconditions. Look, what -- we gave him everything he's looking for, legitimacy. The president showed up, met with him, gave him legitimacy, weakened the sanctions we have against him.
I would be putting what I did as vice president -- I met with Xi Jinping more than anyone else. I would be putting pressure on China to put pressure on Korea, to cease and desist from their nuclear power, make -- their efforts to deal with nuclear weapons. I would move forward as we did before -- and you reported it extensively, Wolf -- about moving forward the whole notion of defense against nuclear weapons, that we would -- and when China said to me, when Xi Jinping said to me, that's a threat to us, I said, we're going to move and protect our interests unless you get involved and protect it.
I would reignite the relationship between Japan and South Korea, and I would put enormous pressure, enormous pressure on China, because that's also in their interests for them to put pressure on North Korea to cease and desist. But I would not, I would not meet with -- absent preconditions, I would not meet with the, quote, "Supreme Leader," who said Joe Biden is a rabid dog, he should be beaten to death with a stick. I count that...
SANDERS: Other than that, you like him?
BIDEN: Other than that, I like him, and he -- he...[laughter]
And he got a love letter from Trump right after that.
PHILLIP: Mr. Steyer, would you meet with North Korea without any preconditions?
STEYER: No. It's very clear that if we're going to do something with North Korea, we're going to have to do it in concert with our allies, that meeting with him without preconditions is not going anywhere, that the staff can meet to try and see how far we can get.
But this is a classic situation where the United States' idea of going it alone makes no sense. And when you are talking about Iran, let's face it. Iran is under great pressure economically. So every single discussion we've had about Iran has had to do with military power and America versus Iran, whereas, in fact, what worked with President Obama was an alliance of our allies and us putting economic pressure on them for them to give up their military tactic. That, to me, is called strategy. Having a goal to make America safer, by looking more broadly...
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you.
STEYER: ... than just us, as the policeman of the world spending money.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Mr. Steyer. Let's stay with the theme of America's role in the world and talk about trade. Tomorrow, President Trump is expected to sign phase one of a trade agreement with China. And the Senate will likely soon approve a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, Iowa's largest trading partners.
Senator Sanders, you have said that new deal, the USMCA, quote, "makes some modest improvements," yet you are going to vote against it. Aren't modest improvements better than no improvements...
SANDERS: No, we can do much...
PFANNENSTIEL: ... for the farmers and manufacturers who have been devastated here in Iowa?
SANDERS: The answer is we could do much better than a Trump-led trade deal. This deal -- and I think the proponents of it acknowledge -- will result in the continuation of the loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs as a result of outsourcing.
The heart and soul of our disastrous trade agreements -- and I'm the guy who voted against NAFTA and against permanent normal trade relations with China -- is that we have forced American workers to compete against people in Mexico, in China, elsewhere, who earn starvation wages, $1 or $2 an hour.
Second of all, every major environmental organization has said no to this new trade agreement because it does not even have the phrase "climate change" in it. And given the fact that climate change is right now the greatest threat facing this planet, I will not vote for a trade agreement that does not incorporate very, very strong principles to significantly lower fossil fuel emissions in the world.
PFANNENSTIEL: But, Senator Sanders, to be clear, the AFL-CIO supports this deal. Are you unwilling to compromise?
SANDERS: The AFL-CIO does. The Machinists Union does not. And every environmental organization in this country, including the Sunrise Organization, who are supporting my candidacy, opposes it.
So I happen to believe -- and I hope we will talk about climate change in a moment -- if we do not get our act together in terms of climate change, the planet that we're going to be leaving our kids and our children -- and our grandchildren will be increasingly unlivable and uninhabitable.
PFANNENSTIEL: We're going to get to climate change, but I'd like to stay on trade. Senator Warren...
SANDERS: Well, they are the same in this issue.
PFANNENSTIEL: Senator Warren, you support the USMCA. Why is Senator Sanders wrong?
WARREN: I do. I wasn't here. I haven't been in Congress long enough to have voted against NAFTA, but I led the fight against the trade deal with Asia and the trade deal with Europe, because I didn't think it was in the interests of the American people, the American workers, or environmental interests.
But we have farmers here in Iowa who are hurting. And they are hurting because of Donald Trump's initiated trade wars. We have workers who are hurting because the agreements that have already been cut really don't have enforcement on workers' rights.
This new trade deal is a modest improvement. Senator Sanders himself has said so. It will give some relief to our farmers. It will give some relief to our workers. I believe we accept that relief, we try to help the people who need help, and we get up the next day and fight for a better trade deal.
We need a coherent trade policy. We need a policy that actually helps our workers, our farmers. We need them at the table, not just to trade policy written for big, international companies. I'm ready to have that fight, but let's help the people who need help right now.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you. Senator Sanders, can you please respond to Senator Warren?
SANDERS: Well, I think that it is not so easy to put together new trade legislation. If this is passed, I think it will set us back a number of years.
Senator Warren is right in saying we need to bring the stakeholders to the table, that -- it is the family farmers here in Iowa and in Vermont and around the country. That is the environmental community. That is the workers. Bottom line here is, I am sick and tired of trade agreements negotiated by the CEOs of large corporations behind doors.
PFANNENSTIEL: Senator Klobuchar, I'd like to bring you in here.
KLOBUCHAR: Brianne, I want to hit reality here. I serve on the Agriculture Committee, and I will never forget going to Crawfordsville here in Iowa -- and thank you for bringing up Iowa, Brianne, since that is where we are -- and I went to this plant and there was one worker left in that plant. That plant had been shut down because of Donald Trump's trade policies and because of what he had done to those workers with giving secret waivers to oil companies and ruining the renewable fuel standard. That worker brought out a coat rack of uniforms and he said, these are my friends, they don't work anymore. And their names were embroidered on those uniforms, Derek, Mark, Salvador. And that guy started to cry.
These are real people hurt by Donald Trump's trade war. So what we should do, and I support the USMCA, I am glad that these improvements were made that are supported by people like Richard Trumka and Sherrod Brown on labor and environment and on pharma, the sweetheart deal...
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: ... because I think we need a big trading block...
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Senator Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: ... with North America to take on China. And the way you are stronger...
PFANNENSTIEL: Senator Klobuchar, your time is up.
KLOBUCHAR: ... China is with our allies.
PFANNENSTIEL: Mayor Buttigieg, do you support the USMCA, yes or no?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, it has been improved, it is not perfect. But when you sit down with the people who are most impacted, they share just how much harm has been done to them by things like the trade war and just how much we can benefit, American consumers and workers and farmers, by making sure we have the right kind of labor and enforceability, as Democrats ensured we got in this USMCA.
But let's acknowledge why there is such fear and frustration. You know, my part of the country, in the industrial Midwest, I remember when they came around in the '90s, selling trade deals, telling us, don't worry about your slice of the pie, the pie will get so much bigger that everyone will be better off. And that promise was broken.
The part about the pie getting bigger happened. It's just that the part about it getting to most people where I live did not. That is why there is such frustration, the sense that these decisions in boardrooms...
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you.
BUTTIGIEG: ... and in committee rooms in Washington are being made not based on what's best for us...
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Mayor Buttigieg.
BUTTIGIEG: ... but based on their own gain.
PFANNENSTIEL: Vice President Biden, Senator Sanders has said that Donald Trump will, quote, "eat your lunch" for voting yes on what he calls terrible trade agreements. When it comes to trade, why are you the best candidate to take on President Trump?
BIDEN: There will be no trade agreements signed in my administration without environmentalists and labor at the table. And there will be no trade agreement until we invest more in American workers. We should be putting our money and our effort and our time in preparing American workers to compete in the 21st Century on the high-tech side, dealing with all artificial intelligence. We should be focusing on equipping American workers to do that.
And by the way, the idea -- I don't know that there's any trade agreement that the senator would ever think made any sense, but the problem is that 95 percent of the customers are out there. So we better figure out how we begin to write the rules of the road, not China.
PFANNENSTIEL: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: Joe and I have a fundamental disagreement here, in case you haven't noticed. And that is NAFTA, PNTR with China, other trade agreements were written for one reason alone. And that is to increase the profits of large multi-national corporations. And the end result of those two, just PNTR with China, Joe, and NAFTA, cost us some 4 million jobs, as part of the race to the bottom.
I am sick and tired and will not tolerate, and we will use the power of the federal contracting system. If a corporation in America wants to shut down in Iowa or Vermont or any place else, and then they think they're going to get on line for our generous federal contract, they've got another thing going.
We need some corporate responsibility here and we need to protect good-paying jobs in America, not see them go to China, Mexico, Vietnam, and all these other countries.
PFANNENSTIEL: Mr. Vice president, what's your response?
BIDEN: We need corporate responsibility and I agree with that completely. But we also need to have enforcement mechanisms in the agreements we make. Enforceable agreements. That's one of the things that has been improved with the trade agreement with Mexico. And that's what we should be doing in any agreement we have.
But let's get back to the basics here. If we don't set the rules of the road by going out to our partners, instead of poking our eye -- excuse me, poking our finger in the eye of all of our friends and allies, we make up 25 percent of the world's economy. We've got to bring the other 25 percent of our allies along with us to set the rules of the road so China cannot continue to abuse their power by stealing our intellectual property and doing all the other things, using their corporate state system to our significant disadvantage.
PFANNENSTIEL: Senator Warren?
WARREN: You know, our problem is not just that we need corporate responsibility. It has been the structure of how these trade deals have been negotiated. The United States has had this strategy for decades.
And that strategy has been to have government trade negotiators, a small number, and then surround them with giant multi-national corporation lobbyists and corporate executives, who whisper in the ears of our negotiators and then get deals cut that are great for the giant multi-national corporations, not good for America, not good for American workers, not good for the environment.
We need a different approach to trade and it starts by calling out the corruption of these giant corporations that have cut our trade deals. Everybody wants to get to the American market. And we need to put some standards in place. You want to be able to sell your goods here, then you've got to meet some environmental standards. You've got to meet labor standards.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Senator Warren.
WARREN: We need a...
WARREN: ... approach.
PFANNENSTIEL: I would like to bring in Mr. Steyer here.
Mr. Steyer, even though farmers and manufacturers here in Iowa and around the country could see some relief from the China deal, they've been crushed by the current administration's trade war. What will you do as president to help them get back on their feet?
STEYER: Look, on the first day, I would undo Mr. Trump's tariffs. On the first day, I would get rid of his waivers that Senator Klobuchar was referring to, to oil refiners, so that not having to use corn- based ethanol.
In fact, these trade deals have been exactly what Senator Sanders and Warren have been saying, which is that they've been designed to grow the American GDP for the corporations of America, not for the working people of America, and not to protect the climate.
So let me say this. I'm the only person on this stage who says climate is my number one priority. I would not sign this deal, because if climate is your number one priority, you can't sign a deal, even if it's marginally better for working people until climate is also taken into consideration.
Look, I've got four kids between the ages of 26 and 31. I cannot allow this country to go down the path of climate destruction. Everybody in their generation knows it. Frankly, Mayor Buttigieg, you're their generation. I think you would be standing up more -- look, that's why I'm standing up for it.
We cannot put climate on the backseat all the time and say we're going to sign this one more deal, we're going to do one more thing without putting climate first. That's why it's my number one priority. We can do it in a way that makes us richer, but we have to do it.
PFANNENSTIEL: Mayor Buttigieg, your response?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, that's right. This issue is personal for me. It's why we're going to tackle climate from day one. It's why we've got to make sure that we have better answers than we do today. Now, what I've noticed is, pretty much all of us propose that we move on from fossil fuels by the middle of the century, starting with actions that we take right now.
The question is, how are we going to make sure any of this actually gets done? Because people have been saying the right things in these debates for literally decades. The other day in Winterset, there was a kid at one of my events, raised his hand and he pointed out that he expects to be here in his 90s in the year 2100.
He will sit in judgment over what we do, not just what we on this stage do, anyone old enough to vote right now, whether we actually put together the national project it will require to meet our climate goals, to act aggressively, not just re-joining the Paris Climate Accord, that's table stakes, but to actually move on from the fossil- dependent economy we live in today.
PHILLIP: Let's now turn to -- let's now turn to an issue that's come up in the last 48 hours. Senator Sanders, CNN reported yesterday that -- and Senator Sanders, Senator Warren confirmed in a statement, that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?
SANDERS: Well, as a matter of fact, I didn't say it. And I don't want to waste a whole lot of time on this, because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want. Anybody knows me knows that it's incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be president of the United States.
Go to YouTube today. There's a video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States. In 2015, I deferred, in fact, to Senator Warren. There was a movement to draft Senator Warren to run for president. And you know what, I said -- stayed back. Senator Warren decided not to run, and I then -- I did run afterwards.
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes. How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become president of the United States? And let me be very clear. If any of the women on this stage or any of the men on this stage win the nomination, I hope that's not the case, I hope it's me. [laughter]
But if they do, I will do everything in my power to make sure that they are elected in order to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of our country. [applause]
PHILLIP: So Senator Sanders -- Senator Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you're saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?
SANDERS: That is correct.
PHILLIP: Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election? [laughter]
WARREN: I disagreed. Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But, look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it's time for us to attack it head-on.
And I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people's winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump?
Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. [laughter]
The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they've been in are the women...[applause]...Amy and me.
KLOBUCHAR: So true. [applause]
So true. [applause]
WARREN: And the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30 years is me.
And here's what I know. The real danger that we face as Democrats is picking a candidate who can't pull our party together or someone who takes for granted big parts of the Democratic constituency.
We need a candidate who will excite all parts of the Democratic Party, bring everyone in and give everyone a Democrat to believe in. That's my plan and that is why I'm going to win.
PHILLIP: Senator Klobuchar... [applause]
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
PHILLIP: Senator Klobuchar, what do you say to people who don't...
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Elizabeth.
PHILLIP: Senator Klobuchar, what do you say...
KLOBUCHAR: I would like to point out...
PHILLIP: Senator Klobuchar, let me finish my question.
KLOBUCHAR: Oh, OK. [laughter]
PHILLIP: What do you say to people who...
KLOBUCHAR: I thought it was such an open-end -- I wasn't at the meeting, so I can't comment, but I was going to say...[laughter]
PHILLIP: What do you say to people who say that a woman can't win this election?
KLOBUCHAR: I hear that. People have said it. That's why I've addressed it from this stage. I point out that you don't have to be the tallest person in the room. James Madison was 5'4". You don't have to be the skinniest person in the room. You don't have to be the loudest person. You have to be competent.
And when you look at the facts, Michigan has a woman governor right now and she beat a Republican, Gretchen Whitmer. Kansas has a woman governor right now and she beat Kris Kobach. And her name is -- I'm very proud to know her, and her name is Governor Kelly. Thank you.
Third, I would add to this, you have to be competent to win and you have to know what you're doing. And when you look at what I have done, I have won every race, every place, every time. I have won in the reddest of districts. I have won in the suburban areas, in the rural areas. I have brought people with me.
That is why I have the most endorsements of current Iowa legislators and former Iowa legislators in this race.
PHILLIP: Thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: Because they know I bring people with me.
And finally, every single person...
PHILLIP: Thank you, Senator Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: ... that I have beaten, my Republican opponents, have gotten out of politics for good. [laughter]
And I think -- I think that sounds pretty good. I think that sounds pretty good with the guy we have in the White House right now. [laughter]
PHILLIP: Senator Sanders, you can respond.
SANDERS: Well, just to set the record straight, I defeated an incumbent Republican running for Congress.
That's how I won, beat a republican congressman. [laughter]
WARREN: Thirty years ago.
SANDERS: ... of course, I don't think there's any debate up here...
WARREN: Wasn't it 30 years ago?
SANDERS: I beat an incumbent Republican congressman.
WARREN: And I said I was the only one who's beaten an incumbent Republican in 30 years. [laughter]
SANDERS: Well, 30 years ago is 1990, as a matter of fact. [laughter]
But I don't know that that's the major issue of the day. I think what the major issue of the day is -- let's -- does anybody in their right mind think that a woman cannot be elected president?
That's -- nobody believes that. Of -- Hillary Clinton got 3 million votes, more votes than Trump. So who believes that a woman can't win? Of course, a woman can win.
But the real question is, how do we beat Trump?
And the only way we beat Trump is by a campaign of energy and excitement and a campaign that has, by far, the largest voter turnout in the history of this country. And I believe that our campaign has the strongest grassroots movement...
PHILLIP: Thank you.
SANDERS: We have been endorsed by many grassroots organizations...
PHILLIP: Senator Warren --
SANDERS: That's why...
PHILLIP: Senator Warren, I want to give you the final word.
WARREN: So I do think it's the right question, "How do we beat Trump?"
And here's the thing. Since Donald Trump was elected, women candidates have out-performed men candidates in competitive races.
And in 2018, we took back the House; we took back statehouses, because of women candidates and women voters.
Look, don't deny that the question is there. Back in the 1960s, people asked, "Could a Catholic win?"
Back in 2008, people asked if an African-American could win.
In both times the Democratic Party stepped up and said yes, got behind their candidate and we changed America. That's who we are. [applause]
PHILLIP: Vice President Biden?
Vice President Biden, go ahead.
BIDEN: I agree women can win. And I have went in and campaigned for 27 of them this last -- in 2018, the best group I've ever campaigned for, in terms of competence.
But the real issue is who can bring the whole party together, represents all elements of the party, African-American, brown, black, women, men, gay, straight. The fact of the matter is that -- I would argue that, in terms of endorsements around the country, endorsements wherever we go, I am the one who has the broadest coalition of anyone running up here in this race.
PHILLIP: All right. We're going to take a short break now. The CNN Democratic presidential debate, live from Drake University, will be back right after this. [applause]
BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Democratic presidential debate, live from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. [applause]
PHILLIP: Let's turn to health care, the top issue for Iowa Democrats.
Donald Trump is trying to repeal Obamacare, including the protections for pre-existing conditions.
We all know that each of you vigorously opposes that. Still, there are some questions about what each of you would do.
Senator Sanders, you have consistently refused to say exactly how much your Medicare For All plan is going to cost. Don't voters deserve to see the price tag before you send them a bill that could cost tens of trillions of dollars?
SANDERS: Well, what I will tell you is Medicare For All, which will guarantee comprehensive health care to every man, woman and child, will cost substantially less than the status quo.
Medicare For All will end the absurdity of the United States paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and health care in general, while we have 87 million uninsured -- uninsured and underinsured, and while 30,000 people die each year.
Under Medicare For All, one of the provisions we have to pay for it is a 4 percent tax on income, exempting the first $29,000. So the average family in America that today makes $60,000 would pay $1,200 a year, compared to that family paying $12,000 a year. We save money, comprehensive health care, because we take on the greed and the profiteering and the administrative nightmare that currently exists in our dysfunctional system.
PHILLIP: Vice President Biden, does Senator Sanders owe voters a price tag on his health care plan?
BIDEN: I think we need to be candid with voters. I think we have to tell them what we're going to do and what it's going to cost. And a 4 percent tax on income over $24,000 doesn't even come close to paying for between $30 trillion, and some estimates as high as $40 trillion over 10 years.
That's doubling the entire federal budget per year. There's a way to do that. The way to do that is to take Obamacare, reinstate -- rebuild it, provide a public option, allow Medicare for those folks who want it, and in fact make sure that we, in the process, reduce the cost of -- of drug prices, reduce the cost of being able to buy into the -- subsidize it further, and make it everybody -- available to everyone.
Here's the deal. That costs a lot of money. That costs $740 billion over 10 years. I lay out how I'd pay for that.
PHILLIP: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: Well, first of all, what Joe forgets to say is, when you leave the current system as it is, what you are talking about are workers paying on average 20 percent of their incomes for health care. That is insane.
You've got 500,000 people going bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills. We're spending twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country.
Look, we have talked about health care for all -- in this country -- for over 100 years. Now is the time to take on the greed and corruption of the health care industry, of the drug companies, and finally provide health care to all through a Medicare For All single- payer program.
It won't be easy, but that is what we have to do. [applause]
BIDEN: You can do it without that. You can do it without Medicare For All. You can get the same place.
SANDERS: No, you can't.
PHILLIP: Senator Klobuchar, your response?
KLOBUCHAR: Yeah. Senator Sanders and I have worked together on pharmaceuticals for a long, long time. And we agree on this. But what I don't agree with is that we -- his position on health care.
This debate isn't real. I was in Vegas the other day and someone said "Don't put your chips on a number on the wheel that isn't even on the wheel."
That's the problem. Over two-thirds of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate are not on the bill that you and Senator Warren are on. You have numerous governors that are Democratic that don't support this. You have numerous House members that put Nancy Pelosi in as speaker.
The answer is a non-profit public option. The answer is — the real debate we should be having is how do we make it easier for people to get coverage for addiction and mental health. I have a plan for that.
And then, finally, what should we do about long-term care? The elephant that doesn't even fit in this room. We need to make it easier for people to get long-term care insurance. We need to make it easier for them to pay for their premiums.
My own dad, I know when his long-term care insurance ends, and then we have some savings for him. He's in assisted living. He got married three times — whole other story — so there isn't much there.
But then we go to Medicaid, and I've already talked to Catholic Elder Care.
PHILLIP: Thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: They're willing to take him in. Our story is better than so many other families. We have to make it easier for long-term care.
PHILLIP: Thank you. Thank you, Sen. Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: It's not just for seniors. It's also for the sandwich generation.
PHILLIP: Thank you, Sen. Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: People trying to help their parents.
PHILLIP: Sen. Warren?
WARREN: So we need to start with what's happening in America. People are suffering. I'll just pick one: 36 million people last year went to the doctor, got a prescription, this is what they needed to get well, and they couldn't afford to have the prescription filled. They looked at it and said it's either groceries or this prescription.
My approach to this is we've got to get as much as help to as many people as quickly as possible. I have worked out a plan where we can do that without raising taxes on middle-class families by one thin dime.
What I can do are the things I can do as president on the first day. We can cut the cost of prescription drugs. I'll use the power that's already given to the president to reduce the cost of insulin and EpiPens and HIV-AIDS drugs. Let's get some relief to those families. And I will defend the Affordable Care Act.
I've got a plan to expand health care, but let's keep in mind, when we come to a general election, we Democrats may argue among each other about the best way to do health care, but we're going to be up against a Republican incumbent who has cut health care for millions of people and is still trying to do that. I'll take our side of the argument any day. We're going to beat him on this.
PHILLIP: Thank you. Thank you, Sen. Warren. Vice President Biden? [applause]
BIDEN: The proposal I lay out does, in fact, limit drug cost. It sets up — it allows all the drug companies — excuse me, it allows you to — Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for the price. It sets a system whereby you cannot raise the price of a drug beyond the cost of medical inflation. And by the way, there's mental health parity that I call for in the Obamacare expanded with the Biden option.
PHILLIP: Mr. Steyer?
STEYER: Look, we've had this conversation on this stage so many times. Everybody on this stage believes that affordable health care is a right for every single American. Everybody on this stage knows that Americans are paying twice as much for health care as any other advanced country in the world. And it makes no sense and the government has to step in.
I do happen to agree with Vice President Biden that we should move and develop the Affordable Care Act with a public option. But the real question is this. This is not a new problem. Why do we keep having this conversation? We have a broken government. It has been bought by corporations that include the drug companies, the insurance companies, and the private hospitals.
That's what I'm talking about. How do we get back government of, by, and for the people? How do we actually break...
PHILLIP: Thank you.
STEYER: ... the corporate stranglehold on our government so that we can get any of these things passed?
PHILLIP: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Steyer. Thank you, Mr. Steyer.
Sen. Sanders, your campaign proposals would double federal spending over the next decade, an unprecedented level of spending not seen since World War II. How would you keep your plans from bankrupting the country?
SANDERS: No, our plan wouldn't bankrupt the country. And, in fact, it would much improve the well-being of working-class families and the middle class.
Let us be clear what Medicare for all does. It ends all premiums. It ends all copayments. It ends the absurdity of deductibles. It ends out-of-pocket expenses. It takes on the pharmaceutical industry, which in some cases charges us 10 times more for the same prescription drugs sold abroad as sold here.
What we will do through a Medicare for all single-payer program is substantially lower the cost of health care for employers and workers, because we end the $100 billion a year that the health care industry makes and the $500 billion a year we spend in administrative — the administrative nightmare of dealing with thousands of separate insurance plans.
Health care is a human right. Every other major country on Earth is guaranteeing health care for all. The time is long overdue for us to do the same.
PHILLIP: Sen. Klobuchar?
KLOBUCHAR: Again, I think it is much better to build on the Affordable Care Act. And if you want to be practical and progressive at the same time and have a plan and not a pipedream, you have to show how you're going to pay for it.
And I would also note practically that the Affordable Care Act right now is 10 points more popular than the president of the United States. So I think the answer is to build on it.
And, yes, I think you should show how you're going to pay for things, Bernie. I do. This president is treating people out there like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos the way he is adding to our debt.
I am the one person up here who has on her website in her plan a plan to actually start taking on the deficit, by taking part of that money from that corporate tax cut that they put in there and putting it in a fund to pay back the deficit.
PHILLIP: Thank you. Thank you, Sen. Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: And I have shown how I'm going to pay for every single plan...
PHILLIP: Thank you, Sen. Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: ... capital gains tax going to the personal level, getting rid of oil giveaways.
PHILLIP: Let's move on.
KLOBUCHAR: Doing something about the hedge fund loophole. You can go through...
PHILLIP: Sen. Klobuchar, your time is up. Let's move on to the next question.
KLOBUCHAR: ... and we can get the money to pay for things.
PHILLIP: Mayor Buttigieg, you're selling your plan as Medicare for all who want it, yet your plan would automatically enroll uninsured Americans into a public option, even if they don't want it, and force them to pay for it. How is that truth in advertising?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, it's making sure that there is no such thing as an uninsured American. Look, the individual mandate was an important part of the ACA because the system doesn't work if there are free riders.
What I'm offering is a choice. You don't have to be in my plan if there's another plan that you would rather keep. And there's no need to kick Americans off the plans that they want in order to deliver health care for all.
And my plan is paid for. Look, our party should no longer hesitate to talk about the issue of the debt and the deficit. Now, we've got a dramatically better track record on it than Republicans do. In my lifetime, it's almost invariably Republican presidents who have added to the deficit, a trillion dollars under this president. And it's why everything I've put forward — from Medicare for all who want it to the historic investments we're going to make in infrastructure to dealing with climate change — is fully paid for.
When it comes to health care, you can do it in two moves. Of course, my plan costs $1.5 trillion over a decade. No small sum. But not the $20 trillion, $30 trillion, $40 trillion that we're hearing about from the others. All you've got to do is two things, both of them are commonsense. Allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and roll back the Trump corporate tax cuts that went to corporations and the wealthy that didn't even need it.
PHILLIP: Sen. Warren?
WARREN: So I started this by talking about 36 million Americans, including Americans with insurance, who just can't even afford to have a prescription filled. We all talk about plans, health care plans that we have, and these plans are paid for.
The problem is that plans like the mayor's and like the vice president's is that they are an improvement. They are an improvement over where we are right now. But they're a small improvement. And that's why it is that they cost so much less, because by themselves, they're not going to be enough to cover prescriptions for 36 million people who can't afford to get them filled.
What we need to do is make the commitment that we know where the money comes from. We can ask those at the very top, the top 1 percent, to pay a little more. Those giant corporations like Chevron and Amazon who paid nothing in taxes, we can have them pay. And we can go after the corporate tax cheats. And when we do that, we have enough money to provide health care for all our people.
Yes, we build on the Affordable Care Act, but where we end up is we offer health care to all of our people. And we can offer it at no cost or low cost to all of them.
PHILLIP: Mayor Buttigieg?
BUTTIGIEG: It's just not true that the plan I'm proposing is small. We've got to move past a Washington mentality that suggests that the bigness of plans only consists of how many trillions of dollars they put through the Treasury, that the boldness of a plan only consists of how many Americans it can alienate.
This would be a game-changer. This would be the biggest thing we've done to American health care in a half-century. Let's measure the effects of our plans based on what they would do in our everyday lives.
And, yes, we're taking on cost. On prescription drugs, we'll have an out-of-pocket cap, even if you don't get the subsidies that would make it free, a $250 monthly cap. And here's why it's got to be monthly. You ever been in that situation or known somebody who finds that they've got to defer a procedure or delay filling a prescription to try to have it happen in the right month because of when your out-of-pocket cap hits?
It makes no sense medically because most of us don't experience the economy on an annual basis. Our bills don't come in every year. They come in every month. Same with our paychecks, biweekly or monthly.
PHILLIP: Thank you.
BUTTIGIEG: That's why we set this up in a way to solve the problem without running up $20 trillion, $30 trillion, $40 trillion bills.
PHILLIP: Thank you, Mayor Buttigieg. Sen. Warren, your response?
WARREN: Look, the numbers that the mayor is offering just don't add up. The average family in America last year paid $12,000 in some combination of deductibles and co-pays and uncovered expenses and fees. You can't cover that with the kind of money that the mayor is talking about.
The way we have to approach this is we've got to build this and we've got to build the alliances to make this happen. I can bring down the cost of prescription drugs like insulin and take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the system immediately in costs. We can get help to families.
But we have to be willing to work together. We can let people experience what health care is like when it's you and your doctor, your mental health professional, your nurse practitioner, with no insurance company standing in the middle.
PHILLIP: Thank you. Thank you, Sen. Warren.
WARREN: When people try it and use it, then...
PHILLIP: Sen. Klobuchar?
KLOBUCHAR: Sen. Warren, you acknowledged that Medicare for all — that you couldn't get there right away. You got on the bill that said on page eight, which is why I didn't get on it, that you would kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance. Then, a few months ago, you said, no, you're going to wait a while to get there.
And I think that was some acknowledgment that maybe what we're talking about is true. And I don't buy that it's not enough. It is a big, big step to say to people making $100,000 that your premiums will be cut in half, which is what the nonprofit public option will do.
And as you talk, Mayor Buttigieg, about Medicare and having negotiation, I actually have led that bill for years. I have 34 cosponsors. As president, I can get it done. That would allow Medicare to finally negotiate and lift the ban that big pharma got into law that says they can't negotiate for better prices for our seniors.
KLOBUCHAR: I will get it done.
PHILLIP: Sen. Sanders, coming to you now. CNN reached out to Iowa Democratic voters for their most pressing questions. Edward from here in Des Moines writes, "Des Moines is an insurance town. What happens to all the insurance industry — the health insurance industry here if there is Medicare for all? What happens to all the jobs and the livelihoods of the people that live in insurance towns like Des Moines?"
SANDERS: We build in to our Medicare for all program a transition fund of many, many billions of dollars that will provide for up to five years income and health care and job training for those people.
But here is the issue. Tom Steyer made the point a moment ago. We are now spending twice as much per person on health care as do the people of any other country. That is insane. In some cases, 10 times more for prescription drugs. Why is that? Why is that? And the answer is: the greed and corruption of the drug companies and the insurance companies.
And if we want to do what every other major country on Earth does and guarantee people health care is a human right, not a privilege, you know what we have to do? We are finally going to have to stand up to the health care industry...
STEYER: Can I respond to this?
SANDERS: ... and end hundreds of billions of dollars of waste and profiteering.
PHILLIP: Mr. Steyer?
STEYER: I just want to emphasize what Sen. Sanders said. This is not a complicated problem. Between what Sen. Warren and Sen. Sanders said, it's clear. There are two problems. We're spending way too much because corporations own the system and we're not negotiating against those corporations.
And we've given tax cuts to the richest Americans and the biggest corporations for decades. That's all this is. We have corporations who are having their way with the American people and people are suffering.
Sen. Warren is right. This is cruelty for money. In order to break this, we're going to have to break the corporate stranglehold and solve both the tax and the negotiating problem. That's why I'm for term limits. We need to redo Washington, D.C., and...
PHILLIP: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Steyer.
STEYER: ... actually take back the government from the corporations who've bought it.
PHILLIP: Thank you, Mr. Steyer. Vice President Biden?
BIDEN: I would argue that the biggest breakthrough in recent time was us being able to do in our administration what five — five Democratic presidents couldn't get done, and that is pass Obamacare. It was a big deal.
Secondly, I would argue that the way you control drug prices is you limit what they can charge for those prices. You don't have to pay the price. Limit what they can charge. If, in fact, they charge more than we set the price for, they can — they can, in fact — we can — people can import from abroad, assuming that it is — it is — it is safe.
We, in fact — it's only yellow, Wolf, OK? And we can, in fact, do all of this and still provide people the option to stay — the roughly 150 to 160 million Americans who like the negotiated plan they have with their employers. If they don't like it, or the employer gets rid of it, they can buy into a Medicare plan in the Biden plan.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit more about prescription drugs right now. Prescription drug prices in 2018, Americans spent $335 billion on prescription drugs alone. That's about $60 billion more than they paid a decade ago.
Sen. Warren, you've called for the creation of a government-run drug manufacturer that would step in if there is a drug shortage or a price spike. Why does it make sense for the government — for the government to manufacture drugs, especially when public trust in government is near historic lows?
WARREN: So, let's do this both ways. What I also have said is, I'm just going to use the power that is available and I will do what a president can do all by herself on the very first day, and that is lower the prices of certain prescription drugs. I will lower the price of insulin.
We already have the legal authority with the president to do that. The president just hasn't picked up and used it. I will lower the price of EpiPens, of HIV-AIDS drugs. That's going to bring a lot of relief to a lot of families immediately.
But, you know, there are a whole lot of drugs, about 90 percent of drugs, that are not under patent. They're generic drugs. But the drug industry has figured out how to manipulate this industry to keep jerking the prices up and up and up.
So my view is, let's give them a little competition. The government lets contracts for all kind of things. They let contracts to build buildings. They let contracts to build military weapons. Let's let the contracts out. Put the contracts out so that we can put more generic drugs out there and drive down those prices.
This is a way to make markets work, not to try to move away from the market. You don't have to even use price controls. The whole idea behind it is get some competition out there so the price of these drugs that are no longer under patent drops where it should be.
BLITZER: Sen. Klobuchar, do you believe the government should be manufacturing drugs?
KLOBUCHAR: I am open to looking at it, but I would try these things first. Number one, I mention the Medicare negotiation. Number two, I have a plan, 137 things I've found that a president can do herself in the first 100 days without Congress — that are legal. [laughter]
And one of those things is that you can start bringing in less expensive drugs from other countries. Bernie and I had an amendment on this. We got 14 Republican votes on it. It was at midnight. They might have not known what they were voting for. But we got that. [laughter]
I now have an actual bill with Sen. Grassley that does that. And I have a bill to get at what Elizabeth was talking about, which is to stop generics from taking money from big pharmaceuticals to keep their products off the market.
The issue here is that there are two pharma lobbyists for every member of the Congress.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Senator.
KLOBUCHAR: They think they own Washington. They don't own me.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Sen. Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: And as president, I will get this done.
PFANNENSTIEL: We're going to turn now to childcare, a huge expense for many new families and a problem that's especially acute in rural Iowa. We have another question for an Iowa Democratic voter.
Mayor Buttigieg, this is for you. Tiffany from Clive writes, as a young mom, I had to quit a job I love because childcare costs were taking up two-thirds of my income. Many families don't have the option of quitting a job because that little bit of income is needed. That leads to families using whatever care they can find, and sometimes the results are deadly, as we've seen in Iowa over the last few years. How will you prioritize accessing quality, affordable child care in your first 100 days in office?
BUTTIGIEG: It makes no sense for childcare to cost two-thirds of somebody's income. We've to drive it to 7 percent or below, and zero for those families who are living in poverty.
But this is happening to folks at every level of the income spectrum. I meet professionals who sometimes say that they're working in order to be able to afford childcare in order to be able to be working. It makes no sense, and it must change, and we shouldn't be afraid to put federal dollars into making that a reality.
Subsidizing childcare and making sure that we are building up a workforce of people who are paid at a decent level to offer early childhood education, as well as childcare writ large. We can do that.
And until we do, this will be one of the biggest drivers of the gender pay gap. Because when somebody like the voter asking the question has to step out of the workforce because of that reason, she is at a disadvantage when she comes back in, and that can affect her pay for the rest of her career.
PFANNENSTIEL: Sen. Warren, your education plan includes tuition-free public college for all, but you impose an income limit for free childcare. Why do your plans cover everyone for public college, but not childcare and early learning?
WARREN: No, actually, my plan is universal childcare for everyone. It just has some people adding a small payment.
But understand this about the plan. I've been there. You know, I remember when I was a young mom. I had two little kids, and I had my first real university teaching job. It was hard work. I was excited. But it was childcare that nearly brought me down. We went through one childcare after another, and it just didn't work.
If I hadn't been saved by my Aunt Bee — I was ready to quit my job. And I think about how many women of my generation just got knocked off the track and never got back on, how many of my daughter's generation get knocked off the track and don't get back on, how many mamas and daddies today are getting knocked off the track and never get back on.
I have a two cent wealth tax so that we can cover childcare for all of our children, and provide universal pre-K for every 3-year-old and 4-year-old in America, and stop exploiting the people who do this valuable work, largely black and brown women. We can raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher in America. That's an investment in our babies. That's an investment in their mamas and their daddies. And it's an investment in our teachers and in our economy.
PFANNENSTIEL: Sen. Sanders, will your... [applause]
WARREN: It's what we need to do.
PFANNENSTIEL: ... universal childcare program be free for everyone regardless of income?
SANDERS: Yeah. Let me pick up on this childcare thing. Every psychologist in the world knows zero through 4 are the most important years of human life, intellectually and emotionally. And yet our current childcare system is an embarrassment, it is unaffordable. Childcare workers are making wages lower than McDonald's workers.
We need to fundamentally change priorities in America. We should not be one of a few countries that does not have universal high-quality affordable childcare. We should not be one of the only major countries not to guarantee health care to all people as a human right. We should not be spending more than the 10 next countries on the military, hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, tax breaks for billionaires, and then tell the moms and dads in this country we cannot have high-quality affordable childcare.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Senator. Vice President Biden, I'm coming to you now.
SANDERS: That is wrong.
PFANNENSTIEL: Vice President Biden, infant care is more expensive than in-state public college tuition in more than half the country. Do you support free universal infant care?
BIDEN: There should be free universal infant care, but here's the deal. You know, I was a single parent, too. When my wife and daughter were killed, my two boys I had to raise. I was a senator, a young senator. I just hadn't been sworn in yet. And I was making $42,000 a year.
I commuted every single solitary day to Wilmington, Delaware, over 500 miles a day — excuse me, 250 miles a day, because I could not afford but for my family childcare. It was beyond my reach to be able to do it.
And that's why there are several things we do. When I triple the amount of money for Title I schools, every child, 3, 4, and 5 years old, will, in fact, have full schooling. They'll go to school and after-school programs, which will release some of the burden.
Secondly, I think we should have an $8,000 tax credit which would put 7 million women back to work that could afford to go to work and still care for their children as an $8,000 tax credit. I also believe that we should, in fact, for people who, in fact, are not able to afford any of the infant care to be able to get that care.
But Bernie's right. We have to raise the salaries of the people who are doing the care. And I provide for that, as well. My time is up, I know, but I'm not going to go over like everybody. [laughter]
PFANNENSTIEL: Mayor Buttigieg — Mayor Buttigieg, higher education is another huge expense for families. You oppose free public college for all because you don't want to make it, quote, "free for the kids of millionaires." But lots of public services are available to the kids of rich people, like libraries and public schools. Why do you draw the line at public colleges and universities?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, it's simple. We expect and hope for everyone to get through 12th grade. It's not the same for college. Now, again, I don't want cost ever to be a barrier to somebody seeking to attend college. And under my plan, it won't be.
As a matter of fact, for the first 80 percent of Americans by income, it is free at public colleges. But if you're in that top income bracket, don't get me wrong, I still wish you well. I hope you succeed when you go to college. I just need you to go ahead and pay that tuition, because we could be using those dollars for something else.
There is a very real choice about what we do with every single taxpayer dollar that we raise, and we need to be using that to support everybody, whether you go to college or not, making sure that Americans can thrive, investing in infrastructure, and something that hasn't come up very much tonight but deserves a lot of attention, poverty.
You know, the Poor People's Campaign is marching on Iowa right now calling on us to talk about this issue more. They are driven by their faith. I think because even though in politics we're supposed to talk middle class, they know there's no scripture that says as you've done unto the middle class, so you've done unto me.
We've got to be making sure that we target our tax dollars where they will make the biggest difference. And I don't think subsidizing the children of millionaires and billionaires to pay absolutely zero in tuition at public colleges is the best use of those scarce taxpayer dollars.
PFANNENSTIEL: Sen. Warren?
WARREN: So, look, the way I think we need to do this is we need a wealth tax in America. We need to ask people with fortunes above $50 million to pay more. And that means that the lowliest millionaire that I would tax under this wealth tax would be paying about $19 million in the first year in taxes.
If he wants to send his kid to public university, then I'm OK with that, because what we really need to talk about is the bigger economic picture here. We need to be willing to put a wealth tax in place, to ask those giant corporations that are not paying to pay, because that's how we build an economy and, for those who want to talk about it, bring down the national debt.
You do universal childcare and you've got a lot of mamas who can go to work, a lot of mamas who can finish their education. We make that investment in universal college. We've got a lot of people who...
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Senator. Sen. Klobuchar?
KLOBUCHAR: Yeah, you know, I appreciate your thoughts, Elizabeth, but I want to step back. I actually think that some of our colleagues who want free college for all aren't actually thinking big enough.
I think what we have to look at is how we connect our education system with our economy. Where are our job openings? And what do we need? We are going to have over a million openings for home health care workers that we don't know how to fill in the next 10 years. We are going to have open 100,000 jobs for nursing assistants. We— as my union friends know — we're going to have over 70,000 openings for electricians.
We're not going to have a shortage of MBAs. We're going to have a shortage of plumbers. So when we look at that, then we step back. Where should our money go? It should go into K through 12. It should go into free one- and two-year degrees, like my dad got, like my sister got.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Sen. Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: And then we should double the Pell grants, because we're going to need four-year degrees...
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Sen. Klobuchar. Mr. Steyer...
KLOBUCHAR: ... so the money goes where it should go, instead of to rich kids going to college.
PFANNENSTIEL: Mr. Steyer, as a billionaire, should your children have been entitled to free public college?
STEYER: No. And let me say this. I was one of the people who talked about a wealth tax almost a year-and-a-half ago. I believe that the income inequality in this country is unbearable, unjust, and unsupportable, and the redistribution of wealth to the richest Americans from everyone else has to end. And I proposed a wealth tax almost a year-and-a-half ago to start to address it and to raise some of the money that we need.
But I want to go beyond this and go back to this question about education, because we're talking a lot about college. But, in fact, if you talk about the Poor People's Campaign, you have to realize that for the youngest kids, they are getting an education that's relative to the taxes in their neighborhoods. We need to redistribute money so every kid has a chance, so we're not legislating inequality for the next generation, and so we actually invest in every single kid, specifically poor kids, specifically black kids, specifically brown kids. We need to start using the money dramatically more for that.
BLITZER: We'll be back with more from CNN's Democratic presidential debate, live from Des Moines, Iowa. Stay right here.
BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN's Democratic presidential debate. We're live in Des Moines, Iowa.
Tomorrow, the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, will send articles of impeachment against President Trump to the United States Senate, launching the third trial of a U.S. president. The Republican-led Senate has signaled that it is likely to acquit him.
Vice President Biden, if you're the nominee, is it going to be harder to run against President Trump if he's been acquitted and able to claim vindication, especially after what he's said about your family?
BIDEN: It's irrelevant. There's no — there's no choice but to — for Nancy Pelosi and the House to move. He has, in fact, committed impeachable offenses. Whether the Senate makes that judgment or not, it's for them to decide.
But — and, by the way, I'm told that, you know, we — that I don't — I say we have to unite the country and it's going to be harder after this trial. It may be. But, look, you know, I understand how these guys are, this Republican Party. They've got gone after — savaged my surviving son, gone after me, told lies that your networks and others won't even carry on television because they're flat-out lies.
And I did my job. The question is whether or not he did his job. And he hasn't done his job. And so it doesn't really matter whether or not he's gone after me. I've got to be in a position that I think of the American people. I can't hold a grudge. I have to be able to not only fight, but also heal.
And as president of the United States, that's what I will attempt to do, notwithstanding that — we're going to be more division after he's defeated by me this next time.
BLITZER: Sen. Klobuchar, you're going to be a juror in the trial in the Senate that's about to start. Do you worry President Trump will be emboldened by acquittal?
KLOBUCHAR: No. We have a constitutional duty to do — to perform here. And when I look at what the issue is, it's whether or not we're going to be able to have witnesses. We've asked for only four people as witnesses. And if our Republican colleagues won't allow those witnesses, they may as well give the president a crown and a scepter. They may as well make him king. And last time I checked, our country was founded on this idea that we didn't want to be ruled by a king.
And I think the best way to think about this is trial and what we're facing in this election is a story of a man from Primghar, Iowa. His name was Joseph Welch. He came from humble beginnings, a son of immigrants. He became the Army counsel. And he was the one that went to the Joseph McCarthy hearings. And when McCarthy was blacklisting people and going after people because of their political beliefs or supposed political beliefs, there was only one man.
Everyone that was afraid, they were afraid of being blacklisted, Joseph Welch, he stood up and looked at McCarthy and said, have you no sense of decency, sir? Have you no sense of decency. This is a decency check on our government. This is a patriotism check. Not only is this trial that...
BLITZER: Thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: ... but also this election. And no matter if you agree with everyone here on the stage, I say this...
BLITZER: Thank you, Sen. Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: ... to Americans, you know this is a decency check on this president.
BLITZER: Mr. Steyer, you have spent millions and millions of dollars telling the American people that President Trump deserves to be impeached. Will it have been worth if it he has been impeached but not removed from office?
STEYER: Well, Wolf, actually what I have done is to organize a petition drive of 8.5 million Americans to sign and say this president deserves to be impeached and removed from office. And those 8.5 million people have called their congresspeople, have emailed their congresspeople, and have actually dragged Washington, D.C., to see that in fact this is a question of right and wrong and not of political expediency.
So if you ask me whether standing up for what's right in America, standing up for the American people and our safety, standing up for the Constitution, whether doing that and trying to bring the truth in front of the American people in televised hearings so we can decide what the truth is for ourselves, if you think that that isn't worth it, then you don't share the idea that I do about what America is about.
Standing up for what's right is always worth it, Wolf. And I will never back down from that. [applause]
BLITZER: Sen. Warren, a Senate trial is expected to keep you in Washington in the weeks leading up to the Iowa Caucuses here. How big of a problem is that for you as you're making your closing pitch to voters here?
WARREN: Look, some things are more important than politics. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. It says that no one is above the law. That includes the president of the United States. We have an impeachment trial. I will be there because it is my responsibility.
But understand this, what that impeachment trial is going to show once again to the American people, and something we should all be talking about, is the corruption of this administration. That is what lies at heart of it. It is about Donald Trump putting Donald Trump first. Not the American people. Not the interests of the United States of America. Not even helping Ukraine defend against Russia.
It is about him helping himself. That is what we need to do to win this election. We need to draw that distinction and show that as Democrats we're not going to be the people who are just out for the big corporations, people who want to help themselves, that we are going to be the party that is willing to fight on the side of the people. That's why we're here.
PFANNENSTIEL: Let's turn now to the climate crisis. Here in Iowa parts of the state remain under water after record-breaking flooding began last spring, racking up an estimated $2 billion in damages. Today many Iowans are still displaced from their homes.
Mayor Buttigieg, you have talked about helping people move from areas at high risk of flooding. But what do you do about farms and factories that simply can't be moved?
BUTTIGIEG: That's why we have to fight climate change with such urgency. Climate change has come to America from coast to coast. Seeing it in Iowa. We have seen it in historic floods in my community. I had to activate our emergency operation center for a once-in-a-millennium flood. Then two years later had to do the same thing.
In Australia there are literally tornadoes made of fire taking place. This is no longer theoretical and this is no longer off in the future. We have got to act, yes, to adapt, to make sure communities are more resilient, to make sure our economy is ready for the consequences that are going to happen one way or the other.
But we also have to ensure that we don't allow this to get any worse. And if we get right, farmers will be a huge part of the solution. We need to reach out to the very people who have sometimes been made to feel that accepting climate science would be a defeat for them, whether we're talking about farmers or industrial workers in my community, and make clear that we need to enlist them...
PFANNENSTIEL: But, Mayor Buttigieg...
BUTTIGIEG: ... in the national project to do something about it.
PFANNENSTIEL: ... to clarify, what do you do about farms and factories that cannot be relocated?
BUTTIGIEG: We are going to have to use federal funds to make sure that we are supporting those whose lives will inevitably be impacted further by the increased severity and the increased frequency. And by the way, that is happening to farms, that is happening to factories, and that disproportionately happens to black and brown Americans, which is why equity and environmental justice have to be at the core of our climate plan going forward.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Mayor Buttigieg.
Mr. Steyer, what's your response?
STEYER: Look, what you're talking about is what's called managed retreat. It's basically saying we're going to have to move things because this crisis is out of control. And it's unbelievably expensive. And of course we'll come to the rescue of Americans who are in trouble.
But this is why climate is my number one priority. And I'm still shocked that I'm the only person on this stage who will say this. I would declare a state of emergency on day one on climate. [applause]
I would do it from the standpoint of environmental justice and make sure we go to the black and brown communities where you can't breathe the air or drink the water that comes out of the tap safely. But I also know this, we're going to create millions of good-paying union jobs across this country. It's going to be the biggest job program in American history.
So I know we have to do it. I know we can do it. And I know that we can do it in a way that makes us healthier, that makes us better paid, and is more just. But the truth of the matter is, we're going to have to do it and we're going to have to make the whole world come along with us. And it's going to have to be...
PFANNENSTIEL: Mr. Steyer...
STEYER: ... priority one.
PFANNENSTIEL: Mr. Steyer, to clarify, you say you're the climate change candidate, but you made your $1.6 billion in part by investing in coal, oil, and gas. So are you the right messenger on this topic?
STEYER: I absolutely am. Look, we invested in every part of the economy. And over 10 years ago I realized that there was something going on that had to do with fossil fuels, that we had to change. So I divested from fossil fuels. I took the Giving Pledge to give most of my money away while I'm alive. And for 12 years I have been fighting the climate crisis.
I have beat oil companies in terms of clean air laws. I have stopped fossil fuel plants in Oxnard, California. I fought the Keystone pipeline. I have a history of over a decade of leading the climate fight successfully.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Mr. Steyer.
STEYER: So actually, yes, I am the person here who has the chops and the history that says, I'll make it priority one, because I have been doing it for a long time.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Mr. Steyer.
Sen. Warren, President Trump is rolling back major environmental rules to allow pipeline and other major infrastructure projects to be built without strict environmental review. Will you restore those protections and in a way that the next president can't overturn?
WARREN: Yes. Climate change threatens every living thing on this planet. And the urgency of the moment cannot be overstated. I will do everything a president can do all by herself on the first day. I will roll back the environmental changes that Donald Trump is putting in place. I will stop all new drilling and mining on federal lands, and offshore drilling. That will help us get in the right directions. I'll bring in the farmers. Farmers can be part of the climate solution.
We should see this for the problem it is. Mr. Steyer talks about it being problem number one. Understand this, we have known about this climate crisis for decades. Back in the 1990s we were calling it global warming, but we knew what it was. Democrats and Republicans back then were working together because no one wanted a problem.
But you know what happened? The industry came in and said, we can make big money if we keep them divided and make no change. Priority number one has to be taking back our government from the corruption. That is the only way we will make progress on climate, on gun safety, on health care, on all of the issues that matter to us.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Sen. Warren.
Sen. Klobuchar, some of your competitors on this stage have called for an all-out ban on fracking. You haven't. Why not?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, I would note that I have 100 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters. And that is because I have stood tall on every issue that we have talked about up here when it comes to this administration, this Trump administration, trying to reverse environmental protections. I think it is going to lead to so many problems.
And one thing that hasn't been raised, by the way, is the rules on methane, which is actually one of the most environmentally dangerous hazards that they have recently embarked on. And I would bring those rules back as well as a number of other ones.
When it comes to the issue of fracking, I actually see natural gas as a transition fuel. It's a transition fuel to where we get to carbon neutral.
Nearly every one of us has a plan that is very similar. And that is to get to carbon neutral by 2045 to 2050, to get to by 2030 to a 45 percent reduction.
And I want to add one thing that no one's really answered. When we do this, we have to make sure that we make people whole. And when we put a tax on carbon, which we will do either through cap-and-trade or through a renewable electricity standard or through a fee on carbon...
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Sen. Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: ... then we have to make sure the money goes back to the people...
PFANNENSTIEL: I want to...
PFANNENSTIEL: ... into this conversation.
KLOBUCHAR: ... that will be hurt by it.
PFANNENSTIEL: Thank you, Sen. Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: ... to help with their energy bills and to bring jobs to areas that will lose jobs.
PFANNENSTIEL: Sen. Sanders?
SANDERS: Thank you. [laughter]
Let's be clear. If we as a nation do not transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, not by 2050, not by 2040, but unless we lead the world right now — not easy stuff— the planet we are leaving our kids will be uninhabitable and unhealthy.
We are seeing Australia burning. We saw California burning. The drought here in Iowa is going to make it harder for farmers to produce the food that we need.
This is of course a national crisis. I introduced legislation to indicate it's a national crisis. We have got to take on the fossil fuel industry and all of their lies and tell them that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of this planet. That's what the Green New Deal does. That's what my legislation does. And that is what we have to do.
PFANNENSTIEL: Vice President Biden, your response?
BIDEN: My response is, back in 1986, I introduced the first climate change bill — and check PolitiFacts; they said it was a game-changer. I've been fighting this for a long time. I headed up the Recovery Act, which put more money into moving away from fossil fuels to — to solar and wind energy than ever has occurred in the history of America.
Look, what we have to do is we have to act right away. And the way we act right away is, immediately if I'm elected president, I'll reinstate all the mileage standards that existed in our administration which were taken down. That's 12 billion gallons of gasoline — barrels of gasoline to be saved immediately.
And with regard to those folks who in fact are going to be victimized by what's already happened, we should be investing in infrastructure that raises roads, makes sure that we're in a position where we have — that every new highway built is a green highway, having 550,000 charging stations.
We can create — and this is where I agree with Tom — we can create millions of good-paying jobs. We're the only country in the world that's ever taken great crisis and turned it into great opportunity. And one of the ways to do it is with farmers here in Iowa, by making them the first group in the world to get to net zero emissions by paying them for planting and absorbing carbon in their fields right — there's more to say, but I know my time is...
PHILLIP: A key part of your mission in this primary is going to be to prove to Democratic voters that you're strong enough to take on Donald Trump. Each of you face unique challenges in doing that.
Mayor Buttigieg, you say you've had trouble earning the support of black voters because you're unknown. But you've been campaigning for a year now and polling shows you with next to no black support, support that you'll need in order to beat Donald Trump. Is it possible that black voters have gotten to know you and have simply decided to choose another candidate?
BUTTIGIEG: The black voters who know me best are supporting me. It's why I have the most support in South Bend. It's why, among elected black officials in my community who have gotten into this race, by far most of them are supporting me.
And now, nationally, I am proud that my campaign is co-chaired by a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and to have support right here in Iowa from some of the most recognizable black elected leaders, from Mayor Hart of Waterloo to former Representative Berry in Black Hawk County.
Now, the biggest mistake we could make is to take black votes for granted. And I never will. The reason I have the support I do is not because any voter thinks that I'm perfect. It's because of the work that we have done facing some of the toughest issues that communities can, not from the luxury of — of a debate or a television panel or a committee room but on the ground, issues from poverty to justice in policing.
And I'm proud to say we have been nationally recognized for our work as a race-informed city on delivering greater economic justice, that we have reduced use of force by leading the region in transparency around the use of force in policing.
Of course there is a much longer way to go, in my community and around the country. But I will be a president whose personal commitment is to continue doing this work.
PHILLIP: Sen. Sanders, you call yourself a Democratic Socialist. But more than two-thirds of voters say they are not enthusiastic about voting for a socialist. Doesn't that put your chances of beating Donald Trump at risk?
SANDERS: Nope, not at all. And that is because the campaign that we are going to run will expose the fraudulency of who Donald Trump is. Donald Trump is corrupt. He is a pathological liar and he is a fraud.
Now, when Trump talks about socialism, what he talks about is giving hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Donald Trump as a businessman received $800 million in tax breaks and subsidies to build luxury housing.
My Democratic Socialism says health care is a human right. We're going to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour. We're going to make public colleges and universities tuition-free. We're going to have a Green New Deal and create up to $20 million, saving the planet for our children and our grandchildren. We are going to take on the greed and corruption of the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance company. That is what Democratic Socialism is about and that will win this election.
PHILLIP: Mr. Steyer, you've spent more than $100 million of your own dollars on television ads. How do you convince voters that you're more than just your money?
STEYER: Look, we know how Donald Trump is going to run for president. He's going to run on the economy. He's already told Americans last month in Florida, "You don't like me and I don't like you, but you're all going to vote for me because the Democrats are going to destroy the economy in 15 minutes if they get in control."
So let's be clear. I started a business by myself in one room. I didn't inherit a penny from my parents. I spent 30 years building that business into a multi-billion-dollar international business. Then I walked away from it and took the giving pledge and started organizing coalitions of ordinary Americans to take on unchecked corporate power.
But whoever is going to beat Mr. Trump is going to have to beat him on the economy. And I have the experience and the expertise to show that he's a fake there and a fraud.
Look, Mayor Pete has three years as an analyst at McKinsey. I have 30 years of international business experience. I can beat Trump on the economy. We're going to have to beat him on the economy. And I look forward to taking him down in the fall on the debate stage.
PHILLIP: Mayor Buttigieg?
BUTTIGIEG: You demoted me. I was actually an associate, but that's OK. [laughter]
BUTTIGIEG: It was not the biggest part of my career. But I am ready to take on this president on the economy because I am from the exact kind of industrial Midwestern community that he pretends to speak to and has proven to turn his back on, and guided that community through a historic transformation.
When, at the beginning of the decade, I took office, we were described as a dying city. I'm ready to take on Donald Trump because, when he gets to the tough talk and the chest-thumping, he'll have to stand next to an American war veteran and explain how he pretended bone spurs made him ineligible to serve.
And if — and if he keeps trying...[applause]...to use religion...[applause]...
If a guy like Donald Trump keeps trying to use religion to somehow recruit Christianity into the GOP, I will be standing there not afraid to talk about a different way to answer the call of faith and insist that God does not belong to a political party. I am ready to take on this president...
PHILLIP: Thank you.
BUTTIGIEG: ... on everything. [applause]
PHILLIP: Sen. Klobuchar... [applause]
Sen. Klobuchar, you're pitching yourself as a practical candidate who can get things done. And even tonight you've dismissed some of the ideas that are offered in this primary as pipe-dreams. How are you going to inspire Democratic voters with a message of pragmatism?
KLOBUCHAR: Our voters, actually all Americans, have seen now a number of years of a guy that has, I think, told over 15,000 lies. He is someone that literally has a rap sheet of divisive rhetoric. And I think what Americans want is something different.
I am going to be able to stand across from him on that debate stage and say to my friends in Iowa, "The Midwest is not flyover country for me; I live here."
I'm going to be able to look at him and say, "You've treated these workers and farmers like poker chips. For me, these are my friends and these are my neighbors."
I'm going to be able to look at him and say, "You know what? You got $413 million over the course of your career. That's how you built your fortune." And what I'm going to say is this. "My grandpa worked 1,500 feet underground in the iron ore mines, saved money in a coffee can in the basement, to send my dad to a two-year community college. That's my family trust. And when you have been given an opportunity like that, you go into the world not with a sense of entitlement, Donald — Donald Trump, but with a sense of obligation."
PHILLIP: Thank you.
Sen. Warren, what do you say to voters who like your policies but they're worried they will scare away swing voters you need to win this race in November?
WARREN: So I was born and raised in Oklahoma. I have three older brothers who are all retired, who are all back there still. And two of my three brothers are Republicans. And, sure, there are a lot of things we disagree on, and we can take to our corners and do the Democratic/Republican talking points, but the truth is there's a whole lot we agree on.
You know, my brother is just furious over Chevron and Eli Lilly and Amazon, that are giant corporations making billions of dollars in tax — make billions of dollars in profits and pay nothing in taxes.
My brother said, "I don't get this. I have to pay my taxes. Somebody has to keep the roads paved and the schools open and pay for our defense."
They understand that we have an America right now that's working great for those at the top; it's just not working for anyone else. We have a chance to unite — unite as Democrats, but also with independents and Republicans who are sick of living in a country that's working great for the politicians that are taking the money; it's working great for the lobbyists; it's working great for the corporate executives, it's just not working for everyone else.
I'm building the grassroots movement, leading the fight. We're going to make this America work for everyone else. That is how we're going to beat Donald Trump.
PHILLIP: Vice President Biden, the eventual nominee will face President Trump, who has no problem mocking people, using insulting nicknames, slinging mud and telling lies. The debate against him will make tonight's debate look like child's play.
Are you prepared for that?
BIDEN: I am prepared for that. Look, I've been the object of his affection now more than anybody else on this stage. [laughter]
I've taken all the hits he can deliver, and I'm getting better in the polls, my going up. And by the way, I have overwhelming support from the African-American community, overwhelming — more than everybody else in this operation, number one.
Number two, working-class people, where I come from, in Pennsylvania and the places I come from Delaware, I have great support.
I have support across the board, and I'm not worried about taking on Donald Trump at all. And with regard to the economy, I can hardly wait to have that debate with him. Where I come from, the neighbors I come from, they're in real trouble, working-class people and middle-class people.
When the middle class does well, the working class has a way up and the wealthy do well. But what's happening now? They're being clobbered. They're being killed. They now have a situation where if they — the vast majority believe their children will never reach the stage that they've — they've reached in economic security.
We — I love that debate because the American public is getting clobbered. The wealthy are the only ones doing well, period. I'm looking forward to the economic debate.
BLITZER: We'll be right back with more from CNN's Democratic presidential debate, live from Des Moines, Iowa. [applause]
Stay right here. [applause]
BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN's Democratic presidential debate, live from Des Moines, Iowa. Time now for closing statements. You each have one minute. Sen. Klobuchar, let's begin with you.
KLOBUCHAR: Donald Trump thinks this is all about him. I think it's about you. It's not about his resorts or his tweets or even his ego. It is about your health care. It is about your schools. It is about your lives and your future.
So if you want to do something about racial justice and immigration reform and climate change and gun safety, we need a candidate who is actually going to bring people with her. I have won every race, every place, every time. I have gotten the highest voter turnout in the country when I've led the ticket. I have passed more bills as the lead Democrat than anyone who's in Congress that's running for president. I believe that we need a president that's going to look out for you.
It is easy to hurl insults. It is easy to draw lines in the sand and sketch out grand ideological sketches that will never see the light of day. What is hard is bringing people together and finding common ground instead of scorched earth. What is hard is the work of governing.
So if you are tired of the extremes in our politics and the noise and the nonsense, you have a home with me. Join me at amyklobuchar.com.
BLITZER: Mr. Steyer?
STEYER: I know that Iowans are going to caucus within three weeks, and I want to tell you how I feel about the American people. Look, I played team sports my entire life. The bond between teammates is deep and emotional and full of love. And as far as I'm concerned, the American people are my teammates.
And if there's one thing I will not permit, it is someone to run down the field and kick my teammate in the face. And that is exactly what I've seen over the last seven years, traveling around this country, seeing these Republicans, led by Mr. Trump, basically kicking the American people in the face.
I am prepared to take on Mr. Trump on the debate stage and take him down on the economy. But I am asking for your support because I know that if I'm — if I'm going to be a good teammate to you and give you absolutely everything, without any compromise, I need the support of you on caucus night so I can turn around and together we can take back this country and together we can save the world.
BLITZER: Mayor Buttigieg?
BUTTIGIEG: This is our moment, this is our one shot to defeat Donald Trump, and to do it by such a big margin that we send Trumpism into the dust bin of history, too. But we cannot take the risk with so much on the line of trying to confront this president with the same Washington mindset and political warfare that led us to this point.
If you are watching this at home and you are exhausted by the spectacle of division and dysfunction, I'm asking you to join me to help turn the page on our politics. You're seeing the president boast about the Dow Jones, wondering whether any of that will ever get to your kitchen table. Join me.
If you're a voter of color feeling taken for granted by politics as usual, join me. If you're used to voting for the other party but right now cannot look your kids in the eye and explain this president to them, join me.
We have a chance to change all of this if we can summon the courage to break from the past. That is why I am running for president. It is why I'm asking you to caucus for me on February 3rd. And I hope that you'll go to peteforamerica.com and join me in this effort.
BLITZER: Sen. Warren?
WARREN: So much is broken in this country. I sat here in the break and just made notes about many of the things we didn't get to talk about tonight: how the disability community is struggling for true equality; how gun violence and active shooter drills worry every mother in this country; how children are living in poverty and seeing their life chances shrink; how transwomen, particularly transwomen of color, are at risk; black infant mortality; climate change that particularly hits black and brown communities; people who are being crushed by student loan debt; farmers who are barely holding on; people struggling with mental illness.
And yet I come here tonight with a heart filled with hope. And it's filled with hope because I see this as our moment in history, our moment when no one is left on the sidelines, our moment when we understand that it comes to us to decide the future of this country, our moment when we build the movement to make real change.
Hope and courage. That is how I will make you proud every day, as your nominee and as the first woman president of the United States of America. [applause]
BLITZER: Sen. Sanders?
SANDERS: It's been a good debate, but we haven't asked the major question. The major question is, how does it happen in the richest country in the history of the world that half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck, trying to get by on $9, $10 bucks an hour?
How does it happen that when the top 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 92 percent, half a million people are sleeping out on the streets tonight? How does it happen that in this great country we are the only major nation not to guarantee health care to all? How does it happen that we have a childcare system which is dysfunctional, a criminal justice system which is broken and racist, an immigration system that needs reform?
This is the moment when we have got to think big, not small. This is the moment when we have got to have the courage to take on the 1 percent, take on the greed and corruption of the corporate elite, and create an economy and create a government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent. Thank you. [applause]
BLITZER: Vice President Biden.
BIDEN: Character is on the ballot this time around. The American character is on the ballot. Not what Donald Trump is spewing out, the hate, the xenophobia, the racism, that's not who we are as a nation.
Everyone in this country is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity. Every single, solitary person has to have in a position that, in fact, we treat them with decency. It's about fundamental basic decency.
We in the United States of America can put up with — we can overcome four years of Donald Trump, but eight years of Donald Trump will be an absolute disaster and fundamentally change this nation.
We have to restore America's soul, as I've said from the moment I announced. It is in jeopardy under this president of the United States. We lead the world when we lead by example, not by our power. We, in fact, have to regain the respect of the world in order to be able to change things.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are in a position right now where we have to remember who we are: This is the United States of America. There is not a single thing beyond our capacity to do if we do it together. Let's go do it. [applause]
BLITZER: Candidates, thank you very, very much. That concludes the first Democratic presidential debate of 2020. The Iowa caucuses are only 20 days away. Tune into CNN for continuing coverage of this presidential election.
Anderson Cooper and Chris Cuomo pick up our coverage right now.
Presidential Candidate Debates, Democratic Candidates Debate in Des Moines, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/342207