Buttigieg, Klobuchar call Warren’s plans unrealistic
For the second time this evening, Buttigieg and Klobuchar attacked Warren for promoting an unrealistic policy. Both went after her wealth tax plan, and tried to appeal to more moderate voters.
“Washington politicians … [offer] the most elegant policy prescriptions, and nothing changes,” Buttigieg said, a comment directed at Warren.
Klobuchar chimed in with a more pointed attack, suggesting that Warren’s characterization of her competitors’ plans was unfair.
“I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth, because no one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires. We just have different approaches, your idea is not the only idea,” Klobuchar said.
O’Rourke joined in too, calling the Massachusetts Democrat’s wealth tax plan “punitive.”
Warren quickly fired back. “I’m really shocked at the notion that anyone thinks I’m punitive,” she said.
After the moderators tossed a question to Booker, the New Jersey Democrat took a moment to call on his competitors to tone down the intra-party attacks.
“You know, we’ve got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president, and how we talk about each other in this debate really matters,” Booker said, drawing applause from the crowd.
Billionaires’ place in America is discussed
At one point, Sanders was asked whether his goal was to “tax billionaires out of existence.” The Vermont senator launched into a lengthy speech about income inequality in the United States, lamenting the staggering number of homeless, uninsured, underinsured and debt-burdened Americans.
“Then you also have three people owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society. That is a moral and economic outrage,” Sanders said. “And the truth is, we cannot afford to continue this level of income and wealth inequality, and we cannot afford a billionaire class.”
Steyer, the only billionaire on the debate stage, agreed that Sanders was right to go after the wealthy.
“There have been 40 years where corporations have bought this government, and those 40 years have meant a 40-year attack on the rights of working people and specifically on organized labor. And the results are as shameful,” Steyer said. “As Senator Sanders says, both in terms of assets and in terms of income, it’s absolutely wrong, it’s absolutely undemocratic and unfair.”
Steyer then advocated for a wealth tax, ending Trump’s tax cuts and increasing the minimum wage.
Warren takes on Yang on universal basic income
Warren found herself on defense for much of the first half-hour of the debate. But as the end of the first hour neared, she played offense against Yang, taking on the entrepreneur over his signature issue, universal basic income, which would guarantee every American $1,000 a month, no matter their employment status.
“I think the thing closest to universal basic income is Social Security,” Warren said, arguing that her proposal for strengthening Social Security would do more to protect vulnerable Americans than Yang’s plan.
She added that she wants to “see the data.”
“I have the data,” Yang quickly shot back.
Harris brings up abortion
During the back and forth on Medicare-for-all, Harris noted that women’s reproductive rights did not come up in any of the previous debates, even though, she said, Republican state legislatures are trying to dismantle those rights.
“This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle and not nearly one word, with all of these discussions about healthcare, on women’s access to reproductive healthcare, which is under full on attack in America today,” she said. “It’s outrageous.”
Harris continued, “People need to keep their hands off of women’s bodies and let women make the decisions about their own lives.”
Medicare-for-all: Who would pay?
In the first policy debate of the evening, Warren and Buttigieg sparred over whether middle-class taxes would go up under Medicare-for-all.
“I have made clear what my principles are here: Costs will go up for the wealthy and for corporations and for hard-working middle-class families, costs will go down,” Warren said.
Buttigieg, who has previously accused Warren of being “evasive” on that question, said she was doing so again on the debate stage.
“A yes or no question that didn’t get a yes or no answer,” Buttigieg charged, before touting his own plan, “Medicare for All Who Want It,” which institutes a public option but allows private insurance companies to remain.
Sanders cut in, noting that he was the person “who wrote the damn bill.”
If the proposal is passed, taxes are going to go up significantly – for the wealthiest Americans, Sanders said.
Warren faced more flak from another opponent onstage: Klobuchar, who argued Warren was “making Republican talking points right now in this room.”
Klobuchar also prompted applause from the crowd – a rarity so far this evening – when she raised the issue of the opioid epidemic.
Sanders and Biden, who have long disagreed over health-care policy, engaged in one of their sharpest exchanges on the topic in any debate.
Biden suggested Warren and Sanders needed to be clearer about the high costs of their plan, and he sought to steal some of Buttigieg’s thunder by saying that the mayor’s approach is effectively one he has spearheaded — expanding Obamacare.
Sanders snapped back, arguing that those who are defending the current system are advocating for a problematic approach in which many Americans are suffering. He said he gets “a little tired, I must say, of people defending a system which is dysfunctional, which is cruel.”
Biden addresses questions on Ukraine
“My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government rooting out corruption in in Ukraine. And that’s what we should be focusing on,” Biden said.
Biden then pivoted to talking about Trump’s corruption, saying a statement his son put out today “speaks for itself.”
Pressed to answer whether it was a mistake for his son to take the position, Biden dodged the question.
“I never discussed a single thing with my son about anything having to do with Ukraine,” Biden said. “We’ve always kept everything separate even when my son was the attorney general of the state of Delaware, we never discussed it so there’d be no potential conflict. My son made a judgment. I’m proud of the judgment he made. I’m proud of what he had to say.”
It was unclear what judgment Biden was referring to, but he seemed to be talking about his son’s public statement where he said it was a mistake for him to take the job.
Yang wants to talk about economic problems
While many of the candidates spent their first few minutes talking about President Trump and the impeachment inquiry, entrepreneur Andrew Yang took a different approach, encouraging Democrats to focus on the economic problems that paved the way for Trump’s win in 2016.
“When we talk about him, we are losing,” Yang said of Trump. He noted that the debate was unfolding in Ohio, a state Trump won. “Why did Donald Trump win your state by eight points?” he asked, before pointing out the manufacturing job losses that have occurred in the state.
“These are the problems that got Donald Trump elected,” Yang said.
Steyer makes debate-stage debut
In his first debate appearance, Steyer noted that he began his “Need to Impeach” campaign two years ago, long before the other Democrats onstage embraced the idea.
Even as he sought to distinguish himself from the others onstage, Steyer also praised them, saying that every Democratic candidate was “more decent and patriotic than the criminal in the White House.”
Buttigieg, meanwhile, cast himself as a uniter who can bring the country together after Trump has left the White House. “One way or another, this presidency is going to come to an end,” Buttigieg said, asking listeners what it’s going to feel like the first day the sun comes up after Trump is no longer president. “Really think about where we’ll be – vulnerable, even more torn apart by politics than we are right now.”
“I’m running to be the president who can turn the page and unify a dangerously polarized country,” he added.
Candidates talk about impeachment support
In his first comments, Biden said Trump’s decision to stonewall every congressional investigation led him to support the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Biden drew a contrast between Trump and the impeachment of President Clinton. At that time, Biden said lawmakers needed to be mindful of the American people’s vote.
“He’s gone so far to say since this latest event … I will not cooperate,” Biden said. “They have no choice but to move.”
Biden, who has found himself at the center of the impeachment inquiry, said nothing more about the specifics of the House investigation or his role in it.
Harris echoed her competitors, expressing her support of the impeachment inquiry and adding that she didn’t think the impeachment process would take very long.
“Because as a former prosecutor, I know a confession when I see it,” Harris said.
Striking a more cautious tone, Booker said he understood “the outrage that we all feel,” but said it was important to conduct the impeachment process in an “honorable” way that did not further divide the country.
Both Klobuchar and Castro brushed off concerns impeachment would be a “distraction,” saying American lawmakers and voters were capable of doing two things at once.
“When [Trump] made that call to the head of Ukraine, he’s digging up dirt on an opponent,” Klobuchar said. “That’s illegal conduct; that’s what he was doing.”
Sanders goes after Trump and Republicans
Sanders, who has been off the campaign trail for two weeks after suffering a heart attack, also went after President Trump and Senate Republicans. “Mitch McConnell has got to do the right thing and allow a free and fair trial in the Senate,” said Sanders, speaking about the topic of impeachment.
While his voice was a bit scratchy as he spoke, Sanders sounded much clearer than he did in the last debate, when he was noticeably hoarse. He is positioned toward the middle of the stage, to the left of Biden. Sanders stood patiently with his hands in front of him as Biden delivered his first remarks of the debate.
Debate starts with discussion of impeachment
The moderators wasted no time tackling the issue of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Warren got the first question, on why she believes Congress should hold impeachment proceedings rather than leaving the issue of Trump’s fitness for office up to the voters to decide next November.
Warren’s response: “Because sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics, and I think that’s the case with this impeachment inquiry.”
Sanders, too, defended his call for impeaching Trump, adding that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “has got to do the right thing and allow a free and fair trial in the Senate.”
Biden – who only recently came out in favor of impeachment – called Trump the most corrupt president in history. He highlighted the White House’s efforts to stonewall the impeachment inquiry. “They have no choice but to move,” he said of House Democrats.
To qualify, candidates had to hit 2 percent in at least four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee and receive contributions from at least 130,000 individual donors. The debate is at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, in the Columbus suburbs.