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January 2020 Democratic Debate in Iowa: Live Updates January 2020 Democratic Debate in Iowa: Live Updates
(32 minutes later)
Moderators: Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip of CNN and Brianne Pfannenstiel of The Register.Moderators: Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip of CNN and Brianne Pfannenstiel of The Register.
Candidates: Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the billionaire Tom Steyer. Among the Democrats who did not qualify for the debate are former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and the entrepreneur Andrew Yang.Candidates: Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the billionaire Tom Steyer. Among the Democrats who did not qualify for the debate are former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and the entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
Mr. Biden said he won’t remain embittered by Mr. Trump even after the impeachment trial over whether the president committed impeachable offenses in seeking foreign help to investigate Mr. Biden’s son.
“I have to be in a position I think of the American people,” Mr. Biden said. “I can’t hold a grudge. I have to be able to not only fight but also heal.”
Impeachment, almost uniquely among the Democratic candidates, leads to next to zero disagreement among the party’s presidential candidates. It’s not an issue that voters ask about on the campaign trail and has nothing to do with how the candidates would perform in office — since if any of them are president it would mean Mr. Trump is not.
Still, the impeachment trial due to begin next week will be a monster speed bump for the three senators on the debate stage: Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren.
Ms. Warren said she would have no qualms in leaving the campaign trail to sit as a juror in Mr. Trump’s trial.
“We have an impeachment trial — I will be there because it is my responsibility,” she said.
The contrast on free college between Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Warren was about as gentle as can be.
Mr. Buttigieg used his response to a question about free college to blast the rich, saying they should pay the way for their children to attend public colleges and universities, while providing free college to everyone else.
Ms. Warren, in defending her free college proposal, said a wealth tax would require millionaires to pay millions of dollars in new taxes, and that if they wish to send their children to public universities, that’s fine with her. She did not ding Mr. Buttigieg for opposing free college.
“What we really need to talk about is the bigger economic picture,” she said. “We need to be willing to put a wealth tax in place. To ask the giant corporations that is are not paying to pay. Because that is how we build an economy and those who want to talk about, bring down the national debt.”
Several of the candidates spoke at length about the exorbitant costs of child care and the personal toll it takes on Americans.
“It makes no sense for child care to cost two-thirds of somebody’s income,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “We have to drive it to 7 percent or below. And zero for the families who are living in poverty.”
Ms. Warren and Mr. Biden spoke in especially personal terms about child care — a financial responsibility that nearly brought her down, Ms. Warren said.
“If I hadn’t been saved by my aunt, I was ready to quit my job,” she said. “I think about how many women of my generation got knocked off the track and never got back on.”
Ms. Warren noted that she has proposed a two-cent wealth tax to provide child care benefits and universal pre-K, and raised concerned about exploitation of child care workers, singling out women of color in particular.
“We can raise the wages of every child care worker and preschool teacher in America,” she said. “That is an investment in our babies and their moms and dads. And it’s an investment in our teachers and our economy.”
Mr. Biden, who said he believed that “people who are not able to afford any of the infant care to be able to get that care,” referenced his experience raising two sons after his wife and a baby daughter were killed in a 1972 car crash.
“I was a single parent too,” he said. “When my wife and daughter were killed, my two boys I had to raise, I was a senator, a young senator.”
Halfway through Tuesday’s debate, the conflict has been muted as the candidates have shown little inclination to attack each other while they aim to refocus ire against President Trump.
Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders each defused the clashes between them that dominated the last two days. Mr. Buttigieg didn’t take shots at Ms. Warren or Mr. Sanders about health care, despite the opportunity. And Mr. Biden has once again avoided being attacked by his opponents, despite leading every national poll of the race.
It’s a reflection of the muddled state of the race. With four candidates in a functional dead heat in polls of Iowa and New Hampshire, there is little incentive for any of them to risk being seen in a negative light by going on the attack.
The only candidate onstage who appeared eager to throw punches was Ms. Klobuchar, who remains in the high single digits in Iowa polling, leaving her well below the 15 percent threshold to accrue any delegates in Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses that are necessary to win the Democratic nomination.
Ms. Warren cast Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg as incrementalists on health care, saying that their proposals “are an improvement over where we are now,” but are only a “small improvement.”
Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg support adding a public option to the health care system, but oppose the sweeping single-payer Medicare for all proposal.
“It’s just not true that the plan I’m proposing is small,” Mr. Buttigieg shot back. “We have to move past Washington mentality that suggests that the bigness of plans only consist of how many trillions of dollars they put through the Treasury. That the boldness of a plan consists of how many people it can alienate.”
Ms. Klobuchar also jumped into the fray, accusing Ms. Warren of offering shifting answers in her own health care proposal.
“You acknowledge that Medicare for all, you couldn’t get there right away,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “You got on the bill that said on page eight that you would kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance. Then a few months ago you said you’ll wait awhile to get there, and I think that was some acknowledgment that maybe what we’re talking about it is true.”
There were more sparks between Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders on health care, with Mr. Biden whacking Mr. Sanders for his “Medicare for all” proposal.There were more sparks between Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders on health care, with Mr. Biden whacking Mr. Sanders for his “Medicare for all” proposal.
“I think we need to be candid with voters and tell them what it will cost,” Mr. Biden said.“I think we need to be candid with voters and tell them what it will cost,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Sanders dodged a question about the overall costs of his health care proposal, seeking to reframe the question into what individuals would pay for health care rather than what it would cost the government.Mr. Sanders dodged a question about the overall costs of his health care proposal, seeking to reframe the question into what individuals would pay for health care rather than what it would cost the government.
“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,” he said.“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,” he said.
Ms. Warren, who is a proponent of Medicare for all, expressed her allegiance to the Affordable Care Act, the health care status quo that Mr. Sanders is campaigning to undo.Ms. Warren, who is a proponent of Medicare for all, expressed her allegiance to the Affordable Care Act, the health care status quo that Mr. Sanders is campaigning to undo.
“I will defend the Affordable Care Act,” Ms. Warren said. “I have a plan to expand health care. When we come to a general election, we may argue among each other about the best way to do health care. We’re going to be up against a Republican incumbent who has cut health care for millions of people in and still trying to do that. I’ll take our side of the argument any day. We’ll beat him on this.”“I will defend the Affordable Care Act,” Ms. Warren said. “I have a plan to expand health care. When we come to a general election, we may argue among each other about the best way to do health care. We’re going to be up against a Republican incumbent who has cut health care for millions of people in and still trying to do that. I’ll take our side of the argument any day. We’ll beat him on this.”
And Ms. Klobuchar came in with another roundhouse at Mr. Sanders, hoping to get drawn into the conflict between him and Mr. Biden.And Ms. Klobuchar came in with another roundhouse at Mr. Sanders, hoping to get drawn into the conflict between him and Mr. Biden.
“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 a bankrupt casino. The way he is adding to the debt,” she said.“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 a bankrupt casino. The way he is adding to the debt,” she said.
Mr. Sanders emphatically insisted that he did not make the comment that Ms. Warren has attributed to him: That a woman could not be elected president.Mr. Sanders emphatically insisted that he did not make the comment that Ms. Warren has attributed to him: That a woman could not be elected president.
“Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it,” he said. “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.”“Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it,” he said. “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.”
Ms. Warren said she disagreed with Mr. Sanders but sought to defuse the conflict.Ms. Warren said she disagreed with Mr. Sanders but sought to defuse the conflict.
“Bernie is my friend and I’m not here to fight with Bernie,” she said.“Bernie is my friend and I’m not here to fight with Bernie,” she said.
Ms. Warren continued, leaning fully into her electability argument.Ms. Warren continued, leaning fully into her electability argument.
“The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women: Amy and me,” she said. “And the only person who has beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30 years is me.”“The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women: Amy and me,” she said. “And the only person who has beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30 years is me.”
The clash between Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders veered, briefly, into unusual territory: math.The clash between Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders veered, briefly, into unusual territory: math.
The disagreement unfolded after Ms. Warren said that “the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican anytime in the past 30 years is me.”The disagreement unfolded after Ms. Warren said that “the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican anytime in the past 30 years is me.”
“Well, just to set the record straight, I defeated an incumbent Republican running for Congress,” Mr. Sanders said.“Well, just to set the record straight, I defeated an incumbent Republican running for Congress,” Mr. Sanders said.
“When?” Ms. Warren asked. Mr. Sanders said that in 1990, he beat a Republican congressman.“When?” Ms. Warren asked. Mr. Sanders said that in 1990, he beat a Republican congressman.
Ms. Warren pressed him again on the timing. “I said, I was the only one who’s beaten an incumbent Republican in 30 years,” Ms. Warren said.Ms. Warren pressed him again on the timing. “I said, I was the only one who’s beaten an incumbent Republican in 30 years,” Ms. Warren said.
“Well, 30 years ago is 1990, as a matter of fact,” Mr. Sanders replied.“Well, 30 years ago is 1990, as a matter of fact,” Mr. Sanders replied.
Mr. Biden sought to bridge the divide about whether a woman can win by bemoaning the factionalism that he said could prevent Democrats from defeating President Trump.Mr. Biden sought to bridge the divide about whether a woman can win by bemoaning the factionalism that he said could prevent Democrats from defeating President Trump.
“The real issue is who can bring the party together and represent all elements of the party,” he said. “African-American, brown, black, women, men. Gay, straight. The fact of the matter is, I would argue that, in terms of endorsement around the country, endorsements where ever we go, I have the broadest coalition of anyone running up where in this race.”“The real issue is who can bring the party together and represent all elements of the party,” he said. “African-American, brown, black, women, men. Gay, straight. The fact of the matter is, I would argue that, in terms of endorsement around the country, endorsements where ever we go, I have the broadest coalition of anyone running up where in this race.”
Mr. Sanders defended his opposition to the U.S.M.C.A. North American trade deal, even though he said it is an improvement on Nafta.Mr. Sanders defended his opposition to the U.S.M.C.A. North American trade deal, even though he said it is an improvement on Nafta.
“We can do much better than a Trump-led trade deal,” Mr. Sanders said. Pressed on whether he is willing to compromise at all on trade, Mr. Sanders pivoted to climate change.“We can do much better than a Trump-led trade deal,” Mr. Sanders said. Pressed on whether he is willing to compromise at all on trade, Mr. Sanders pivoted to climate change.
“Every environmental organization in this country, including the Sunrise organization, who is supporting my candidacy, opposes it,” he said.“Every environmental organization in this country, including the Sunrise organization, who is supporting my candidacy, opposes it,” he said.
Ms. Warren followed by arguing that the U.S.M.C.A. is better than the status quo, and should be seen as the first step toward getting a better deal.Ms. Warren followed by arguing that the U.S.M.C.A. is better than the status quo, and should be seen as the first step toward getting a better deal.
“Let’s help the people who need help now,” she said. Asked why he disagrees with Ms. Warren, Mr. Sanders said implementing the U.S.M.C.A. will “set us back a number of years,” though he passed on an opportunity to draw additional contrast with Ms. Warren.“Let’s help the people who need help now,” she said. Asked why he disagrees with Ms. Warren, Mr. Sanders said implementing the U.S.M.C.A. will “set us back a number of years,” though he passed on an opportunity to draw additional contrast with Ms. Warren.
Mr. Biden mocked the North Korean regime, which has lashed Mr. Biden with graphic insults — and the former vice president received backup from his rival, Mr. Sanders.Mr. Biden mocked the North Korean regime, which has lashed Mr. Biden with graphic insults — and the former vice president received backup from his rival, Mr. Sanders.
“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,’” Mr. Biden said.“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,’” Mr. Biden said.
“Other than that, you like him,” Mr. Sanders interjected wryly, referencing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.“Other than that, you like him,” Mr. Sanders interjected wryly, referencing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“Other than that, I like him, and he got a love letter from Trump right after that,” Mr. Biden said.“Other than that, I like him, and he got a love letter from Trump right after that,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Sanders took another opportunity to obliquely swipe at Mr. Biden’s vote to authorize the war in Iraq when asked about America’s role in the Middle East.Mr. Sanders took another opportunity to obliquely swipe at Mr. Biden’s vote to authorize the war in Iraq when asked about America’s role in the Middle East.
“What we have to face as a nation is that the two great foreign policy disasters of our lifetimes, with the war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq. Both of those wars were based on lies,” Mr. Sanders said, adding that he feared President Trump could lead the nation into another war amid tensions between the United States and Iran.“What we have to face as a nation is that the two great foreign policy disasters of our lifetimes, with the war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq. Both of those wars were based on lies,” Mr. Sanders said, adding that he feared President Trump could lead the nation into another war amid tensions between the United States and Iran.
Mr. Biden did not take on Mr. Sanders of Iraq, choosing to emphasize another element of his foreign policy record: the nuclear deal with Iran, achieved during the Obama administration.Mr. Biden did not take on Mr. Sanders of Iraq, choosing to emphasize another element of his foreign policy record: the nuclear deal with Iran, achieved during the Obama administration.
“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,” Mr. Biden said. “And it was working.”“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,” Mr. Biden said. “And it was working.”
Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Buttigieg each said they would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, though neither of them stipulated what they would do beyond negotiations to stop Iran from doing so.Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Buttigieg each said they would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, though neither of them stipulated what they would do beyond negotiations to stop Iran from doing so.
Another split in the candidates emerged on foreign policy. Ms. Warren, Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Sanders said they’d remove combat troops from Iraq, while Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Biden said they would leave some in place.Another split in the candidates emerged on foreign policy. Ms. Warren, Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Sanders said they’d remove combat troops from Iraq, while Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Biden said they would leave some in place.
“I would leave some troops there, but not in the level that Donald Trump is taking us right now,” Ms. Klobuchar said.“I would leave some troops there, but not in the level that Donald Trump is taking us right now,” Ms. Klobuchar said.
Ms. Warren said that it is time to bring the troops home. “I think we need to get our combat troops out,” she said. “You know, we have to stop this mind-set 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.”Ms. Warren said that it is time to bring the troops home. “I think we need to get our combat troops out,” she said. “You know, we have to stop this mind-set 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.”
And Mr. Buttigieg said: “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.”And Mr. Buttigieg said: “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.”
Mr. Buttigieg said if he is elected president and asks Congress to authorize military force overseas, he would ask for the legislation to expire after three years.Mr. Buttigieg said if he is elected president and asks Congress to authorize military force overseas, he would ask for the legislation to expire after three years.
“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, not only in the decision about whether to send troops, but whether to continue,” he said.“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, not only in the decision about whether to send troops, but whether to continue,” he said.
The moderator Wolf Blitzer opened the debate on foreign policy, asking Mr. Sanders why he’d be the best commander in chief. Mr. Sanders wasted no time in going on the attack against Mr. Biden, drawing a contrast on foreign policy by reiterating his opposition to the Iraq War, and his 2002 vote against authorizing the conflict. That left Mr. Biden to defend his 17-year-old vote.The moderator Wolf Blitzer opened the debate on foreign policy, asking Mr. Sanders why he’d be the best commander in chief. Mr. Sanders wasted no time in going on the attack against Mr. Biden, drawing a contrast on foreign policy by reiterating his opposition to the Iraq War, and his 2002 vote against authorizing the conflict. That left Mr. Biden to defend his 17-year-old vote.
“I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to give the president the authority to go to war,” Mr. Biden said. “It was a mistake; I acknowledged that.” He then quickly mentioned that Barack Obama opposed the war from the state and noted that Mr. Obama chose him as his running mate.“I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to give the president the authority to go to war,” Mr. Biden said. “It was a mistake; I acknowledged that.” He then quickly mentioned that Barack Obama opposed the war from the state and noted that Mr. Obama chose him as his running mate.
“I think my record overall on everything I’ve ever done, I’m prepared to compare it to anybody on this stage,” Mr. Biden said.“I think my record overall on everything I’ve ever done, I’m prepared to compare it to anybody on this stage,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Sanders shot back: “Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and Rumsfeld had to say. I thought they were lying. Joe saw it differently.”Mr. Sanders shot back: “Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and Rumsfeld had to say. I thought they were lying. Joe saw it differently.”
Ms. Klobuchar, who has sought to portray herself as a unifier while other candidates are drawing contrasts with each other, said the real issue is beating President Trump.Ms. Klobuchar, who has sought to portray herself as a unifier while other candidates are drawing contrasts with each other, said the real issue is beating President Trump.
“What we should be talking about is what is happening right now with Donald Trump,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “Donald Trump is taking us pell mell toward another war.”“What we should be talking about is what is happening right now with Donald Trump,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “Donald Trump is taking us pell mell toward another war.”
While Mr. Blitzer tried to pit Ms. Klobuchar against Mr. Buttigieg on the issue, the two moderate rivals barely engaged. Instead, Mr. Buttigieg, 37, drew an implicit contrast over age with Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders, who are in their late 70s. Mr. Buttigieg, a former Naval intelligence officer, stressed his own military experience while offering an unsubtle reminder of how long Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders have served in Washington.While Mr. Blitzer tried to pit Ms. Klobuchar against Mr. Buttigieg on the issue, the two moderate rivals barely engaged. Instead, Mr. Buttigieg, 37, drew an implicit contrast over age with Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders, who are in their late 70s. Mr. Buttigieg, a former Naval intelligence officer, stressed his own military experience while offering an unsubtle reminder of how long Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders have served in Washington.
“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,” Mr. Buttigieg said.“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,” Mr. Buttigieg said.
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were out first, and they gave each other a warm handshake and shared a few words. Elizabeth Warren was out next, shaking Mr. Biden’s hand and then reaching over to Mr. Sanders, who was looking elsewhere; he noticed her, smiled and joined in a handshake.Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were out first, and they gave each other a warm handshake and shared a few words. Elizabeth Warren was out next, shaking Mr. Biden’s hand and then reaching over to Mr. Sanders, who was looking elsewhere; he noticed her, smiled and joined in a handshake.
There was no evident tension in the moment, even though Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren spent Monday in a standoff over her accusation that he told her in 2018 that a woman could not win the presidency. He has denied the remark.There was no evident tension in the moment, even though Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren spent Monday in a standoff over her accusation that he told her in 2018 that a woman could not win the presidency. He has denied the remark.
Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Amy Klobuchar rounded out the candidates taking their places onstage.Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Amy Klobuchar rounded out the candidates taking their places onstage.
Ms. Warren’s top aides and her new surrogate Julián Castro have been telegraphing a message of unity, promoting Ms. Warren as the candidate who can bridge the party’s progressive and moderate wings.
That’ll be hard if she’s stoking a war with Mr. Sanders.
Ms. Warren is going to try anyway, having already adopted most of Mr. Sanders’s platform without some of his harder edges. She’s sure to be asked about reports in recent days that Sanders volunteers disparaged her election chances in calls to Iowa Democrats and the report, followed by her confirmation, that Mr. Sanders told her a woman could not be elected president.
There’s little evidence that Sanders supporters can be moved away from the Vermont senator, but it is incumbent upon Ms. Warren to demonstrate to moderate and undecided Iowans that she can appeal to all elements of the party and, as she often says in her remarks, win Republican votes for proposals like her wealth tax.
Reporting was contributed by Nick Corasaniti, Michael M. Grynbaum, Stephanie Saul, Matt Stevens and Marc Tracy.