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Democrats Tangle on Health Care and More in Fiery Third Debate. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2019 - 03:00   ET




JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nobody's yet said how much it's going to cost the taxpayer.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Ten Democrats, one stage, health care at the center of the fight for the future of the party.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A major tropical system will hit the already battered Bahamas. Now, there's a tropical storm watch for parts of Florida.

ROMANS: Sentencing day for Felicity Huffman. How much time will the actress get for her role in the college admission scam?

BRIGGS: And he got bullied for showing school spirit. Now, the University of Tennessee offering a full scholarship.

ROMANS: Wow. I needed that today.

BRIGGS: Yes, we did, didn't we?

ROMANS: That's great.

BRIGGS: Well, well done, U.T. More on that in a moment.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, September 13th. It is 3:00 a.m. in the East. Are you up early or up late, everybody? Because it was a fiery third debate last night when 10 Democrats tangled over a host of issues, health care, guns, race, and how far left the party should go.

Joe Biden gave a more lively performance than in the first two debates. He and other moderate Democrats defended their ideas for upgrading Obamacare against most progressive proposals.


BIDEN: My plan for health care costs a lot of money. It costs $740 billion. It doesn't cost $30 trillion.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Medicare-for- All. Costs are going to go up for wealthier individuals and costs are going to go up for giant corporations.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wrote the damn bill, if I may say so.


SANDERS: Intent to eliminate all out-of-pocket expenses.

BIDEN: Well, if you noticed. He hadn't answered the question. This is about candor, honesty, big ideas. Let's have a big idea. The tax of 2 percent that the senator is talking about, that raises about $3 billion. Guess what? That leaves you about $28 billion short.

WARREN: And we just need to be clear about what Medicare-for-All is all about. Instead of paying premiums into insurance companies, and then having insurance companies build their profits by saying no to coverage, we're going to do this by saying everyone is covered.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And while Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill. And on page eight --


KLOBUCHAR: On page eight of the bill, it says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it. I don't think that's a bold idea. I think it's a bad idea.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND, IN.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem, Senator Sanders, with that damn bill that you wrote, and that Senator Warren backs, is it doesn't trust the American people.

I trust you to choose what makes the most sense for you. Not my way or the highway.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to give credit to Bernie. Take credit, Bernie. You know, you brought us this far on Medicare-for-All. I wanted to make the plan better which I did, which is about offering people choice, not taking that from them.

BIDEN: Nobody has yet said how much it's going to cost the taxpayer. I hear this large savings. The president think -- my friend from Vermont thinks that the employers is going to give you back if you negotiate as union all these years, you got a cut in wages because you got insurance. They're going to give back that money to the employee?

SANDERS: As a matter of fact they will.

BIDEN: Well, let me tell you something. For a socialist, you've got a -- for a socialist, you've got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Just a taste.

BRIGGS: Just a taste of a long night. Batting leadoff for team no sleep this morning, CNN political analyst Sabrina Siddiqui. Good morning, good evening.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: I think it's probably both for you.


BRIGGS: All right. So the overall dynamic. Joe Biden is the unsteady frontrunner. Did anything change tonight?

SIDDIQUI: I think that you really do see more of the status quo where at the top level Joe Biden holds a commanding lead even as there are questions about his durability and whether he's best positioned to represent the Democratic Party in this moment, and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both champions of the progressive wing, are somewhat tied, although trailing I think by double-digits, trailing Biden, that is. And then everyone else in that lower tier, middling tier, is struggling to break through.

Now if you're someone like Beto O'Rourke, who had a pretty strong night, better than he's had to this point, or Cory Booker, you may have done just enough to live to see another day. And it's important only because the threshold to qualify for the future debates will only get more and more stringent. And so right now it's more about survival if you're not Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.


ROMANS: It seems as though this -- sort of this definition of the party, moderates versus progressives, really manifested last night in health care, right? And let's listen to the former vice president, Joe Biden, on health care and what he said.


BIDEN: Largest out-of-pocket payment you'll pay is $1,000. You'll be able to get into a -- anyone who can't afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option. You lose the job from your employer you automatically can buy into this. You don't have -- no pre-existing condition can stop you from buying in. You get covered.


ROMANS: Then Julian Castro really trying to strike out on this as well. Here's his response.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You require them to opt in. And I would not require them to opt in. They would automatically be enrolled. They wouldn't have to buy in. That's a big difference because Barack Obama's vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered. He wanted every single person in this country covered. My plan would do that. Your plan would not.

BIDEN: They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.

CASTRO: You just said that. You just said that two minutes ago. You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in.

BIDEN: You do not have to buy in if you can't afford it.

CASTRO: You said they would have to buy in.


BIDEN: Your grandmother wouldn't have to buy in. If she qualifies for Medicare --

CASTRO: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?


CASTRO: Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can't believe that you said two minutes ago this health care plan would not automatically enroll you. You would have to opt in. My health care plan would. That's a big difference. I'm fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you're not.

BIDEN: That will be a surprise to him.


ROMANS: So a couple of things here. Joe Biden did say automatically -- when he was talking about, you know, buying into his plan. But then there was Julian Castro really trying to -- two things -- say he is the guy who's, you know, sort of wears the mantle of the Barack Obama administration and I guess alluding to the age of Joe Biden all at the same time.

SIDDIQUI: Yes. There was a lot to unpack there. And definitely for Julian Castro, you're looking for a moment because you haven't really been able to break through. And so, sometimes you take a more aggressive tact. But it didn't seem to sit well with the audience. And there are a number of Democratic strategists who feel like it backfired.

I think there are some concerns and they've been expressed by Democrats themselves over whether Joe Biden is equipped to withstand a very grueling campaign. He's always been gaffe-prone. And it's baked into his reputation. But is it going to hurt in this long slog, if he is the nominee, from now until November? And so, Castro tried to exploit that. But he was wrong in terms of, you know, saying that Biden contradicted himself when he didn't. And the age factor, I think, is this elephant in the room, that Democrats are still tiptoeing around.

But I do think as Biden continues to be the frontrunner, you'll start to see the gloves come off as they did tonight.

BRIGGS: Yes. It feels as though the American people have been pretty safely inoculated against gaffes the last 2 1/2 years because his have not made much of a difference.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Guns was the obvious issue coming into tonight because this time yesterday morning, 145 CEOs and business leaders wrote to the Senate asking for universal background checks, expanded red flag laws. Not a lot of the candidates took advantage of that obvious issue. Beto O'Rourke was the notable exception. Listen.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In Odessa, I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15. And that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland. There weren't enough ambulances to get to them in time.

Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.


O'ROURKE: We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.


BRIGGS: How did that resonate to you?

SIDDIQUI: So, there is clearly this sense of urgency around gun control. We've had this conversation many times before. But you haven't seen corporate America line up behind more stringent gun laws in the way that they have in recent weeks. It was surprising that some of the Democrats didn't really capitalize on that.


ROMANS: I was surprised, too.

SIDDIQUI: To sort of frame this as it's now, most Americans, including corporations, against Republicans and Congress. But Beto O'Rourke is someone who just experienced a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso. It was a big test for him in terms of leadership. He suspended the campaign. And so when he was speaking about his experience, it was very authentic because he just lived through it.

Some people are playing that clip, we're going to take your AR-15s, saying that's not going to play well as there's still a lot of polarization when it comes to guns. But there are a lot of people who do not think that military-style rifles belong on the streets. And you saw -- it's pretty remarkable to see the evolution for Democrats on the issue of guns and just how aggressive they are and how willing they are to campaign on these very bold proposals, on something that everyone used to be afraid to touch.

ROMANS: Right.

SIDDIQUI: Because they didn't want to upset the NRA.


ROMANS: Fascinating. Sabrina, nice to see you this morning. Or tonight. Tonight or this morning? I'm going to say good morning.

BRIGGS: We're going to go with both.


BRIGGS: Yes. Yes.


ROMANS: I'm going to say good morning. But thank you so much for your analysis. It's nice to see you.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you so much.

BRIGGS: All right. An early review shows a glaring mistake by the crew on that boat that caught fire and sank, killing 34 people.


BRIGGS: House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler is vowing to oversee an aggressive series of impeachment hearings after his committee approved a resolution defining the rules of an investigation.


But House Democrats are struggling to define their end game. The vote on Thursday gives Nadler the ability to label committee hearings impeachment hearings. That allows for additional levels of investigation. But it remains to be seen whether Democrats can come to the consensus on impeaching the president. Most agree a final decision needs to be made by the end of the year.

ROMANS: The Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, is repealing clean water protections that were implemented during the Obama era. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler claims the measure was nothing more than a power grab. The 2015 regulation commonly known by the nickname WOTUS define what bodies of water are protected under the Federal Clean Water Act. The next step for the Trump administration is finalizing a proposal for a replacement regulation. Environmental groups are slamming the move and vowing further legal challenges.

BRIGGS: CNN has learned Chief Justice John Roberts changed his mind at the last minute and cast the deciding vote against President Trump's attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. That's according to sources familiar with the private deliberations. It is not the first time the conservative chief justice has made a dramatic about-face on a critical issue to side with liberals. In 2012, of course, he reversed his position and saved President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

ROMANS: All right, 16 minutes past the hour. Where in the world is R. Kelly? An arrest warrant is out for the R&B star who failed to show up for court.



ROMANS: A tropical storm watch now covering parts of east central Florida. The system is expected to strengthen into a tropical depression or storm within the next day or so. Today will bring heavy rain and high winds to the already battered Bahamas and then to Florida through the weekend.

We get the latest now from meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine and Dave. Welcome to the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. We're monitoring three different disturbances across the Atlantic basin. One newly formed wave just off the west coast of the African continent.

But the more immediate threat we're focusing on is across the Bahamas. We have a 90 percent chance of development over the next five days according to the National Hurricane Center. In fact they have tropical storm warnings in places that have felt the impacts of Hurricane Dorian not two weeks ago in Freeport, into the marsh harbor region, and now we also have tropical storm watches along the U.S. mainland from a space coast southward into Jupiter inlet.

Still a disorganized area of shower and thunderstorm activity, 30 miles per hour, with gusts nearing 40 miles per hour. But as the system moves in a general northwesterly direction, it's anticipated to strengthen, potentially becoming a tropical storm before impacting the southeast coast of the U.S., right along the coastal areas of Florida.

Still some model spread. We're trying to get a handle on this. Mini scenarios that could play out, one thing is for sure, strong, gusty winds and heavy rain into the weekend and early next week.

Back to you.

BRIGGS: OK, Derek, thank you.

There was no crew member on overnight watch from the conception dive boat caught fire and sank on Labor Day killing 34. That's according to a preliminary NTSB report the roving crew member is required overnight. According to the report, a sleeping crew member heard and woke up and saw fire in the salon compartment. An attorney for Truth Aquatics which owns the Conception claims a crew member did check the area shortly before the fire ignited. The wreckage has been raised and will be lifted on to a barge and brought inland for further investigation. ROMANS: It is sentencing day for Felicity Huffman in the college

admissions scandal. The "Desperate Housewives" star pleaded guilty for paying $15,000 to a fake charity so a proctor would correct her daughter's answers to SAT questions. Prosecutors have asked for a month in prison and a $20,000 fine. Huffman's lawyers are asking for probation. She says the prosecution's sentencing argument cites previous cases which are very different from hers.

BRIGGS: An arrest warrant has been issued for singer R. Kelly after he failed to appear at a court hearing in Minnesota Thursday. Kelly is currently jailed at a federal detention center in Chicago on sex abuse and other charges. He was scheduled to make his first court appearance in the Minnesota case on charges of child prostitution and solicitation stemming from a 2001 encounter with a 17-year-old girl. Prosecutors told the judge that federal authorities will not give them access to Kelly until their case in Illinois is resolved.

ROMANS: All right. The University of Tennessee offering a free ride to the class of 2032, for an elementary school student bullied for creating his homemade "Tennessee Volunteers" t-shirt. The university says it will cover the cost of the scholarship for the Florida fourth grader if he chooses to attend the school and meets admission requirements. The boy's story drew national attention earlier this week when a Facebook post by his teacher went viral. She says, you know, he was made fun of after clipping a piece of paper with a "UT" design, he put it on an orange t-shirt and wore it to school at the college day at school.

BRIGGS: 2032, that make you feel a little old?


ROMANS: Yes. It does actually.

BRIGGS: That's a wonderful story, though, indeed.


All right. Ahead, steep policy differences on display. Ten Democratic candidates for president try to sway voters, as the clock ticks on the campaign.



BIDEN: Nobody's yet said how much it's going to cost the taxpayer.


ROMANS: Ten Democrats, one stage, health care at the center of the fight for the future of the party.

BRIGGS: A major tropical system will hit the already battered Bahamas.