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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN's Democratic Presidential Debate. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 14, 2020 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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?
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.
The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they've been in are the women...
... Amy and me.
KLOBUCHAR: So true.
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...
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
SANDERS: Well, 30 years ago is 1990, as a matter of fact.
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.
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.
BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Democratic presidential debate, live from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
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.
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.