Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
Senators Debate Tax Plan. Aired 9-10:30p ET
Aired November 28, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Welcome to CNN's Debate Night. I'm Jake Tapper.
DANA BASH, CNN: And I'm Dana Bash. President Trump has promised America a big tax cut (inaudible) right now the Senate is on the verge of a vote that could pave the way for his first major legislative victory or another major defeat.
TAPPER: But will it be a win for you and your family? Here to answer your questions, four senators whose votes will help decide whether this tax bill lives or dies, Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington state and independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
BASH: Senators, welcome. And a reminder, you will get 60 seconds to answer questions from us and our audience, 30 seconds for responses and rebuttals. Let's start with your opening statements. You each have one minute. Senator Cruz?
SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: Well, good evening. Thank you, CNN, for hosting this once again. Thank you to Bernie and Maria and Tim for taking part in a substantive discussion of tax policy.
Very soon we're going to be voting on a major tax cut bill. And the big question is exactly what Jake just asked, who are the winners under this bill? Well, let me tell you: If you're a taxpayer, this bill benefits you.
Our objective: We should be working to cut taxes for every single taxpayer in America. If you care about jobs and wages, if you're a young person who wants more opportunity, if you want to see wages going up, you're a winner.
Right now, America has the highest cooperate tax rate in the developed world. This bill cuts taxes on small businesses and job-creators, which the Council of Economic Advisers says will benefit every family by about $4,000 a year. If you're a parent, you're a winner. This doubles the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000. And if you want to see a brighter future for the next generation, cutting taxes and economic growth is the way to go.
BASH: Thank you. Senator Sanders?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VERMONT: Gee, Ted, what tax bill were you talking about? Surely not the one that's coming before the Senate. Here are the facts. Despite what President Trump says, despite what my colleagues here will tell you, the tax bills both in the House and the Senate give the lion's share of tax breaks to the top 1 percent.
Fifty percent of the tax breaks in the House bill go to the top 1 percent. Sixty percent go to the top 1 percent in the Senate bill. Now, at a time of massive income and wealthy inequality, when the rich are becoming phenomenally rich, when corporate profits are at an all- time high, while the middle class struggles and we have 40 million people living in poverty, who in their right mind, with all due respect, believes that we should give massive tax breaks to millionaires, billionaires, and large corporations?
Here's something else. This legislation will grow the deficit by $1.4 trillion. Mark my words, mark my words, the day after or soon after this legislation passes, if it does -- we're going to do everything we can to see that it doesn't -- these guys are going to come back, they're going to say, oh, my goodness, deficit is soaring, we've got to cut Social Security, we've got to cut Medicare and Medicaid and education, and programs that the middle class and working families desperately need.
This is a disastrous piece of legislation. We've got to defeat it.
BASH: Thank you. Senator Scott?
SEN. TIM SCOTT, R-SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you, and thank you all for being here tonight. I grew up in a single-parent household, a mother who worked 16 hours a day as a nurse's aide, changing bedpans, enrolling patients (ph).
When I think about tax reform, I don't think about the numbers. I think about the people, the people who so often feel left out, stuck in the shadows, the people who often feel invisible. I have a message for those folks: We see you.
Our goal in this tax reform conversation is to deliver your money back in your paychecks, so that as my mother had to struggle paycheck to paycheck, those single mothers struggling paycheck to paycheck will be able to have more of their hard-earned money so that they can take care of their families and at the same time create an economy that creates the jobs of the future here in America, here at home. That's what this tax reform does.
BASH: Senator Cantwell?
SEN. MARIA CANTWELL, D-WASHINGTON: Well, thanks to CNN for having this debate on a tough subject to tackle on TV. Raising taxes on the middle class is wrong. And that's what this bill does. It is also wrong to cut the corporate tax rate without having a promise of how that is really going to raise wages and impact productivity.
Our economy needs to continue to grow, and we do need to work together to figure out how to do that. Spending this much money without focusing on the middle class and what's going to help them incur larger wage increases, help with health insurance, make education and housing more affordable is wrong.
So much time and money is being spent on the tax breaks and not enough time and interest on where the investment goes. We are a great society in the United States of America, but we shouldn't be a 1 percent society. We should have an economy that works for everyone, and that's what we want to focus on, making sure that the resources we do have help us invest for the economy of the future.
TAPPER: Thank you, Senator Cantwell. The first question comes from Sharon Steffan. She's from Charleston, South Carolina. She makes around $23,000 a year. A new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, as you know, says that Americans in her salary range could end up getting fewer government benefits under the Senate Republican plan, and she has a question for her home state senator, Senator Tim Scott. Sharon?
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Scott, how are you?
SCOTT: Doing well, Sharon. How are you?
QUESTION: Well, what I wanted to talk about is the fact that I am a single mom of four. It's not been easy. I take the lion's share of the financial responsibility, from driving a flatbed truck, running landscaping crews, anything I can do to bring money in. And from what I understand, like you said, you were raised by a single mom.
QUESTION: She had multiple jobs. So what I want to know is, how is this going to help other single moms if this goes through?
SCOTT: Yes, ma'am. Thank you for your work ethic. And I will tell you, much like my mom, sounds like you're setting a great example for your kids, Sharon. And God bless the Palmetto State, having folks like you in the state.
I will say, there are a couple of ways that this plans benefits folks like yourself. Number one, we have doubled the child tax credit. It used to be $1,000. Now it's $2,000. That's a credit, not an exemption, which means that it's more powerful. So for four kids, that's an $8,000 credit.
When we did our analysis on the bill, a single mother with two kids making about $41,000 would see her taxes cut by about 75 percent under our plan. With four kids, it's probably going to cut it even more than that. So the long story short is you get to keep more of your hard-earned money to make better decisions for your family. I think that's good news.
TAPPER: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: May I respond to that?
TAPPER: Yes, please.
SANDERS: Sharon, I wish what Senator Scott said was reality. Unfortunately, it's not. According to the Tax Policy Center, which is a nonpartisan tax organization, 87 million middle-class households would see their taxes go up by the end of the decade. Now, interestingly enough, what they did in their bill is they made
the benefits that go to working people and the middle class temporary. But the corporate tax breaks are permanent. So I'm afraid to have to tell you, not only will your taxes likely go up, but when these guys are finished with cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, and other important programs for working families, it is likely you and your kids will be in worse shape.
SCOTT: Well, patently false, number one. We can debate the issues, but we can't debate the facts.
SANDERS: That's right.
SCOTT: Here's what the Joint Committee on Taxation says. In her income bracket, her tax will go down, not up. Down.
SANDERS: Well, speaking of the Joint Committee on Taxation, on average, what they say is the Senate Republican tax plan raises taxes on American families earning $75,000 or less by the end of the decade. That's what they say.
TAPPER: I'd like to bring in Senator -- I'd like to bring in Senator Cruz and Senator Cantwell.
SCOTT: I think the word I'm looking for is hogwash.
SCOTT: Yes, absolutely.
SANDERS: Then you'd better talk to the Joint...
SCOTT: Well, let me just -- this is the latest tax brackets from just last night. I'm not sure where your information is coming from, but the last proposal -- I'm happy to share this with you, shows without any question, specifically to your question about your income bracket for your household, the answer is you will pay less in taxes than you did last year. Our proposal cuts your taxes. Anyone that tells you anything other than that is inconsistent with reality.
TAPPER: So one of the reasons that some of the projections from different studies have said that people under $30,000 might end up with a net increase is because of the repeal of the Obamacare mandate, which will mean that some of them won't be getting the subsidies if they voluntarily withdraw from it, but also that insurance premiums could go up by 10 percent. Senator Cruz, I want to give you an opportunity to respond.
CRUZ: Let me take a little bit of time to unpack this, because there are a lot of numbers that have been thrown out that are completely bogus. The center that Bernie relied on is a left-wing group, and the reason they say 87 million people's taxes will go up is because he said by the end of the decade. Why -- in 2027 all of the individual tax cuts are scheduled to expire. Why? Because the Democrats have promised to filibuster. They're opposing tax reform.
I'd like to make the individual tax cuts permanent. Your taxes -- as Tim walked you through, ma'am, your taxes -- just your child tax credit is doubling to $8,000. That's real money. But because the Democrats are filibustering it, that's not permanent.
You know what? Bernie and Maria could join with us right now, say they'll stop filibustering tax cuts, and we could make those permanent for everyone. The facts are clear. We are cutting taxes for everyone, and it's only the Democrats' filibuster that makes it expire after 10 years.
TAPPER: Senator Cantwell.
CANTWELL: Well, I'm so glad you're here, because you represent a part of America that we need to be serious about. Your childcare costs have gone up, and they have not been kept pace with the rate of inflation. That's why we should be helping you.
But instead, they've taken a good idea in this bill, which is increasing the child tax credit, and instead expanded it to people making up to $500,000 a year. I don't think that we can afford to give people at $500,000 a year a child tax credit. I want to find all the people like you in the economy and help you meet ends for your family and continue to thrive. And that's where we should be spending the money.
SANDERS: Just, if I may say, when Ted says that the Tax Policy Center is a left-wing group, it was founded by economists from Reagan -- I don't think he was a left-winger -- Bush I and Bill Clinton. These are people who are trying to do the hard, objective work, and what they say is that 87 million middle-class households by the end of the decade would see an increase in their taxes...
CRUZ: So, Bernie, true or false, the children's tax credit would double, child tax credit would double?
SANDERS: One second. You talk about filibuster.
CRUZ: No, no, true or false?
CRUZ: You talk about filibuster. The reason that what you guys have done is gone through so-called reconciliation. In other words, they are trying to pass this bill in an almost unprecedented way without asking any Democrats to become involved. If you want to do 60 votes, let's work together. You want tax breaks for the middle class, let's work together.
CRUZ: But Bernie, you know why that's happening? You're right, Ronald Reagan in 1981 and '86 cut taxes. You had a Democrat, Tip O'Neill, as speaker of the House. The person who carried it in the Senate was Phil Gramm, then a conservative Democrat. In the Senate, it was Bill Bradley, then a liberal Democrat. The difference from the '80s and now, we had Democrats willing to cut your taxes.
Every single Democrat is unwilling to work with us. And in fact, you want to know the clear difference between the two sides in this debate and in the Senate? This is the third debate Bernie and I have done. In the last debate, Bernie was very explicit. He was very candid. He said he wants to raise your taxes, he wants to raise everyone's taxes. That's the difference.
SANDERS: To do what, Ted?
CRUZ: The Democrats want to raise your taxes.
SANDERS: To provide health care for every man, woman, and child in this country.
CRUZ: -- what the Republicans are doing is cutting your taxes. You're right. They want to raise your taxes and then they want to spend your money. We want to cut your taxes and let you spend your money.
SANDERS: No, you want to cut taxes for the billionaires. Maybe--
CRUZ: I thought we were talking about cutting taxes--
SANDERS: -- here are the facts. Here are the facts: 60 percent of the tax breaks you are giving--
SCOTT: Let's talk about the facts.
SANDERS: -- your -- are coming from your campaign contributors, the 1 percent.
TAPPER: Let's let Senator Scott have the last word, and then we have an audience question.
SCOTT: Sharon, let's just do simple math real quick. If you have four kids and your child tax credit is $2,000, each child, that's $8,000. We're taking your standard deductions, that used to be $9,300, we're making it $18,000. In other words, $18,000 deduction and then whatever your tax is owed, you have an $8,000 credit to reduce that tax. In other words, you'll be getting a larger refund under our plan.
BASH: Senators, thank you. We want to get to another audience question. George Silos is from New Jersey and says that his middle- class family would pay more under your Republican plan because it eliminates the state and local deduction known at SALT. Senator Cruz, this is for you.
QUESTION: Senator Cruz, I voted for you in the 2016 New Jersey presidential primary--
CRUZ: Thank you. QUESTION: -- in part because I saw you as a defender of conservative principles. This tax reform bill includes tax reductions for the wealthy in the form of the elimination of the alternative minimum tax and the federal estate tax. However, this tax reform bill also includes a large middle-class tax increase because it eliminates the state and local income and property tax deduction otherwise known as the SALT deduction. Do you believe hiking taxes on the middle class is in line with conservative principles?
CRUZ: Well, thank you for your question. Thank you for your support in primaries last year.
Absolutely not. And you've highlighted what is my single biggest concern with the tax bill as it is now. I think, on the business side, there's some very good elements. There are elements that help small businesses, grow jobs, expand the economy, raise wages. Doubling the child tax credit is a good step.
The biggest thing I think we need to improve and that I'm working hard to improve is lowering even further every taxpayer's tax bill. Now, when it comes to the state and local tax deduction, that predominantly benefits the very wealthy, which in any other circumstance Bernie and Maria would say they don't support.
Now, I don't think we should be subsidizing -- we shouldn't be encouraging a state like New Jersey to hammer you with really high taxes, but we should only eliminate that deduction if we're lowering rates enough that your tax bill goes down. And that's the biggest thing I'm continuing to urge in the Senate is let's cut individual rates. Let's lower it so that every taxpayer is paying a smaller tax bill.
BASH: Senator, can I just follow up on that? You're obviously not comfortable with this. So if there isn't a change, will you vote yes?
CRUZ: So this is -- it's the nature of any legislation. This is an ongoing negotiation. You know, Bismarck said there are two things you don't want to see being made, sausage and legislation. That's true here.
There are a lot of good elements in this. The biggest area we need to fix is -- this is reducing taxes for most people, but there are people in blue states, New Jersey, New York, California, that have really high local taxes who this is not helping enough.
And I will say I find myself in the curious position of defending people from blue states and saying we should be cutting everyone's taxes, even if your local politicians are jacking them up on you. You know, what Reagan did, what Jack Kemp did was across-the-board cuts for everybody. That is incredibly good for the economy, and it produces economic growth.
BASH: Senator Cantwell?
CANTWELL: Well, he's not working hard enough, I can tell you that. And to the gentleman, yes, I guess I'm here to come and fight for those conservative values, because I believe you have the right for that deductibility. And I have fought for the state of Washington and the state of Texas and the state of Wyoming and the state of Tennessee and the state of New Hampshire and those in Florida not to have to get rid and now have double taxation.
I believe you have the ability, because, guess what, the impact on families on property tax, on mortgage, on education, on these things that are so important, you should be able to deduct them. And we should be fighting to say, why should the middle class have to pay for a corporate tax break by raising taxes on somebody in Bellevue, Washington, or in New Jersey, or in Austin, Texas?
I don't think that's the right way to go about a tax bill. And I would be saying to people, as I've said since the beginning, when I saw that they were using the local deduction and impacting middle class, you do not have my vote, because this is so important not to do this on the backs of the middle class.
SCOTT: It is good to hear my good friends on the left fighting for those who make over $500,000 a year. A third of those who benefit from the SALT make over $500,000 a year. Eighty-eight percent of those who benefit from the SALT make over $100,000 a year.
So you can either get the deduction or you can get more of your money back. The reality of it is very simple. Disproportionately the households who benefit from the SALT are those who itemize. Seven out of 10 folks don't itemize today. After our plan, 9 out of 10. So the folks who are left are those folks in the highest income brackets, making -- earning or benefiting one-third more than anybody else.
CANTWELL: Can I respond to that? He's wrong. In the state of Washington, there's about a million people who itemize, and about 85 percent of those people are in a bracket between $50,000 and joint up to $200,000.
So it is not this uber-wealthy. It is about whether we're going to fight for the middle class, for our citizens to be able to make these deductions. Ted should be up here fighting, unless he wants his state to have an income tax or something. I'm not sure exactly what he wants people to do.
But we should allow -- we have had this deductibility for 100 years, 100 years. Why all of a sudden are we giving it away? And we're giving it away so you can pay for a corporate tax break. It's the middle class who's hurting. Corporates are making huge profits. They are not the people that we should be dealing with right now. We should be helping the middle class.
BASH: Senator Cruz, you want to respond?
BASH: Senator Cruz, do you want to respond? CRUZ: Well, you know, it's interesting. Bernie and Maria and the rest of the Democrats are all for raising taxes. They want to raise taxes on every taxpayer. But, you know, people vote if their feet.
If you look at the states with the highest tax rates, people are fleeing the states. If you look at the 10 highest taxed states in America, in 2015, 240,000 people fled those states. The top three, by the way, are New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. People are fleeing those states. Why? Because they can't get jobs.
The taxes are so high. And where are they going? They're going predominantly to the 10 states with the lowest tax rates, including Texas, including South Carolina, which saw in that same year 100,000 people coming in. People vote with their feet.
And the problem with federal bureaucrats wanting to encourage states to raise your taxes is you end up paying more. Our objective should be simple. We want more jobs. And when you pound job-creators -- you know, both Bernie and Maria talked about it's terrible cutting taxes on corporations. Businesses, if you want more jobs, you want small businesses to grow. We have the highest tax rate, corporate tax rate in the developed world. It's higher than France, it's higher than the United Kingdom, it's higher than Canada. And jobs are going overseas because of it. We need more jobs here.
CANTWELL: I need to respond to this, because I see he's gone over his time and this isn't the Ted filibuster show. This is about an important aspect of the bill. The majority of it is paying for along with the deficit the break for corporations.
The state of Washington, people are coming there. They're coming there in droves. And they're coming there because it is a low-tax state. And so you're asking me to give up that model. You're asking people in your own state to give up that model. And what I'm saying is people are and corporations are there because we are a cost- effective state in delivering services.
But the economy of the future should not be the federal government telling every single state how to operate. Our tax rate in the Northwest, we have a very different tax code, and so does Oregon. And our economy has grown faster than the national average every year since World War II. So we're getting both done. We have a lower tax rate, and we still have a thriving economy. That is what we should be striving for.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Andrew John. He's an investment risk manager from Arlington, Virginia. And his question is for Senator Cantwell. Andrew?
QUESTION: Thank you, Jake. Senator Cantwell, I believe there are opportunities to make compromises in reforming our tax code that can gain support from people on both sides of the political divide. Why has there been no apparent effort to sideline the most ideologically rigid of your Senate colleagues and work on a compromise bill that can gain support from both Republicans and Democrats? CANTWELL: I think because people -- thank you for the question. I think because people are in a hurry. And I wish they wouldn't hurry on this.
If you look at how we got to other proposals, people always talk about the '86 Act. It took a long time. And people agreed, but it gave a lot of confidence that it was something that was going to stick around.
And I think the fact that people are trying to hurry to get this done, I would say to our colleagues, don't think that you have to get this done right now. Why? Are corporations suffering? I don't think they're suffering. I think they're making good money.
Do I want to get this issue about how we deal with a global economy and how we're going to continue to innovate and what kind of tax code would incent the best growth for the United States? Yes. But even this international tax code provision, I have big companies saying to me, I don't even understand what it means and how it's going to affect us.
If we're going to change something so big as that part of the tax code, slow down. Let's understand what it means. If you are going to make it work effectively, everybody should at least understand what it is. And as we marked it up, there were so many things in there that people were saying, oh, I didn't even know that was there, oh, I don't even know what the effect of that is. So let's slow down and work together.
TAPPER: Senator Scott, do you want to comment on that, on the need for bipartisan cooperation?
SCOTT: Absolutely. I was looking for some notes here. The child tax credit going from $1,000 to $2,000, can you support that? The Earned Income Tax Credit remaining as it is, can we support that? Former President Obama and Ranking Member Wyden both supported a lower corporate tax rate because they both agreed that in a global economy our nation is at an incredible disadvantage.
The average rate for our competitors is around 23 percent. We're at 35 percent. Five thousand companies have either inverted or been acquired because our tax rate is so uncompetitive, they have been easy targets.
So whether you're on the left, like former President Obama or Ranking Member Wyden, on if you're on the right, like Ted Cruz or Tim Scott, we've all come together on the fact that we must lower the corporate tax rate if we want America to be more competitive. Do you like the child tax credit, the earned tax credit? There are a number of opportunities for our friends on the left to come to the table. But they have said, no, thank you.
SANDERS: Actually, there are zero opportunities for progressives to come to the table--
SCOTT: You've missed the last five minutes (ph). You've missed the last five minutes (ph).
SANDERS: -- because you guys -- because you locked the door, because you made a decision to go forward with reconciliation. You have 52 votes in the Senate. You need 50 plus the vice president to pass it. And that's what you did. You decided from day one that you would not involve Maria, myself, or any other Democrat in this process.
Now, if you had, what would have happened is, yeah, we would have raised the Earned Income Tax Credit, we would have dealt very significantly with childcare. But you know what? We would not have given 60 percent of the tax breaks to the top 1 percent.
So, Andrew, the reason that there is no compromise, they made a political decision that they were going to do it alone, hoping that they would get 50 votes. Whether they will or not, we will find out soon enough. But there was never an effort to involve Democrats in the process.
SCOTT: That's not accurate.
TAPPER: We're going to take a very, very quick break. CNN's Debate Night returns right after this. Stay with us.
DANA BASH: We're back at CNN's Debate Night. Senators, we have another audience question. We want to talk about the fact that the Republican tax plan effectively gives small businesses a lower tax rate through a new deduction. And the next question comes from Dina Rubio. She and her husband own a Cuban restaurant in West Palm Beach, Florida, and currently employ 18 people. And Dina has a question for Senator Sanders.
QUESTION: Good evening. Thank you, Senator Sanders, for taking my question. I am from Nicaragua, and my husband is from Cuba. We both lived under regimes that the way of seeing -- the interpretation of equality is to -- equality is to deny the right of entrepreneurship.
For the past 23 years, we have dedicated our lives to keep up with the business, the ever-changing business of the restaurant industry. We have aspirations to add a walkup window for takeout and a sit-down bar, which would allow us to hire six to eight more people.
But after paying operating expenses and the high rate taxes, that leaves us with very little monies left for possible expansion. Why don't you agree to give us a tax break for small businesses like ours and to create more jobs and possibly giving better benefits to the workers than what we already have?
SANDERS: And are you going to invite me to your restaurant?
QUESTION: Please do.
SANDERS: I'd love to come. I am for a tax break for you. And I am for a tax break for small business. And I am for a tax break for working families all over this country. What I am not for is massive tax breaks for billionaires. As part of this proposal, these gentlemen would repeal the estate tax, which applies to the top 0.2 percent, giving billionaires hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks. I oppose that.
But if we can help small businesses, who are the job-creators in this country, count me in. I would love the opportunity to work with these fellows, but Republicans have made a decision to go it alone.
BASH: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Dina, thank you for sharing your story. Your experience is like my family's experience, like Tim's family's experience, like so many millions of Americans. Like your husband and my dad came from Cuba and came here seeking freedom, came here seeking a land of opportunity.
The problem is small businesses, businesses like the restaurant you all own, two-thirds of all new jobs come from small businesses. And under the last eight years of Democratic control, small businesses have been hammered with taxes and regulations.
Now, a minute ago, Jonathan asked, why are there not -- why is there not more bipartisan compromise? There used to be Democrats who would support cutting taxes. The problem is that the Democratic Party in today's Senate has become more extreme.
Now, Bernie and I have done three of these debates. I like debating Bernie because he's honest, he's candid. He is a socialist. He admits he's a socialist. He wants to raise everyone's taxes. And so, Maria, I'd like to actually ask you a question that I asked Bernie last time, which is -- since this is a tax debate, what is the difference between a Democrat and a socialist on taxes?
CANTWELL: Well, you know, Ted, I really thought about this issue of you trying to divide the Democrats. But, you know, we're a big-tent party. And there's room for Bernie and there's room for me.
The difference is you guys keep trying to isolate your party. It used to be there was everywhere from Susan Collins to Jeff Sessions. But instead, you guys took on people like Dick Lugar. And guess what? We got Joe Donnelly. And then you put somebody out there in Missouri, and we got Claire McCaskill. So you keep narrowing your tent, and I'm fine with our big tent.
And so the issue here -- and I have two small-business people here from Seattle, a millennial, Michael, who's asked me what are we doing about the housing crisis, am I ever going to get out of my parents' basement and own my own home? And he's working hard in a sector that this bill is making harder for him to make his company competitive.
And another businessman, Joe, who says what are you doing to our economy if you're giving the big corporations a huge tax break and you're only giving us a smaller tax break? He's the job creator. He created jobs in the downturn of our economy and did so successfully. I want to make sure they are getting a fair deal. BASH: Senator Scott, you want to weigh in?
SCOTT: Yes, thanks. Jake, thank you for your time here. Dana -- I call him Jacko -- Dana, I ran a small business for about 13 years before I went into full-time politics. I will tell you that running a business is hard. I appreciate your integrity and your effort, number one.
Number two, our plan gives you about a 17.5 percent break so that you can hire more folks, invest more of your capital into building your business.
Number two, I would tell Bernie, our plan does not repeal, does not repeal the estate tax. That is a false statement. So the truth is that your 18 employees under our plan will have more opportunities to see retirement go up, health care become better for you to expand your locations, for you guys to be able to take a vacation. I'm not sure how it is when you're running your own business, but when I was running my business, vacations didn't happen annually.
SANDERS: In terms of the estate tax, the House bill does repeal the estate tax.
SCOTT: We're in the Senate. We're in the Senate, though.
SANDERS: I'm more than aware of that. But--
SCOTT: OK, good. Just want to make sure.
SANDERS: -- into the conference committee. But I read Ted's stuff. Ted -- you agree with repealing the estate tax. You've said that many, many times.
SANDERS: All right, there you go. But--
SCOTT: This is a big -- this is a big-tent party.
CRUZ: We have a big tent, Bernie.
SCOTT: There's room for Ted, and there's room for Tim.
SANDERS: That's fine. But the point is -- the point is, repealing the estate tax, if the House gets their way, will give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the very, very wealthiest people in this country.
You know, what I think Ted began in his discussion, we begin to broaden this debate. Taxes are not an end to themselves. They really are a means to an end to the kind of society we want to create. These gentlemen, and it's important, when they tell you how much they're fighting for the middle class, understand a few months ago, correct me if I'm wrong, you voted to throw 32 million Americans off of their health insurance they had.
CRUZ: You're wrong.
SCOTT: You're wrong.
CRUZ: You're wrong.
SANDERS: Was it 30 million?
CRUZ: You're wrong.
SCOTT: No, not at all.
SANDERS: I'm not wrong.
CRUZ: You are wrong.
SANDERS: No, I'm not wrong.
SCOTT: False statement.
SANDERS: You wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
CRUZ: And you better believe--
SANDERS: And voted five different times--
SANDERS: -- 30 million people losing their health insurance. These guys -- these guys right now, in this bill, if their bill here in the Senate will pass, it will result in 13 million people losing their health insurance, premiums going up by 10 percent.
If their bill goes through, if you are in graduate school, you're going to be paying substantially more in taxes. In the budget that they passed, they made massive cuts in Pell Grants, in nutrition programs for hungry kids and low-income pregnant women. (CROSSTALK)
SANDERS: The dynamic of American society now is that we have a politics where big money, billionaires make huge campaign contributions and we have politicians who work for them, not for the middle class.
TAPPER: Senator Scott, you're going to get the next question. Just today, President Trump promised that a big tax cut for corporations would lead to more jobs for the American people, for American workers. The proposed tax plan would lower the corporate tax rate permanently from 35 percent to 20 percent, as you know.
The next question comes from a former CEO who takes issue with the promise that this tax cut will create jobs. David Mendels served as CEO of Brightcove, an online video platform with more than 500 employees. And he has a question for Senator Scott.
QUESTION: Senator Scott, thank you. So in my experience, as CEO of a public company, I can tell you, our investors would have been delighted at any tax cut which improved our--
TAPPER: David, can you hold the microphone up?
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry. Senator Scott, in my experience as a CEO at a public company, I can tell you that our investors would have been delighted at any tax cut that improved our profitability. But it would not have led to more hiring or an increase in wages. Just wouldn't. It never came up.
What do you say to employees of companies like mine and many millions of others who won't get higher wages as a direct result of lower corporate taxes? But the corporate investors and the executives like myself will get a very large benefit.
SCOTT: Well, thank you for your question and thank you for your investment in the American economy. I, too, owned a private C corporation years ago. And it's true. Private companies, as well as public companies, there are three groups of individuals who actually pay taxes. One, as you suggested, are the investors. The second are the employees. When you have a 35 percent rate, employees paid the tax by lower actual wages. And the second -- the third group are consumers. Consumers pay the tax through higher cost of goods.
So the reality of it is, the answer to the question is that the vast majority of companies will do one of three things with the capital. They will reward investors. They will reward employees. And sometimes consumers will pay less.
As a matter of fact, this is not a center-right conversation. This is a conversation having -- having been had on the left as well as the right. Economists on both sides of the aisle agree that the corporate tax is a burden shared by the employees of the company and the consumers of those products.
TAPPER: Senator Cantwell?
CANTWELL: Yes, because -- thank you for that question. And you have hit on what is a centerpiece of what this discussion should be about tonight.
Because just like repeal health care, reform tax cuts, it's like a moniker that they want to put up, but the substance is wrong. And that is on the point you just made. Most people will tell you that this money, 75 percent of it, at least, will go to dividends and to shareholders. And what we have in America is a wage issue and productivity issue.
And so there's nothing, nothing in this bill that says corporations, if you get this tax cut, I expect you to raise wages and increase productivity. Now, if our colleagues want to join us on the Senate floor with an amendment that guarantees that with the tax break they're going to make that kind of commitment, I'll be all ears to listen to this.
But if not, I'm going to take what the Fed has said, because the Fed has been looking at this issue of productivity and wage and said these are things that we need to make investments in: Education, job training, working towards the future, and making sure that the skill set of the American public helps them get the wage increase that we want.
Now, I know that Senator Scott is a big fan of apprentice. I'm a big fan of apprentice. Maybe this is some place where we can work together. I think if we can't convince the president of the United States to be for a tax credit for apprentice, I don't know what we can convince him of. But we need to skill American workers. Otherwise, this will go to shareholders and that will be it.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: You know, the Democrats have one talking point on taxes. It's a tax cut for the rich. And they say it over and over and over again in response to everything.
The most important thing for you to know when you're at home is when they say "rich," they mean taxpayer. Every single time they say "rich," they mean taxpayer. Why is it? Because the very rich, there aren't enough of them.
You know, Bernie ran for president. He rolled out a tax plan. His tax plan was a massive tax increase. If you took every single person in America making over $1 million and you taxed them 100 percent of their income, you took every penny they earned, you came in, in jack boots and confiscated it, it would pay 8 percent of the cost of Bernie's tax plan.
You know where they get their money? They get it from you. They get it from the middle class. And in fact, I'll give a quote -- I'll quote from Bernie in the last debate, because he was very explicit. This isn't about the taxing the rich. What the Democrats want to do is tax the middle class.
Here's what Bernie said. This is a quote. So, yes, to answer your question, Jake, if we can explain to people, yeah, you're going to be paying more in taxes -- now, he said it's going to be a progressive tax system, the wealthy are going to pay their fair share, not the middle class, not the working class, but everybody will pay some more.
So you're a single mom--
SANDERS: Ted, you left out--
CRUZ: You're working -- he says you're going to pay some more. You're a small-business owner, he says you're going to pay some more. And the reason is there aren't enough millionaires and billionaires to pay for all the socialism that Bernie and the Democrats want to give away. SANDERS: This is why politics in America stinks.
CRUZ: Thank you.
SANDERS: Because you -- that's right -- because--
CRUZ: Thank you again.
SANDERS: -- you forgot the other half of the sentence. And what the other half of that statement said is, yeah, you may pay more in taxes if you're in the middle class for a Medicare-for-all single-payer health care bill, but you're not going to have to pay your private premiums to an insurance company. And you will be better off.
Now, Ted stays up nights worrying that somebody's going to pay more in taxes. Apparently you don't worry that there are families in America paying $15,000 or $20,000 a year for insurance to private companies. That's OK for you.
CRUZ: You know, Bernie, what I do worry about is--
SANDERS: Yeah, well, you didn't give my whole quote. My whole quote--
CRUZ: But Obamacare caused that.
SANDERS: No, Obamacare did not cause that.
CRUZ: So, Bernie, a couple of simple facts.
SANDERS: But one point.
CRUZ: Go ahead.
SANDERS: All right, and then I'll give it back to you. Next time you quote me, give the whole quote, not half.
CRUZ: I read a whole paragraph.
SANDERS: Well, the quote was wrong.
CRUZ: I'm sorry I didn't read the whole speech.
SANDERS: Well, you took out the essence of what it was.
CRUZ: OK, but you're right. Look, this divide shows the difference between Democrats and Republicans. What Bernie wants to do is tax the living daylights out of you, take all your money, and then--
SANDERS: Did I say that? CRUZ: Yes, you did.
SANDERS: Oh, I missed that.
CRUZ: Because you said we're going to tax the middle class, and then you said but we the Democrats are going to give it back to you. We're going to give you free stuff, we're going to give you free health care, we're going to give you free education. But you know what? It's going to be Bernie and Maria deciding what you get. Tim and I have a much simpler view. You get to keep your money. You decide. If you want to spend it on--
CRUZ: -- if you want to invest, it's your decision--
-- not politicians in Washington.
TAPPER: I want to bring this -- I want to bring this back for one second--
SANDERS: Let me just answer this, because he's misquoting me, Jake.
TAPPER: -- to the corporate tax--
SANDERS: What Bernie said is that the United States of America should join every other major country on Earth and guarantee health care to all people. And when we do--
SANDERS: -- health care for the middle class. That's what Bernie said.
JAKE TAPPER: I would love to get this back to the corporate tax rate for one second. And, Senator Cantwell, one of the things I wanted to ask you about -- and Senator Scott made an allusion to this, is that it isn't just Republicans who are talking about lowering the corporate tax rate. President Clinton last year said that the corporate tax rate needs to be lowered so the United States could be more competitive. President Obama proposed reducing it from 35 percent to 28 percent.
CANTWELL: And our colleagues, Camp from the House and Baucus from the Senate, worked on a proposal, too. So the question is, how do we have tax reform? So we have a lot of companies in the Northwest who are these companies, who are working very diligently to sell products, whether you're talking about Microsoft or Amazon or Costco or Starbucks. We have a lot of successful companies.
The question is, how do we reform our tax code but not to the degree that 20 percent and giving this money away, when I believe that the people who are here, Joe and Michael, also are job-creators. They're small-business people. And as the previous gentleman just said, when they're just going to put that into dividends, instead of growing the productivity and wages of Americans.
So to me, it's a comprehensive approach. While I'm willing to do something -- and maybe the president was right, 28 percent, maybe it's a little bit lower -- but we're not going to do this by just having a truckload of money drive down the street and have it fly off the back to corporations and not understand how this is going to help middle- class compete in the economy of the future.
BASH: Senators, thank you. Senators, hang on one second.
CRUZ: Hold on one second.
BASH: We have another audience question for you.
CRUZ: Let me jump in very briefly on that, which is that the Democrats love to vilify corporations and job-creators. But, you know, look, every one of us gets a paycheck. We get a paycheck from somebody. And I'll point out that as much as the Democrats wants to make your employer the bad guy, you could take the entire net worth of Apple, Google, Microsoft, in your state of Washington, and Exxon Mobil combined, seize it all, nationalize those companies, it would pay for one year of Bernie's tax plan. One year.
SANDERS: That's nonsense. That's nonsense.
CRUZ: You want to know? Actually, here's the math. Apple's market cap is $825 billion. Google's is $692 billion. Microsoft's is $597 billion. Exxon Mobil is $350 billion. And your tax plan costs $2.5 trillion a year. That's simple math. If you want to get the money to spend from their big government plans, it's got to come from you, the middle class, and we shouldn't be raising your taxes. We should be lowering them.
BASH: Senator, and then we got to get to the audience.
SANDERS: OK, I just want, for the record here, Tim I think it was talked about the corporate tax rate being 35 percent.
SANDERS: That's correct. That is the nominal rate. But, Tim, you understand--
SCOTT: I'm -- the effective rate. That's--
SANDERS: Yeah, there's a great deal of difference between the effective rate, as I understand it, according to the GAO, the Government Accountability Office, large, profitable corporations pay just 14 percent of their profits in federal income taxes. There's a big difference between the nominal rate of 35 percent and what they pay. And what they end up paying, by the way, is somewhere near what they pay in the OECD. Do you agree?
SCOTT: Let me just say this, and -- Maria, I'm happy to meet you halfway on the apprenticeship programs. We ought to do that when we get offstage, number one.
Number two, I will say that, Bernie, there's a reason why Senator Mike Bennet, Democrat, Amy Klobuchar, Heidi Heitkamp, Ron Wyden, Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner, all Democrats have supported lowering the corporate tax rate, because we all understand on the left and the right that that corporate tax rate punishes success, punishes workers. We want to reward success. And at the end of the day, if we do that, we will have a better economy with higher wages, with more folks working.
SANDERS: So the only point that I wanted to make is you agree, that the effective tax rate is not 35 percent. It's closer to 14 percent.
SCOTT: I would suggest that, that is also true throughout the world and our competitors. So when you look at our position versus our competitors, when Ireland is at 12 percent, when the U.K. is heading towards 17 percent or 18 percent, when the OECD average is around 22 percent, the reality of it is, at 35 percent, even when you lower it down to our effective rate, when those countries do the same thing, we find ourselves at a small disadvantage.
BASH: Senator Sanders, we have to leave it there. Thank you.
BASH: We have an audience member waiting patiently to talk about the deficit.
(UNKNOWN): Thank you for waiting.
BASH: The Republican bill adds an estimated $1.4 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. And Steven Prince is a successful business owner in Tennessee who says he's concerned about that and has a question for you, Senator Cruz.
QUESTION: Senator Cruz, I know that Senator Corker from Tennessee today voted yes in the committee. But there's a question about whether he'll do that when it actually comes up for the vote. I'm really concerned about this deficit situation that we're going into. Today, you know, unemployment is approaching a 20-year low. The stock market reaches an all-time high every day. Corporations are making as much or more money than they've ever made in the history of the United States.
A tax cut is phenomenal weapon that a government can use when they need it. Do we really need a tax cut like this right now in this booming economy that we've got?
CANTWELL: So, Steven, thank you for that question. You know, the interesting thing is the perspective on a booming economy, it is a booming economy for the very wealthy. The rich have done great. Under Obama, the top 1 percent, who the Democrats vilify all the time, earn a higher share of our income than any year since 1928. The very rich have done great.
You know who's getting hammered? It's working men and women. Why? Because from 2008 until today, the economy has grown only 1.2 percent a year. It's stagnant. Working men and women -- if folks are at home wondering why did Donald Trump win in 2016, the simplest and most direct answer is because working men and women have been left behind by the economy.
Now, I agree with you about the debt. It was a big part of why I ran for the Senate. The only force powerful enough to pay down the debt is economic growth. If we get growth back to 3 percent, 4 percent, 5 percent, historic levels, that turns everything around. That's how you pay down the debt. We saw that with Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. We saw it with John F. Kennedy in the 1960s. We saw it with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
I want to pay down the debt, which means we need to bring back jobs and get growth. And cutting taxes is the proven method to bringing back jobs and getting the growth to pay the debt down.
BASH: Senator Cantwell, I want to bring you in one second. But, Senator Cruz, you talked earlier about the fact that it's the Democrats' fault that there is only a 51-vote majority and that there is a big deficit issue and that the individual tax cuts are going to expire after 10 years. But isn't it the reality that it's your fellow Republicans who are already worried about what we just heard about, the deficit in the bill now that don't want it to get even higher? It's not the Democrats.
CRUZ: Look, Dana, it's important to underscore -- you keep using the number $1.4 trillion, $1.5 trillion. That's what's called a static score. Now what does that mean? People at home don't talk in terms of static.
Static means it's pretending that the tax cuts don't have any impact at all on the economy and they do nothing. Tax cuts have a powerful impact. Let me ask you guys at home. How many of you all have gone to the shopping mall to shop the weekend before school starts because there's a sales tax holiday? Taxes have a powerful effect on incentives.
And if you look at history, so John F. Kennedy campaigned on tax cuts. He campaigned -- what John F. Kennedy said in 1963, quote, "Our present income tax rate structure now holds back consumer demand, initiative and investment. The largest single barrier to full employment of our manpower and resources and to a higher rate of economic growth is the unrealistically heavy drag on federal income, taxes on private purchasing power, initiative and incentive."
Now, here's the sad truth. John F. Kennedy will be drummed out of the Democratic Party. Because, you know, I asked Maria, is there any difference between Democrats and socialists? She wouldn't answer that.
BASH: Senator, we want to get Senator Cantwell.
CRUZ: We don't have a single Democrat willing to support this tax cut plan--
BASH: Thank you.
CRUZ: -- because the Democratic base is with Bernie and they're afraid of supporting tax cuts.
BASH: Senator Cantwell?
CANTWELL: Well, I think Ted has the right goal -- grow the economy -- but he has the wrong means. And when he thinks you're going to get 3 percent growth out of this tax bill, there's nobody that agrees with that.
In fact, they asked 38 economists whether this would even grow it a few tenths of a percent. And basically they said no. Actually, 37 out of the 3 -- when they asked the guy, hey, wait, why did you say it would grow the economy? He said, oh, I read the question wrong.
No, I don't think it's going to grow it, either. So what we have to come to terms with -- and I know this is hard, I know it's hard, and I know it's scary, because I say to the young people I work with, there's a reason Ma Bell doesn't exist anymore. But then they look at me and they're like, who's Ma Bell? And I'm like, yes, we've made in a very short period of time a huge transition from a big mega company to now this handheld device that tells you everything.
But we can make it through that transition. America has made it through other economic transformations. But as these two gentlemen just said, you're not going to do that by just giving the corporate money away and not strengthening the wage and productivity of the American worker.
So Ted has the right goal. But we're hearing from people all across America, they want the help and support in education, in job training, in the things that are going to make us competitive, letting the small businesses have the same access that corporations have. That is what people want.
BASH: Senator, thank you. Thank you. We're going to have to take a quick break, speaking of economic growth. We have to get some commercials in. CNN's Debate Night will be right back.
TAPPER: We're back at CNN's Debate Night. The next question comes from Ellen Stark. She's a joint law and public health student at the University of Arizona. She has a question for Senator Scott. Ellen?
QUESTION: Senator Scott, the individual mandate is necessary to the success of the Affordable Care Act. And legislators on both sides have acknowledged that its repeal would lead to rising premiums and ultimately the collapse of the health care market. How do you justify its removal? And why are corporations prioritized over providing affordable health care for Americans in the United States?
SCOTT: Thank you, Ellen, for your question, and I look forward to seeing you as part of the workforce as we move forward. I will say that the reality of it is, is really simple. The individual mandate and the penalty associated with it is an onerous burden placed on your lowest income earners.
As an example, 80 percent of those who paid the penalty of the individual mandate live in a household of $50,000 or less. Thirty- four percent of those who paid the penalty live a household with an income of around $25,000.
The good news is, when Republicans said, if you like your insurance, you can keep it, we actually meant it. When you eliminate the individual mandate, if you're getting a subsidy today, you get a subsidy tomorrow.
If you like your insurance, you stay on the exact same policy. Nothing changes when we remove the individual mandate, except people then decide whether they want to buy it or not. It's that simple.
TAPPER: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: It's not quite that simple, Tim.
SCOTT: Please tell us.
SANDERS: Because if somebody decides they don't want health insurance, which is their right, when they come down with cancer and they run up a medical bill of several hundred thousand dollars, you pay it, I pay it, and everybody else in this country that has health insurance pays it.
Now, I happen to think that the individual mandate is not the best way. But I believe that we should do, as I mentioned earlier, guarantee health care to all people. You are saying if people don't want health insurance, hey, no problem, they don't have to have it. And then they go bankrupt or somebody else picks up the bill for them.
The obvious solution to this problem is, again, to do what every other country does, guarantee that health care is a right of all people and end the absurdity of the United States of America being the only country in the world not to guarantee health care to all people. That's how you solve that problem.
SCOTT: Bernie --
I apologize for not using up all of my time. I didn't realize you had so much of it. So let me just say this, because the reality of it is that we all pay for our health care costs. There's no change in that. The only question really is how we pay for it.
When you buy Obamacare, you thought you were going to be paying around $900 billion. Two years later, they said it was $1.8 trillion. And now they say they're not quite sure exactly how much it's going to cost. The reality of it is, whether you have the health insurance or not, the disproportionate burden of paying for health care today lies on the shoulders and the backs of working Americans through higher taxes.
So the truth is that, with or without the plan, someone's going to pay for it, and it's the same person. It is, in fact, the taxpayer. When we give Americans the choice that they deserve -- and as you said, it is their right to choose or not to choose to have health care -- we want to make sure that we've codified that and eliminate -- if you decide that you can't afford the premium or you don't want the premium, that you actually have the benefit of not paying a penalty for not having something as opposed to buying something and not really wanting it.
SANDERS: Well, Tim, here's the problem. What you didn't deal with is the fact that here in America, as you probably know, we spend twice as much per capita on health care as any other major country on Earth. We're spending $10,000 per person. In Canada and Europe, where the quality of care is as good or better than what we have, they're spending $5,000.
And the reason is that we have an incredibly bureaucratic, wasteful, dysfunctional health care system. So I hope that you would work with me to lower the cost of health care in America and guarantee health care for all people.
TAPPER: Senator --
SCOTT: You and I actually agree on this point, by the way, that we do have a bureaucratic, wasteful health care system. It's called the ACA.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: You know, the nice thing is we don't have to debate in theory. The Democrats' ideas have been implemented for eight years under President Obama and they don't work.
Maria says she wants economic growth. Well, for eight years, we had high taxes and high regulations, and the economy was stagnant, and we didn't have growth. Bernie talks about wanting health care. We've had Obamacare. Obamacare isn't working.
Now we've had a whole separate debate. If you want to Google and watch a whole hour-and-a-half of Bernie and me on Obamacare, you can. But the simple truth of it is, in socialized medicine that Bernie promotes, there are waiting periods, there's government rationing. There's the government telling you what health care you can get and what you can't.
But this is a tax debate. So here's something very important. Should we repeal Obamacare? Absolutely. It's made the health insurance companies rich, and it's driven up premiums by over $5,000 a year. But here's the important thing to know on tax reform.
We actually -- this tax bill doesn't do anything on Obamacare except one thing. It ends the IRS fine for 6.5 million people. What Obamacare does right now is if you can't afford health insurance -- our first questioner was a single mom -- if you can't afford health insurance, Obamacare, the IRS fines you, 6.5 million people get a fine. As Tim said, 80 percent earn less than $50,000 a year. Forty percent earn less than $25,000 a year.
So my question, Bernie, you know, there are 12,000 people a year in Vermont getting fined by the IRS. They're single moms who can't afford health insurance, and the IRS fines them. Bill Clinton said that was the craziest thing in the world. Is he wrong?
SANDERS: No, he's not wrong. The answer is, as I mentioned to you several times --
CRUZ: Why did you vote for it? Why did you vote for it?
SANDERS: Because it provides health care to 20 million more Americans and it did away with the obscenity of people being rejected for health care because they had a pre-existing condition.
CRUZ: Why did the insurance companies' profits double?
SANDERS: But -- but --
CRUZ: Why did insurance companies' profits double?
SANDERS: To answer your question, to answer your question, why do you continue to defend a situation where we remain unique in the world in not guaranteeing health care to all people as a right while we pay twice as much per capita as any other people on Earth?
CRUZ: Because --
SANDERS: My view is --
CRUZ: You want me to answer?
SANDERS: So I did vote for the Affordable Care Act. I think it was a step forward, 20 million more people getting health insurance. But we eventually have got to guarantee health care to all people, and if we do it, it significantly lowers costs.
CANTWELL: Can I just jump in?
TAPPER: Senator Cantwell, sure. CANTWELL: Yeah, because I want to answer the woman's question, because she brought this issue up. And it's the same issue that I've had small businesses write to me and say I am worried about this provision of the tax bill, because if you change it and then the cost of insurance goes back up, it's going to impact small businesses.
That is the issue. The Affordable Care Act did work. It did, where people did expand care provided by Medicaid or other sources. That brought down everybody's rates. So driving more people back to un- insurance everybody knows will drive rates back up.
I do think -- and this is one of the things I like about Bernie the most -- is that his idea is actually a market idea on the concept of being able to negotiate on drug pricing. So in the Affordable Care Act, I helped to author a provision that is now working in the state of New York and in Minnesota that says it you buy in bulk as individuals, you should get a discount, so that you have the same clout as a big corporation to buy and negotiate and get affordable health care. And that's what we need to --
BASH: Let's come back to the issue -- let's come back to the issue of taxes.
CRUZ: No, hold on. Let me just very -- let me very quickly ask Maria, you said premiums have gone down under Obamacare.
SCOTT: Up in South Carolina.
CANTWELL: I said when --
CRUZ: So I just want to ask you briefly, is it true that under Obamacare the average family's premiums have risen over $5,000 a year? And representing the state of Washington, do you think it's right that over 138,000 people in Washington are fined by the IRS because they can't afford health insurance each year?
CANTWELL: What has happened in the state of Washington, because we've had a successful exchange, and, yes, health care was going to go up. And I've authored other provisions to reform our health care system, the delivery system, because we deliver better care in Washington at lower costs. If the rest of the nation would do that, I guarantee you, we'd be lowering health care costs.
So in this proposal that we had that we implemented in the state of Washington, we covered more people. And so instead of having double- digit rate increases, we didn't have as significant as we would have.
But now that we've had this chitter-chatter about how we're going to repeal the benefit, and this notion of yours of junk insurance, where you think you're covered and then you go to the hospital and it's not even covered, OK, is not what people want. That is not what our hospitals want. That's not what people will think will cover us in insurance. So this young woman wants to know, are you going to make this problem worse? My small-business people want to know, if you repeal this, are you going to make it worse?
BASH: Senator Cantwell, I think you -- let's just stop for --
CRUZ: Hold on a second.
BASH: Senator, we've got to bring another --
TAPPER: We have to --
BASH: We've got to bring in somebody else.
BASH: Back to taxes. And, Senator Cantwell, this is a constituent of yours, Victor Miller. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps --
CANTWELL: Thank you.
BASH: -- for 22 years, voted for President Trump. And I should tell you that he lives in Snohomish, Washington, and he has a question for you.
CANTWELL: Thank you.
QUESTION: First of all, I'd like to thank all the senators coming out today. It's good to see all of you. Senator Cantwell, it's nice to actually see you in person.
As you said, I'm a retired Marine. You know, and I feel that every time that there are budget cuts, tax increases, it falls at the expense of the civil servants, such as teachers, law enforcement, first responders, and our military.
You know, I voted for President Trump, because -- and I am the middle class. I voted for Trump because he said he's going to help us. So if you could please, like Senator Cruz does so well, explain it to the -- to us and to the American people, break it down Bernie style if you have to, can you please explain to us why you're not with President Trump to help the middle class?
CANTWELL: So for our state -- and, first of all, thank you for coming all of this way from Snohomish. My nephews went to Snohomish High School. And it's a great high school and a great community.
The issue is that what the president -- and, look, the president has his ideas about this. And what I would say to him, if he was standing where you're standing right now, is, President Trump, this is too focused on corporations. I don't know it's because you have a corporate cabinet, so many corporate people there, but you need to listen to what is going to help our economy grow, and that is investment in the skill level of the American worker.
That is making sure that we have affordable housing, which is a problem in our area, to make sure that we have the ability to skill for those new jobs and those new things that are changing. Every day, even Boeing has redone, you know, planes to be now built with composites. We have to skill the workforce to be able to take advantage of those new jobs.
So what I want President Trump to hear from me -- and maybe he'll invite you and me to come down and talk to him -- but what I would say to him is don't think that these corporations are just going to grow the wage and productivity that you think they're going to. Because the economists don't think that they will.
And what's so important right now is that the middle class is being challenged. I have faith in you, and I have faith in us. This U.S. economy, every time we had to rise to the occasion, women had to take over the factories in World War II and they did it, and when the men came home, they're like, what's our economy going to be in the '50s? We created the G.I. Bill, and guess what, we were successful.
So let's not be afraid of this transition. I believe as Harry Truman said, let's prepare for this transition. And if we do that -- and let's go sell him on the apprentice program. He had a TV show. I guarantee you he knows what an apprentice is all about.
BASH: Senator Scott?
SCOTT: Absolutely. I would love to have more folks helping us with this tax plan. This is not a Republican plan. It ought not be a Democrat plan. It really is a plan to help the average person in America.
The ways that we do that -- I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- we double -- we basically double the standard deduction for individuals from $6,000 to $12,000. For single parents, from $9,000 to $18,000. For dual households earners, from $12,000 to $24,000. We increase the child tax credit. We help with the Earned Income Tax Credit. We grow our economic opportunities around the world. We repatriate about $2 trillion of foreign profits so that we can create more jobs at home. This is plan that we can stand up and be proud about.
TAPPER: So --
SANDERS: Can I just add --
SANDERS: Tim, I don't know how you can say this is not a Republican plan. This is a Republican plan.
SCOTT: This is an American plan.
SANDERS: Democrats have been shut out of the process. Sixty percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent. The gentleman asked a good question, why don't we support President Trump trying to help the middle class? I would if he were trying to help the middle class rather than the billionaire class. I would if he was keeping his word.
You remember during the campaign he said he was going to take on the pharmaceutical industry and he's going to lower the cost of prescription drugs in America? Well, that's funny. All the people he appoints in that area come from the pharmaceutical industry.
SCOTT: My question, though -- Bernie --
SANDERS: You remember when he said he's going to drain the swamp? He has more billionaires in his administration than any president in the history of this country.
SCOTT: Bernie, we could --
SANDERS: What the president told you was one thing. What he's doing today is something very different.
SCOTT: Here's the question, though. If we cut the taxes of a single mother like Sharon by 75 percent, why can't we say yes to that? If the typical American today earns around $73,000 and we're cutting the taxes by 60 percent, why can't we say yes to that? If we're going to grow the jobs of the future here in America, why can't we say yes to that?
SCOTT: Thank you. Then can you -- will you vote yes --
SANDERS: I am saying yes.
SCOTT: -- on Friday?
SANDERS: Of course I won't.
SCOTT: Are you sure?
SANDERS: Because you're giving --
SCOTT: Are you sure?
SANDERS: I will vote -- I will vote --
CRUZ: We have an historic agreement. Let's do it now. Let's make history.
SCOTT: All right, let's make --
SANDERS: Here is the --
CRUZ: Historic agreement.
SANDERS: Let's make a deal. Shock Mitch McConnell, announce right now --
CRUZ: I've done that before.
SANDERS: -- you are not going to be voting for that disastrous tax bill.
SCOTT: Oh, my goodness.
SANDERS: Say you want to sit down with Maria and myself --
SCOTT: All I'm saying, Bernie --
SANDERS: -- and --
SCOTT: We're right here. You have a great opportunity.
SANDERS: -- create a tax bill that works for the middle class.
CRUZ: But, Bernie, Bernie, here's the reason why there are no Democrats working with us. You want to raise taxes. We want to cut taxes.
CRUZ: There's not a compromise. And let me point out, John F. Kennedy cut taxes, cut corporate taxes. You would have chased John F. Kennedy out of the Democratic Party because what he says is word for word what we're saying. Cut taxes, leave more money in people's --
SANDERS: But you're basically -- you have just told people we're not going to work with you because we think you will do thus and such. That's not the way politics is supposed to work.
CRUZ: Not one Democrat is willing to work with us.
SANDERS: We've talked about -- open the damn door and we will work with you.
SCOTT: We don't have a lock on the door. SANDERS: The door is open.
SCOTT: We don't have a lock on the door. No locks.
SANDERS: If we can then postpone this vote this week --
CRUZ: No, we're not going to delay. You've been obstructing for a year.
SANDERS: No, we're not obstructing.
CRUZ: We're not going to -- we're not going to delay --
SANDERS: We have not been involved in the process at all. If Tim wants to talk --
CRUZ: But you refuse to participate.
SANDERS: If Tim wants to talk about helping the middle class and working class in this country, let's do it.
CRUZ: Bernie, in the presidential race -- in the presidential race -- in the presidential race, your tax plan jacked up taxes on everyone. That's what you proposed.
SANDERS: No, in the presidential -- my campaign, we made public colleges and universities tuition-free.
CRUZ: And by jacking up taxes on everybody.
SANDERS: Something that I think was worth doing. In my presidential campaign, we put a trillion dollars into rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and creating 15 million jobs. In my presidential campaign unlike you, I believed that climate change is real, it is devastating, and we put money into transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel.
TAPPER: So, Senators, last word on this from Senator Scott.
SCOTT: This is obviously good for TV, but it's not really good for understanding the tax reform that's an opportunity for the average person in this country. I'll say it very simply, very simply. There is a way for us to make sure that the middle-income folks have more of their own money to take home in each paycheck.
I have Democrats working -- as a part of the tax bill, there's an Investing and Opportunity Act that I sponsor. My co-sponsors are Cory Booker, Senator Peters from Michigan, Democrat, Mike Bennet, Democrat. There are -- there is a bipartisan coalition looking for ways to address the needs of the distressed communities where 50 million Americans live. If we want to do the right thing, this is one of those opportunities. (APPLAUSE)
TAPPER: So I want to move to another question from the audience. One group that could face higher taxes under the House Republican tax plan is graduate students, because the bill would count tuition that the university waives for graduate students, counts it as taxable income. Now, that's not in the Senate bill, but it is in the House bill, so it is something you're going to have to address one way or the other.
I want to bring in Sara Bijani. She's getting her PhD at Michigan State University, and she has a question for Senator Scott. Sara?
QUESTION: Hi, this is exciting. The average graduate student at my university currently makes $15,000 a year. If we were to be taxed on the tuition benefits that we receive, many of us would be paying almost a third of our salary toward federal taxes.
At other universities with higher tuition rates, the situation is even worse. When the Senate and the House bills head to reconciliation -- this question is for both Senators Cruz and Scott, really -- how will you guarantee that graduate students don't bear the burden of new corporate tax cuts? Will you commit to keeping new taxes on graduate tuition waivers out of the final plan?
SCOTT: I will just tell you that it's in the House plan, it's not in the Senate plan. I believe that the Senate plan will emerge out of the conference being the plan that we go forward with. So the good news is the answer is yes, number one.
Number two, when you look at the long-term opportunities for a student coming out of college when our unemployment rate is at 4 percent and our growth -- our economic growth is at 3 percent, your wages are going up. This is good news. It's a good time to be you.
TAPPER: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: That isn't -- what you described -- just an example. I mean, it's tax breaks for billionaires and telling young, working- class graduate students that their taxes are going to go way, way up. And you know what that will result in? It will result in many young people not being able to go to graduate school.
SCOTT: Well, that's just simply false. The question was, will you do what is in the House plan? The answer is no.
SANDERS: All right, so you're committing --
TAPPER: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Well, look, I agree with you, we shouldn't be taxing tuition benefits. It's not in the Senate bill. And I'm quite confident it won't be in the final bill.
But let me say, the objective of graduate school is not just to do graduate school. It's to get a job afterwards. And one of the problems young people have had the last eight years is we've had stagnant growth.
And, you know, the nice thing is -- there's an old saying, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We had two presidents who served eight years who had dramatically different approaches on taxes. Ronald Reagan served eight years, Barack Obama served eight years. Ronald Reagan cut taxes and simplified the tax code. Barack Obama raised taxes.
Now, what happened? We can look to the results and see which works. And I've got a few charts here that the TV camera can zoom in on. Let's talk about young people. You're a graduate student. Under Obama, median increase for ages 15 to 24 was 9 percent. Under Ronald Reagan, it was 55 percent. Tax cuts worked for young people. How about women? Well, under Obama, median increase was 6 percent. Under Reagan, it was 25 percent.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz, I've got --
CRUZ: Well, hold on. Real quickly.
TAPPER: We have to take -- we have to take a break.
CRUZ: African-Americans, 8 percent, 12 percent.
TAPPER: All right, that's the last chart.
CRUZ: And let me finally -- finally show one more, Jake, which is women ages 15 to 24 under Obama, 8 percent, under Ronald Reagan, 73 percent.
TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break. CNN's Debate Night returns right after this.
BASH: Welcome back to CNN's Debate Night. And, Senators, we have heard tonight your decisions over the next coming days are going to very much affect the amount of money in everyone's wallet, for better or worse.
TAPPER: We now have time for the closing statements. Each of you senators has a minute. Senator Sanders, we're going to begin with you.
SANDERS: Thank you all very much. We live in a moment in history where we have more income and wealth inequality than at any time since the late 1920s. Top 0.1 percent now owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Top 1 percent earns 52 percent of all income. The idea that 60 percent of the tax benefits in the Republican plan would go to the top 1 percent is beyond absurd.
Our job is to grow the middle class and the working class of this country, not give more wealth to the people on top. Our vision is to create an economy and a government that works for all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors. This legislation should be defeated. We should then sit down and develop tax policy that works for working families, not wealthy campaign contributors.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: I want to thank everyone for a civil, respectful, substantive debate. We need a lot more of these in Washington. And, in fact, Bernie and I next week are auditioning for a new sitcom, the revival of the "Odd Couple." And we'll see how that does.
You know, I agree with John F. Kennedy. I agree with Ronald Reagan. Both cut taxes, federal revenue increased, jobs increased, wages increased, growth increased, young people did better, people who are struggling did better.
You know, Tim is the son of a single mom. I'm the son of a Cuban immigrant who washed dishes making 50 cents an hour. We both believe in cutting taxes because we saw first-hand that when you get government out of the way and let small businesses grow, that people have the opportunity to achieve the American dream.
The Democrats' vision is they want to raise your taxes. When they say the rich, they mean you, the taxpayer, because they want to spend your money.
My view is different. You should decide how to spend your money to provide for your family, to grow your business, to save for college tuition, to help your kids have a better future. That's what works, and this is all about cutting taxes for the future of this country.
TAPPER: Senator Cantwell?
CANTWELL: Well, again, thanks to CNN and my colleagues for participating tonight. You didn't hear a firm commitment from our colleagues here to stop this tax increase on the middle class. I want people to know, I'm going to fight to make sure that you continue to have these deductions, whether they're education, your mortgage interest, property taxes, sales tax, any of those things, I'm going to protect the middle class.
If you think like I do, that these need to be protected, please call your member of Congress. Call them and tell them to stop this rush of a bill. Tell them to get it right. Don't have a Trump tax on the middle class. Let's instead figure out how we grow this economy. Just having a tax cut does not guarantee that we are going to see this growth.
But I know by focusing on American ingenuity and skilling and training a workforce for those challenges, no matter how transformational our economy becomes, we will be empowering people, and they will help empower America. So, please, let's get this right. It is about our future. And it is about making the right investments.
TAPPER: Senator Scott?
SCOTT: To the single moms out there, the Sharons, to the business owners, the Danas, others, to the Ellens, the college students, we see you. We know that tax reform is not an exercise for Washington. It is an opportunity for us to reward and not punish hardworking Americans by helping them keep more of their paycheck.
Every bracket under our tax reform package gets a tax cut. Typical American families earning around $73,000 a year has a 60 percent cut. Single moms, $41,000 a year, a 75 percent cut. We nearly double the standard deduction for singles to $12,000, single head of households to $18,000, two-income households to $24,000. We double the child tax credit. Our focus is on you, and that's where it should be.
BASH: Senator, thank you. And thank you to all four of you for participating tonight. Thank you to our fantastic studio audience. And thank you for watching.
TAPPER: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon starts right after this short break. Thanks for watching.