South Carolina Democratic Debate Transcript: February 25 Democratic Debate - transcription powered by Happy Scribe

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Good evening and welcome. The Democratic presidential primary here in South Carolina, the first primary in the South, is just four days away and Super Tuesday is just a week away.

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And this is the biggest primary day of the year as voters in 14 states cast ballots and many of them tell us they have not actually made up their mind. So this debate, when you think about it tonight, may be the last, best chance for the candidates to make their case to South Carolina and Super Tuesday voters. And CBS News is proud to bring you this debate along with our co-sponsors. They are the Democratic National Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, a nonpartisan organization committed to educating voters and training political leaders.

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And we are partnering tonight also with Twitter. So you at home can participate in this debate. How do you do that? Send us your questions for the candidates using the Twitter hashtag Dem debate. Now, here are the rules for the next two hours. When you were asked a question, you will have one minute and fifteen seconds to answer. And forty five seconds for follow ups. So let's begin. Senator Sanders, we haven't had a national unemployment rate this low for this long in 50 years here in South Carolina.

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The unemployment rate is even lower. How will you convince voters that a democratic socialist can do better than President Trump with the economy? Well, you're right. The economy is doing really great. People like Mr. Bloomberg and other billionaires in the last three years. Last three years, billionaires in this country soared. Eight hundred and fifty billion dollar increase in their wealth. But you know what? But the ordinary American things are not so good. Last year, the real wage increases for the average worker were less than 1 percent.

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Half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck. Eighty seven million Americans have no health insurance or are under-insured. Forty five million people are struggling with student debt. Five hundred thousand people tonight are sleeping out on the street, including 30000 veterans. That is not an economy that's working for the American people. That's an economy working for the 1 percent. We're going to create an economy for all, not just wealthy campaign senator, but as Mayor Bloomberg.

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Mayor Bloomberg. I'll let you respond to that. Do you think Senator Sanders economy would be better for America? I think that Donald Trump thinks it would be better if he's president. I do not think so. Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump is should be president. I did states. And that's why Russia is helping you get. But you lose to him. Let me tell. That's the beauty. OK. I'm not a good friend of President Xi of China.

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I think President Xi is an authoritarian leader. Let me tell Mr. Putin, who interfered in the 2016 election, to try to bring Americans against Americans. Hey, Mr. Putin, if I'm president of the United States, trust me, you're not going to interfere in any more American elections.

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Senator, you know what? The president what Russia wants is chaos.

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So, look, the way I see this is that Bernie is winning right now because the Democratic Party is a progressive party. And progressive ideas are popular ideas. Even if there are a lot of people on this stage who don't want to say so. You know, but Bernie and I agree on a lot of things.

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But I think I would make a better president than Bernie. And the reason for that is that getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard and it's going to take someone who digs into the details to make it happen. Bernie and I both wanted to help rein in Wall Street in 2008. We both got our chance, but I dug in. I thought the big banks, I built the coalitions and I won. Bernie and I both want to see universal health care.

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But Bernie's plan doesn't explain how to get there, doesn't show how we're going to get enough allies into it and doesn't show enough about how we're going to pay for it. I think I dug in. I did the work and then Bernie's team trashed me for it. We need a president who is going to dig in and do the hard work and actually get it done. Progressives have got one shot and we need to spend time with a leader who will get something done, who says, we want to bring you in this conversation.

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Why would the Russians want to be working on behalf of Bernie Sanders?

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I'll tell you what the Russians want. They don't have a political party. They want chaos. And chaos is what is coming our way. I mean, look, if you think the last four years has been chaotic, divisive, toxic, exhausting, imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump. Think about what that will be like for this country. And meanwhile, folks at home from South Carolina to South Bend are trying to figure out what any of this means for us, because it's right that there is a progressive majority, an American majority that wants to see real change, wants to see wages go up and go up faster than the cost of health and saving for retirement.

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But also, here's the majority of the American people who I think right now just want to be able to turn on the TV, see their president and actually feel their blood pressure go down a little bit instead of up through the roof.

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We have an opportunity to see Bernie Sanders analysis is right. The difference is, I don't like his solutions. I don't believe that a government takeover of large parts of the economy makes any sense for working people or for families. I think that what we need to do is to present an alternative that includes a vibrant, competitive private sector. But we all know unchecked capitalism has failed. The answer is no. Not for the government to take over the private sector, though.

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The answer is for us to break the corporate stranglehold on our government and have the government work for the people again. Vice President Biden. Well, let me just finish, because we need to have an alternative to Donald Trump. I'm talking about doubling the minimum wage, cutting taxes by 10 percent for everybody who makes less than $250000 and creating over four and a half million good paying union jobs. Donald Trump stinks. He's incompetent as a steward of the American American economy.

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We have to show that we can create a growing, prosperous country. I work for American working people.

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Mr. Stier, thank you. Your time's up. Vice President Biden, you know, we talk about progressive.

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Let's talk about being progressive walking dishes. Here's Mother Emanuel Church. Nine people shot dead by a white supremacist.

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Bernie voted five times against the Brady Bill and wanted a waiting period and waited and waited a waiting period of twelve hours.

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I'm not saying he's responsible for the nine deaths, but that man would not been able to get that weapon with the waiting period had been what I suggest. Until you are cleared, in addition to that being progressive, he thought Barack Obama, he wanted a primary. He said we should primary. Barack Obama, someone should. And in fact, the president was weak and our administration was, in fact, not up to it. Look, folks, this is let's talk about progressive.

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Progressive is getting things done. And that's what we got done. Senator Sanders, your response? You know. Pete Muchin, I'm I'm hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why and maybe, you know, Pete mentions what the American people want. I will tell you, Pete, what the American people want. Joe What the American people want. They don't want candidates to be running to billionaires for huge amounts of funding. Let's he was once in for a gotta run the people from those of the billionaires.

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This oh, I think it's gotten a little bit more what the American people want. By the way, and a lot of the issues we'll be discussing tonight are issues I raise four years ago, raising the minimum wage to a living wage. Fifteen bucks an hour, making public colleges and universities tuition free and finally doing what every other major country on earth does, guaranteeing health care to all people as a human right to a Medicare for all single payer system.

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And I can't understand because it's just not true. Senator Sanders has got everyone believing son's diet is untrue about my campaign. The idea that most of my campaign is funded by billionaires say that 50 people. All right. In Charleston alone, just in Charleston, over two thousand people have contributed to my campaign. That means the dollars that have come to my campaign just from Charleston is more than the dollars that have come from the 50 people that you mentioned.

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Grassroots contributions are the lifeblood of my campaign. In fact, I shouldn't miss the opportunity if you're watching right now and you're support my campaign. Go to Pete for America dot com and chip in. And if you're watching right now and you're a billionaire, I will raise your taxes. But if you'd like to defeat Donald Trump, please go to Pete for America dot com and donate the legal maximum of two thousand eight hundred dollars.

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All right. All right, buddy. Vice President Biden, I want to make I want to bring us to another topic. We're in South Carolina. It's the first primary with a significant black voting population. Your numbers appear to be slipping with black voters. And I'm wondering if you could respond about why that is happening to you at this particular time.

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Well, first of all, the latest poll I saw my numbers. I'm still 15 points ahead. The latest poll.

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Yes. Yes. Look, look. But Senator Sanders is in striking distance of you. You are within the margin of error in this in this state.

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Well, it depends on which. Look, I've I've earned the vote. I've worked like the devil to earn the vote of the African-American community, not just here, but across the country. I've been coming here for years and years, grading jobs here, making sure that the port, for example, that employs 1 11 people. We put $500 million in our administration just into this county. We've created jobs for people. The people know me. My entire career has been wrapped up in dealing with civil rights and civil liberties.

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I don't expect anything. I plan to earn the vote.

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I hear I'm here to ask the folks I intend to win South Carolina and I will win the African-American vote here in South Bend.

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Mr. Mr Biden, will you continue if you do not win South Carolina? You have said that South Carolina will determine the outcome of this presidential race if you don't win South Carolina. Will you continue? I will win South Carolina.

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Bloomberg, I'd like to bring you in this conversation. I want to ask you about a question that impacts the black and brown community. You've apologized for stop and frisk repeatedly. What exactly are you apologizing for?

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We let it get out of control. And when I realized that, I'd cut it back by 95 percent. And I've apologized and asked for forgiveness. I've met with black leaders to try to get an understanding of how I can better position myself and what I should have done and what I should do next time. But let me tell you, I have been working very hard. We've improved the school system for black and brown students in New York City. We've increased the jobs that are available to them.

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We've increased the housing that's available to them. We have programs like this issue, Mr. Mayor, to put people's fears and skepticism to rest. I think they just used to follow, you know.

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Well, that's because it's in their interest to to promote that. But if you talk to the people in New York City, I have over 100 black elected officials that have endorsed me. A lot of them are in the audience tonight. And I've earned the respect of people in New York City. I was the mayor of the largest, most populous city in the United States for 12 years. And people will tell you it's a lot better city today. It is safer for everybody.

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The school system is better. The budgets under control. We've done the things that people need in New York City for all ethnicities.

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Mayor Buddy Jackson married mayor to marry. You've certainly had your issues with the black community as well. Do you think the New York City's implementation of stop and frisk was racist?

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Yes. In effect, it was, because it was about profiling people based on their race. And the mayor even said that they disproportionately stopped white people too often and minorities too little. And I'm not here to score points. I come at this with a great deal of humility because we have had a lot of issues, especially when it comes to racial justice and policing. In my own community and I come to this with some humility because I'm conscious of the fact that there's seven white people on the stage talking about racial justice.

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None of us. None of us have the experience, the lived experience of, for example, walking down the street or in a mall and feeling eyes on us regarding us is dangerous without knowing the first thing about us just because of the color of our skin. None of us have the experience that black women have had that drives that maternal mortality gap that we are all rightly horrified by, of going into a doctor and being less likely to have your description of being in pain believe because of your race.

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Since we don't have the experts, the next book, next best thing we can do is actually listen to those who do think I know. Wait a second. I know that if I were black, my success would've been a lot harder to achieve. And I know a lot of black people that if they were white, it would've been a lot easier for them. That's just a fact. And we've got to do something about it then rather just demagogue about it.

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Senator Klobuchar, was the way that the mayor implemented stop and frisk racist? Yes. And I think that what we need to do, instead of just reviewing everything from the past, is talk about where we're going to go forward.

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Martin Luther King once said that we are all tied in a single garment of destiny and that what affects one of us directly affects all of us indirectly. So when there is racism in the criminal justice system, then we need to fix it. And to me, that means sentencing reform like the first step back and extending that to the states with the second step act. It means equal opportunity, because if we don't pass Representative Clyburn's bill out of South Carolina here to invest in impoverished communities, we're never going to get to that single garment of destiny.

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And we also need to do something about child care, about making sure we increase the minimum wage and then finally voting while we are all sitting here debating. Wisconsin has kicked hundreds of thousands of people off of their voting rolls and Georgia kicked one hundred thousand off. As president, I will get voting rights to be a reality for everyone.

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Senator Warner, I'm coming to you. I want to direct this question to you because. Yes, because Mayor Bloomberg has said he got in this race late because he doesn't believe that any of you on stage can beat Donald Trump. You said Mayor Bloomberg is not the safest candidate. He is the riskiest candidate.

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What did you mean by that? I mean that Mayor Bloomberg, let's think of it this way. We're here in Charleston. And, you know, there's going to be in Charleston later this week is Donald Trump. He's going to be here to raise money for his buddy, Senator Lindsey Graham, who funded Lindsey Graham's campaign for re-election. Last time it was Mayor Bloomberg. And that's not the only right wing senator that Mayor Bloomberg has funded in 2016. He dumped 12 million dollars into the Pennsylvania Senate race to help reelect an anti-choice right wing Republican senator.

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And I just want to say, the woman challenger was terrific. She lost by a single point in 2012. He scooped and to try to defend another Republican senator against a woman challenger. That was me. It didn't work, but he tried hard.

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I don't care how much money Senate Mayor Bloomberg has. The core of the report of the Democratic Party will never trust him. He has not earn their trust. I will. And the fact that he cannot earn the trust of the core of the Democratic Party means he is the riskiest candidate standing on this.

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All right, Senator, one thing here, Bloomberg has the right to define. No, I have been training for this job since I stepped on the pile that was still smoldering on 9/11. I know what to do. I've shown I know how to run a country and run the city, which is almost the same size as bigger than most countries in the world. I am not the lead. I'm the one choice that makes some sense. I have the experience, I have the resources and I have the record.

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And all of the sideshows that the senator wants to bring up have nothing to do with that. When people hired me to run New York City three times in an overwhelmingly Democratic progressive city, they elected me again and again.

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Mr. Vice President was mentioned in I got he and called me out by newsdesk and referred to what I talk about as a sideshow. You know, this is personal for me. When I was 21 years old, I got my first job as a special education teacher. I loved that job. And by the end of the first year, I was visibly pregnant. The principal wished me luck and gave my job to someone else. Pregnancy discrimination? You bet.

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But I was 21 years old. I didn't have a union to protect me. I didn't have any federal law on my side. So I packed my stuff and I went home. At least I didn't have a boss who said to me, kill it the way that Mayor Bloomberg never led.

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That said to one of her command, pregnant employees, people want a chance to hear. People want a chance to hear from the women. I never said that. I want to on them. For the record, if she was a teacher in New York City. She would never have had that problem. We treated our teachers the right way and the unions will tell you exactly that. But well, Mayor Bloomberg editor warned us, great, let us have the women have an opportunity to speak.

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The Bloomberg corporations and Mayor Bloomberg himself have been accused of discrimination. They are bound by non disclosures so that they cannot speak. If he says there is nothing to hide here, then sign a blanket release and let those women speak out now or the way my story without.

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Right. Thank you. I am never going to be to bankai a billionaire. Thank God we have a number of issues discussed tonight, but I want to give the mayor an opportunity to respond because she has raised concerns about women in your workplace at the last debate. You said some of your female employees might not have liked some of your jokes. Did these women take your jokes wrong or were you wrong to make the jokes?

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Probably wrong to make the jokes. I don't remember what they were. Sighs Sue me. What if it bothered them? I was wrong and I apologize. I'm sorry for that. But what happened here is we went back 40 years and we could only find three cases where women said they were uncomfortable. Nobody accused me of doing anything other than just making a comment or two. And what the senator did suggest was that we release these women from the nondisclosure agreement.

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I did that two days later and my company has said we will not use non disclosure agreements ever again. The senator has got it. And I don't know what else she wants us to do. I'll be with the all knowing exactly what she asked Zach. And the trouble is with this senator. Enough is never enough for what this? I'm gonna start focusing on some of these other things. We just cannot continue to relitigate this every time we did what she asked.

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And thank you. You've probably made the world better because of it. And by my company renouncing using these, we've probably changed, hopefully the corporate landscape all across America.

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You get nominated, we'll be relitigating this all year to what I guess, Senator. And that is a very serious charge that you leveled at the mayor. Yeah, I sold a woman to get an abortion. What evidence do you have of that? Her own words. Mayor Bloomberg. Could you respond to this? I never said it.

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Period. End of story. Well, categorically never said it when it was accused. When I was accused of doing it. We couldn't figure out what what she was talking about.

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But right now, I'm sorry if she heard what she thought she heard or whatever happened.

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I didn't take any pleasure in that.

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And do what I want. But I never said her. Come on. Who is to do a release of all people who have to see her knowing that earth? Whoever will want to get to the end will get to the issue, we want to get to the issue of electability and the ideological difference within the Democratic Party. Senator Sanders, by cost of your agenda. Yesterday he released information about how you will pay for your major proposals, but not all of your details are clear.

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You proposed more than 50 trillion dollars in new spending. You've said Medicare for all 10 years after trillion dollars. But you can only explain how you pay for just about half of that. Can you do the math for the rest of us?

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How many hours do you have to address the problem?

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No, no, it's not the problem. All right. Let's talk about Medicare for all. I'm sure you're familiar with a new study that just came out of Yale University published in Lancet magazine, one of the prestigious medical journals in the world. You know what it said? Medicare for all will lower health care costs in this country by 450 billion dollars a year and save sixty eight thousand lives of people who otherwise would have died. What we need to do is to do whatever you call the matrix country on earth does guarantee healthcare to all people, not have thousands of separate insurance plans, which are costing us some five hundred billion dollars a year to administer our plan.

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And we have we have laid out options all over the place. One of the options is a seven and a half percent payroll tax on employers, which will save them substantial sums of money not earning less.

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Let me respond to that. Add up. I know the math does not add up. In fact, just on 60 Minutes this weekend, he said he wasn't going to rattle through the nickels and dimes. Well, let me tell you how many nickels and dimes we're talking about. Nearly 60 trillion dollars. You know how much that is for all of his programs? That is three times the American economy, not the federal government. The entire American economy, the Medicare for all plan alone.

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On page 8 clearly says that it will kick one hundred forty nine million Americans off their current health insurance in four years. That is true. As one prominent Democrat once said, we should pay attention to where the voters of this country are Bernie. That prominent Democrat was Barack Obama a few months ago. And I think that's what we should do. They are not with you on spending nearly 60 trillion dollars. Here's what I think we should do is make things more affordable, nonprofit public option, make sure we're paying for Long-Term Care.

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Better take on the pharmaceuticals like you and I have done together and do something for the people of America instead of a bunch of broken promises that sound good on bumper stickers. Stier Mr. Stier, I think we're talking. Let's look, first of all, let me go home. I think she was talking about my plan, not yours. I think we were talking about mass and it doesn't take two hours to do the math. Let's talk about what I got about there.

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Let's talk about middle income. So here's the math thing. So here's the math. So you can harvest by doing nothing is what will happen. SANDERS I would like to moderate. SANDERS Senator SANDERS Moderate. It's my turn. That's what you have been name checked. You are allowed to respond. What the Health and Human Services have said in analyzing health care costs. What YEL recent Yale study has said is that your program would cost some 50 trillion dollars over a 10 year period.

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We would continue to pay in some cases 10 times more for the same exact prescription drugs. What every study out there, conservative or progressive, says Medicare for all will save money. Ours will cost about forty five billion, not 60 trillion. By talking to me anymore. Oh, great. Sansone really would like to bring Manors Gaia in on this conversation. Mr. Syra, please. I was talking about all year. Years, grant me. This conversation shows a huge risk for the Democratic Party.

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We are looking at a party that has decided that we're either going to support someone who is a democratic socialist or somebody who has a long history of being a Republican.

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And let me say that I got into this race because I wanted to fight for economic justice, for racial justice, and to make sure we had climate justice for the American people.

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And I am scared if we cannot pull this party together, if we go to one of those extremes, we take a terrible risk of reelecting Donald Trump. Thank you, Mr. Stein. That is something I still have some time. Let me just say this. And that is a risk that will hurt the American people in a way that we none of us on this stage should be willing to risk. Thank you. Let's keep this topic going there.

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So let's let's do some math. Senator Sanders at one point said it was going to be 40 trillion than it was 30. Then it was 17. It's an incredible shrinking price tag. At some point has said, is it it is unknowable to even see what the price tag would be. Now, their new numbers. I'll tell you exactly what it adds up to. It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump. Kevin McCarthy is speaker of the House and the inability to get the Senate into Democratic hands.

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The time has come for us to stop acting like the presidency is the only office that matters. Not only is this a way to get Donald Trump re-elected, he got a house to worry. He got a Senate to worry about. And this is this is really important.

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Look, if you want to keep the house in Democratic hands, you might want to check with the people who actually turned the House blue, 40 Democrats who are not running you on your platform.

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They are running away from your platform as fast as they possibly can. I want to send those Democrats back to the United States. Let's listen to vice president. They say they don't want to be out there. Well, Vice President Biden, please.

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I guess the only way to do this is jump in and speak twice as long as you should. If there's a deal, is there? Look, a guy is a friend of mine down here named Fritz Hollings who passed away. He said, you want to know what a man or room will do. Look what they've done. Look what they've done. You talk about concerned about race. Well, my good friend, on the end of this platform, he, in fact, bought a system that was a private prison system.

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After after he knew that, in fact, what happened was they hogtied young men in prison here in this state. They, in fact, made sure that in Georgia, they did not have health care for the people who were being held. They, in fact, went on, he said, after he knew that he bought it. And then he said he was proud of his accomplishment. You talk about what we're talking about with Bernie. Bernie, in fact, hasn't passed much of anything.

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The fact of the matter is, I got to answer that. Look, the fact is, I'm not out of time. You spoke over time and I'm going to talk. Here's the deal. Look at what's happening here. Look at what's happening here. We have to win the Senate back. And by the way, I went into all of those races that got 41 New Democrats. The majority of them are supporting me for president tonight.

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Mr. Iverson, marry your lotteries, buy stock in a prison company thinking they'd do a better job. And I investigated and I sold it. OK. No, no, no, no. You know, when you bought it there, done that question. And in fact, since then, I've worked to end the use of private prisons in my home state. And we've ended it. I've started a bank to support black ownership of businesses. Women ownership of businesses.

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And Latino Allmans are big owners of businesses because this financial service industry is prejudiced. I have worked tirelessly on this. And you know, I'm right. You wrote the crime bill and we come from that's called Comic Con lately. There are people out here, but hundreds of thousands of young black and Latino. Not true in brick. But let me say something. Thank you. They're somehow going. I have working on racial justice lately, and that is an ad.

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. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know how many come lately. We if we spend the next four months tearing our party apart, we're going to watch Donald Trump spend the next four years tearing our country apart. So my argument here is that we need to get back to what's happening right now. We have a clear choice of who's going to lead this party. And I am the only one in the New Hampshire debate. When asked if we had a problem with a socialist leading the ticket that raised my hand.

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I like Bernie. We came in together to the Senate. But I do not think that this is the best person to lead the ticket. And if you want to talk about getting things done and make a comparison, according to Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, last Congress, I was the most effective Democrat in the U.S. Senate on 15 metrics. Bernie and Elizabeth were in the bottom half. It matters. It matters if you can actually get things done. It is not just who talks to the best, who is actually gets things done, and especially with the African-American community.

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There have been a lot of broken promises. And I think having someone that keeps their promises and follows through and is going to get things done for this, people matters.

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And that's why. Bloomberg, please let let's just go on the record. They talk about 40 Democrats. Twenty one of those with people that I spent a hundred million dollars to help elect the all of the new Democrats that came in and put Nancy Pelosi in charge and gave the Congress the ability to control this president. I thought I got them. Number two, when you talk about money, this put this in perspective. The federal budget is four and a half trillion dollars a year.

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We get three and a half trillion dollars in revenue. We lose a trillion dollars a year. That's why the federal budget deficit is right now. The debt is a 20 trillion dollars going up to twenty one. We just cannot afford some of the stuff. People talk about. But if you could, let's let me finish. If you keep on going. We will elect Bernie. Bernie will lose to Donald Trump and Donald Trump and the House and the Senate and some of the statehouses will all go red.

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And then between gerrymandering and appointing judges for the next 20 or 30 years, we're going to live with this in past reform.

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I will allow Senator Sanders, thank you very much. Senator Sanders, a quick response and then thank you very much. Mayor Bloomberg has a solid and strong and enthusiastic base of support. Problem is, the royal billionaires. Now, if you look. On the other hand, of the last fifty polls that have been done nationally, Mr Bloomberg, I beat Trump forty seven of those 50 times. If you look at battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania polling just the whole Sunday election, I beat Trump.

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And if you want a big Trump, what you're going to need is an unprecedented grassroots movement of black and white and Latino, Native American and Asian people that was standing up and fighting for just about anybody at home. Think anybody out room imagined moderate Republicans going over and voting for him. How to do that?

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You can't win that one. And that is the problem. And that is that a progressive agenda is popular. Mayor Bloomberg. And for everyone on this stage, we talk about how to build a future. That's what matters. I talked to people in selfish lines every day who tell me about the importance of getting real help on health care. It's why I also have a way to pay for health care that doesn't raise taxes on middle class families. But it's so much more than that.

[00:34:28.03]
As Democrats, we need to speak to the future we can build together. We need to speak of the prosperity we can build together. How about a wealth tax in America? Because with a two cent tax on just the top one tenth of 1 percent, we have a chance to invest in universal child care for every one of our babies to really level the playing field. Pinki $15 billion dollars into historically black colleges and universities and start closing the racial wealth gap by canceling student loan debt for 43 million Americans.

[00:35:01.07]
We need to talk about our aspirations, our hopes. This is a moment to choose hope over fear. Senator, this is our moment.

[00:35:10.06]
Senator, thank you. We have to take a quick break. When we come back, the Democratic presidential debate continues right after this. Only on CBS.