Eager to rumble, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders jumped headlong into Sunday night’s presidential debate by tangling over who’s tougher on gun control and sketching sharply differing visions for the future of health care in America. It was the last Democratic matchup before voting in the 2016 race begins in two weeks, with both sides intent on seizing the momentum.
Clinton rapped Sanders, the Vermont senator, for voting repeatedly with the National Rifle Association, and then welcomed his weekend reversal of position to support legislation that would deny gun manufacturers legal immunity. She rattled off a list of provisions she said Sanders had supported in line with the NRA: “He voted against the Brady Bill five times. He voted against what we call the Charleston loophole. He voted to let guns go on Amtrak, guns to go into national parks.”
Sanders, in turn, said Clinton’s assertion that he kowtowed to the gun lobby was “disingenuous” and pointed to his lifetime rating of a D- from the NRA.
On health care, Sanders released his plan for a government-run single-payer plan just hours before the debate, and used his opening statement to call for health care “for every man, woman and child as a right.” Clinton, by contrast, urged less sweeping action to build on President Barack Obama’s health care plan.
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Clinton suggested that approach was dangerous – and unrealistic. She said that under Obama’s plan, “we finally have a path to universal health care. … I don’t want to see us start over again with a contentious debate.”
Sanders countered: “No one is tearing this up; we’re going to go forward.”
The debate over gun control – an ongoing conflict between Clinton and Sanders – took on special import given the setting. The debate took plan just blocks from the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where nine parishioners were killed during Bible study last summer. Gun control has emerged as a central theme in the race, with Clinton citing the issue as one of the major differences between the candidates.
On Saturday night, Sanders announced his support for legislation that would reverse a 2005 law he had supported that granted gun manufacturers legal immunity.
His changed position came in a statement after days of criticism from Clinton, who had attempted to use his previous vote to undercut his liberal image.
Clinton immediately cast the latest move as a “flip-flop.” Sanders said he backed the 2005 law in part because of provisions that require child safety locks on guns and ban armor-piercing ammunition. He also said he supported immunity then in part to protect small shops in his home state of Vermont.
“There were things in it that I did not like, and I was willing to rethink,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ‘'We have rethought.”
Sanders plan for a sweeping single-payer universal health care system, an idea that Clinton has argued would undercut Obama’s signature health care law. Sanders would pay for his plan through increased payroll taxes, a health care premium and a top marginal income tax rate of more than 50 percent.
Clinton suggested earlier Sunday that Sanders would need to increase taxes on the middle class.
In an interview with Time magazine on Sunday, Sanders said that his plan would ultimately save taxpayers money by lowering their health care bills.
Sanders, meanwhile, has questioned Clinton’s liberal credentials, casting the former secretary of state as a Wall Street ally who will switch her positions for political gain. But he’s vowed to forgo negative attacks, a position that may be hard to maintain as the race intensifies.
Both candidates are competing for black voters in South Carolina, which hosts the fourth primary contest. At a party fundraising dinner Saturday night, they vowed to change criminal justice policies.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who’s been stuck in single digits since announcing his campaign last spring, also will be on the debate stage. The evening offers perhaps his last chance to improve his standing in the race.
The debate was sponsored by NBC, YouTube and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.
Here are the latest developments from the Democratic presidential candidates’ final debate before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says on Syria, he’d do everything he can to avoid “perpetual warfare” in the Middle East.
He’s casting the conflict as a “quagmire.” And he says having Americans involved would be an “unmitigated disaster.”
Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders say the United States should re-open its embassy in Tehran, although both say the nuclear deal with Iran and recent prisoner release mark significant steps in the countries’ relationship.
Clinton says, “we had one good day over 36 years, and I think we need more good days” before rapidly normalizing relations with the nation. Sanders, meanwhile, says that while he does not believe the embassy should be reopened at this time, the goal should be to “warm relations” with Iran, which he called a “very powerful and important country in this world.”
Both praise the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration but say the United States must keep a careful eye on Iran to make sure it continues to comply with the deal.
Democratic presidential candidates want voters to know them as the science party.
That’s as opposed to the Republican presidential field that includes several candidates who dismiss the scientific consensus that human activity has made the earth warmer over time.
Martin O'Malley says the three candidates “actually believe in science.” He says Democrats should commit to “a 100 percent clean electricity grid by 2050,” leaning on solar and other sources instead of fossil fuels to power the nation.
Bernie Sanders mocks Republicans as “a major party … that is so owned by the fossil fuel industry and their campaign contributions that they dont' even have the courage, the decency to listen to the scientists.”
Sanders says younger Americans “instinctively” recognize the imperative to change consumer behavior, and he agrees with O'Malley’s call to remake the energy industry. He pitches the transition as an economic opportunity. “We need to be bold and decisive,” he says. “We can create millions of jobs.”
Bernie Sanders is defending his single payer health care plan, saying that it would save families more money than it costs them in higher taxes.
Though his plan would increase taxes on all Americans by 2.2 percent, middle-class families would save $5,000 in health insurance costs, he says.
He adds: “There are huge savings in what your family is spending.”
Hillary Clinton has attacked Sanders for proposing a plan that she says would raise taxes and reignite a divisive political issue.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are facing off over how they would pay for their policy proposals.
Sanders said Sunday night that he has explained exactly how he would pay for an “ambitious agenda.” For example, he says he'll pay for his plan to provide tuition-free public university with a tax on “Wall Street speculation.”
Clinton says she too has explained how she will pay for her plans. She says she is the only candidate to pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. “I want to raise incomes, not taxes,” she says.
Sanders says his proposal for a single-payer health care system may raise taxes on middle class families, but will end the need for costly private health insurance premiums. So he says in the end “it’s a pretty good deal.”
Martin O'Malley is jumping into the debate over Wall Street regulation between his two Democratic rivals by alleging Hillary Clinton is being untruthful about the strength of her plans to reign in Wall Street excesses.
He jumped in quickly to say “that’s not true,” when Clinton said her plan for financial regulation has been called the toughest and most comprehensive.
O'Malley says he would put “cops back on the beat of Wall Street.”
Sanders, likewise, says it’s wrong that none of the executives of the largest banks faced jail time after the financial collapse.
Bernie Sanders is pointing to Hillary Clinton’s campaign contributions and speaking fees from Wall Street as evidence that she won’t be able to impose stricter regulations on the financial sector.
He says, “I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.”
Clinton is shooting right back, alleging Sanders’ comments amount to an attack on President Barack Obama’s record on financial regulation. She also says there’s “no daylight” between her and Sanders on the basic premise that big banks need to be reigned in.
Wall Street regulation is a major point of contention between the two campaigns, with Sanders recently releasing an ad outlining “two visions” within the Democratic party over Wall Street regulation.
Clinton’s response tying herself to Obama is part of her effort to craft herself as the natural heir to his presidency.
Hillary Clinton says she plans to keep pursuing all votes, including from young people who turn out in droves for Bernie Sanders.
Democratic debate moderator Lester Holt cites polling that suggests the 74-year-old Sanders leads the 68-year-old Clinton by about a 2-to-1 margin among “young voters,” though he did not offer details.
Clinton cited several points in her platform as reasons she should appeal to young people, such as tuition-free community college, overhauling the student loan system and restoring voting rights laws struck down by the Supreme Court.
But she stresses that her pitch ultimately is aimed at voters of all ages. “Turning over the White House to Republicans,” she says, would “be bad for” everyone.
Bernie Sanders is embracing his identity as a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist,” saying the Democratic party needs “major reform.”
Democrats need to expand their outreach to traditionally red states like South Carolina and lessen their dependency on Super PACs, he says.
He adds: “We need to expand what the input is into the Democratic party.”
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both say they can work to find common ground in Washington – though they have different takes on how to get things done.
Asked about how to bridge political divisions, Clinton says Sunday night that she has a long history of working across the aisle. Among her examples was working with Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, to increase health care access for veterans.
Clinton says she will “go anywhere to meet with anyone at any time to find common ground.”
Sanders says he also has a history of working with Republicans - citing collaboration with Republican Sen. John McCain, of Arizona - but he also argues that a key issue in Washington is that Congress is “owned by big money” and is not pursuing the policies the public wants.
A heated Bernie Sanders says the debate over health care reform should be about who has “the guts to stand up to” private insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
He says the reason the United States doesn’t guarantee health care as a right is partly because of a “corrupt” campaign finance system.
Sanders and Hillary Clinton are engaged in a fiery back-and-forth over how to further reform health care. Sanders is advocating for a “Medicare for all” plan, while Clinton says she would build on the Affordable Care Act.
Clinton says she has experience taking on the health insurance industry, noting with a smile that they’ve spent “many, many millions of dollars” attacking her - but says the candidates must be realistic when it comes to health care reform. She says even with Democrats in charge, Congress has failed to pass a bill allowing people to choose to participate in Medicare.
Sen. Bernie Sanders says in the Democratic presidential debate the U.S. Justice Department should investigate “whenever anybody in this country is killed while in police custody.”
He responded to a question from a voter who questioned the fairness of prosecutors being responsible for investigating allegations of police brutality in their local jurisdictions.
Sanders also used the question to repeat several points that he has worked into his standard campaign pitch in recent months. He praised police officers for doing a “difficult job” but added, that any officer who “breaks the law,” they should face consequences.
He also says the U.S. “should de-militarize” local police forces “so they don’t look like occupying armies.” And he calls for local agencies to use “community policing,” placing officers in local neighborhoods so they get to know citizens, and to diversify their forces to “look like the communities
Bernie Sanders is taking on criticism that he’s not as electable as Hillary Clinton or as popular as her among black voters.
He says, “we have the momentum, we’re on a path to victory.”
Sanders says he’s confident black voters will increasingly back his candidacy when they learn more about his positions. He’s pointing to his support in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where he’s neck and neck with Clinton, that voters who have had a chance to learn about him are strongly backing his campaign.
Although Sanders and Clinton are close in the early voting states, the former secretary of state continues to out-perform Sanders in national polls and has wider support among African American voters.
Sanders is also taking on the argument that he’s not as “electable” as Clinton, telling views he performs better in matchups against Republican front-runner Donald Trump than Clinton does.
Martin O'Malley is defending his record in Baltimore and Maryland on criminal justice.
Asked about his crime policies in light of the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody, O'Malley says Sunday night that “we weren’t able to make our city immune from setbacks” but, “we were able to save a lot of lives.”
O'Malley said he repealed the possession of marijuana as a crime and repealed the death penalty in the state. He said incarceration rates and violent crime rates dropped under his watch.
Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are reiterating their push to reform the criminal justice system, with Clinton saying it’s riddled with “systemic racism” and Sanders deriding it as “broken.”
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are clashing early on guns in a Democratic presidential debate blocks from where nine people were killed by a white gunman at a historic black church in June.
Sanders says Clinton’s assertion that he’s a tool of the gun lobby is “disingenuous” and notes that he has a lifetime rating of a D- from the National Rifle Association.
He says he’s always supported bans on military style assault weapons, though Clinton counters that he voted several times against the Brady Bill that eventually became law under her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Hillary Clinton has hammered Sanders for weeks for voting effectively to shield gun manufacturers from legal liability in gun deaths. Sanders says the bill was unfair to independent gun retailers, whom he has said don’t deserve to be sued. He says he would support legislation that would target manufacturers specifically. Sanders also argues that as a “senator from a rural state that has virtually no gun control” he’s in an “excellent position to bring people together on the politically sensitive issue.”
Martin O'Malley says investing in cities will be a top priority in his first days in office.
Asked about his priorities for his first 100 days in office, the former Maryland governor says Sunday that he would focus on efforts to boost wages, promote clean energy and enhance cities.
The former mayor of Baltimore says: “We have not had a new agenda for America’s cities since Jimmy Carter.”
Bernie Sanders says three of the major issues he’d pursue as president are raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges and making health care available to everyone.
He says he’d focus his first 100 days in office on “bringing America together to end the decline of the middle class.”
Sanders is centering his campaign on making wealthy Americans pay what he calls their “fair share.” He says his campaign is about “thinking big.”
Martin O'Malley is trying to make his mark early in a Democratic presidential debate expected to be dominated by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The former Maryland governor was the only one of the three candidates to mention President Barack Obama and the Republican presidential field during opening statements.
He praised the president, who remains extremely popular among the Democratic base, and managed to tweak Clinton in the same note. “We need new leadership,” O'Malley said. “We need to come together and build upon the good things that President Obama have done.”
The GOP field, O'Malley said, has been defined by “anger.”
Bernie Sanders is sticking to his message of economic reform in his opening statement at Sunday night’s Democratic debate.
There was no mention in his opening statement of the health care plan that he released in the hours just before the debate started.
The Vermont senator noted that Monday is Martin Luther King Day and said that it was important to “continue his vision.”
Sanders said the economy was “rigged” and that ordinary people were working longer hours for lower wages. He repeated his call for a “political revolution” to change the country.
Hillary Clinton is opening her remarks at the debate by casting herself as the most qualified for the White House.
In her opening remarks on Sunday night, Clinton said Americans need a president “who can do all aspects of the job.”
She adds: “I understand this is the hardest job in the world.”
Clinton says she’s “prepared” and “ready” for the presidency.
The remark is a subtle dig at Sanders, who’s focused his campaign heavily on economic issues, even after terrorist attacks in Paris and California raised national security concerns.
The Democratic presidential debate is underway, with three candidates set to clash over health care, gun policy and more in a forum just a few blocks from the “Mother Emanuel” church where nine parishioners were murdered last year.