Wednesday, the top candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination met for their first debate.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) capped the participants of the first debates at twenty, so not all of the candidates were able to participate.
Those that were allowed were: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala D. Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, businessman Andrew Yang, and spiritual author Marianne Williamson, Sen. Michael Bennet, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Maryland congressman John Delaney, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Rep. Tim Ryan, and recent Alabama visitor Rep. Eric Swalwell.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne Messam, Rep. Joe Sestak, and Rep. Seth Moulton lacked the popular and donor support to participate under the DNC’s rules. Future debates will further pare down the field.
Ten candidates were in Wednesday night’s debate. The other ten will be on the state in tonight’s debate. The debate was moderated by NBC News with anchor Lester Holt being the lead moderator on the panel.
Sen. Warren said, “Who is this economy really working for? It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. It’s doing great for giant drug companies. It’s just not doing great for people who are trying to get a prescription filled.”
“We know that not everyone is sharing in this prosperity,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “And Donald Trump just sits in the White House and gloats about what’s going on, when you have so many people that are having trouble affording college and having trouble affording their premiums.”
“Right now, we have a system that favors those who can pay for access and outcomes,” Rep. O’Rourke said. “That’s how you explain an economy that is rigged to corporations and to the very wealthiest.”
“I live in a low-income Black and brown community,” Booker said. “I see every single day that this economy is not working for average Americans. The indicators that are being used, from GDP to Wall Street’s rankings, is not helping people in my community. It is about time that we have an economy that works for everybody, not just the wealthiest in our nation.”
“I would do several things, starting with something we should have done a long time ago, which is to pass the Equal Rights Amendment finally in this country.” Castro said. “And also pursue legislation so that women are paid equal pay for equal work in this country. It’s past time that we did that. And, you know, we have to do this. If we want to be the most prosperous nation in the 21st century, we need to make sure that women are paid what they deserve.”
“I know the importance of our national security, as well as the terribly high cost of war,” Rep. Gabbard said. “And for too long, our leaders have failed us, taking us from one regime change war to the next, leading us into a new cold war and arms race, costing us trillions of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars and countless lives. This insanity must end. As president, I will take your hard-earned taxpayer dollars and instead invest those dollars into serving your needs, things like health care, a green economy, good-paying jobs, protecting our environment, and so much more.”
“Well, we’ve been addressing income inequality in New York City by raising wages, by raising benefits, by putting money back in the hands of working people, $15 minimum wage, paid sick days, pre-K for all, things that are making a huge difference in working people’s lives,” Mayor de Blasio said of what he has done to fight income inequality.”
“I think we have to do real things to help American workers and the American people,” Rep. Delaney said. “Right? This is the issue that all of us hear on the campaign trail. We need to make sure everyone has a living wage. And I’ve called for a doubling of the earned income tax credit, raising the minimum wage, and creating paid family leave. That will create a situation where people actually have a living wage. That gets right to workers.”
“I’m proud of standing up for unions,” Gov. Inslee said. “I’ve got a plan to reinvigorate collective bargaining so we can increase wages finally. I marched with the SEIU folks. It is not right that the CEO of McDonald’s makes 2,100 times more than the people slinging cash at McDonald’s.”
“The bottom 60 percent haven’t seen a raise since 1980,” Rep. Ryan said. “Meanwhile, the top 1 percent control 90 percent of the wealth. We need an industrial policy saying we’re going to dominate building electric vehicles, there’s going to be 30 million made in the next 10 years. I want half of them made in the United States. I want to dominate the solar industry…”
“So here’s what I propose for an industrial policy. Start with a place where there’s a real need,” Warren said. “There’s going to be a worldwide need for green technology, ways to clean up the air, ways to clean up the water. And we can be the ones to provide that. We need to go tenfold in our research and development on green energy going forward. And then we need to say any corporation can come and use that research. They can make all kinds of products from it, but they have to be manufactured right here in the United States of America. And then we have to double down and sell it around the world. There’s a $23 trillion market coming for green products. We should be the leaders and the owners, and we should have that 1.2 million manufacturing jobs here in America.”
“My proposal is to do something about pharma, to take them on, to allow negotiation under Medicare, to bring in less expensive drugs from other countries,” Klobuchar said. “And pharma thinks they own Washington? Well, they don’t own me.”
“So getting to guaranteed, high-quality, universal health care as quickly and surely as possible has to be our goal,” O’Rourke said. “The ability to afford your prescriptions and go to a primary care provider, to be — the ability to see a mental health care provider. In Texas, the single largest provider of mental health care services is the county jail system today. And health care also has to mean that every woman can make her own decisions about her own body and has access to the care that makes that possible.”
“I mean, we should give everyone in this country health care as a basic human right for free, full stop. But we should also give them the option to buy private insurance,” de Blasio said. “Why do we have to stand for taking away something from people? And also it’s bad policy. If you go to every hospital in this country and you ask them one question, which is how would it have been for you last year if every one of your bills were paid at the Medicare rate? Every single hospital administrator said they would close.”
“I believe Medicare for all is the way to do that,” Klobuchar said. “I also think that employers will recognize how much money will be saved by supporting a Medicare for all program, a program that will reduce the administrative costs, reduce the bureaucratic costs, and make sure that everyone gets that quality health care that they need.”
“If you look at other countries in the world who have universal health care, every one of them has some form of a role of private insurance, so I think that’s what we’ve got to look at, taking the best of these ideas, but making sure unequivocally that no sick American goes without getting the care that they need, regardless of how much or little money they have in their pocket,” Gabbard said.
“I don’t believe only in reproductive freedom, I believe in reproductive justice,” Castro said. “And, you know, what that means is that just because a woman — or let’s also not forget someone in the trans community, a trans female, is poor, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the right to exercise that right to choose. And so I absolutely would cover the right to have an abortion.”
“Yes. (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) On day one, I will make sure that, number one, we end the ICE policies and the Customs and Border Policies that are violating the human rights,” Booker said. “When people come to this country, they do not leave their human rights at the border.”
…. “I will make sure that we reinstate DACA, that we reinstate pathways to citizenship for DACA recipients, and to make sure that people that are here on temporary protective status can stay and remain here.”
“I think it’s abhorrent. we’re talking about this father who got killed with his daughter, and the issues here, the way these kids are being treated,” Ryan said. “If you go to Guantanamo Bay, there are terrorists that are held that get better health care than those kids that have tried to cross the border in the United States. That needs to stop. And I think the president should immediately ask doctors and nurses to go immediately down to the border and start taking care of these kids. What kind of country are we running here where we have a president of the United States who’s so focused on hate and fear and division? And what has happened now, the end result is now we’ve got kids literally laying in their own snot, with three-week-old diapers that haven’t been changed.”
“But rather than talk about specific provisions, we really have to talk about why these people are coming to our country,” Delaney said. “… and what we’re going to do to actually make a difference in these countries.”
“There is no reason for the detention and separation of these children,” Inslee said. “They should be released, pending their hearings, and they should have a hearing and the law should be followed. That’s what should happen.”
The next debate will be tonight. Frontrunners Biden and Sanders will be in this next round of candidates.
The Madison County Democrats are holding a debate watch party at 7:30 p.m. at the Shelby Center on the University of Alabama in Huntsville tonight. Attendance is free and they are promising snacks.
Alabama’s presidential primary will be March 3.
To read the full transcript of Wednesday’s debate click here.
(Original reporting by the Washington Post and Washington Examiner contributed to this report.)