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Warren Defends Medicare for All Plan; Bet O'Rourke is Interviewed about His Platform; 12 Democratic Candidates Face Off in Debate. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 16, 2019 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[00:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes.

WARREN: Such as when Russia uses social media and social networks to influence the election of the president of the United States. We have to have a very serious conversation about what should be the rules placed on these private corporations. And in that context, Twitter has a responsibility.

TAPPER: This is the first debate since the impeachment inquiry began.

Did that change the dynamic onstage at all?

Did it change the focus at all?

Because obviously it's no longer just talk at the House of Representatives. They are actually beginning an inquiry on impeachment.

HARRIS: I mean, I think that, throughout the last 2.5 years but certainly since the impeachment process has started, justice is very much on the ballot in 2020.

And it is a matter of whether the rule of law matters in the United States, whether we are going to be true to the intent of the framers, which is that there will be checks and balances when there is an abuse of power by any branch of government.

These are all concepts that go to the heart of our democracy, which is that our democracy -- the strength of our democracy is that we respect the rule of law and we fight for justice. And the impeachment inquiry fundamentally is about that.

TAPPER: You're on one of the few committees in Washington that is known for having a good bipartisan way of working, the Senate Intelligence Committee.

HARRIS: Yes.

TAPPER: Are there concerns that you're hearing from Republican senators that they are not voicing publicly?

Are they as alarmed -- or at least somewhat more alarmed than we are being led to believe they are -- about the fact that, according to the president's own words, he did ask a foreign country to investigate Joe Biden?

HARRIS: I'll let them speak for themselves and hopefully they will speak publicly. I know in private situations, when there are not TV cameras and reporters, that they roll their eyes and that they know that this is -- particularly, when we're talking about attacks on our intelligence community and the integrity of its work, when we're talking about unilateral action around removing our troops from Syria in a way that has given no one notice and is now leaving the Kurdish fighters, who fought with us to defeat ISIS, to slaughter.

You know, you've seen publicly that there have been Republicans who have said this is wrong and I applaud them for that.

But you know, again, this is just a matter of a president in Donald Trump, who has put his ego, his fragile ego, yet again ahead of the interest of the American people and, in this case, national security.

Because let's be clear about something. We were in Syria not for humanitarian purposes. We were in Syria because it was a counterterrorism --

TAPPER: To go after ISIS.

HARRIS: Yes. And despite what Donald Trump said, ISIS was not defeated. And so now what has happened is that we have given at least 10,000 ISIS fighters -- Donald Trump has -- a get out of jail free card.

What we now have is we have sold out the Kurdish fighters, thousands and thousands of whom died to help us defeat ISIS. And we have empowered Russia, Iran, Assad and ISIS. They're the winners in this.

TAPPER: Where are you headed now?

Where is your campaign going now?

HARRIS: I'm going to Iowa.

TAPPER: Going to Iowa?

I've heard of it.

HARRIS: I'm going to Iowa because --

TAPPER: I heard somewhere that --

HARRIS: I'll be in Dubuque tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

TAPPER: You're moving there. I forget the exact quote, but something about you moving there.

HARRIS: Yes.

TAPPER: Senator Harris, thank you so much. Good luck out there. Have fun.

We're going to go to Chris Cuomo who has Andrew Yang -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Exactly right. Exactly right, Jake. Thank you very much.

Good to have you with us.

So how do you feel it went for you up there tonight?

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought it went phenomenally well. I just want to give full credit to the CNN moderators for talking about the seriousness of the fourth Industrial Revolution in automation.

We're here in Ohio and Ohio has lost over 300,000 manufacturing jobs and went 8 points to Donald Trump in the last election.

CUOMO: But that's a good story but it's not the reality. That's what Senator Elizabeth Warren said. Innovation, you know, sounds good, makes a great story. Not why we're losing jobs.

YANG: The studies I've seen say the exact opposite. But I had an exchange with Elizabeth during one of the breaks and I said -- I think, audibly, I said, I have the data. So she said to me, I want to see the data. And I was like, fantastic.

So hopefully we'll get her the studies that I've been referencing for months now.

CUOMO: So this line of questioning is actually going somewhere, I promise.

[00:05:00]

CUOMO: If you know that the data is obvious, that when you look at most of the things online, it's somewhere between six and eight of every 10 jobs we've lost in the manufacturing sector they say is innovation.

This came as a novelty to us about 10 years ago, when this thinking started, because we all thought it was just straight wages and selfish companies. Seems like Warren wants to go back there because it can't be about a fair difference of opinion on the data, Andrew, because I don't think you could come up with a lot of data on her side of this.

Can you?

YANG: You know, I certainly give her the benefit of the doubt. But the fact is, if you go to a factory here in Ohio, you'll find wall to wall robots and machines. And even this GM strike, the UAW strike that's on right now, it's tied to the fact that they're shifting towards electric cars that have fewer parts and so need fewer workers to put them together. Even the UAW strike is an automation story.

CUOMO: So here's why I'm asking, because if her theory of the case is corporations are bad -- she said tonight corporations don't care about people. They care about their bottom line.

Now with fairness to them, they didn't come out with that new motto lately, the corporations, that saying the bottom line isn't our only thing; we care about communities.

I'm smiling because they've got to prove a lot more before we can believe their new motto.

But if that is the push for the Democratic Party, corporations bad, tax, tax, tax the rich and that's how we'll get free everything, you think that beats this president?

YANG: You know, we've set up a system of capitalism that's very, very good at maximizing the bottom line for big companies. But now that bottom line doesn't match up to the lived experience of most Americans.

So what we have to do is go to the American people and say, look, we get it. This economy has left millions of our fellow Americans behind. It led to Donald Trump being our president.

And here's how we're going to rebuild. Here's how we're going to put resources directly into your hands so that you're going think your kids have a better future ahead of them and a more secure future. If we fail in that, then we will lose to Donald Trump.

CUOMO: The challenge in politics is often, what is criticized in the campaign is what winds up being most practical in governance, which, you know, the old expression, you campaign in poetry, you govern in prose. The incremental works in policy.

Are you worried that if the Democrats buy into in their nominee an idea of revolutionary thought and transitional change, that it's not what the party really wants, which is a return to normal and things that they understand?

YANG: I mean, I get it. The fact is, our economy is transforming in fundamental ways before our eyes and it's very, very hard to keep pace. And it's very natural and human for us all to try and reach back to some more comfortable past.

But the future is coming whether we like it or not and we have to play catch-up as quickly as possible.

So to your point about transformational change, as president, everyone will know that I won the White House because I've run on this dividend of $1,000 a month. So the Democrats will be so thrilled to have gotten Donald Trump out of there, they'll say, let's do it. It's going to make kids and families stronger and healthier.

But here's the kicker, Chris. Republicans are going to look at this and say, wait, am I against the dividend?

It helps rural areas, it helps red states on the interior that have gotten blasted by automation. And the one state that's had a dividend for almost 30 years now is a deep red, conservative state, Alaska, passed by a Republican governor.

So we don't need all of the Republicans in Congress to get onboard. We just need a handful of them. But that's what my campaign about. I'm one of only two candidates on that stage tonight that 10 percent or more of Donald Trump voters say they would support in the general.

Which is one reason why I'm going to be the strongest person to take on Donald Trump and beat him in 2020. But that's also how I'm going to get things done in Congress because if I peel off 10 percent, 20 percent of Republicans in Congress who say, wait a minute, this is actually a huge win for Kentucky, for Missouri, et cetera, et cetera, then we can make real changes.

CUOMO: A couple questions for Andrew before we get him go.

DANA BASH, CNN SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I just have a big picture question. You have made the debate stage. A lot of people who have been sitting governors and senators and members of the House have not and have had to drop out.

How have you felt and how did you feel tonight versus the first three times that you did this?

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: I just kind of want to get a sense of what it's like to be Andrew Yang on the stage, having never served in politics before.

YANG: I think I referenced it at the last CNN debate in Detroit, where I talked about, like the reality TV show and it's definitely been a real learning experience for me.

BASH: But now you're more in the groove. You've done it four times now.

YANG: Certainly now. I have to say again, hats off to CNN --

BASH: You can say it again and again.

YANG: I just feel --

CUOMO: Look at David when you say it because he's the political director.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And "The New York Times." Dana and I are just here.

YANG: Because I think that with each debate, certainly the two debates that CNN has run, I felt like we got a chance to dig into some of the most important topics and that got me much more comfortable and excited, rather than running down loose balls and kind of like -- these sort of marginal questions that I think were the case in some of the other debates.

[00:10:00]

CUOMO: As I always say whenever I interview you, we can debate whether or not the ideas are saleable but you make people think critically about what's being said around them. You're provocative. The acronym for MATH, Make America Think Harder, I think it says it all right in that. So, Andrew, thank you very much. I look forward to you continuing the debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good seeing you again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

CUOMO: Elizabeth Warren, the senator tonight certainly got the most attention from the others on the table. They'll say she got heat. I don't know. I think she got attention but we'll debate that.

And you're going to have Jake with the senator next. So don't miss that.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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TAPPER: Welcome back. We have with us Massachusetts Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren.

Senator, this was the first debate where you were really a co-front- runner with vice president Biden and I have to say, based on the amount of incoming going your way, it seems like whatever the Democratic voters think, your colleagues think that you're the front- runner.

Do you think any of the attacks that you faced tonight were out of bounds?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, this is what it means to get out there and fight and I believe in it.

[00:15:00]

WARREN: And I'm strengthening those muscles every day because I'm going to take on Donald Trump and I'm going to beat him.

TAPPER: There did seem to be a certain -- well, first of all, Beto O'Rourke suggested you want to punish billionaires. And then there also seemed to be this theme that you're not being straight with the American people because you're not saying middle class voters, yes, your taxes will go up but your overall costs will go down.

So overall you're going to end up paying less the way I just said it.

WARREN: So you know, starting with the question about punish people, look, the way I look at this is that the top 0.1 of 1 percent, everybody who has more than $50 million in assets, could pay 2 cents on their 50 millionth and first dollar. Keep your first 50 million free and clear. You all can relax.

But 2 cents. And with 2 cents, what we can do is invest in an entire generation. It's universal child care, universal pre-K, raise the wages of all our child care workers and preschool teachers.

It's universal college. It's $50 billion into historically black colleges and universities and it's cancel student loan debt for 95 percent of the folks who have got it. That's what you can do with 2 cents on the top 0.1 of 1 percent.

And as I said onstage during this debate, it's not that I'm mad at them. It's that we all invested in a country, in infrastructure. We invested in educating our kids. We invested in things that are necessary to build a great fortune like that.

And if you make it that big, pitch in 2 cents so an entire generation has a chance to make it because ultimately this is about our values.

If it is more important to leave the 2 cents with the richest 0.1 of 1 percent rather than with our babies, rather than with kids who are getting crushed by student loan debt, I think that's just fundamentally wrong and it's a different vision of what you think America should be.

TAPPER: What about the criticism from your colleagues, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, others, that you're not being straight because you're not just saying, middle class tax, middle class people, yes, your taxes will go up but your overall costs are go down, which is the most important thing, the way I just said it?

WARREN: The way I see is we know that there are a lot of different cost estimates for Medicare for all and they vary by trillions and trillions of dollars. We know there are a lot of different revenue streams.

So I've made my commitment clear. I will not sign a bill into law that raises costs for middle class families. And keep in mind on this, I spent a big hunk of my life on why families go broke. This was what I was doing for a long, long time.

And, of course, as we know, one of the number one answers is it's health care costs. And when I was studying it, two out of every three families that filed bankruptcy following a serious medical problem had health insurance.

These are families that are struggling with the cost of health care. I talk to these people every day when I'm out on the campaign trail, at town halls, when I'm doing selfies afterwards. This is what middle class families are struggling with.

TAPPER: And they hear what you're saying and they don't care about the criticism from your colleagues?

WARREN: They hear that the costs are too high for them. TAPPER: Yes.

WARREN: The number of people I have met who have described terrible medical problems -- oh, in fact, I'll tell you one that I met out in Carson City, Nevada, just a couple of weeks ago.

A woman who said, I had the gold-plated insurance. I had the fabulous, wonderful, triple underline insurance. And then the medical treatment I needed to save my life was going to cost about $125,000.

You know what her insurance company said?

No. Just no. She fought them. She argued with them. And, you know, time's running out. She actually needs the treatment. And that's where families are stuck.

So what do they do at that point?

Do you cash out your retirement savings?

Do you put a second mortgage on the house?

These are the kinds of choices people are being forced into. So what I'm hearing on the stage is about people who are just -- they can't manage the costs of America's health care. Everyone I talk with talks about how premiums have gone up.

TAPPER: Yes.

WARREN: They talk about how co-pays have gone up. They talk about how deductibles have gone up. They talk about how doctors are out of network.

[00:20:00]

WARREN: So they can't go see the doctors they want to see. This is a health care system that puts more and more hardworking families at risk.

TAPPER: And the plans being proposed by Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg, which are essentially either you can buy into Medicare or it has the public option that ObamaCare originally was going to offer, but they couldn't get it through the Senate, they would not be able to accomplish what Medicare for all would accomplish?

WARREN: You know, do the math on this. Medicare for all is the gold standard and I actually don't think anybody argues with this. It is the way you get everybody covered at the lowest possible cost.

So when they say they're going to put a whole lot less money into it, whatever numbers they're coming up with, what they're really saying is there are going to be a lot of people left behind.

TAPPER: I want to -- I'm sorry. I want to bring in John King. Everybody is going to get a shot.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: This has come up repeatedly. I'm really interested in why you stay where you stay.

There are cynics who say, if you win the nomination, you're going to try to move to the center. That's what some people say. That's why you won't talk more about this.

But isn't it a fact that the Bernie Sanders' Medicare for all plan, which as of this moment you are onboard with, right?

WARREN: Yes.

KING: It says quite specifically, middle class taxes will go up, correct?

WARREN: So what Medicare for all describes is the kind of health care coverage we are going to provide as a country. The cost estimates on it are in lots of different places and they vary by literally trillions and trillions of dollars, depending on how this lands.

The same thing is true for the revenue streams. So where I am -- and I think this is the right place to be -- is to say, look, here's the commitment we need to make. It's a cost commitment.

And this is why I talk about -- think about what it means, if you say to families, go have your health insurance. We're done with you. Yes, you're done with them until the person I met, who needed $125,000 for one treatment to save her life, and her insurance company just looked at her and said no.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I don't mean to interrupt but quickly if you can, do you worry, though -- and Mr. Axelrod lived through this. It was incredibly hard, doing something the Democrats believe to this day that you believe was the right thing to do, passing the Affordable Care Act. Things like if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, the American people look at as you lied to us. And it made the politics harder.

If middle class taxes in your Medicare for all plan went up, well, they say, during the campaign, why was she trying to be cute?

Why wouldn't she just say it?

And then make the argument that Senator Sanders does -- but you need to trust me here, overall, when you take away private insurance, your co-pays, your other costs, your overall costs will go down but, yes, your taxes might go up some.

WARREN: My commitment is I will not sign a bill into law that raises costs on middle-class families and I understand --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Costs.

WARREN: The good Lord knows that President Obama had to live through this. President Clinton lived through it when they tried and lost before, that the insurance companies are out there trying to sell the message every single day, that this is all about costs. And here's the deal. It is about costs. It's about the costs they're

imposing on the American people when they raise their premiums, when they raise their deductibles and when they suck tens of billions of out of the system for their profits.

Let's stop for a minute and remember, every dollar of profit that an insurance company made last year was made by saying one word -- no. No. No to your coverage. No to the medical care you need. No to the doctor.

TAPPER: Nia?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator Warren, you are noted for having plans for everything, right?

WARREN: Yes.

HENDERSON: So you don't have your specific plan for Medicare for all. It's basically Bernie Sanders' plan that you've signed onto.

Can you imagine in the coming months that you would put out your own plan that addresses some of these concerns that people have about private insurance, some of the concerns that unions have as well and some of the concerns that people have about their taxes going up?

WARREN: So I do endorse Medicare for all. I think it is the right approach for us to use. And the reason for that is everything I have seen says this is the way we can cover everyone at the lowest possible cost.

I don't think we should live in an America where people can't get the health care coverage they want, especially people who have health insurance.

It's not a choice to say to someone, you know, I'm sorry but the prescription medication that your doctor said you need is just not going to be available to you. Figure out whether or not to reach in your pocket and pay for the prescription or to pay this month's rent.

[00:25:00]

WARREN: And that's what millions of people are doing, some variation on that, all across this country and it's got to stop. And as Democrats, that's the fight we should be in.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN HOST: Senator, as a parent of a child who had a chronic illness, I've tangled with the insurance companies my lifetime.

WARREN: I bet you have.

AXELROD: And I hear your argument. But just to follow up on Nia's point, are you saying that the Medicare for all bill that is in the Senate, that you signed onto, Bernie Sanders' bill, is the plan that you are running on and the plan that you will try and implement when you become -- if you become President of the United States? You're not going to have your own plan? You're satisfied with the Sanders plan?

WARREN: I think it's a good plan. I think Medicare for all is the way that we make sure that everybody gets covered at the lowest possible cost and that you and a lot of people like you do not have to spend hours on the phone, arguing with insurance companies, only to be told no.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Can you guarantee -- and I know that's a hard thing to do. But can you guarantee that what people might save on the cost of their health insurance would be more than what they might have to pay in additional taxes?

WARREN: So I said I will not sign a bill into law that does not reduce costs for middle class families.

BORGER: But what about the tax part of it?

That's what I'm asking. If there's an equation here --

WARREN: You just heard it. This is the point I'm trying to make and I've made here. Families are dealing with costs.

BORGER: Right.

WARREN: The tens of thousands of people who come through the selfie line to me talk about their costs. And many, many of them have health insurance -- or at least they had health insurance until they developed the really serious illness, until the child was diagnosed with cancer and then their insurance company said not so much. We don't want you anymore.

AXELROD: But if your estimates -- you say that the estimates of what Medicare for all would cost vary by trillions and trillions of dollars.

How can you even make an assurance as to how this is going to pencil out?

WARREN: Because there are multiple revenue streams.

BORGER: Like taxes?

WARREN: Many of them are identified already, that there are multiple revenue streams. But what we do know is that Medicare for all is the way we cover everybody in this country at the lowest possible cost. And here's the thing.

Go ahead.

VAN JONES, CNN HOST: You're better than I am on math and policy.

WARREN: No.

JONES: I'm not going to argue about that. I want to talk about just the politics of it.

WARREN: Yes.

JONES: I know people.

WARREN: Yes.

JONES: People don't like to be forced.

WARREN: Yes.

JONES: It sounds to me when you say Medicare for all, maybe even if you don't want it, that you're forcing people. So when Mayor Pete said, Medicare for all, who wants it, I like that, like the public subway.

Right now, to ride the subway, you'd have to be either very poor, Medicaid or very old, Medicare. What Pete's saying is if you want to ride that subway, you can ride it. But if you want to be on a Lyft, an Uber, get a pogo stick, you can do that, too.

You're saying, you got to get in the subway. I don't care if I want a Lyft, a helicopter, get in the subway.

Why is that good politics?

Don't you people like Americans are going to feel like you're forcing something on them they don't want?

WARREN: Let me do it slightly differently --

JONES: But isn't that a brilliant metaphor?

WARREN: Let me tell you how I think about this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She didn't say yes. Let the record reflect.

WARREN: I think about this as we should leave no one behind in this country and any proposal that is about, here's some Medicare, it's Medicare for people who can afford it. It's not Medicare for all. It's Medicare for all who can afford it.

And that means, by definition, because we can do the math on this, it's going to leave millions of people behind. And every time somebody says, no, no, no, I'll cover them, then the question is, why isn't Medicare for all?

JONES: OK. So here's the thing. You're making your argument about the people who might get left out because they're too poor. I'm talking about the people --

WARREN: No, it's not just too poor.

JONES: Or get screwed by some mean -- WARREN: Or too sick or too --

JONES: You're looking at the folks at the bottom.

WARREN: No, it's not. It's middle class families.

JONES: But, look, stay with me now. Middle class people, poor people, that's your concern. And you say, I don't want those people to be left out.

But what about the people who could opt out and want to have their freedom to opt out?

Do you care about them and their freedom to opt out?

WARREN: Look, what I care about is that they don't get pushed out because that's what's happening right now with insurance companies.

JONES: Yes, but --

WARREN: Can we just stop and acknowledge that that's what insurance companies do?

[00:30:02]

WARREN: You do?

JONES: I see it every day.

WARREN: All across this country. And I just want you to pauses for a minute about what that means. I had a young man stand up at a town hall and explain that he'd been diagnosed with M.S., and his insurance company refused to pay for one of his treatment. He'd started down the treatment line.

And his explanation of it was, here he was. He had insurance. He fights with his insurance company. No, no, no, no, no, until he finally ends up in the public system. But understand this. He described it as, I have now a lesion in my brain that is an inch long that I will carry for all my life. And for anyone who understands about M.S., this is --

JONES: Yes, it's amazing.

WARREN: -- a deteriorating condition, and it never gets better. What you try to do is hold off its getting worse. And I hope with investments in medical research, we get to a point where we can reverse it, but we can't right now.

And an insurance company, a man who was fully insured, said, you know, we're just not going to pay for this. And so long as that is the case, what that's going to keep doing to people is they think they're covered. The woman I talked to out in Nevada, she thought she was covered right up until an insurance company said no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. WARREN: And we can't be that America. We can do a better job of delivering health care for all of our people.

And here's the deal. Understand this. Man, I'm ready to get out there and fight for it, because where the fight is going to be in the general election is between Democrats, who are fighting to make sure that people are covered across this country; and Republicans, who are working every single day to try and take away health care for millions of Americans.

The lawsuits are proceeding. The work they're doing in the administration. Millions of people have lost their health care coverage since Donald Trump has become president. We're going to have that fight. I tell you, I'm happy to be a Democrat, because Democrats believe in health care for Americans.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Senator, your staff is telling us that we have to let you go.

WARREN: Sorry.

TAPPER: You've been very generous with your time, but before you go, I do want to get your reaction. Senator Bernie Sanders on the stage, alluded to the fact that he was having this big rally in Queens, and he was going to have special guests. We have found out -- CNN has been told by sources -- that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib from Michigan are going to be endorsing Senator Sanders.

You're in the progressive lane with him, as well. I know that those are three allies of yours, as well. What do you make of that? Are you disappointed that they're not endorsing you?

WARREN: Look, I have great respect for all three of those women. I think they are terrific, and here's what I know for sure. When this primary is over, we're all going to be on the same side.

TAPPER: All right. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, thank you so much for your time.

WARREN: You bet.

TAPPER: I really appreciate your answering all our questions.

Beto O'Rourke is going to join us next, as our debate coverage continues live from Ohio. Thanks so much. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're joined now by Beto O'Rourke. You've got Astead Wesley, Dana Bash and David Chalian, we're all here. Thank you very much.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

CUOMO: So let's do a quick plus-minus. On the plus side, you created a problem for Senator Warren. I know you don't -- don't want to offend anybody. That's not what I'm saying.

O'ROURKE: Maybe it's an opportunity for Senator Warren.

CUOMO: Yes. See, I like that positive spin. That's why I wear the black suit. It's always cynical.

She's having a hard time owning the reality that Medicare for all means tax increases for the middle class. The argument is it will offset, ultimately, with cost. Costs will come down, but taxes are going to go up. She will not say the taxes will go up part. Why?

O'ROURKE: I don't know. And I wish that she would just come out and say it, one way or the other.

CUOMO: Did you know that she would not answer the question when you brought it up the way you did on the stage?

O'ROURKE: I've known that, in the past, she has refused to answer the question. And I just think on something as fundamentally important as health care, for all the reasons she cares about it and that I care about it, and we all care about it, we've really got to level with the American people about how we will accomplish universal, guaranteed, high-quality care.

And one of the differences between our two plans is, in hers, you're forced to leave your private insurance and go to Medicare. You don't lose insurance. You're just going to be forced to go to Medicare. And in mine, we're going to have universal care, but those who have a plan that works for them and their families, members of unions who fought and negotiated for those plans, are able to keep them if they work for them. And we're going to level with people. We will not raise taxes on any family that makes $250,000 or less in this country.

CUOMO: So that's definite than Bernie Sanders's plan, which is what Elizabeth Warren right now seems to be adopting. How big a problem do you think it is if your nominee is Elizabeth Warren and she has this hanging over her head that she's not being straight about taxes, a la you can keep your doctor?

O'ROURKE: You know, I think on all issues that are important to our fellow countrymen and women, we've got to just be absolutely clear. So that's true on health player. It's true on guns, on the economy, on confronting climate change. People want to know that we have real answers and a real path to be able to get there.

And then, what I have found is, regardless of party or other differences, they very often want to join. As long as you know that there's a way to get there. That's the surest, best way to bring America in, to make sure that we don't only define the goals but the path that everyone can join.

CUOMO: And you be straight. So on the plus side, you brought this issue up tonight. It's resonating. The senator has to deal with it. I don't think it's gone that well so far. We'll see.

On the negative side, the gun buyback mandatory thing didn't seem to sell with the people up on the stage. How do you think it sells with people in America? Because the scary part of it is, you're going to go and take guns from people. You say, I believe that they will respect the law. One, you'd have to have that law, which very well might violate the Constitution. Two, it is exactly the slippery slope that people are afraid of if they are gun owners.

O'ROURKE: Yes. I'm not so worried about the slippery slope or the constitutionality. I think this passes constitutional muster, and we know that a conservative justice like Antonin Scalia --

[00:35:04]

CUOMO: Confiscation? You think (ph) -- free passes?

O'ROURKE: No, I'm not talking about confiscation, to be clear. I'm talking about a mandatory buy-back. And that is founded on a faith in this country and our fellow Americans that they will follow the law, just as they follow every other law that is on the books.

But if we allow the polling or the conventional political wisdom to dictate what we do or what we don't do, then we're not going to make progress on guns. And a country that loses 40,000 people to gun violence every year, they're going to see more massacres like the one that we saw in El Paso, or Midland Odessa or Dayton, Ohio --

CUOMO: True.

O'ROURKE: -- the state we're in right now.

CUOMO: But you're talking about 2 percent of the gun problem. With all sensitivity, I was with you in El Paso. I've been to two dozen communities struck that way. It's a horrible reality. It's 2 percent of our problem. Mental illness is 60 percent of our problem when it comes to gun deaths.

O'ROURKE: No, I don't think so.

CUOMO: Yes.

O'ROURKE: I think it does a disservice to those who have a mental illness. They're far more often going to be the victims of gun violence --

CUOMO: Yes. Statistically, much more likely to be victims.

O'ROURKE: -- than they are the perpetrators of gun violence.

CUOMO: But they are 60 percent of gun deaths. Suicide.

O'ROURKE: So we -- oh, so you're talking about suicide.

CUOMO: Yes, yes. Yes.

O'ROURKE: So absolutely. So a couple things that we know are going to help. One, universal background checks. Two, red flag laws. So if someone is showing that they will be a harm to themselves or someone else, we can stop them before it is too late. Raising the age of purchase from 18 to 21. We know that suicidal ideation, from the moment you think about it to the moment you act, is a very short period of time.

CUOMO: Right. And you've got to identify and get people treatment.

O'ROURKE: It's more difficult when you're younger. And I think you look at March for Our Lives, the students in Florida. They were help -- they were able to help raise the age of purchase in that state.

We know that that is possible. We know that it saves lives. And it's not mutually exclusive from working on the other fronts of gun violence or other challenges that we have in this country --

CUOMO: Understood.

O'ROURKE: -- like access to mental health care. Some states like Texas, largest provider is the criminal justice system.

CUOMO: Right.

O'ROURKE: That's absolutely wrong, expensive and immoral.

CUOMO: Let's get some question in here. Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: On this issue, I'm sorry, just real quick to follow on this issue, you really got into it with Mayor Pete Buttigieg on this as you telegraphed before this debate that probably would happened. And he responded to you very clearly, I don't need lessons from you on courage, personal or professional. How'd you take that?

O'ROURKE: Of course he doesn't. And there's not a question in my mind about Mayor Buttigieg's personal courage. But when it comes to political courage, to defying the polls and the conventional political wisdom, that's what we need to see in a leader.

If you waited for the polling to check out or for a consensus to form on civil rights or on voting rights or on anything that is important to any one of us, we would never make progress in this country. We don't want to run this country by poll takers and weathermen. We want to run by leaders who understand what we have to do and help to bring the rest of the country along with us. And that's what we need to do if we're going to end this epidemic of gun violence.

ASTEAD WESLEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: My question is simple. You've seen your kind of standing in this race take a hit in these last six months. What would you identify as the thing you need to do to win some of those supporters back, to juice some of the fundraising numbers and to get the campaign back on track?

O'ROURKE: You know, over this last quarter, we saw our best month over month performance of the campaign. After the last debate, we had our greatest 48-hour period of fundraising. We raised a million more than we had the previous quarter. Sign-ups on the website BetoORourke.com to volunteer or knock on doors, all those are going through the roof, as well.

And then I see it reflected in the passion and the urgency of those who come to see us at our events in Iowa or in Tucson or Phoenix, Arizona, two places that aren't often visited by presidential candidates.

So my hope is that, by seeing things clearly, speaking honestly, acting decisively and bringing everyone into the conversation, especially those who are too often left behind or left out of it altogether, we have a chance to demonstrate the kind of leadership that I would provide as president and, hopefully, connect with people in a way that correlates with the polling, which is so important to qualify for these future debates.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Can I just switch topics for one quick second? You did a town hall with CNN earlier this week in Los Angeles on LGBT issues. You were asked flat-out about whether or not you'd get rid of the tax-exempt status for religious organizations and other organizations that did not believe in same-sex marriage or allow same sex marriages to take place.

You had a really simple answer. It was one word. You said yes, I want to get rid of tax-exempt status.

Is there -- do you think that that has the -- that answer sort of pushes some people away that maybe you would want to bring in? Because there are people who work at religious organizations, and it is fundamentally against their beliefs. And the separation of church of state -- church and state suggests to them that their status should not be threatened by the fact that they don't see, in their practice, performing a same-sex marriage.

O'ROURKE: Yes, I agree with them that they should be able to believe whatever they believe. They should be able to practice their faith in whatever way they choose, and that should in no way compromise their freedom to do that or their tax-exempt status if they're a nonprofit organization.

But if they offer some service in the public sphere, whether it is adoption services or healthcare, or higher education and discriminate based on gender identity, or sexual orientation, or race or ethnicity, or any other difference, then not only do I think that is wrong and against the law, especially if we sign into law the Equality Act, but I also think it should cost them their tax-exempt status.

And it's not idle speculation or a novel idea. We know that Bob Jones University in 1983 lost their tax-exempt status for discriminating on the basis of race.

So I had watched some of those earlier town halls on CNN earlier in the day and understood that the spirit of the question was discrimination in the public sphere. Of course, in your mosque, in your temple, in your church, in your synagogue, that is your business, not mine, nor is it the government's. But the moment you offer a public service, public accommodation, you are held to a higher standard, and as president I'm going to make sure that we do that. CUOMO: Beto O'Rourke.

O'ROURKE: Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: Three hours on the stage. Three very sharp minds here. You get a break with me. But thank you for joining us. I appreciate you doing it.

O'ROURKE: Thank you.

CUOMO: And good luck going forward.

O'ROURKE: Appreciate it.

CUOMO: All right. And thanks to all of you for making the coverage even better than it would have been if it were just me.

All right. Coming up in a moment from Ohio, we have a lot more analysis about where tonight takes us going forward. Stay with CNN.

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[00:50:33]

TAPPER: Back here with our big brains here in Ohio. And Kirsten, we didn't get to you. You didn't get a chance to ask Senator Elizabeth Warren a question, but you're a Medicare for all supporter. What would you have asked her?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'd just like to know what she'd do, you know, if she won and there's still a Republican Senate and maybe some Democrats who maybe aren't that excited about Medicare for all? What would she do? Is there a Plan B? Is there -- would she take a half a loaf? I mean, this is -- I agree with her. This is a crisis in the health care system. But what's the backup plan, considering that it's such a contentious issue?

TAPPER: Because they couldn't even get the public option through a Democratic Senate.

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I think -- I think this is the part of the conversation, as we have this in-depth, in the weeds policy conversation that's great around Medicare for all that we're missing is that everything that the candidates are proposing right now are the starting points for an eventual negotiation.

So when you see Amy Klobuchar talk about, well, we just need the public option, it's like, well, that's basically where we started in 2010. I -- I don't want to start back there. Why don't we start farther to the left, and then maybe we move slightly more to the center as -- as we have to deal with other Democrats and Republicans?

I think people aren't trying to find a letter-perfect plan for health care. I think they're trying to find a leader that they trust to have the conversation with the right priorities in mind to get the final outcome after a lot of discussion. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: So here's a question I

have for Democrats, which would be, why aren't you talking about how Republicans are going to take away your pre-existing conditions, because that is so important to voters?

MCINTOSH: Republicans are already so underwater on are you more or less trusted on health care or the economy that it's -- it almost goes without saying that Republicans want to take away your health care.

BORGER: Well, I don't think it goes without saying.

MCINTOSH: We should keep saying it. You're right.

BORGER: I think you have to keep saying it.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Democrats won the health care debate in 2018 by stressing the issues you're talking about.

If the debate becomes whether or not you're going to eliminate private insurance, I think that the onus could shift. And I think that's what Republicans would like to do, is get the onus off of themselves for what they've done on health care.

I will tell you, I was with Harry Reid, Senator Reid, over the weekend, did a show with him. And he knows Elizabeth Warren very, well, helped promote her career, recruited her for the Senate, put her in leadership.

BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: He said she's far more pragmatic than people realize. And I predict that she will moderate on this issue. She will find some middle ground on this issue. That may be, but she was -- wasn't exactly letting on.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The question is when does she do, right? Does she do it after she wins the general? I mean, after she wins the primary? Who knows if he's going to win the primary. Does she do it in a couple of months?

She has talked about Medicare for all as a framework, so maybe there is some wiggle room. And we'll see. I mean, Bernie Sanders obviously wants to make this an issue. Pete Buttigieg wants to make this an issue, as well.

I do want to get something in about Biden, though. I thought Biden's strongest moment in this debate was when he answered the age question. And he basically, I think, made the whole case for his candidacy, which is that he -- it sounds like a cliche, in some ways, but that he's ready on day one. His age is about wisdom, and sort of putting America back on track.

And I thought that was a really good answer to that question. I think it's why people like him. And I think it's an issue for Pete Buttigieg. Right? His big struggle is going to be can people imagine a 37-year-old mayor in the White House in 2020? So I think that was a really strong suit for Biden, one of the strongest answers from tonight.

JOHN KING, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the weakest point, I think, overall, Joe Biden had a pretty strong debate. I think his weakest point, though, when Anderson Cooper asked him a direct question about now he says, you know, if I'm the president, my son Hunter will not be involved in any foreign business dealings.

If that's the standard for a president, why wasn't it the standard when you were the vice president?

AXELROD: Right.

KING: It was a perfectly fair question.

TAPPER: He didn't answer it.

KING: He just did not answer it.

Back to the Warren point, I think we all have to remember, too, there are two tracks here. We're having a conversation about how the Republicans would use some of this in a general election.

The first question is what do Democratic voters want? How much do these differences matter to Democrats? Their first answer, if you ask them, is we want to beat Trump. AS they answer that question -- 110 days from now in Iowa is the first contest -- do they process in Medicare for all, taxes to the middle class? Is the minutia that important to them? Or are they watching these debates to see who's the best boxer?

TAPPER: Van, final take.

JONES: I mean, I just think that we've got an extraordinary progressive in Warren. And we have, right now, still, a mediocre moderate in Biden. What we don't have yet is an extraordinary moderate.

[00:55:10]

And you saw Buttigieg trying to get there. You saw Klobuchar trying to get there. We need somebody, to really have this debate the right way, you've got to have two real heavyweights on both sides.

Look, you know, Biden didn't do as badly as he has done. I still feel the air is coming out of Biden. I just don't see it. And so there is an opportunity.

I thought Pete -- I thought tonight, we talked about a lot of people, we talked about a lot of stuff. I still think tonight was the night you saw Pete Buttigieg 2.0 -- passionate Pete, pistol Pete -- and you could see this thing shaping up as Warren versus Pete.

TAPPER: Except, can I just say, Buttigieg, can he expand beyond white college-educated voters? BORGER: That's the big question.

TAPPER: In that case. I'm told that's all the time we have. Thanks, one and all, for being here. Drinks are on Van. Keep watching. We're going to right now have an encore presentation of the CNN/"New York Times" Democratic debate. Thanks so much for watching.

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