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Debate takeaways: What Democratic presidential candidates said about 3 issues that resonate with young voters

By Jacob Klopfenstein, | Posted - Feb. 20, 2020 at 7:51 a.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Amy Klobuchar summed it up in her closing statement: It was “quite a debate.”

The Minnesota senator joined five other Democratic presidential nominees — former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomerg, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — on Wednesday night on the debate stage in Las Vegas.

The debate covered a vast range of topics in just two hours that saw the candidates pull few punches. Here’s what the contenders had to say about three issues that resonate with younger voters:

Gender equality

Bloomberg, who was on the debate stage for the first time this campaign after surging in national polls, was the subject of several lines of attack from the other candidates.

The billionaire businessman, who is self-funding his campaign, has been accused of sexually harassing women in the workplace and using sexist language. He’s also been accused of entering into nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs, with former employees that prevent them from talking about any prior alleged abuse.

During the debate, Bloomberg insisted he has no tolerance for the types of sexual misconduct behaviors that the #MeToo movement exposed. He said any employee discovered engaging in that behavior at any of his companies is fired that same day.

Warren piled on when the topic came up. She called on Bloomberg to release women from any NDAs they might be party to, but he stood his ground, saying the agreements were consensual and they would stay in place.

Warren went on to suggest that someone with a “drip drip drip” of stories from women about sexual harassment would not be able to beat President Donald Trump.

“This is not just a question of Mayor Bloomberg’s character — it’s a question about electability,” she said.

Biden also denounced NDAs, saying it’s an issue of transparency. He said it doesn’t make sense that women would say they don’t want anyone to know about what happened.

“That’s not how it works,” he said.

Health care

Health care has been one of the most prominent issues in this election, and Wednesday night was no different.

After a Nevada culinary workers union criticized Sanders’ health care plan, he said Wednesday he would never sign a bill that would reduce the health care benefits for those workers. He again advocated for his Medicare For All plan.

Buttigieg called for more transparency on how much Medicare For All would cost and suggested his “Medicare for all who want it” plan was the better way to go. He said people shouldn’t be forced to have a certain type of health care plan.

Klobuchar pointed out that the current health care system, the Affordable Care Act put in place by President Barack Obama, already includes a public option. She said the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved, but not done away with.

Bloomberg said he supported the Affordable Care Act, but thought it didn’t go as far as it should. He also said that it wouldn’t be right to institute a plan that is so far untried, referring to Medicare For All.

Warren said it’s important to get as much health care help for as many people as possible. She said it wasn’t appropriate for the other candidates to “trash” the idea of giving health care to everyone when they don’t have good plans of their own.

Biden pointed out that he worked with Obama to reform the health care system. He said there should be a system in place that requires billionaires like Bloomberg to pay the same health care rates as their employees.

Climate change

Since it’s another one of the most talked-about issues of the election so far, the candidates spent a long portion of the debate’s second half discussing climate change.

Biden called it an “existential threat” and said he would immediately reinstate Environmental Protection Agency regulations that Trump has rolled back. He said he’d build more electric vehicle charging stations along highways, emphasize the importance of solar power and invest in high-speed rail to get polluting cars off the roads.

Bloomberg said he would immediately rejoin the Paris climate agreement. He added that he would continue facilitating a good relationship with China, because climate change won’t be solved without participation from that country.

Warren said all new drilling and mining on public lands, as well as offshore drilling, should stop. She also said she would pass an anti-corruption bill and restrict congressional filibusters to make sure those reforms would be possible.

Sanders said the United States must act “incredibly boldly” within the next six or seven years to prevent irreparable environmental damage.

He also said it’s imperative that the planet remain habitable for future generations.

“This is a moral issue,” he said. “We have to take the responsibility.”

Buttigieg said the deadline isn’t six or seven years out — the deadline is 2020. The country needs a president who will do something about climate change now, he said.

His plan, like other candidates’, ensures the U.S. will be carbon-neutral by 2050, but he has the leadership qualities that will allow him to break down partisanship and implement such a plan, Buttigieg said.

Klobuchar said all natural gas fracking permits should be reviewed and discontinued if they are unsafe. She said that if a carbon tax is implemented, that money should go back directly to the communities that have suffered damage due to climate change.

“This is a crisis,” she said.

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