Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders met in New Hampshire Thursday for the fifth Democratic debate
The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the debate and selected key statements, rating them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it's complicated
The Democratic candidates for president gathered in New Hampshire Thursday for their fifth debate, and CNN’s Reality Check team spent the night putting their statements and assertions to the test.
The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the debate, selecting key statements and rating them either true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it’s complicated.
Reality Check: Clinton on Sanders’ gun control votes
By Chip Grabow, Sonam Vashi
As in past debates, Hillary Clinton took on Bernie Sanders’ voting record on gun control legislation. Thursday night, it came up regarding a debate over who is the true “progressive candidate.”
Clinton said, “If we’re going to get into labels, I don’t think it was particularly progressive to vote against the Brady Bill five times. I don’t think it was progressive to vote to give gun makers and sellers immunity,” referring to Sanders’ voting record.
So, regarding the Brady Bill, what is Sanders’ record?
As the CNN Reality Check team has reported before, Sanders did vote against various iterations of the 1993 Brady Bill five times. The bill’s full name is the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and it mandates federal background checks on gun purchasers.
There were several votes in that bill’s evolution, the first vote coming in 1991. Sanders voted against a draft that required a seven-day waiting period for background checks. A subsequent version of the bill returned to the House and Sanders voted against it. Then, in 1993, two more drafts returned to the House, and Sanders voted against those. Finally, later in 1993, the Brady Bill finally passed, but without Sanders’ vote.
Sanders has defended his votes, saying that it constituted federal overreach.
“There are parts of it that made sense to me,” he said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” last month. Sanders added, “Look George, if you have a small gun shop owner in Northern Vermont who sells a gun legally to somebody and then, you know, something happens to that guy, he goes nuts or something, and he kills somebody, should the gun shop owner be held liable? I think not.”
Sanders also added, “I am absolutely willing, as I’ve said for many, many weeks, if not months, to take another look at that piece of legislation.”
Though Sanders may have his reasons for voting against the Brady Bill, Clinton’s claim that he voted against it five times is true.
Reality Check: Clinton and Wall Street
By Chip Grabow, CNN
The topic of big money influencing American politics was raised by Sanders, who said it was “undermining American democracy.”
Clinton attempted to distance herself from perceptions her campaign is influenced by Wall Street interests, saying, “I think the best evidence that the Wall Street people, at least, know where I stand and where I have always stood is because they are trying to beat me in this primary.”
It was a refrain she used in Wednesday night’s town hall, too: “Everybody that I know who looks at what’s happening in this campaign sees the same thing: The Wall Street interests, the money interests, the Republican political interests are spending a lot of money to try to defeat me.”
Wall Street interests may be spending a lot in support of her opponents, but of all the candidates, Clinton is the leading recipient of donations from individuals in the securities and investments industry.
According to OpenSecrets.org, as of January 31, Clinton has received $2.9 million in itemized contributions from a category the Federal Election Commission calls “Securities and Investments,” often shorthanded as “Wall Street.” That’s the most of any of the candidates. Republican Jeb Bush is just behind Clinton, receiving $2.4 million, with Marco Rubio ($1.3 million) and Ted Cruz ($664,000) following.
Clinton implies that Wall Street has no fondness for her. But given that her campaign received $2.9 million from securities and investment donors, the most of all the candidates, Republican or Democrat, our verdict is false.
Reality Check: Clinton on Sanders’ $1 trillion health care plan
By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
Clinton accused Sanders of not telling voters the truth about his proposals, particularly his Medicare-for-all plan.
“I am not going to talk about big ideas like single-payer and then not level with people about how much it will cost. A respected health economist said these plans would cost a trillion dollars more a year. I’m not going to tell people that I will raise your incomes and not your taxes and not mean it,” Clinton said.
Actually, according to that health economist, Gerald Friedman of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Sanders’ universal health care plan would cost nearly $1.4 trillion a year.
But Sanders has recently been upfront about how much it will cost. He released Friedman’s assessment alongside his plan for Medicare-for-all last month.
Also, Sanders has acknowledged that the plan calls for a new 2.2% income tax on all Americans and a 6.2% levy on employers, as well as additional taxes on the wealthy. The Vermont senator, however, argues that ultimately middle class Americans will save money under his health plan because they will no longer pay premiums to private insurers.
That said, Sanders initially was reluctant to spell out his proposal. Clinton pushed him earlier this year to release the details, pointing out that she pledged not to raise taxes on the middle class. Sanders finally unveiled the plan a few hours before a Democratic debate last month.
Reality Check: Clinton on classified information in her emails
By Laura Koran, CNN
Clinton claimed she “never sent or received any classified material” when she was secretary of state, and the State Department is “retroactively classifying” information in her emails.
It is true that all the classifications we’ve seen in emails released by the State Department have been retroactive, meaning the State Department determined there was a need to classify the information as they were preparing the emails for release and so they “upgraded” it to classified.
The State Department also maintains that none of Clinton’s official emails (of the 85% reviewed and released so far) contained information that was marked as classified when it was sent.
However, last week, the State Department acknowledged it had launched a separate review to determine whether any information in the email was classified at the time it was sent and received. That review, led by the bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Intelligence and Research, is ongoing and has yet to put out a verdict on the issue.
All of the classified redactions the public has seen so far have been the result of retroactive classifications, but the investigation into whether the information was classified during her time in office is ongoing. For that reason, our verdict is it’s complicated.
Reality check: Sanders on his role writing Obamacare
By Kevin Liptak, CNN
During a back-and-forth about health care, Sanders pointed to his role in Congress during the creation of the Affordable Care Act.
“I am on the Health, Education, Labor Committee. That committee wrote the Affordable Care Act. The idea that I would dismantle health care in America while we’re waiting to pass a Medicare-for-all is just not accurate,” Sanders said, adding later: “I helped write that bill, but by moving forward, rallying the American people, I do believe we should have health care for all.”
Sanders did indeed sit on the Senate panel that helped craft the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and used his post to advocate loudly for a single-payer system in which insurance is provided by the government to all citizens.
Sanders wasn’t alone; many liberal Democrats pushed for such a provision when crafting comprehensive health care reform. But the single-payer option proved to be divisive, and opposed by most Republicans.
That led to the development of alternative mechanisms to get more Americans insured: the establishment of marketplaces for Americans to purchase health insurance, and an individual mandate requiring all Americans obtain coverage.
When Sanders’ preferred version of the bill failed to come up for a vote, he diverted his focus instead to securing the inclusion of billions of dollars in funding to community health centers.
But he remained skeptical of a bill that didn’t include a single-payer plan. Indeed, in the months leading up to a final vote on the bill, Sanders voiced doubt that he could support the version that lacked such a system (ultimately, he did vote for the Affordable Care Act).
While Sanders played a major role in the debate over health care reform, and helped craft an $11 billion inclusion into the final measure, his claim to have “helped write” the measure misrepresents his part in creating the central pillars of Obamacare.
Reality Check: Sanders as the longest serving independent in the history of Congress
By Ryan Browne, CNN
Sanders, a Vermont independent, stressed his longevity and independence on Thursday when he said, “I am the longest serving independent in the history of the United States Congress.”
Sanders was first elected to the House of Representatives as an independent from Vermont in 1990 and assumed office in January 1991. He won his Vermont Senate seat in 2006. As a result, although he caucuses with the Democratic Party, Sanders has been an independent in Congress for 25 years.
This 25-year tenure is indeed the longest of an independent member of Congress.
According to the Senate’s official record, the two runner-ups are Sen. Harry F. Byrd of Virginia and Sen. David Davis of Illinois.
Byrd was first elected to the House in 1932 as a Democrat. He entered the Senate in 1965 and switched parties to become an independent in 1970 after a clash with the Democratic Party leadership in the run-up to the 1972 presidential election. He left office in 1983, giving him 13 years as an independent.
Unlike Byrd, Davis, who had been an associate justice of the Supreme Court and was appointed by Abraham Lincoln, initially assumed office as an independent in 1877 and left office in 1883, giving him six years in Congress as an independent.
Sanders’$2 25 years in Congress is easily the longest span as an independent.
Reality Check: Sanders on the major banks