Beto O'Rourke takes questions at CNN town hall

By Veronica Rocha and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 9:34 AM ET, Wed May 22, 2019
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11:34 p.m. ET, May 21, 2019

4 key takeaways from tonight's town hall with Beto O'Rourke

Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke took questions from Iowa voters at a CNN town hall at Drake University this evening.

We're wrapping up our live coverage, but you can scroll through the posts below to see how it unfolded.

In case you missed it, here are the key things we learned:

  • On impeachment: Breaking with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, O'Rourke said the US should begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
  • On women's reproductive rights: He vowed to join women in fighting for their reproductive rights. "For so long, women have been leading this fight, shouldering the burden of making sure that their reproductive rights are protected. It is time all of us join them in this fight," he said.
  • On immigration: O’Rourke called for an immigration overhaul that would include giving “DREAMers” citizenship as well as creating a path to citizenship for other undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.
  • On talking to voters: He announced tonight that he's launching a "Town Hall for America" campaign for voters with questions for him.
11:28 p.m. ET, May 21, 2019

Here's how you can ask O'Rourke a question

Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke announced tonight that he's launching a "Town Hall for America" campaign for voters with questions for him.

O'Rourke, who has held 154 town halls, said he's giving everyone who hasn't been able to attend them an opportunity to ask him questions.

Voters can go to his website ( to ask him questions.

"I will do my best to get you an answer to each and every single one of those and get you an answer. That level of accountability will make me a better candidate and I hope a better president for you and others," O'Rourke said.


11:19 p.m. ET, May 21, 2019

Why O'Rourke says he doesn't support Medicare for All

Beto O’Rourke, asked why he doesn’t favor Medicare for All, said patients who need medical assistance "don’t have time for us to get to the perfect solution."

He went on to say that lawmakers must work to fix the system that is currently in place. O'Rourke said he supports the "Medicare for America" plan.

Here's why:

"If we were to start from scratch, maybe we would start with a single payer, but we’ve got to work with the system that we have here today. The surest, quickest way to get there is Medicare for America. It guarantees every single person in this country gets the care that they need to live to their full potential and do those things that they were placed on this planet to perform in the first place. So that’s why I support that plan."

Watch more:

11:13 p.m. ET, May 21, 2019

O'Rourke: We can't just tolerate our differences. We must embrace them.

An audience member, alluding to instances when President Trump has not outright condemned acts of violence, just asked Beto O'Rourke how he would stand up to hate in America.

"The current administration has demonstrated to me an uncomfortable tolerance towards hate and bigotry in the country. There have been situations where the President could have categorically denounced hateful acts but did nothing," James Stevens said.

Here's part of O'Rourke's answer:

"I am making the case that the President of United States of America, right now, does not just offend our ears or our sensibilities. He makes possible the acts of violence and hatred that we are seeing play out in this country today. I want to make sure that we don't just tolerate and respect one another in our differences, but that we embrace them. That is how we become a stronger country and that is what I will reflect as your president."

Watch below:

11:03 p.m. ET, May 21, 2019

O'Rourke defends crude oil exports vote

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Beto O’Rourke defended voting in the House in 2015 to lift the United States’ ban on crude oil exports Tuesday night, saying he is “happy with that vote” to reverse a 40-year-old restriction.

“Look, I drove here tonight in a Dodge Grand Caravan that is burning gasoline,” the former Texas congressman said in a CNN town hall, while noting he’d been endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters in his Senate run last year and had a near-perfect voting record with the environmental group.

He continued:

“I want to make sure that we’re independent of the need to obtain those fossil fuels from the Middle East or Venezuela. … I’d rather those jobs and that exploration take place here in this country to satisfy our energy needs and the energy needs around the world."

He touted his climate change plan and said he wants the United States to “transition totally off fossil fuel to renewable energy.”

Watch more:

10:55 p.m. ET, May 21, 2019

O'Rourke suggests penalizing drug manufacturers for the opioid crisis

Beto O'Rouke suggested taking legal action against large drug companies as a part of tackling the opioid crisis in the US.

He said that while it's crucial to help Americans with opioid addictions find treatment, it's also important to hold some companies, such as Oxycotin maker Purdue Pharma, accountable.

O'Rourke began by saying this, before he was cut off by audience applause: "Let's also acknowledge this: That without consequences or justice for how this happened, for corporations like Purdue Pharma that marketed these opioids -- "

Then, he continued:

"We are busting people for possession of marijuana. Putting them in jail, forcing them to check a box on every employment application after their lease. Making it impossible to attend Drake (University) because they no longer qualify for federally backed student loans. And yet no one from Purdue Pharma has spent a night in jail or paid any significance consequence. We gotta do better."

Watch more:

10:44 p.m. ET, May 21, 2019

Beto O'Rourke was once a live-in nanny

Beto O'Rourke briefly worked as a live-in nanny for a family in New York City.

The former Texas congressman said he took on the job after graduating college.

"So I, after college I was trying to live in the city, trying to live in New York, and I was working full time but I still didn't have enough money to pay the rent," O'Rourke said.

The family, he said, made an offer he couldn't refuse.

O'Rourke agreed to watch their children after school and on weekends, walk them to school and make them breakfast in exchange for an apartment above theirs.

"Great deal. And so I took them up on that, and a great experience early on," he said.

Watch more:

10:36 p.m. ET, May 21, 2019

Beto O'Rourke's immigration plan includes path to citizenship for DREAMers

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke called for an immigration overhaul that would include giving “DREAMers” citizenship creating a path to citizenship for other undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

“Let’s do this together, and let’s not do it as Democrats or independents or Republicans, but let’s do it as Americans: Let’s rewrite our immigration laws in our own image,” O’Rourke said in a CNN town hall Tuesday night.

He criticized President Donald Trump’s family separation policy, saying he would “never again separate another family when they come here at their most vulnerable and desperate moment.”

O’Rourke sharply criticized Trump for seeking to cut off $500 million in U.S. aid to the Northern Triangle -- a region that encompasses El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where many asylum seekers have fled violence.

“He wants to cut that. I would double it, and I would focus it on violence prevention so that no mother has to make that god-awful decision of sending her child on that 2,000-mile trek,” O’Rourke said. “That’s the wisest, best use of our resources in this hemisphere.”

O’Rourke said that as an El Paso resident, he’s “lived this experience” and has “a powerful story to tell” about the positive contributions of immigrants.

Watch below:

10:33 p.m. ET, May 21, 2019

Here's what Beto O'Rourke wants to do to stop gun violence

Beto O'Rourke, asked about what he'd do to stop gun violence and school shootings, said his 8-year-old son recently went through an active shooter drill.

"He talked about his teacher huddling Henry and his classmates into a closet and resisting the temptation to open the door when someone impersonating an active shooter — to get them ready — begins to knock on it," he said.

O'Rourke then laid out some of the actions he'd take to curb gun violence:

  • O'Rourke said that states that have adopted universal background checks and "closed every loophole" have seen a reduction gun violence.
  • He added this: "Complement that by ensuring that weapons of war designed for use on the battlefield are no longer sold into our communities so that they don't end up in our schools, in our synagogues, in our churches. We can save even more lives."
  • O'Rourke said more red flag laws are needed, so a person who "exhibits the tendency to harm themselves or somebody else can be stopped before they do that."
  • He also said the US needs to "invest in the counseling and the mental health therapy necessary for people to get the care that they need."

Hear his answer: