CNN Democratic debate night 2

By Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Amanda Wills and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 11:59 PM ET, Wed July 31, 2019
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10:08 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Climate change debate heats up. "Our house is on fire," Inslee says

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Mark Peterson/Redux for CNN
Mark Peterson/Redux for CNN

Asked if he would commit to ending the use of fossil fuels and fracking during his presidency, Joe Biden hesitated before saying he would “work it out” of the American economy.

"We would make sure it's eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those," the former vice president said of coal. "Any fossil fuel."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who began his run as a one-issue candidate focused on climate change, challenged Biden, saying he didn’t seem to understand the urgency.

“We cannot work this out. The time is up,” Inslee said. “Our house is on fire. We have to stop using coal in ten years and we need a president to do it or it won't get done. Get off coal. Save this country and the planet."

Inslee, who has released a comprehensive plan backed by leading climate activists, told Biden that his “argument isn’t with me, it’s with science” and claimed the former vice president’s plan took a “middle ground” approach.

Biden denied it, then talked about his plan to rejoin the Paris climate pact and push for the alliance to adapt more aggressive goals.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made a similar promise, but with some extra mustard.

"The first thing that I'm going to do when I'm president is I'm going to Clorox the Oval Office,” she said. “The second thing I'm going to do is I will reengage on global climate change and I will not only sign the Paris Global Climate Accords, but I will lead a worldwide conversation about the urgency of this crisis.”

“The greatest threat to humanity,” Gillibrand said, “is global climate change."

Still, such promises were criticized.

“Nobody should get applause for rejoining the Paris climate accord,” Sen. Cory Booker said. “That is kindergarten.”

Businessman Andrew Yang offered an even more dire portrait of what’s to come – without or without immediate, urgent action.

“We are too late. We are ten years too late,” Yang said. The entire world needs to take action to reverse the damage, he added, but “we also need to start moving people to higher ground.”

Watch the moment:

10:02 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Here's who talked the most so far tonight

It's 10 p.m. ET and the debate is nearing its end.

After talking for two hours, it looks like former Vice President Joe Biden has had the most to say. He lead the way with 15:38 minutes, followed by California Sen. Kamala Harris with 13.25 minutes.

Here's where things stand:

9:53 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Fact check: Democrats on US law allowing for family separations 

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Several candidates criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border, citing a long-standing US law that can result in such action.  

Facts First: This is true -- and the law has been a flashpoint in the immigration debate. 

Last year, the Trump administration implemented its controversial "zero tolerance" policy, using a section of US law to criminally prosecute all adults who illegally crossed the southern border. The policy led to the separation of thousands of families, given that children can't be held in federal jail with adults. The policy—and the section of the code at the center of it—have become a flashpoint in the immigration debate. 

Democratic candidates remain divided over the law, referred to as Section 1325, with some wanting to instead make crossing the border illegally a civil offense, instead of a criminal offense. 

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro shot the issue into the national dialogue at the last round of debates and hammered in on his position Wednesday night. 

“The only way that we're going to guarantee that we don't have family separations in this country again is to repeal section 1325 of the immigration nationality act,” Castro said Wednesday. “That is the law that this President, this administration is using to incarcerate migrant parents and then physically separate them from their children.” 

Former Vice President Joe Biden added: "The fact of the matter is, when people cross the border illegally, it is illegal to do it unless they're seeking asylum. People should have to get in line. That's the problem. And the only reason this particular part of the law is being abused is because of Donald Trump. We should defeat Donald Trump and end this practice."

9:52 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

What you need to know about the Paris climate accord

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

In explaining the urgency of the climate crisis, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said one of the first things she'd do as president would be to sign the Paris climate accord.

What’s in the deal? The Paris climate accord is a 2015 agreement among more than 200 nations to combat climate change.

Participants committed to keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and, if possible, below 1.5 degrees.

The US signed — then withdrew — from it: The United States ratified the agreement, but President Donald Trump announced in June 2017 that the US would withdraw from it — although it cannot formally leave until November 2020.

Each country is responsible for developing their own plans for achieving those goals.

The Obama administration pledged to slash carbon emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. But Trump harshly criticized the agreement and pledged to withdraw from the Paris climate accord in 2017. He has also rolled back some of the Obama administration's federal rules changes curbing emissions.

Read more about Trump’s climate claims here.

9:51 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Why Kirsten Gillibrand thinks she can explain white privilege to women in the suburbs

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said, as a white woman of privilege, she thinks she can lift voices that aren't being heard and explain white privilege to women in the suburbs.

"I don't believe it's the responsibility of Cory and Kamala to take this on these issues of institutional racism and system racism in our country," she said. "I think as a white woman of privilege who is a US senator running for president of the united States, it is my responsibility to lift up those voices that aren't being listened to. And I can talk to those white women in the suburbs and explain to them what white privilege actually is."

She went on to describe this scenario:

"That when their son is walking down the street with a bag of M&Ms in his pocket wearing a hoodie, his whiteness protects him from not being shot. When his -- when her -- when their child has a car that breaks down and he knocks on someone's door for help and the door opens and the help is given, it's his whiteness that protects him from being shot. That's what white privilege in America is today. And so my responsibility is to not only lift up those stories but explain to communities across America, like I did in Youngstown, Ohio, to a young mother, that this is all of our responsibilities. And together we can make our community stronger."

Watch the moment:

9:56 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

The first thing on Gillibrand's presidential to-do list? "Clorox the Oval Office"

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Kirsten Gillibrand cracked a joke about President Donald Trump before explaining her positions on the climate crisis.

"So, the first thing that I'm going to do when I'm president is I'm going to Clorox the Oval Office," she said. The audience laughed and applauded.

She continued on a more serious note: "The second thing I'm going to do is I will reengage on global climate change, and I will not only sign the Paris Global Climate Accords, but I will lead a worldwide conversation about the urgency of this crisis."

Remember: This is not the first time Gillibrand has make this joke.

Watch the moment:

9:51 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Fact check: Kamala Harris on Biden's health care plan leaving out 10 million Americans

From CNN's Donna Borak and Tami Luhby

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris attacked former Vice President Joe Biden’s health care plan, saying it “leaves out almost 10 million Americans.” 

Facts first: Harris is right. 

Biden’s plan -- which builds on the Affordable Care Act by creating a government-backed health insurance option and increasing Obamacare’s federal subsidies – would insure more than an estimated 97% of Americans, according to his plan

That means out of the population of 327 million in the country, roughly 10 million would be left without any health insurance. 

However, it’s unclear exactly who would be uninsured. But under Biden’s plan, families buying coverage on the Obamacare exchanges would spend no more than 8.5% of their income on health insurance – a sum that might be too pricey for some Americans.

Watch the moment:

9:43 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Democratic candidates call out Bill de Blasio for not firing officer accused of killing Eric Garner

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Paul Sancya/AP
Paul Sancya/AP

The police killing of Eric Garner is an open wound in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has been under fire for not taking action against the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who choked Garner to death.

On Wednesday night, that debate reached the 2020 stage.

“That officer should be off the street,” Castro said.

“He should be fired. He should be fired now,” Gillibrand said.

Earlier in the night, protesters disrupted the debate demanding Pantaleo's firing.

Here in Detroit, De Blasio answered in the same he has back in New York, pointing to an internal review that is now winding down.

“There is going to be justice in the next 30 days,” de Blasio said, pivoting to the decision by the Trump Justice Department not to bring charges against Pantaleo.

De Blasio’s political bind in New York City, where he is a frequent target of ridicule from the police union -- which has a truck outside the debate mocking him -- was always going to follow him into this race. He has argued that he cannot fire the officer. (In all likelihood, taking that step would have led to a lawsuit and an escalation of strife with the NYPD.)

But he is right, the likelihood is that Pantaleo will lose his job when the current investigation ends in the coming months.

Watch the moment:

9:39 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Fact check: Michael Bennet on Democrats voting for a pathway to citizenship

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sen. Michael Bennet said that all Democrats voted to back a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people and spending $46 billion on border security. 

Facts first: This is true. All Senate Democrats and 14 Republicans voted for the Senate immigration bill that passed in 2013. 

Bennet was one of eight senators — four Republicans and four Democrats — who became the bipartisan group known as the “gang of eight” that hammered out an immigration compromise bill in 2013. The legislation, which included a pathway to citizenship, passed the Senate, 68-32, and Bennet is correct that all 54 Senate Democrats voted for it, along with 14 Republicans. A majority of Republicans, 32, opposed the bill. 

While the bill passed the Senate, then-House Speaker John Boehner did not take it up in the Republican controlled House, and the legislation died at the end of 2014. It’s not clear whether Bennet and the other senators in the 2020 presidential race could strike a similar compromise or another major immigration bill in today’s Senate.