Democratic candidates debate in Houston

By Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner and Amanda Wills, CNN

Updated 2:04 p.m. ET, September 13, 2019
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8:49 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Buttigieg calls debate fighting "unwatchable." Castro calls it "an election"

Pete Buttigieg and Julián Castro just got into a spat ... about on-stage spats.

After Castro and Joe Biden argued about former President Barack Obama's legacy, Buttigieg jumped in to bemoan the in-party fighting.

"This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable," Buttigieg said. "This reminds everybody of what they can not stand about Washington — scoring points against each other, poking at each other and telling each other that you're, my plan..."

That's when Castro interrupted him.

"That's called the Democratic primary election," Castor said. "That's called an election."

Amy Klobuchar then seemed to get the last word: "But a house divided can not stand," she said.

8:48 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Harris tries to steer the debate back to Trump and the GOP

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

As the debate over “Medicare for All” looked ready to blow, Sen. Kamala Harris pulled the safety valve.

“Let’s talk about the fact that Donald Trump came into office and spent almost the entire first year of his term trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act,” the California Democrat said, recalling the unified Democratic pushback against Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.

She then reminded viewers that Obamacare is still under attack.

“Fast forward to today and what is happening? Donald Trump’s Department of Justice is trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act,” Harris said, referencing a lawsuit headed to the Supreme Court.

Before she sought to pivot the debate away from her rivals on stage, Harris, who initially backed Sanders’ single-payer bill before offering a plan of her own, argued that there was no tension in supporting both Obamacare and Medicare for All – because both were aimed at the same target: expanding care.

“I want to give credit first to Barack Obama for really bringing us this far,” she said, then added: “I want to give credit to Bernie. Take credit, Bernie.”

8:39 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Klobuchar to Sanders: "While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar opened the third Democratic debate on Thursday by hitting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who often notes how he “wrote the damn bill” on "Medicare for All," the sweeping policy proposal that would remake the United States health care system.

“While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill,” Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar went on to say, in her reading of the bill, she noted that the bill would mean people will “no longer have private insurance as we know it.”

Sanders touted his Medicare for All plan on Thursday, defending it against questions about cost and the fact that Americans with private insurance will lose their current private coverage under Medicare for All.

8:35 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Biden on health care: "Well, I am for Barack"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden opened the third Democratic debate on Thursday by knocking both Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders on health care, singling out the Warren for tying herself to the Sanders plan.

“I know the senator says she is for Bernie,” Biden says, standing between the pair. “Well, I am for Barack.”

Biden has linked himself to President Barack Obama, his friend and former boss, on multiple fronts, including health care and the former president’s signature health care bill.

“I think that Obamacare worked,” Biden said, before attacking Medicare for All for being too expensive.

“How are we going to pay for it,” Biden asked. “I want to hear that tonight.”

Warren, who spoke next because she was involved, added, “We all owe a huge debt to President Obama, who fundamentally transformed health care in America and committed this country to health care for every human being.”

8:28 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

A majority of Democrats want to expand Obamacare

From CNN’s Tami Luhby

The Democratic candidates are on stage right now debating health care.

A new survey found that most Democrats would rather expand the Affordable Care Act than replace it with Medicare for All.

Here's what the survey says:

  • Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 55% said they would prefer to vote for a candidate who wants to build on the Affordable Care Act to expand coverage and lower costs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation report.
  • Only 40% said they want a candidate to replace the law with Medicare for All, the legislation proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders to establish a single, national, government-run health plan. Some 14% said they would only vote for a candidate who supports Medicare for All.
  • But nearly half of all Americans said they have heard “a little” or “nothing at all” about Medicare for All, and nearly two-thirds said the same about the public option, a government-run health insurance plan that aims to compete with private insurers.

Former Vice President Joe Biden supports creating a public option, while Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren back Medicare for All.

Some 53% of the public now has a favorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act, an increase driven mainly by a larger share of Democrats holding a positive view of former President Barack Obama’s landmark health reform law.

With Congress back in session, 70% of Americans say lawmakers should focus on lowering prescription drugs as a top priority, while nearly that share want to make sure the Obamacare’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions remain in place. Some 64% say Congress should work to lower health care costs and 56% say a top priority should be protecting people from surprise medical bills.

Lawmakers have introduced bipartisan bills aimed at reducing drug prices and addressing surprise medical bills, though the legislation has run into roadblocks that make passage uncertain.

8:24 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

What you need to know about Medicare for All

From CNN's Tami Luhby

The first questions of tonight's debate have focused on health care policies, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders brought up his Medicare for All proposal.

Medicare for All

Here's what you need to know about the plan: This proposal would radically change the way Americans are covered, shifting control to the federal government and essentially eliminating the private insurance industry.

Under Sanders’ plan, Americans would be enrolled in a national health insurance program, also known as a “single-payer” system, which many other developed countries have. The federal government would run the program, and it – and taxpayers – would pay the bills.

Medically necessary services would be covered and there would be no premiums, deductibles or co-pays. It would expand the current Medicare benefit package to include vision, dental, hearing and long-term care at home or in the community. Nursing home and other institutional services would be covered under Medicaid.

What about private insurers? They aren't banned, but they can't sell policies that cover benefits provided by the federal plan. That leaves them with a very niche market -- covering elective services, such as cosmetic surgery.

8:20 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

How each candidate opened the debate tonight

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Each 2020 candidate on stage tonight gave a brief opening statement. Here are the highlights:

  • Julián Castro: "There will be life after Donald Trump."
  • Amy Klobuchar: "I don't want to be the president for half of America. I want to be the president for all of America."
  • Beto O'Rourke: "We have to see clearly, we have to speak honestly, and we have to act decisively."
  • Cory Booker: "The differences amongst us Democrats on the stage are not as great as the urgency for us to unite as a party."
  • Andrew Yang: "We have to get our country working for us again, instead of the other way around."
  • Pete Buttigieg: "The American people are divided and doubtful at the very moment we need to rise to some of the greatest challenges we've ever seen."
  • Kamala Harris: "President Trump .... what you don't get is that the American people are so much better than this."
  • Bernie Sanders: "It goes without saying that we must — and will — defeat Trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country."
  • Elizabeth Warren: "I know what's broken. I know how to fix it. And I'm going to lead the fight to get it done."
  • Joe Biden: "This is the United States of America. There's never been a single, solitary time where we set our mind to something and not be able to do it."
9:49 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Yang says he'll give 10 more people $1,000 a month for a year

From CNN's Dan Merica

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang announced during the third Democratic presidential debate on ABC News that he will raffle off 10 "Freedom Dividends" that will be financed by campaign donations from supporters. 

Yang has been personally financing the Freedom Dividends that his campaign is already giving out during the campaign as a way to illustrate how a Universal Basic Income can impact daily lives. Yang’s campaign -- to date -- has given freedom dividends to one person in Iowa, Florida and New Hampshire.

Yang’s campaign, in announcing the plan, said that they ensured the giveaway is “fully complaint with all FEC regulations,” despite some experts raising questions about whether a campaign can give money back to their supporters.

Yang said during the debate that it was “unprecedented” to announce such a giveaway to “someone watching this at home right now.”

After Yang finished, the camera cut to South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“It’s original,” Buttigieg said with a smirk. “I’ll give you that.”

Yang campaign manager Zach Graumann said the campaign is “excited to work together with our supporters to help create more stories about what the Freedom Dividend means for American families. It will enable and empower citizens to pay their bills, switch jobs, take care of loved ones, and plan for the future.”

Correction: This post has been updated to clarify the source of money Yang's campaign will use to fund the Freedom Dividends.

2:04 p.m. ET, September 13, 2019

Jorge Ramos, in Spanish, tells audience: "This is our country, too"

Heidi Gutman/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images
Heidi Gutman/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Moderator Jorge Ramos kicked off ABC's debate tonight by sharing a message in Spanish for the Latino audience.

After speaking briefly in Spanish, he explained that he had told Latinos:

"Despite the fact that we are experiencing difficult times, this is our country, too."

The Univision anchor has had a contentious relationship with President Trump. Ramos, the best-known Spanish-language news anchor in the United States, has said in the past that he has been spurned in his numerous attempts to interview Trump.