Democratic candidates debate in Houston

10:25 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Bernie Sanders: Don't compare my socialism to Venezuela's

David J. Phillip/AP
David J. Phillip/AP

If you want a look at the kind of government Bernie Sanders envisions, steer clear of Venezuela, the Vermont senator said on Thursday,

"In terms of democratic socialism, to equate what goes on in Venezuela with what I believe is extremely unfair," Sanders said in response to co-moderator Jorge Ramos. "I agree with (what) goes on in Canada and Scandinavia, guaranteeing health care to all people as a human right. I believe that the United States should not be the only major country on earth not to provide paid family and medical leave."

In his answer, Sanders drew on the nut of a speech he gave in Washington earlier this year explaining his take on the ideology. It is centered on a milder form of socialism that does not mandate the nationalization of major industries, but instead broadens and beefs up the social safety net and offers workers more of a say in how major corporations are run.

"You got three people in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of this country. You got a handful of billionaires controlling what goes on in Wall Street, the insurance companies and in the media. Maybe, just maybe, what we should be doing is creating an economy that works for all of us, not 1%," Sanders said in Houston. "That's my understanding of democratic socialism.:

Asked by Ramos if he would, after demurring in the past, call Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro a "dictator," Sanders again passed up the chance.

But he was hardly kind in his description.

"Well, first of all, let me be clear. Anybody that does what Maduro does is a vicious tyrant," Sanders said, before reiterating his position on Venezuela, saying: "What we need now is international and regional cooperation for free elections in Venezuela so that the people of that country can make, can create their own future."

Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro was less circumspect.

“I’ll call Maduro a dictator," he said as Sanders finished, "because he is a dictator.”

10:25 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Warren used to be a teacher. Here's why she thinks money for public schools should stay there

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren laid out her position on funding for public schools.

"I think I am the only person on stage who has been a public school teacher," she said. "I wanted to be a public school teacher since I was in second grade."

She went on to say, "Let's be clear in all the ways we talk about this, money for public schools should stay in public schools, not go anywhere else."

Warren vowed to appoint a public school teacher to the position of education secretary.

10:13 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Biden falsely claims the Obama administration didn't separate families

In a discussion of immigration policy, former Vice President Joe Biden said: “We didn’t lock people up in cages, we didn’t separate families.”  

Facts first: Both of Biden’s claims are false. While the Obama administration didn’t systematically separate families, it did happen under certain circumstances.    

Separations did sometimes occur under Obama, but they were non-routine and much less frequent, according to immigration experts and former Obama officials.

They occurred in exceptional cases. Examples include those where the parent was being criminally prosecuted for carrying drugs across the border or other serious crimes aside from illegal crossing, those where human trafficking was suspected and those where the authorities could not confirm the connection between the child and the adult.   

The separations didn’t happen as a result of a blanket policy, however, as was the case during the Trump administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy last year.  

Similarly, fenced enclosures at processing facilities along the border, the structures that have been labeled as cages, existed under the Obama administration. Some individuals — including children — were held in those cells during processing.  

 

10:08 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Booker is a vegan, but he doesn't want to stop Americans from eating meat

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

Sen. Cory Booker, a vegan, was just asked if more Americans should stop eating meat as a means to curb the climate crisis.

"You know, first of all, I want to say, no," Booker said. "Actually, I want to translate that into Spanish: No."

The line drew laughs from the audience.

Booker said "factory farming is destroying and hurting our environment" and claimed that kind of farming is pushing family farmers out of business. He has called for an end to big food mergers — but not an end to meat consumption.

10:06 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Here's who's talked the most (so far)

It's just after 10 p.m. ET, and the debate has been going for two hours. Joe Biden is still leading in talk time with just over 13 minutes. Here's where everyone else falls.

10:06 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Harris likens Trump to the Wizard of Oz

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

California Sen. Kamala Harris compared President Donald Trump to the Wizard of Oz on Thursday, arguing that the Republican leader is hiding behind bluster on the issue of trade.

“We need to partner with China on the issue of North Korea,” Harris said. “We need a partner on the issue of North Korea.”

She added: “But the bottom line is this, Donald Trump in office on trade policy … He reminds me of that guy in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ when you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude.”

The comment drew laughs from the audience and a smile from moderator George Stephanopoulos.

Trump has talked tough on trade for years, but his record on the issue has been mixed and a massive trade deal with China has eluded the President.

9:49 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Buttigieg slams Trump's policy on China: "The President clearly has no strategy"

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

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg criticized President Trump's trade policy on China, saying, "The President clearly has no strategy."

"Is it just me or was that supposed to happen in like April?" Buttigieg said. "It's one more example of a commitment not made."

He said Trump's inability to stick with his commitments lead to "serious consequences."

Buttigieg pointed to the G7 summit, and when Trump skipped a climate change discussion.

"There was literally an empty chair, where American leadership could have been," he said.
9:48 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Sanders repeats claim that the US spends twice as much on health care than any other country

David J. Phillip/AP
David J. Phillip/AP

Sen. Bernie Sanders repeated a claim he’s often made on the amount of money the US spends on health care.  

"We are spending twice as much per capita on health care as the Canadians or any other major country on Earth," Sanders said. 

Facts First: Sanders is right about Canada. While there's no universal definition of "major country,” so there's some subjectivity here, it's not true that the US spends twice as much per capita on health care as every other country in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, a group of 36 wealthy countries around the world.  

At $10,586 per capita in 2018, the US did spend more than twice as much as Canada ($4,974) and more than twice as much as the OECD average ($3,992) in 2018 -- but Switzerland ($7,317), Norway ($6,187) and Germany ($5,986) all were substantially above half the US level; Sweden ($5,447), Austria ($5,395) and Denmark ($5,299) were also above half, though more slightly.  

Sanders has been repeating this same exaggeration since at least 2009, when fact-checkers at PolitiFact first noted that it wasn't true.

You can read more here.

9:43 p.m. ET, September 12, 2019

Here's who has talked the most so far tonight

An hour and a half into this debate, former Vice President Joe Biden has spoken the most, with an even 10 minutes of talking time.

Sen. Cory Booker has had the second most time speaking, clocking in at just shy of 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, businessman Andrew Yang has said the least: He's spoken for just 3 minutes and 59 seconds.

Here's a full break down of who's talked the most so far: