LOS ANGELES (CN) - Democratic presidential hopefuls said in a debate Thursday that to win the 2020 election, the party’s nominee must bolster the economy, provide citizenship to undocumented people, eliminate student loan debt and provide relief for working families.
The seven presidential candidates sparred over health care policy and campaign financing, but also spoke on the challenge of uniting a politically divided nation.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has campaigned on a platform of challenging what he calls an oligarchy and supporting working families through measures such as his "Medicare for All" plan.
Sanders, an independent running for the Democratic nomination, said the plan would save the average family more than $11,000 per year and fundamentally challenge the profit structure of the healthcare system.
“The day has got to come, and I will bring that day about, when we finally say to the drug companies and the insurance companies that the function of healthcare is to provide for all of our people,” Sanders said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the consistent front-runner in national polls, disagreed, saying Sanders’ plan is both too costly and disrupts individuals’ right to choose their health insurance plan.
“You shouldn’t have Washington dictating to you that you cannot keep the plan you have,” Biden said.
Biden has proposed a plan that includes an option that allows people to purchase a plan similar to Medicare.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar - who said she supports a nonprofit public option - told Sanders his plan may not fit squarely with the range of opinions among Democrats.
“If you want to cross a river over troubled water, you build a bridge, you don’t blow one up,” Klobuchar said, adding that newly-elected Democrats in states like Kentucky favor “building on Obamacare.”
Klobuchar said her elections across voting blocks that are urban, rural, moderate and progressive demonstrate her ability to win in 2020 by bridging political divides.
The debate, cohosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico, comes a day after the House voted to impeach President Trump.
On stage at Loyola Marymount University, Democratic candidates chided Trump’s conduct in office and said the vote was necessary.
Billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who started an online petition to impeach Trump, called on GOP voters to lobby their senators to ensure that the Senate trial is fair.
Sanders said Trump’s empty promises to working families are plain to see and that his policies are dangerous.
“We cannot have a president with that temperament who is dishonoring the presidency,” Sanders said.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said Trump’s favoritism towards the wealthy and well-connected proves he’s the most corrupt president in history.
PBS national reporter Amna Nawaz asked candidates about Washington Post reports saying U.S. officials have misled the public for years about a comprehensive strategy for the costly and deadly war in Afghanistan.
Biden, who has touted his experience on the world stage during the Obama administration, told Nawaz he argued against a military surge in Afghanistan and was rebuked by the Pentagon for his stance.
Biden said he would bring U.S. combat forces home but leave special forces behind to deal with terrorist threats.
Sanders said he was wrong when voting to authorize U.S. military action in Afghanistan and said he would remove U.S. troops within one year of his election.