Updated Dec 19, 2019

An issue-by-issue recap of the Democratic debate

Democratic presidential candidates

Democratic presidential candidates in Los Angeles. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

One day after the House of Representatives reached a majority to impeach President Trump, the top 7 Democratic candidates took the stage Thursday in Los Angeles for the 6th debate.

The big picture: The candidates debated education, voting rights, reparations, transparency in their campaigns, Trump's impeachment and more.

The state of play: The number of candidates on the stage has shrunk considerably and Andrew Yang is the only person of color on stage due to the DNC's tougher qualifications and Sen. Kamala Harris' campaign exit.

Others on stage: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Steyer and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.


Candidates were asked how funding and inclusivity can factor in to helping those in the U.S. with disabilities.

  • Yang: "We go to employers and say, this special needs employee could be a contributor in your workplaces, and that is correct but that's not the point. We have to be able to say to our kids ... that you have intrinsic value because you're an American and you're a human being."
  • Warren: "My housing plan is about investing in more housing across the country, in urban America, in small town America, and rural America. It's about people who want to live independently with disabilities will have housing for them."


Candidates were divided on providing free higher education for everyone or for those who can’t afford it.

  • Buttigieg: "I do think that if you are in a lucky top 10% — I still wish you well, don't get me wrong. I just want you to go ahead and pay your own tuition."
  • Sanders: "We need to make public colleges and universities tuition free and by taxing billionaires and by taxing Wall Street we will cancel all student debt in this country."


Most candidates support reparations. Still, a majority of Americans believe that providing reparations for the descendants of slaves and decriminalizing illegal border crossings are "bad ideas," per a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

  • Buttigieg: "The United States must act immediately with investments in minority-owned businesses, with investments in health equity, and on the longer term look at reparations so that we can mend what has been broken."
  • Biden: "The idea that we are going to walk away and not provide every opportunity for them is not only stupid and immoral but is bad for America. They are the future of America and we should invest in them."

Campaign donations

Warren and Buttigieg had a lengthy exchange on money in politics and taking donations from wealthy people.

  • Warren: "We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States."
  • Buttigieg: "According to Forbes magazine, I'm literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire. ... This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass."
  • Klobuchar: "Instead of what divides us, which is campaign finance reform. That means passing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United."
  • Sanders: "I don’t have any billionaire contributions...My good friend Joe, and he is a good friend, he's received contributions from 44 billionaires. Pete on the other hand, is trailing, Pete. You only got 39 billionaires contributing."

Foreign policy

All the candidates called President Trump's foreign policy an embarrassment for the country, especially on how they would govern different in regards to Israel, Guantanamo Bay and Hong Kong's protests.

  • Buttigieg: "It is particularly disturbing in the case of Israel because [Trump] has infused domestic politics, making U.S. foreign policy choices in order to effectively interfere in Israeli domestic policies, acting as though that somehow makes him pro-Israel and pro-Jewish while welcoming white nationalists into the White House."
  • Biden: "We should be going to the UN immediately and seek sanctions against [China]. ... We have to be firm. We don't have to go to war [for Hong Kong]. But we have to make it clear this is as far as you go, China."
  • Yang: "I have sat with our leading technologists and they say they cannot match the Chinese resources."

Voters of color

Yang was asked to address how he happens to be the only non-white candidate on stage.

  • Yang: "It’s both an honor and disappointment to be the lone candidate of color on the stage tonight. I miss Kamala, I miss Cory … And the question is why am I the lone candidate of color on this stage? Fewer than 5% of Americans donate to political campaigns. You know what you need to donate to political campaigns? Disposable income. The way we fix it, the way we fix this is we take Martin Luther King's message of a guaranteed minimum income."
  • Klobuchar: "I would pass as president my bill to register every kid in this country when they turn 18 to vote. That would make all of these discriminatory actions in these states go away. And I would stop the gerrymandering."

Climate change

Steyer took a hit at Buttigieg for not prioritizing climate enough, to which Buttigieg defended himself saying he experienced it everyday in Indiana.

  • Klobuchar: "This president doesn't keep his decisions for seven minutes. So what I think we need to do is get back into the international climate change agreement. I will do that on day one. On day two, bring back the clean power rules. On day three, the gas mileage standards."
  • Warren: "I will not build more nuclear. I want to put the energy, literally, and the money and the resources behind clean energy and by increasing by tenfold what we put into science, what we put into research and development."


The House passed a bipartisan trade agreement Thursday between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Candidates heavily pushed an overhaul of the system where the economy can work for poor families and the middle class.

  • Sanders: "[USMCA] is a modest improvement over what we have right now...by the way, the world climate change to the best of my knowledge is not even discussed in this new NAFTA agreement at all."
  • Yang: "GDP and corporate profits are at record highs in America today. Also at record highs, depression, financial insecurity, student loan debt. Even suicides and drug overdoses."


The moderators kicked off the debate asking the candidates how they would persuade Americans. Three of the candidates will participate in the Senate trial.

  • Sanders: "What conservatives, I think, understand is that we cannot have a president with that temperament, who is dishonoring the presidency of the United States."
  • Klobuchar: “The president is not king in America. The law is king."
  • Steyer: "If we want Republican Senators to do the right thing, we need their constituents to see the truth on TV and tell them, get ready of this guy or we'll get rid of you."

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