/Highlights From the Third Democratic Debate

Highlights From the Third Democratic Debate

The third Democratic presidential debate took place Thursday, Sept. 12. Here are the highlights from Houston.

All times local.

9:55 p.m. – Biden took on the most fire during debate

Early front-runner Joe Biden took on the most fire at Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, and former Obama Housing Secretary Julián Castro was the most explicit in arguing it was time for a new generation.

Castro also seemed to allude to speculation about the 76-year-old Biden’s mental acuity during an exchange about health care. When Biden denied that his health plan required people to buy into Medicare, Castro exclaimed, “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?”

Sen. Bernie Sanders faced sharp criticism about his universal health care plan from several candidates, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren was more in the background than in prior debates but didn’t damage herself.

The likely result is little change in a primary that has been remarkably static for months.

Democratic presidential hopefuls California Senator Kamala Harris and Former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke share a laugh during a break in the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

9:30 p.m. – Candidates discuss plans for fixing U.S. education

Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang says he supports a mix of options, including charter schools, in trying to fix the nation’s education system.

The former tech entrepreneur said at Thursday night’s debate that he is “pro-good school.” Yang also said that his proposed “Freedom Dividend” would help lower-income families support their children’s educational needs while alleviating teachers already overburdened because many are going beyond classroom instruction, compensating for support some students aren’t getting at home.

Several candidates, including Pete Buttigieg (BOO’-tuh-juhj), Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, advocated for raising teacher salaries — something Cory Booker noted that “we actually did it” as mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

Both Warren and Bernie Sanders promoted student debt cancellation plans. Harris, a graduate of a historically black university or college, noted her proposal to put $2 billion toward the institutions’ teacher training programs, drawing applause from the audience at Texas Southern University, a Houston HBCU.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 12: Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice President Joe Biden interact during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University’s Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls were chosen from the larger field of candidates to participate in the debate hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

9:20 p.m. – Sanders refuses to call Maduro a dictator

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is again refusing to call Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro a “dictator,” calling him instead “a vicious tyrant” at Thursday night’s Democratic primary debate.

Sanders, who identifies as a democratic socialist, is also calling a question from the moderator asking him to contrast his vision of socialism with Maduro’s government “deeply unfair. He says he supports Canada’s and Scandinavia’s policies of universal health care and offering paid family leave and a living wage, as well as wresting control over major institutions from a small number of wealthy Americans.

Maduro’s 2018 reelection has been disputed, and the United States has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. His leadership has seen the country fall into economic and political upheaval, with residents facing food shortages and the Venezuelan currency losing value.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 12: Democratic presidential candidates South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) on stage during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University’s Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls were chosen from the larger field of candidates to participate in the debate hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

9:15 p.m. – Buttigieg slams Trump treating ‘troops as props’

The only combat veteran on the Democratic presidential debate stage in Houston is reminding the audience that many new military inductees were newborns when the U.S. was attacked 18 years ago.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s comments on Thursday came the day after the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The debate was an opportunity for him to bring up his proposal to seek an authorization for the use of military force with a built-in three-year sunset that Congress would be required to renew.

Buttigieg says, “We have got to put an end to endless war.”

Buttigieg also says that President Donald Trump treats “troops as props, or worse, tools for his own enrichment.” That final dig is an allusion to the Trump administration’s rerouting of U.S. military personnel to overnight stays at his Trump Turnberry golf resort in Scotland.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 12: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) (L) and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (R) look on as Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks (C) during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University’s Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls were chosen from the larger field of candidates to participate in the debate hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

8:45 p.m. – Buttigieg jabs Trump over trade war with China

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg says President Donald Trump “clearly has no strategy” in his trade war with China.

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor and other candidates were asked during Thursday’s debate in Houston about the tariffs Trump has imposed on China. The country has retaliated with tariffs that have hit U.S. farmers and some other industries hard.

Trump has scoffed at Buttigieg’s candidacy, often saying he’d like to see the 37-year-old make a deal with Chinese leader Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng).

Buttigieg says, “I’d like to see him make a deal with Xi Jinping.” He says, “Wasn’t that supposed to happen in, like, April?”

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar also was critical of Trump, saying he’s treating farmers and workers “like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos.”

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Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2020 presidential candidate, waves while arriving on stage during the Democratic presidential candidate debate in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. Joe Biden invoked the legacy of former president Barack Obama in arguing the expansive healthcare proposals from Elizabeth Warren and Sanders would be too costly for the nation. Photographer: Callaghan O’Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

8:35 p.m. – Several candidates say they would loosen Trump immigration restrictions

Several of the Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination say they would loosen restrictions on immigration put into place under the Trump administration.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said at Thursday’s debate that she would expand pathways to citizenship, blaming current problems on the United States’ withdrawal of aid to Central America. She says “a crisis that Donald Trump has created and hopes to profit from politically.”

Former tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang noted his status as the son of immigrants and called immigration “positive for our economic and social dynamism” and pledged to return immigration levels to those of the Obama administration.

Asked if President Donald Trump’s supporters are racist, given the president’s references to Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said, “Anyone who supports this is supporting racism.”

Democratic presidential hopefuls (From L) Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg, US Senator for Vermont Bernie Sanders, Former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren participate in the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

8:25 p.m. – Biden: ‘I stand with Barack Obama all 8 years’

Former Vice President Joe Biden is dismissing questions about the Obama administration’s record of deportations by touting the former Democratic president’s effort to open doors to immigrants.

Instead of answering whether the deportations were a mistake, Biden noted Thursday during the Democratic presidential debate Obama’s support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro pounced on Biden, accusing him of standing by Obama when it suits him but sidestepping the administration’s blemishes.

Castro says, “He wants to take credit for Obama’s work, but doesn’t want to answer any questions.”

Biden shot back angrily, “I stand with Barack Obama all eight years, good, bad, indifferent.”

Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (R) speaks to Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg as he drinks water during a break in the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

8:20 p.m. – Will O’Rourke mandate gun buybacks? ‘Hell yes’

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke says “hell yes” he will institute mandatory buybacks for some machine guns if elected president.

In one of the biggest applause lines of the Thursday night presidential debate, O’Rourke described in vivid detail how bullets shot by semi-automatic rifles are designed to “shred everything inside your body.”

He said that if a gun is meant to “kill people on a battlefield … hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15s, your AK-47s.” While O’Rourke supports mandatory gun buybacks, other candidates believe such a program should be voluntary.

O’Rourke left the campaign trail last month to return to his hometown of El Paso after a gunman opened fire at a Walmart there, killing 22 people. He has sought to revitalize a flagging campaign by focusing on his gun violence plan.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 12: Democratic presidential candidate former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University’s Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls were chosen from the larger field of candidates to participate in the debate hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

8:15 p.m. – Candidates praise O’Rourke

Several of Beto O’Rourke’s fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls are praising him for the support he showed for residents of his hometown following a massacre there last month.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday on the debate stage that how the former Texas congressman “handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful,” a line that drew applause from the Houston crowd.