January 3rd, 2016
11:14 AM ET

Sanders on President Bill Clinton: "I think we have got more important things to worry about in this country than Bill Clinton's sex life."

SOTU

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, Bernie Sanders, Senator and Democratic presidential candidate (V-I), joined CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash to discuss 2016 politics.

 

For more information, see http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/. Also, text highlights and a transcript of the discussion are below.

 

MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”

 

Contacts: Lauren Pratapas — Lauren.Pratapas@turner.com; 202.465.6666; Zachary Lilly – Zachary.Lilly@turner.com

 

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Sen. Bernie Sanders on State of the Union: Full Interview

http://cnn.it/1O3xkfX

 

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

 

Sanders discusses the President’s proposed gun control measure: “I would prefer that we could have bipartisan support, but the truth is, Republicans are not interested in doing anything about gun safety. I think the vast majority of the American people are horrified by the mass shootings that we have seen.  They want action.  Overwhelming consensus understands that people who are criminals, people who have mental issues should not be owning guns or buying guns. And what the president is trying to do now is to expand the instant background check by closing the gun show loophole.  And I think he's doing what the American people would like him to do… Obviously, bipartisan activity in the Congress would be preferable.  But we're not seeing the Republicans doing anything on this issue.”

 

Sanders on the release of his tax plan: “So, I believe in progressive taxation, asking the large corporations and the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. In terms of guaranteeing health care to all Americans through a Medicare-for-all single-payer program, the truth is, we will save the average middle-class family thousands of dollars a year in health care costs, because, today, by far, we are the most expensive health care system in the world... We have issued a number of tax plans. For example, what we have said - well, what we have said is that, in the year 2016, public colleges and universities should be tuition-free, and we should lower interest rates on student debt.  And we do that by a tax on Wall Street speculation.  That's a plan. What we have also said is that, unlike the Republicans, who want to cut Social Security, I want to expand Social Security.  And we do that by lifting the cap on taxable income for people earning above $250,000 a year.  That's a tax plan. What I have said is that I want to rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure, create up to 13 million jobs rebuilding roads and bridges, and we do that by doing away with the ability of corporations to stash their money in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.  That's a tax plan. So, we have been very specific.  We have more to do.  And we will be doing that in the very near future.”

[BASH:] “Before the Iowa caucuses?”

[SANDERS:] “Yes.”

 

Sanders on Trump: [BASH:] “Donald Trump says that Bill Clinton's sexual history is fair game.  Do you agree?”

[SANDERS:]  “I think that Donald Trump might want to concern himself with the fact that he's dead wrong when he says we should not raise the minimum wage, he's dead wrong when he says that wages in America are too high, he's dead wrong when he thinks we should give huge tax breaks to billionaires like himself, and he's dead wrong when he thinks that climate change is a hoax, when the entire - virtually an entire scientific community thinks it's the great environmental crisis that we face…I think we have got more important things to worry about in this country than Bill Clinton's sex life.”

FULL TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

 

DANA BASH, CNN’s CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  As President Obama leaves Hawaii and makes his way back to Washington today, he's set to unveil new executive actions he hopes will curb a seemingly endless string of mass shootings in America while he's been in office.

 

The president has been candid about his frustration with Congress for refusing to tighten gun control laws.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We know we can't stop every act of violence.  But what if we tried to stop even one?  What if Congress did something, anything, to protect our kids from gun violence?

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

BASH:  Now he says he won't wait for Congress, and he's planning his own measures to expand background checks.

 

Following his announcement, President Obama will join Anderson Cooper for an exclusive one-hour live town hall event on the issue of guns and gun control in America.  Anderson and the president will talk about this controversial issue from all sides, and President Obama will take questions from the audience.

 

A live town hall with President Obama, "Guns in America," 8:00 p.m. this Thursday right here on CNN.

 

Now let's talk about gun control and much, much more with Vermont Senator and Democratic candidate for president Bernie Sanders.

 

Thanks for joining me.  And happy new year to you, Senator.

 

As a United States senator, are you OK with the president acting alone, bypassing Congress on guns?

 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Dana, I would prefer that we could have bipartisan support, but the truth is, Republicans are not interested in doing anything about gun safety.

 

I think the vast majority of the American people are horrified by the mass shootings that we have seen.  They want action.  Overwhelming consensus understands that people who are criminals, people who have mental issues should not be owning guns or buying guns.

 

And what the president is trying to do now is to expand the instant background check by closing the gun show loophole.  And I think he's doing what the American people would like him to do.

 

BASH:  Now, you are a senator from Vermont.  As you well know, there's a lot of support for gun rights where - where you're from.  Do you think your constituents will object to you supporting these expanded background checks, especially done without Congress?

 

SANDERS:  Well, I - look, look, gun safety issues are very, very controversial.

 

We are a divided nation.  But I think most gun owners in this country understand that people who should not own guns should not be able to buy them.  And we do need to expand the instant background check.  I don't think that's an onerous burden on anybody.

 

And, by the way, from what I have seen, the vast majority of the American people agree with that sentiment.  Obviously, bipartisan activity in the Congress would be preferable.  But we're not seeing the Republicans doing anything on this issue.  And I think the president is doing what the American people would like him to do.

 

BASH:  OK, let's talk a little politics.

 

You have been going after the working-class supporters of Donald Trump.  For people who scratch their heads and say, wait a minute, how can liberal Bernie Sanders possibly attract Trump voters, who tend to be quite conservative, what is your answer?

 

SANDERS:  Well, in my last election - reelection effort in the state of Vermont, we won about 25 percent of the Republican vote.

 

And working-class Republicans are also seeing their wages going down.  They're seeing almost all new income and wealth going to the top 1 percent.  They can't afford to send their kids to college.  They're seeing their jobs going to China.

 

And I think they want a president who has the courage to stand up to the billionaire class, to raise the minimum wage, to make public colleges and universities tuition-free, and, by the way, to address a corrupt campaign finance system, where millionaires and billionaires and corporations are now spending unlimited sums of money to buy elections.

 

That's a pretty across-the-board sentiment.  The American people want change.  And I believe that I'm a vehicle of change, being prepared to stand up to the wealthy and the powerful and create an economy that works for all Americans.

 

BASH:  Now, of course, you differ vastly on how to address that change and help working-class people.

 

SANDERS:  Right.

 

BASH:  One of your signature proposals is Medicare for all.  You said recently you would only support one new tax on the middle class, to fund paid family leave.

 

But how are you going to pay for this massive new health care plan without taxing the middle class, except for that - that narrow tax?

 

SANDERS:  Well, first of all - first of all, you can do it.

 

We have massive income and wealth inequality.  In the last 30 years, trillions of dollars have flown from the hands of working families to the top one-tenth of 1 percent.  You have major corporations in America making billions of dollars a year in profit who, in a given year, pay nothing in federal income taxes.

 

So, I believe in progressive taxation, asking the large corporations and the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes.

 

In terms of guaranteeing health care to all Americans through a Medicare-for-all single-payer program, the truth is, we will save the average middle-class family thousands of dollars a year in health care costs, because, today, by far, we are the most expensive health care system in the world.

 

BASH:  But...

 

SANDERS:  We pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

 

So, my proposal will cut health care costs for the middle class by thousands of dollars a year.

 

BASH:  OK.  But, Senator, you - your health care proposal, "The Wall Street Journal" estimates would cost $15 trillion over 10 years.

 

You really can pay for that without raising taxes on the middle class?  It just seems hard to - hard to believe.

 

SANDERS:  Well, what we can do - there are a variety of ways to go forward, Dana.

 

But, at the bottom line, what "The Wall Street Journal" forgot to tell the American people in that article is, people will not have to pay a private health insurance, and the cost of prescription drugs are going down.

 

At the end of the day, we pay - not even close - we pay almost three times more per capita on health care than the British, 50 percent more than the French, much more than the Canadians.

 

Our proposal will save the average middle-class family thousands of dollars a year in health care, lower prescription drug costs.

 

BASH:  OK, but it sounds like you're not ruling out a tax to get there.

 

Let's talk about the tax plan.  We haven't seen it yet.  We're pretty close, 29 days, until voting in Iowa.  Do Iowa voters and voters in New Hampshire and elsewhere deserve to see your full tax plan before they vote?

 

SANDERS:  Well, you - they sure do.  And they will.

 

But it - that's not a - kind of a fast statement, Dana.  We have issued a number of tax plans.

 

BASH:  Right.  Right.  I said full tax plan.

 

SANDERS:  For example, what we have said - well, what we have said is that, in the year 2016, public colleges and universities should be tuition-free, and we should lower interest rates on student debt.  And we do that by a tax on Wall Street speculation.  That's a plan.

 

What we have also said is that, unlike the Republicans, who want to cut Social Security, I want to expand Social Security.  And we do that by lifting the cap on taxable income for people earning above $250,000 a year.  That's a tax plan.

 

What I have said is that I want to rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure, create up to 13 million jobs rebuilding roads and bridges, and we do that by doing away with the ability of corporations to stash their money in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.  That's a tax plan.

 

So, we have been very specific.  We have more to do.  And we will be doing that in the very near future.

 

BASH:  Before the Iowa caucuses?

 

SANDERS:  Yes.

 

BASH:  OK.

 

Donald Trump says that Bill Clinton's sexual history is fair game.  Do you agree?

 

SANDERS:  I think that Donald Trump might want to concern himself with the fact that he's dead wrong when he says we should not raise the minimum wage, he's dead wrong when he says that wages in America are too high, he's dead wrong when he thinks we should give huge tax breaks to billionaires like himself, and he's dead wrong when he thinks that climate change is a hoax, when the entire - virtually an entire scientific community thinks it's the great environmental crisis that we face.

 

BASH:  Senator...

 

SANDERS:  Maybe Trump should worry about those issues, rather than Bill Clinton's sex life.

 

BASH:  Only Bernie Sanders can segue from Bill Clinton's sex life to climate change.  That was impressive.

 

SANDERS:  All right.

 

BASH:  But what is the answer to the question?  Is it fair game or not?

 

SANDERS:  No.  I think we have got more important things to worry about in this country than Bill Clinton's sex life.

 

BASH:  We will have to end it there.

 

Thank you very much, Senator Sanders.  Appreciate it.  We will see you on the campaign trail.

 

SANDERS:  Thank you.

 

 

###END INTERVIEW###

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