3rd Democratic debate 2019: Candidates go hard on health care, gun reform

The 10 highest-polling candidates who participated in ABC News’ Democratic debate in Houston spared over "Medicare For All" plans, action on gun control and immigration.
8:02 | 09/13/19

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Transcript for 3rd Democratic debate 2019: Candidates go hard on health care, gun reform
Here again, Byron Pitts. Welcome back to newt line. We're in Houston. Minutes ago, the top ten candidates taking on each other and the man they hope to replace. Terry Moran has been following the action. The debate's done, let the spinning begin. After the debate it was substantive. It was a well-moderated debate, shout out to our colleagues there. It probably won't move the needle much in the polls, but after a campaign dominated by Progressive voices, tonight the centrists struck back. Ten candidates came out tonight. That's what I want to do for you. As president. As president. As president of the united States. The stakes so high, each determined to make their case for why they should be at the top of the democratic ticket. I've actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company. We should get moving. There's enormous, enormous opportunities once we get rid of Donald Trump. We must and will defeat trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country. But only one will get there. And minutes later, it was game on. Julian Castro in the middle of a health care discussion, taking a veiled swipe at Joe Biden, going there on the question of Biden's age. Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can't believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in. And now you're saying they don't have to, you're forgetting that. Fair comment? Cheap shot? I'm fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you're not. I'll be surprised at him. The jockeying didn't stop. It's not an attack on vice president Joe Biden. It's about the health care policy. That was my focus. Candidates heading to the spin room to continue their arguments. Joe and I have a very different voting record and a very different vision for this country. The conversation about gun control could have been the same they were having when I was in high school. I am still introducing myself to the American people. I have not run before for president. We have at least a couple people on the stage who have run once and some many times. I thought it was great. It's a chance to talk to millions of Americans about what's broken in our country, and more importantly, what we're going to do about it. The candidates were lined up by their strengths in the polls. In the middle the three front runners, and they went after each other on a crucial subject, how to defend health care. She's for Bernie. I'm for Barack. Taking on his opponents left The senator on my left has not indicated how she pays for and the senator has come forward and said how he's going to pay for it, but it gets him about halfway there. Let's be clear about health care. We all owe a huge debt to president Obama, who fundamentally transformed health care in America and committed this country to health care for every human being. And now the question is, how best can we improve on it. And I believe the best way we can do that is we make sure that everybody gets covered by health care at the lowest-possible cost. Every study done shows that medicare for all is the most cost-effective approach to providing health care to every man, woman and child in this country. I wrote the damn bill, if I may say so. Intent to eliminate all out-of-pocket expenses. Bernie wrote the bill. I read the bill. And on page eight, on page eight of the bill it says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it, and that means that 149 million Americans will no longer be able to have their current insurance. I don't think that's a bold idea. I think it's a bad idea. The sparring on it went on for more than half an hour. 500,000 Americans are going bankrupt. You know why they're going bankrupt? Because they suffered a terrible disease, cancer or heart disease. Under my legislation, people will not go into financial ruin because they suffered with a diagnosis of cancer. And our program is the only one that does that. Biden didn't skip a beat. I know a lot about cancer. Let me tell you something. It's personal to me. I've been there, you've been you know what it's like. People need help now, hope now, and do something now. Biden comes into this debate consistently leading in the polls with 27% of Democrats preferring him, followed by Sanders with 19% and Warren with 17%. They took on another divisive issue, racism. We have a white supremacist in the white house and poses a mortal threat to people of country all across this country. This took place at Texas southern university, a historically black institution. We have systemic racism eroding our nation from health care to the criminal justice system. I want to turn to the deadly mass shootings. Texas is still reeling from the deadly mass shootings in el Paso and Odessa, but many are fierce defenders of the second amendment. All were passionate that something needs to be done. ? I met a mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot, and she watched her bleed to death over the course of a how much. There weren't enough ambulances to get to them in time. Hell, yes, we're going to take your ar-15, your ak-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against Americans anymore. People asked me in El Paso, do you think trump is responsible for what happened? I said, will, look, obviously, he didn't pull the trigger, but he's certainly been tweeting out the ammunition. If you want action now, we've got to send a message to Mitch we can't wait until one of us gets in the white house. We have to pass those bills right now. Another issue front and center in Texas, immigration and the policies of the trump administration. All those people are seeking they deserve to be heard. That's who we are. Now, did you make a mistake with those deportations? The president did the best thing that was able to be done at the time. How about you? I'm the vice president of the United States. One of those on the periphery, Andrew yang, tried a different tact to get attention. I'm going to do something unprecedented tonight. My campaign will now give a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month for an entire year to ten American families, someone watching this at home right now. But some campaign finance experts say those monthly gifts walk a very fine line of campaign finance laws that prohibit personal use of campaign funds. For all their differences tonight, the candidates were certainly united on one thing, getting rid of the current president. We must and will defeat trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country. According to the latest ABC news "Washington post" poll that looks at 2020 general election standings, five of the democratic contenders lead president trump in head to head matchups. I'd like to see him making a deal with XI jinping. Is it just me? Or was that supposed to happen in like April? It's one more example of a commitment not made. When that happens on the international stage people take note. And he is treating our farmers and workers like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos. All ten candidates can now take stock of how they did. But with the next debate one month away, they'll be out on the campaign trail testing new lines.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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