DNC Chair Shuts Door On More Democratic Debates

PHOTO: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaks during the House Appropriations Committee meeting on June 16, 2015.Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaks during the House Appropriations Committee meeting on June 16, 2015.

The chair of the Democratic National Committee Chairman today brushed aside growing criticism of the party’s plan to limit its presidential candidates to six debates, saying her decision to hold that number was final and promised to disinvite candidates who appear at non-sanctioned debates.

“We are going to have six debates. Period,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz told reporters at a breakfast in Washington sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “We are looking forward to our six debates that are sanctioned by the DNC.”

Wasserman Schultz said she’s standing by that debate schedule despite louder calls by one candidate in particular, Martin O’Malley, to expand a debate schedule he says was essentially designed to protect Hillary Clinton from more exposure to her rivals.

Wasserman Schultz denies that the schedule was created with any candidate in mind, though two DNC vice chairs came out publicly on Wednesday echoing calls for more debates.

She said her decision to limit the number to six is in keeping with the number of debates sanctioned by the national party in recent elections. She said she encourages all candidates to participate in “forums” that are not debates, but said she has decided not to budge on the number of debates.

“We need to make sure we do not let the debate process get out of control,” she said.

She is also sticking by her so-called “exclusivity rule,” which she said would mean having candidates “uninvited” to sanctioned debates if they choose to participate in debates the DNC does not formally recognize. Such a rule has never been imposed in previous cycles, though the Republican Party has something similar in place this year.

Wasserman Schultz also said she does not expect that Harvard professor Larry Lessig will qualify for the Democratic debates. The party is requiring that candidates demonstrate 1 percent support in three national polls before earning a podium, and Lessig – who is running on a campaign finance reform platform and just got in the race – hasn’t gotten that level of support yet.

The only New Hampshire Democratic presidential debate of the election cycle will be on ABC News, December 19, 2015.

NH1 Radio and WBIN TV confirmed to ABC News this morning their plans to host a Democratic forum between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary to fill what they see as a “glaring hole” left in the current DNC debate schedule. The event "Live Free or Die 2016 Democratic Forum" -- importantly labeled a forum and not a debate -– will be moderated by NH1's political director Paul Steinhauser.

All five declared democratic candidates will be invited to participate later today. Steinhauser, along with NH1 News Director Robb Atkinson, said the team has been talking to several campaigns and they feel confident candidates will attend.

ABC News' Brad Mielke and MaryAlice Parks contributed to this report.