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Progressive Lawmakers on Sanders vs. Clinton: Reps. Grijalva & Clarke Respond to Sunday’s Debate

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The race for the Democratic nomination intensified this weekend as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton at caucuses in Maine, Kansas and Nebraska, while Clinton easily won in Louisiana. So far Clinton has won 658 delegates to Sanders’ 471 during the first 19 primaries and caucuses. In addition, Clinton has secured support from an overwhelming number of unelected superdelegates made up from the party establishment. During last night’s debate in Flint, Michigan, heated exchanges focused on trade policy and bailouts, guns, healthcare and the 1994 crime bill, which was signed into law by Bill Clinton. We are joined by two members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus: New York Congressmember Yvette Clarke has endorsed Clinton for president; Arizona Congressmember Raúl Grijalva was the first member of Congress publicly to endorse Bernie Sanders for president.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. The race for the Democratic nomination intensified this weekend as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton at caucuses in Maine, Kansas and Nebraska, while Hillary Clinton easily won in Louisiana. So far, Clinton has one 658 delegates to Sanders’ 471 during the first 19 primaries and caucuses. In addition, Clinton has secured support from an overwhelming number of unelected superdelegates made up from the party establishment, though they could change their allegiance at any point. At last night’s debate in Flint, Michigan, one of the most heated exchanges focused on trade policy and bailouts.

HILLARY CLINTON: We need to do more to help create clean energy as a source of good jobs. But I’m also going to go after companies. You know, when a company decides to leave, like Nabisco is leaving, and they’ve gotten tax benefits from Chicago and Illinois to stay there, I’m going to claw back those benefits. They’re going to have to pay them back, if they’re leaving a place that actually invested in them. I’m also going to go after companies like Johnson Controls in Wisconsin. They came and got part of the bailout, because they were an auto parts supplier. Now they want to move some of their headquarters to Europe. They’re going to have to pay an exit fee.


HILLARY CLINTON: We’re going to stop this kind of job exporting, and we’re going to start importing and growing jobs again in our country.

ANDERSON COOPER: Senator—Senator Sanders, I’ll let you—I’ll let you—

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Let me answer that question.

ANDERSON COOPER: Yeah, go ahead.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I am very glad, Anderson, that Secretary Clinton has discovered religion on this issue. But it’s a little bit too late. Secretary Clinton supported virtually every one of these disastrous trade agreements written by corporate America. NAFTA—NAFTA, supported by the secretary, cost us 800,000 jobs nationwide, tens of thousands of jobs in the Midwest. Permanent normal trade relations with China cost us millions of jobs.

Look, I was on a picket line in the early 1990s against NAFTA, because you didn’t need a Ph.D. in economics to understand that American workers should not be forced to compete against people in Mexico making 25 cents an hour. And the reason that I was one of the first—not one of the last—to be in opposition to the TPP is that American workers should not be forced to compete against people in Vietnam today making a minimum wage of 65 cents an hour.

Look, what we have got to do is tell corporate America that they cannot continue to shut down. We’ve lost 60,000 factories since 2001. They’re going to start having to, if I’m president, invest in this country—not in China, not in Mexico.

ANDERSON COOPER: Secretary Clinton?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well—well, I’ll tell you something else that Senator Sanders was against. He was against the auto bailout. In January of 2009, President-elect Obama asked everybody in the Congress to vote for the bailout. The money was there and had to be released in order to save the American auto industry and 4 million jobs and to begin the restructuring. We just had the best year that the auto industry has had in a long time. I voted to save the auto industry. He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry. I think that is a pretty big difference.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I—if you are talking about the Wall Street bailout, where some of your friends destroyed this economy through—


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Excuse me, I’m talking.

ANDERSON COOPER: Let him [inaudible].

HILLARY CLINTON: If you’re going to talk, tell the whole story, Senator Sanders.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, let me tell my story. You tell yours.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Your story is for voting for every disastrous trade agreement and voting for corporate America. Did I vote against the Wall Street bailout? When billionaires on Wall Street destroyed this economy, they went to Congress, and they said, “Oh, please—we’ll be good boys—bail us out.” You know what I said? I said, “Let the billionaires themselves bail out Wall Street. Shouldn’t be the middle class of this country.”


AMY GOODMAN: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton also took jabs at their Republican counterparts.

HILLARY CLINTON: You know, we have our differences, and we get into vigorous debate about issues. But compare the substance of this debate with what you saw on the Republican stage last week.

ANDERSON COOPER: Senator Sanders?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, let me make a couple of responses. Let me pick up on the last point the secretary made. You know, we are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in that.

AMY GOODMAN: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in their debate last night in Flint, Michigan. The Michigan primary is Tuesday.

To talk more about the presidential race, we’re joined by two members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. One supports Clinton; the other, Sanders. Here in our studio in New York, New York Congressmember Yvette Clarke. She has just returned from Flint, Michigan, as part of a Congressional Black Caucus delegation. She was—she endorsed Clinton for president. And with us from Tucson, Arizona, Congressmember Raúl Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He was the first member of Congress to publicly endorse Bernie Sanders for president.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Why you’re supporting Hillary Clinton, Congressmember Clarke? What are the most important issues, and how did you think they were expressed in this debate?

REP. YVETTE CLARKE: Well, as a New Yorker, I have had the opportunity to work with Secretary Clinton when she was our senator, and I know that she has an in-depth knowledge of the challenges faced by the people that I represent in the 9th District of New York. Having said that, I think that Hillary represents a lot of the dreams and aspirations of the people that I represent in central Brooklyn. Whether it’s comprehensive immigration reform, whether it’s healthcare reform, whether it’s looking for opportunities for those who have been marginalized in our society, she’s been very vocal and outspoken, and has actually worked on legislation to make a difference in their lives.

AMY GOODMAN: Raúl Grijalva, thank you for joining us from Tucson.


AMY GOODMAN: You’re supporting Bernie Sanders. Can you talk about why, and why Congressmember—and why Senator Hillary Clinton does not—how former senator and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does not meet your goals for what you’d see the Democratic presidential nominee to meet?

REP. RAÚL GRIJALVA: Thank you, Amy. Well, you know, 2016 has indeed become a watershed year. And one of the reasons that I’m supporting Bernie, I know him, he’s a friend. That aside, I really think that the envelope for our democracy needs to be pushed further than it’s been pushed. And the fact that Bernie has, very forthrightly and in a very strong way, spoken to, I think, the ideals and, quite frankly, the aspirations and frustrations of the American people, in terms of the economy, in terms of the injustice that we see economically and socially in this country, and in terms of saying we can do better and that the constant drumbeat—and a necessary drumbeat—that Senator Sanders has brought into this election about the concentration of power and wealth, the role of Wall Street in making decisions for the rest of us and the fact that that needs to be broken up, I think, has been the primary reasons why I’m there.

I also think that setting the bar high is, I think, the important point with the American people right now. The two steps forward, one step back kind of status quo politics is not going to work anymore. And part of the frustration that you see in this election year is the fact that the American people are searching for something that is of a higher value than what they’re used to. And for me, that was Bernie, and that’s why I’m supporting him.

AMY GOODMAN: You live along the border.


AMY GOODMAN: The trade agreements, from NAFTA on—of course, NAFTA, a very—what President Clinton considered one of his finest achievements at the time. The effects of these trade agreements, up through TPP?

REP. RAÚL GRIJALVA: Well, the borderlands is now a militarized zone, for—since 9/11. And beyond that, economically, if you were to take the 100-mile strip along the southern border of this country, it would be the poorest state in the country with every indices being at the lowest—unemployment the highest, infant mortality the highest, communicable disease the highest, unemployment the highest. And that is directly attributed to trade policies that shifted jobs and also shifted the attention of the American people from building an economic base in these borderlands to beginning to treat it as a barrier and a wall and a security issue only. The effect that free trade and NAFTA, in particular, and CAFTA and the other ones coming down the pipe have had on the borderlands and on the Rust Belt of this nation, the manufacturing backbone of this nation, has been devastating, millions of jobs lost. And the fact that we are speaking directly to that—Bernie Sanders’ campaign—and saying these are failed policies, I think, is important. And I think the American people realize that the race to the bottom began with NAFTA.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Yvette Clarke, where you stand on these trade agreements?

REP. YVETTE CLARKE: Well, I have been against the trade agreements, as well, leading up to the TPP. However, I think that it’s not totally fair to attribute NAFTA to Secretary Clinton. Certainly, that was her husband’s policy. And I think that we have seen, as she has gotten around throughout this nation, really drilled down and taken a look at what these trade agreements have done, in terms of the gutting of U.S. manufacturing, U.S. jobs, she has had a change of heart. And she is moving forward to look at alternatives and ways in which we can keep manufacturing in the United States. She spoke about some of the penalties she would look at levying against those companies that accept our incentives to be in the United States and then make a decision later to leave. So, it’s not that there’s not a level of understanding of what this means to the United States. I think that Secretary Clinton is well informed and ready to do what needs to be done to help the United States’ manufacturing sector.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you respond to Bernie Sanders saying, yes, but she comes late to all of these issues, after making the wrong decision, he says, whether you’re talking about the trade agreements or the Iraq War, and that late can cost thousands of lives?

REP. YVETTE CLARKE: Absolutely, I agree with him. But I would say he’s late on the gun issue. They have a lot of issues. As representatives, you know, we have to weigh a whole host of issues, and depending on where we represent in the nation. For him, Vermont is a hunting area. So, you know, I think that hypocrisy is enough for everyone.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Raúl Grijalva, on the gun issue, Bernie Sanders says he got a D-minus rating from the NRA. Certainly in Tucson, it has brought—was brought home fiercely to you in the last years with the shooting and almost killing of Congressmember Gabby Giffords, this terrible—


AMY GOODMAN: —the horror of what took place there. Your assessment of Bernie Sanders’ record on guns?

REP. RAÚL GRIJALVA: I think that Bernie—and he said it before, that this is an issue, as my friend Yvette just said, that people evolve into. And his position, for many of us, needed to be stronger than it was. But the fact remains that central to this whole—the whole discussion for this presidential election, on both sides, is the economy of this nation, the structure, the systemic issues that continue to affect us every day, affect working folk every day, issues of minimum wage. Those cut across every line and every sector of American society, and those are the central issues to that. And to say that, you know, what happened in Flint, the discrimination, the racism that we’ve seen in Flint in terms of denial and neglect, it’s also systematic to a system that is controlled at the top by a very few, and wealth dominates the policy direction of our states and our communities, and those that are marginalized continue to be even worse marginalized. There’s a systemic reason. There’s a root cause. And the root cause is this imbalance, imbalance in power and wealth that we have in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Last night’s debate, both candidates were asked about their position on fracking.

HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I don’t support it when any locality or any state is against it, number one. I don’t support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present. I don’t support it, number three, unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using. So by the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place. And I think that’s the best approach, because right now there are places where fracking is going on that are not sufficiently regulated. So, first, we’ve got to regulate everything that is currently underway, and we have to have a system in place that prevents further fracking unless conditions like the ones that I just mentioned are met.

ANDERSON COOPER: Senator Sanders, you—

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: My answer—my answer is a lot shorter: No, I do not support fracking.

AMY GOODMAN: And there you have a difference. You, Congressmember Clarke, are from New York, where the governor, Cuomo, has enforced a moratorium on fracking because of the tremendous popular revolt against it.

REP. YVETTE CLARKE: Absolutely. And I agree that there shouldn’t be fracking. We have crossed a Rubicon into renewable energy, which is where we should be investing right now.

AMY GOODMAN: And Congressmember Grijalva?

REP. RAÚL GRIJALVA: Yeah, I agree with the position, no. You know, look, you have an instance like Oklahoma. If you leave it to the states to decide, with the earthquakes and the danger being posed to aquifer contamination, the earthquakes that are going on that have not occurred historically in that state, in that part of the state where fracking is occurring, and the state continues to do nothing about it in a regulatory way, then what is supposed to happen?

AMY GOODMAN: I want to—

REP. RAÚL GRIJALVA: I think it has to be a general policy of no.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to end with Congressmember Clarke. You’re from the same city not only Hillary Clinton represented, but Donald Trump is from. And his waffling on the Ku Klux Klan?

REP. YVETTE CLARKE: Well, it’s unbelievable that in the 21st century that we’d have a presidential candidate that has to waffle on the issue of the Ku Klux Klan, of racial discrimination and bigotry. And it’s really unfortunate that Donald Trump is using his presidency—his candidacy to—

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there.


AMY GOODMAN: Yvette Clarke, Raúl Grijalva, thanks so much.


AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

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