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Michael Bennet on the situation in Syria, American health care and impeachment

Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is one of 18 candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why he “never would have” pulled U.S. troops out of Syria, how his health care plan compares to that of Sen. Bernie Sanders, what he thinks of the impeachment inquiry and whether American democracy is "at risk" under President Trump.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado is one of 18 Democrats vying for his party's presidential nomination.

    Like other presidential hopefuls, he's making his case to voters why his health care plan is better than his opponents, even as issues like Syria and impeachment have taken center stage in Washington.

    Senator Bennet joins us today.

    Thank you very much for being here.

  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.:

    Thanks, Judy, for having me.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, let's talk first about Syria.

    It's in the headlines. You're a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    My question is — I know you have been critical of what President Trump has done there, taking U.S. troops out, but what would you do differently as president? Would you have taken the troops out in the first…

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    Well, I never would have taken these troops out.

    In the first place, unlike many things in the Middle East that we have done wrong, this was a case where what we were doing was working. We had been there for five years. It was a critical mission to defeat ISIS. We had lost six Americans, which is tragic, but only six Americans.

    The Kurds lost 10,000 Kurds in the same actions that we were taking. And we had managed to deal with ISIS, which is not the same thing as finishing or ending ISIS.

    And, today, the president's put us in a position where we're not going to have the opportunity to deal with ISIS if they reemerge. And Syria, Russia, and Iran, and Assad are splitting up the region.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But the president of Turkey is telling you, we're sending our troops across the border into Syria.

    You're saying U.S. troops would have faced off against Turkey's…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    All it would have taken was a strong president to say, don't even think about coming across that line.

    And the evidence that Erdogan had not come across that line is that he didn't through the Obama administration and through the Trump administration. This was a moment of incredible weakness on the part of an American president, not just abandoning the Kurds, but rolling over for Erdogan.

    Erdogan would never have done this without a permission slip from Donald Trump.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, right now, would you put U.S. troops back in there?

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    I don't think that's feasible. I don't think that's viable.

    This is one of those cases — where the president seems to think that he makes these decisions, and then he's got all kinds of optionality. What he's doing is foreclosing options. And one of those is our putting troops back in Northern Syria.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's ask you…

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    I just hope the ones that are leaving can get out safely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me ask you about health care. You call your plan Medicare-X.

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It would create a public option. And you say it's cheaper than the Medicare for all plan that Senator Sanders, Senator Warren have proposed.

    But, as you know, what they say is that, when they eliminate premiums, they eliminate co-pay, they eliminate deductibles, that means, they say, that it would be a net savings for consumers.

    Why isn't that idea better than…

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    I know they say that, but America doesn't believe it. And even Vermont didn't believe it.

    They tried to pass something similar to this in Bernie Sanders' home state of Vermont. And when they saw what the costs would actually be there, a 10 percent tax increase on individuals, an 11 percent tax increase on businesses, they rejected it, just like the American people are going to reject a health care plan that raises $31 trillion in taxes.

    Bernie Sanders and I are the only two people in this race who've been consistent on our positions for the last 10 years. And he has been. And I honor his consistency. Just like he says he wrote the damn bill on Medicare for all, I wrote it on the public option.

    And it not only is cheaper. It actually would benefit the federal treasury. And I think we could cover everybody in three years, without stripping the American people of their choice to buy health insurance or a public option, if that's what they want, and without raising taxes at all on the American people, much less massively.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you believe that a Democrat who is the nominee who proposes single-payer — a single-payer plan, which is what Medicare for all would be, enhances the prospects of President Trump getting reelected?

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    I do.

    I hope any Democrat will beat Donald Trump, but this is not just about beating Donald Trump. It's about winning a majority in the Senate as well. And if these candidates can't even be candid about what — how they're going to pay for these plans today — I mean, Elizabeth Warren has a plan for every single thing, except for how to pay for her health care plan, which is something that she's had since the very beginning of this election.

    Bernie is honest about it. Bernie is telling the American people, I can — at least I can pay for half of my plan, which is $16 trillion, by raising taxes on everybody in America who are making $29,000 or more.

    That's never going to fly, Judy. And it's never going to — you — I mean, that's one way to lose a Senate race in Iowa and Colorado and Arizona. It might be a way of losing the presidency.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You…

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    And it's so unnecessary.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Impeachment. You — excuse me, because there are a couple of other things I want to…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    Go ahead.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You waited to endorse an impeachment inquiry, you said, because you believed it would have to have broad public support.

    But with information that's come out about President Trump, the phone call with the president of Ukraine, the request about Joe Biden, are you now convinced that this president should be impeached by the House?

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    Well, I'm absolutely convinced that he committed impeachable offenses. And I'm absolutely convinced that we should have the impeachment inquiry that we're — that we're going to have.

    And I think the stuff that he's done, whether — is reprehensible. And our standard has fallen so low, Judy.

    I mean, these congressmen today rushing into a secure briefing, like a mob, President Trump pretending that the rest of the world isn't watching us abandon our allies in the Middle East, and that the American people are going to stand for having a president who, in this instance, is asking Ukraine to weigh in on the election by digging up dirt on Joe Biden, this stuff is terrible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You know, if the House impeaches, it moves to the Senate. There would be a trial that would go on for weeks, if not months.

    Are you worried all that interferes with the Democrats running for president?

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    I'm not worried about it, because we have a job to do and we have a solemn responsibility to fulfill in the Senate.

    What I hope for is that this whole process is going to end up leading to a place where we can restore the American people's confidence in our exercise in self-government and in the rule of law.

    And I hope to play a part in that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Michael Bennet, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, thank you.

  • Sen. Michael Bennet:

    Thanks for having me.

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