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What Biden and Sanders said in their 1st head-to-head debate

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders debated head-to-head for the first time Sunday night. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was no live audience at the event, and questions about President Trump’s handling of the disease outbreak -- and how the candidates would respond in his situation -- dominated the early conversation. Lisa Desjardins reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We turn again now to the Democratic race for president.

    With the delay of Ohio's primary vote, three remaining states will hold critical primaries tomorrow, Illinois, Florida, and Arizona.

    Ahead of Tuesday's vote, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders met on the debate stage last night.

    Lisa Desjardins has our report.

  • Jake Tapper:

    Welcome to this unique event.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    A first-of-its-kind debate in a time of national crisis. With no live audience and amid a pandemic, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also went one-on-one for the first time.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    We have problems that we have to solve now, now. What's a revolution going to do? Disrupt everything in the meantime?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    Let's be honest and understand that this coronavirus pandemic exposes the incredible weakness and dysfunctionality of our current health care system.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    At the heart of the debate, the ideological divide between the two men, especially over health care, and how they would address the coronavirus outbreak as president.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    People are looking for results, not a revolution.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Biden, who is leading the delegate race, has a plan to provide no-cost treatment for the virus. He said Sanders' Medicare-for-all plan, in which the government would be the single payer, would fail to address this crisis specifically.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    With all due respect to Medicare for all, you have a single-payer system in Italy. It doesn't work there. It has nothing to do with Medicare for all. That wouldn't solve the problem at all.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Sanders argued Medicare-for-all would address not just coronavirus, but the much larger issue with American health care, a long underfunded system that treats rich and poor differently.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    So, you're saying right now, in the middle of a crisis — but you know what? Last year, at least 30,000 people died in America because they didn't get health care when they should've, because we don't have universal coverage. I think that's a crisis.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It comes as the pandemic has fundamentally changed the 2020 campaign trail. Both Biden and Sanders are holding online town halls, instead of rallies.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Relax. We're doing great. It all will pass.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    As for President Trump's handling of the crisis, the two men had harsh words.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    He is undermining the doctors and the scientists who are trying to help the American people.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    Donald Trump, he's exacerbated every single one of these problems.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But, on other topics:

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    I don't want to join you. Why don't you join me?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The two sparred over their past positions.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    All well and good, but nowhere near enough.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That included climate change, the Iraq War, abortion and Social Security.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    But we did not cut it. I did not vote for it.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    I know, because people like me helped stop that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Biden did make some news. He now backs a version of Sanders' tuition-free public college plan. Biden's idea would cover families making less than $125,000. And the former vice president committed that any running mate of his would be a woman.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    I would pick a woman to be my vice president.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Sanders indicated he probably would pick a woman.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    My very strong tendency is to move in that direction.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But, before running mates are chosen, one of the candidates will have to secure the nomination.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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