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Sen. Kamala Harris On Health Care Plan, Middle Class Tax Cut

LONDONDERRY, N.H. (CBS) -- Sen. Kamala Harris paid her fifth visit Friday to the Granite State, this time facing an uphill battle in a Democratic primary that has seen her wobble between second place in the national polls to now a distant fourth.

"It's a campaign and this is what happens in campaigns," the California senator told WBZ's Liam Martin during an exclusive interview in Londonderry. She paid a visit to the famous Mack's Apples, sampling some of this year's harvest and later speaking to a packed crowd nearby.

"People are lining up for hours to come to our events and have a conversation and they're talking about the things that I think we all should be prioritizing," the 54-year-old senator said.

One of those priorities for Harris is climate change. She released an ambitious plan this week that embraces the so-called Green New Deal and has backed a carbon tax. Critics have argued a fee on carbon emissions could hurt low-income Americans by temporarily raising the price of energy, but environmentalists have long advocated for it as a powerful way to incentivize companies to reduce their carbon footprint. Many of the top-tier candidates in the race, including front runner former Vice President Joe Biden, now support some form of fee on carbon.

"There is going to be a fee on big oil and big polluters," Harris said Friday. "When you break the rules, you're going to have to pay for that."

Harris has also called for full bans on fracking and offshore drilling for oil and gas.

Sen. Kamala Harris
Sen. Kamala Harris at Mack's Apples in Londonderry, NH (WBZ-TV)

On health care, Harris has faced criticism from both progressives and conservatives. She co-sponsored Sen. Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-All plan in the Senate and then later said she wasn't comfortable with the plan because it would eliminate private insurance. The left wing of the Democratic Party has hammered on that front, arguing she flip-flopped.

"I've always supported Medicare-for-All," Harris said, "but it became clear to me that we could do better. And so my Medicare-for-All plan allows Americans to have choice between a Medicare-for-All public plan or a Medicare-for-All private plan, because I heard from people that don't want private plans to be excluded."

Her plan also creates a 10-year transition so that union members who negotiated better health care benefits in exchange for lower or flat wage growth will have time to adjust.

The claims from critics that Harris has equivocated on some of these issues gets to a central issue with her candidacy. Some voters say that -- unlike with Sen. Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- they don't know exactly where Harris stands ideologically. She argued that should be a benefit to her campaign.

"I don't think that the American people want to have a debate about ideology," she responded. "I'm not a socialist; I believe in capitalism, but I know that capitalism is not working for most working Americans. That's why I'm proposing what has been described as the most significant middle class tax cut that we have had in generations -- which will give families making under $100,000 a year a benefit that they can take home at up to $500 a month."

"What people want to know is how you're going to help them put food on the table."

Harris also appeared Friday night at the annual banquet for the Portsmouth Democrats, who voted in May to make Harris the featured speaker at the event.

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