Transcript: John Delaney on "Face the Nation," July 7, 2019

Delaney says rivals "hijacked the good name of Medicare"

The following is a transcript of the interview with 2020 Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney that aired Sunday, July 7, 2019, on "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Congressman John Delaney. He's been seeking his party's nomination, now for almost two years you have been on that trail. I think you declared just six months after President Trump was inaugurated. Why do you want to be president?

JOHN DELANEY: Well I think the central issue facing this country is how terribly divided we are and how our government doesn't work anymore meaning we don't get anything done. And I'm running for president to get America working again so that we can actually fix health care, build infrastructure, improve public education, make sure there's jobs in every community in this country. Those are the reasons I'm running for president. And- but to do any of those things we actually have to start coming together. We have to find common ground. We can't act like bipartisan solutions are dirty words that we can't say in Washington anymore.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think a lot of people would agree with that in principle but know in practice it's a lot harder to get things done particularly on issues like immigration.

DELANEY: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what would you do? Two questions here, would you decriminalize border crossing? And- and what would you do with the thousands of migrants who are currently in U.S. custody?

DELANEY: So I wouldn't decriminalize border crossings, but I would make it illegal to separate children from their families. What I would do as president is the two things that we have to focus on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you change the Flores Agreement in terms of the limitation on the amount of time children can be held?

DELANEY: Yes, I would. I mean we have to treat children-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You would allow them to be detained for longer? 

DELANEY: No, no I- want- I don't want children to be detained long at all. I- I want to go the other way. We have to treat people who cross our borders with a measure of dignity. Right? It has to be reflective of our values. But we should not lose sight of the two things that we have to focus on. We need comprehensive immigration reform. It should have passed in 2013. I think with the right president focusing on this in the first hundred days of an administration, we can get it done. But the other thing we need to do, Margaret, is we need to fix what's going on in those Central American countries. My wife and I, we were down at the border at the beginning of the year. We took 14 law students and two law professors for a week, and went into the largest detention facility in this country. And- and what we're doing, we're helping asylum seekers make their case. And when you listen to the stories from these people, you realize that everyone is leaving for the right reason. They feel threatened, their children are threatened, and unless we do things to rebuild civil society in the three Central American countries, we're going to continue to have this refugee crisis. So, I've called for something called "Plan Central America" which is very similar to something called "Plan Colombia" that we did a few decades ago where we actually get all the relevant countries around the table, NGOs that can operate in these countries, and we fix the problem. Because we actually have to focus on that or we will continue to see a migration, kind of refugee crisis at our southern border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What would you do with the migrants already in U.S. custody, the overcrowding that we are seeing?

DELANEY: Well, we're putting more money there, right, based on the bill that passed this week which I totally agree with. We need to make our asylum laws more efficient in terms of how these things are processed. We need more asylum judges. We need--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's what--

DELANEY: --to enforce our laws.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --this administration is arguing for, right? 

DELANEY: I know. And- and- well, we do need those, right? And we need more facilities. I mean, we have a crisis at the southern border. It's caused by what's happening in those countries. We have to stabilize what's going on in those countries. We have to make sure we have sufficient capacity at the border to handle these individuals. They have to be, kind of, treated with a measure of dignity. We have to make sure children aren't separated from their parents and we have to actually apply our laws, but we can't apply our laws unless we have the judges, et cetera, to do it. But this is an example of how broken Washington is, right? Because there are solutions here. There are bipartisan compromises. We actually just saw one this past week which I thought was a good step forward. We can fix this immigration system that we have in this country. It's broken. We can do things to stabilize what's going on in Central America, but then we can also get to work on the other issues that really matter to the American people. Like fixing our healthcare system--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

DELANEY: --lowering pharmaceutical prices, building infrastructure, doing things to improve public education, make college more affordable, expanding, you know, pre-K to make it universal. We also have to--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And healthcare is your--

DELANEY: --focus on these issues.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Health care is your signature issue as- as I know. And in the last debate, you said "Medicare-for-All" is not good policy and it's not good politics. 

DELANEY: Yes. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But more than eight of the candidates of the 24 or 25 now, support this. Are- are voters just being misled by your fellow Democratic candidates?

DELANEY: Yeah, I think they're wrong. I mean, look at so many of the candidates, Senator Warren, so many of these people have outsourced their health care plan to Bernie Sanders, right? Because this is Bernie Sanders's plan. And it will take private insurance away from more than half of the country and they will reject that if we run on that. It will- it will also reduce quality and access in our health care system because Medicare doesn't reimburse sufficiently to keep all the hospitals--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were--

DELANEY: --and providers. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --booed on the debate stage when you raised this, though, so--

DELANEY: I understand that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, it does seem popular at least with people who vote in primaries.

DELANEY: But here's the thing. "Medicare-for-All" is a great slogan. They've hijacked the good name of Medicare and applied it to a law that will cause upheaval in our health care system and I- I was the first person to actually talk about this. Now we're seeing the debate change on this issue as people start to realize. My plan which is called "Better Care" is a universal health care plan. Every single American gets health care as a basic right of citizenship for free. But I preserve options if people want to opt out and keep their private insurance. They can if they want to buy supplemental plans. They can. It's a much better way to create a universal health care system. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And non-citizens?

DELANEY: Non-citizens are not covered by my "Better Care" plan, but under my immigration reform they will have legal status. While they- while they wait con a path to citizenship which would allow them to then be covered.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to--

DELANEY: If you take immigration and health care together you kind of see how we can start solving these problems.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to very quickly ask you on foreign policy. You criticized the Obama-era nuclear deal. Iran has said it is now going to break through yet another limit that was set by that deal on their nuclear program. What would you do as commander-in-chief?

DELANEY: Well I actually voted for the deal. I thought it was imperfect, but I thought it was the right way forward. I would want to get us back in a deal but I think the deal can be better, right I--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What makes you think you can get back in the deal?

DELANEY: I think I--

MARGARET BRENNAN: If it's already starting to unravel? 

DELANEY: I absolutely- I absolutely think I can get back in the deal and I absolutely can make it better.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Even though the sunset clauses are in 2020 and 2023? 

DELANEY: That's the problem you've got to fix. I think I can get us back in the deal and extend those sunset clauses. I mean foreign policy really needs to be discussed more in this presidential debate. Things like trade- I was one of the few Democrats to support President Obama with his Trans-Pacific Partnership. I don't think you can run against President Trump unless you supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. 

DELANEY: --because rejecting that deal is effectively Trumpian view of the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're going to have to leave it there because I have to take a quick break. Thank you very much-- 

DELANEY: Thank you, Margaret.