Transcript: Sen. Bernie Sanders on "Face the Nation," March 31, 2019

Bernie Sanders on prescription drug prices

The following is a transcript of the interview with Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont that aired Sunday, March 31, 2019, on "Face the Nation"


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We begin this morning with Vermont independent senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders. He joins us from Burlington. Good morning to you, Senator. Let's--

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --start off because I do want to get to some of your platform issues but let's start with these allegations from Lucy Flores. She is a Nevada politician who you had endorsed and who in the past has been supportive of you. She hasn't endorsed a candidate in this particular race but she's accused Vice President Joe Biden of inappropriate touching. You know her, do you believe her? What do you make of this?

SEN. SANDERS: I have no reason not to believe Lucy. And- and I think what this speaks to is the need to fundamentally change the culture of this country and to create environments where women feel comfortable and feel safe. And that's something we have got to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to read a statement from the vice president who said, it- it's a lengthy one but in just part of it he says, "In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I've offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort and not once, never did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully but it was never my intention." That's a general denial, but Ms. Flores was on CNN this morning, senator and she said that really this needs to be taken more seriously as a party, suggesting that Democrats aren't taking it seriously enough. And she said she's coming forth--

SEN. SANDERS: Well I don't know that that's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --well she says she's coming forth now because she thinks it's disqualifying for Joe Biden. Do you think it's disqualifying?

SEN. SANDERS: Well I think that's a decision for the vice president to make. I'm not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody, but her point is absolutely right. This is an issue not just the Democrats or Republicans, the entire country has got to take seriously. It is not acceptable that when a woman goes to work or is in any kind of environment that she feels anything less than comfortable and safe. And this is an issue the entire country has got to work on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I know your own campaign has had some reckoning with this as well in the past.

SEN. SANDERS: And- and, Margaret we have established the strongest protocols to prevent this from happening of any campaign in history.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get to the issue of health care. The president this week said he wants the courts to strike down Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. But to be fair senator, you want to replace Obamacare, too. You want to replace it with Medicare for all, this government run, government financed program.

SEN. SANDERS: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So if the courts strike down the ACA does that ultimately help you?

SEN. SANDERS: No. No- look, yes Trump has an idea on health care. His idea is to throw 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they have, doing away with insurance for kids who are 26 years of age or younger who are on their parent's plans, doing away with the protections that the ACA has for pre-existing conditions, Margaret. That means if you have cancer, you have heart disease, you have diabetes. If Trump gets his way the cost of health insurance for you will be so high that many people literally will not be able to afford it. Thousands of people will literally die. That's Trump's health insurance plan. My plan's just a little bit different. I think we should join the rest of the industrialized world. Guarantee health care to all people as a right. End the absurdity of the United States spending twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation while our life expectancy is actually going down and our health care outcomes are worse than many other countries. And by the way, we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Margaret let me make a campaign promise to you and you can repeat this, play this tape over if I'm elected president. And that is, if I am elected president I'm going to cut prescription drug costs in this country by 50 percent so that we are not paying any more than other major countries are paying. Maybe we can do better than that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How are you going to do that?

SEN. SANDERS: Because we will look at the average costs of prescription drugs in Canada, the UK, Germany, Japan and France.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well--

SEN. SANDERS: We will look at their average costs which are 50 percent lower than they are in the United States and we will do that. And if the--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president--

SEN. SANDERS: --pharmaceutical industry- if the pharmaceutical industry which made 50-- the five major companies made 50 billion dollars in profits last year. They pay their CEOs outrageous compensation packages. If they don't like that then we'll take a look at their patents.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When are you going to re-introduce--

SEN. SANDERS: But you have people--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --your Medicare for all plan in this Congress? You've already got five--

SEN. SANDERS: We are going to--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --people supporting it--

SEN. SANDERS: We are going to do that within the next couple--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --five senators.

SEN. SANDERS: --of weeks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Next couple of weeks?

SEN. SANDERS: We are going to do-- yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So--

SEN. SANDERS: And- and by the way, when we- when we do that, what we understand is that it is just not acceptable that 30 million Americans have no health insurance. And even more are underinsured with high deductibles and high copayments.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you won't--

SEN. SANDERS: So where we are right now- I'm sorry go ahead.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So I want to also ask you though because we have what the president is calling a crisis at the border. He's threatening to shut down portions of it this week. He has given the order to cut off aid to Central American countries. Do you think this helps? Do you think this hurts? And can Congress stop this cut off in aid?

SEN. SANDERS: Well we're going to do everything we can to stop it. It's totally absurd. Look, you have--

MARGARET BRENNAN: How can you stop--

SEN. SANDERS: --a terrible--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The State Department says--

SEN. SANDERS: Well you just--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --they're already trying to enact the cuts.

SEN. SANDERS: Well you can stop it by overriding what he is doing and making sure that we fund these programs. Look here is the story. You have a terrible humanitarian crisis. You have women and children traveling a thousand miles or more, often by foot, in order to escape the violence and poverty in their countries. So what we need to do of course is A, comprehensive immigration reform but B, we need to make sure that our borders are secure but also we need a humane policy at the border in which we are not yanking tiny children--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So would you keep--

SEN. SANDERS: --from the arms of their mothers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --these children in detention?

SEN. SANDERS: That's not what America is about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Or--

SEN. SANDERS: Pardon me?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you keep these children in detention longer or deport them faster? What would you do?

SEN. SANDERS: You need a humane policy. These are- you know when you- when you lock up children, when you separate children from their mothers. This is a traumatic situation which these children, many of them will never recover from. You need a humane humanitarian policy at the border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You, today, have hit this benchmark, you know, end of first quarter funding financing for the campaign. I believe you said you wanted one million donors by this time. Did you meet--

SEN. SANDERS: One million--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that goal?

SEN. SANDERS: --contributions. One million--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you meet the goal?

SEN. SANDERS: --contributions. I'm not quite sure. But I am enormously impressed by the many, many, hundreds of thousands of Americans who are making contributions. Many of them are very small contributions. I am also impressed by the fact that we have over one million people from every state in this country who have volunteered to work on what will be an unprecedented grassroots campaign. Look, Margaret, the way we win the Democratic nomination, the way we beat Trump- who in my mind is the most dangerous president in modern American history- is through a massive grassroots effort, which demands that we have an economy and a government which works for all of us and not just the one percent. That we end this massive level of income and wealth inequality where three of the wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom half of Americans, while at the same time over half the people in this country are working paycheck to paycheck.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you be--

SEN. SANDERS: They cannot afford a health care--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --releasing your-your tax returns? Senator Gillibrand did so this week, or some of them.

SEN. SANDERS: Yeah, we will. I mean, we have it all done and it's just a question of dotting the i's and crossing the t's. Yes, we will, absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So--

SEN. SANDERS: And by the way, let me challenge President Trump to do the same. Trust me, we do not have investments in Russia or Saudi Arabia or anyplace else. Yes, we will be releasing them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, we'll be watching your campaign. Look forward to talking to you again sometime soon.

SEN. SANDERS: Thank you.