Democratic debate: Hillary Clinton hits Bernie Sanders on auto bailout

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MIAMI – Hillary Clinton returned to her attack on Bernie Sanders for failing to bail out the auto industry during a heated Democratic presidential debate Wednesday.

“Let’s talk about the auto bailout because I think it is important for people to understand what happened,” Clinton said at the Univision debate in Miami that’s simulcasting on CNN.

Clinton noted that in December 2008, she and Sanders both voted to support an auto bailout that was blocked by Republicans. But before President Barack Obama took office in 2009, the bailout was folded into a bailout bill for financial firms.

“Sen. Sanders voted against it,” Clinton said. “That is his perfect right to vote against it, but if everyone had voted as he voted, we would not have rescued the auto industry.”

It was a noteworthy position for Clinton since she took a similar stance in the run-up to the Michigan primary, betting that it would resonate in the heart of the auto industry. But it didn’t — she lost Michigan to Sanders in a surprise result and exit polls there indicated Democratic voters trusted the Vermont senator more on issues related to the economy and trade.

Sanders hit back by again tying Clinton to Wall Street. He argued the broader bill was the “bailout of the recklessness, irresponsibility and illegal behavior of Wall Street. It was the Wall Street bailout.”

‘Very close race’

If Clinton was shaken by her loss in Michigan, she didn’t show it on the debate stage. She sought to downplay the impact of her surprise loss Tuesday to Sanders in Michigan.

“It was a very close race,” Clinton said. “I have won some, I have lost some.”

She added that with her win in Mississippi, she won 100,000 votes more than Sanders on Tuesday and that she built her lead in the delegate race.

Sanders, however, said he pulled off what “some people considered one of the major political upsets in modern American history” in Michigan, which he said proved that Americans backed his effort to stand up to Wall Street. He said that his win could also sway super delegates to conclude that he was the best Democratic candidate to take on Republican front-runner Donald Trump in a general election.

Clinton also bristled when asked about her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state. Moderator Jorge Ramos pressed Clinton on whether she would drop out of the presidential race if she is indicted.

“Oh for goodness, that is not going to happen,” Clinton said. “I’m not even going to answer that question.”

Clashing on immigration

The candidates waged an extended confrontation over immigration reform, which is of special interest to the Spanish-speaking audience of Univision.

Clinton rebuked Sanders for opposing a comprehensive immigration reform effort during President George W. Bush’s administration. Sanders said he supported the overall goal of the bill but was opposed to guest worker provisions that he believed would undercut wages for U.S. workers and impose punitive conditions on foreign laborers.

But both rivals pledged that they would not deport undocumented immigrants who were not accused of a crime and both supported a path to citizenship for such people.

And they took aim at Trump, and his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border and vow to deport 11 million undocumented migrants.

Clinton mocked the billionaire for vowing to build “the most beautiful, tall wall, better than the Great Wall of China.”

Sanders slammed Trump for the “vulgar, absurd idea,” of rounding up undocumented migrants and deporting them.

Sanders also renewed his attack on Clinton for failing to release transcripts of her speeches to top financial institutions after she left the State Department. Asked whether he believed that she was saying one thing in private and another thing to Wall Street firms privately, Sanders said, “That is exactly what releasing the transcripts will tell us.”

Clinton, who has said she will release her transcripts if other candidates — including Republicans — do the same, said she had the toughest plan to rein in Wall Street.

Sanders hit back: “I am dangerous for Wall Street.”

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