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September Democratic Debate: Live updates from Houston

NBC News' live blog with the top coverage of the third democratic primary debate for the 2020 presidential election hosted by ABC in Texas on September 12, 2019.
Image: Democratic Debate Live Blog
Adrian Lam / NBC News

The 10 leading Democratic candidates faced off on the same stage for the first time in Houston Thursday night. Health care, education, trade, racial inequality, immigration and gun control were once again front and center. Read on for the biggest moments, fact-checks and analysis.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the third Democratic debate.

Live Blog

Fact check: Are 30 million people uninsured in America?

“Right now, 30 million Americans don’t have coverage,” Harris said of the state of health care in the U.S. Thursday night.

This is mostly true. The Census Bureau released data this week that found that 27.5 million people were uninsured for all of 2018, while another 10.6 million reported they had health care for less than the entire year. The number of uninsured Americans rose from 2017.

Impeachment going unmentioned

The debate entered its third hour and moderators have not yet asked about impeachment, and none of the candidates have mentioned it even though earlier in the day, the House Judiciary Committee took a major step in its ongoing investigation into whether to recommend the filing of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. 

Passed along party lines, the committee adopted a resolution that set procedures and rules for future impeachment investigation hearings

Several of the Democratic presidential candidates have voiced support for impeachment proceedings to begin against the president, while others have been more cautious on the issue. Impeachment came up at the last Democratic debate in late July in Detroit, but not until the latter half of the event.

While Democrats have not set a deadline for recommending articles of impeachment, congressional staff have suggested a pre-election year timeframe, and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said this week he’d like to decide it “rather rapidly.”

Fact check: Sanders on job losses in America due to NAFTA, China

Sanders said the effects of NAFTA, combined with the effects of granting “permanent normal trade relations” status to China, often referred to as PNTR, cost the U.S. 4 million jobs.

“Joe and I strongly disagree on trade. I helped lead the opposition, the NAFTA, the PNTR, which cost this country over 4 million good-paying jobs,” Sanders said of Biden's views. 

This appears to be true, according to several reputable analyses. As NBC News’ Carrie Dann reported in February during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, job losses resulting from NAFTA tend to be overstated — but one major study found that more than 850,000 jobs were displaced by the pact. 

Robert E. Scott of the pro-labor Economic Policy Institute found that about 851,700 U.S. jobs were displaced by the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico between 1993 (shortly before NAFTA was implemented) and 2014. That’s a data point that was cited by Sanders during his 2016 campaign, when he frequently decried job losses due to NAFTA. (Other studies, however, have found the job losses to be far less.)

When it comes to granting PNTR status to China, which President George W. Bush formally granted in 2001 after China entered the World Trade Organization, U.S. job losses have been larger, according to studies.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service wrote in 2018, citing a 2014 study by the Economic Policy Institute, that “growth in the U.S. goods trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013 eliminated or displaced 3.2 million U.S. jobs (three-fourths of which were in manufacturing).”

If you add the 851,700 figure with the 3.2 million figure, you would see a figure that approximates the 4 million figure that Sanders referred to Thursday night. 

Booker, vegan, asked in Texas: Should more Americans follow your diet?

When asked if Americans should follow his diet, Booker, a vegan, said “no,” emphasizing the answer in English and Spanish.

The gag landed, but Booker would not likely gain much support in the polls with any other answer, as a 2018 Gallup poll found that just 3 percent of Americans called themselves vegan in 2018 — and just 5 percent more say they’re vegetarian. 

Booker turned his answer to a denunciation of the environmental costs of corporate farming, and then took a hard pivot to the plight of homeless and sick veterans. 

What are the candidates talking about on climate?

Several candidates discussed their plans for climate change, where much of the field have put out multitrillion-dollar plans to invest in renewable energy, research and infrastructure and issue new regulations on buildings, cars and power plants. 

To read about all the candidates’ individual plans and an explanation of the Green New Deal resolution driving the debate, check out our issue page. 

Beto fundraising off assault weapons pledge

It's a clear reference to Warren "having a plan for that."

Fact check: Does the U.S. spend twice as much on health care as 'any other major country on Earth?'

"Let us be clear Joe, in the United States of America, we are spending twice as much per capita on health care as the Canadians and any other major country on Earth," Sanders said on Thursday.

Overall, this claim is exaggerated. The U.S. actually spent more than twice as much per capita on health care as Canada, but the nation isn't spending twice as much as "any other major country on Earth."

The U.S. spends $10,586 per capita on health care, according to data from the intergovernmental Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It's twice as much — or more — per capita on health care as many other countries, but not all of them. Switzerland, for instance, pays $7,317 per capita. The U.S. also far outspends countries like Russia, which spends $1,514 on health care per capita.

Timing is everything

The longer answers afforded the candidates tonight are providing candidates with the chance to make nuanced and more complete points, but it also means some candidates can entirely disappear for long periods of time.

That’s making it a bit disjointed, especially since after the health care exchange, there hasn’t been too many heated exchanges between candidates. Right now, it’s mostly oratory.

Buttigieg hits Trump’s Scotland problem

In the midst of talking about U.S. foreign policy and Afghanistan, Buttigieg hits on a recent Trump scandal in which a U.S. Air Force crew was found to have stayed at one of the president’s hotels during a layover in Scotland. He pivoted to saying that, as someone who served in Afghanistan, he understands the responsibilities of military command and would not let U.S. troops down.

Warren gets direct with Afghanistan promise

Joe Biden is the most-attacked candidate so far

And Bernie Sanders has delivered the most attacks.