Democratic presidential candidates on Saturday spoke harshly about big banks and vowed to be tough on the financial sector, which continues to feature in the debates for the 2016 race.
In the second Democratic debate, held at Drake University in Iowa, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said more needs to be done to rein in the financial sector.
Much of their rhetoric about the sector was similar to what they said during the first Democratic debate held last month in Las Vegas.
On Saturday, Sanders and O’Malley criticized Clinton for her Wall Street ties, which include her and her husband's acceptance of speaking fees.
“Let's not be naive about it,” Sanders said. “Why over her political career has Wall Street been the major campaign contributor to Hillary Clinton?”
Clinton, who represented New York in the U.S. Senate during the financial crisis, defended her record.
“You could look at what I did in the Senate,” she said. “I did introduce legislation to rein in compensation. … and specifically said to Wall Street that what they were doing in the mortgage market was bringing our country down.”
Global terrorism, gun control and the minimum wage were among other areas covered in the roughly two-hour debate hosted by CBS News and The Des Moines Register.
The financial sector has been a recurring topic in debates for both parties. Earlier this month, candidates sparred over bank bailouts and regulations during the fourth GOP debate. During that debate, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said he wouldn’t rescue Charlotte-based Bank of America if it were near failure.
As he did in the first Democratic debate, Sanders called for busting up the largest banks in America. He referenced the 26th president, who pushed to end business monopolies.
“If Teddy Roosevelt, a good Republican, were alive today, you know what he'd say? ‘Break them up,’” Sanders said.
Clinton also said she would break up big banks that “don’t play by the rules” and pledged to “go after executives who are responsible for the decisions that have such bad consequences for our country.”
Candidates on Saturday also brought up the Glass-Steagall Act, a Depression-era banking law also mentioned in the first Democratic debate.
The law, repealed by legislation then-President Bill Clinton signed in 1999, took down the wall splitting traditional banks and their government-insured deposits from activities some perceive as riskier, like investment banking.
Sanders and O'Malley both want the law reinstated. Clinton said she’d go further in an effort to be even tougher on the financial sector.
“Reinstating Glass-Steagall is a part of what very well could help, but it is nowhere near enough,” she said. “I go after all of Wall Street, not just the big banks.”
O’Malley described Clinton's plans for Wall Street as “weak tea.”
“There's lots of good people that work in finance,” O’Malley said. “But Secretary Clinton, we need to step up. And we need to protect Main Street from Wall Street. And you can't do that by campaigning as the candidate of Wall Street.”
If elected, “I won't be taking my orders from Wall Street,” he said. “Our economy was wrecked by the big banks of Wall Street.”