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Sunday August 18th, 2019 5:05AM

The Latest: Williamson says "fine" with vaccine mandates

By The Associated Press
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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Latest on Democratic presidential contenders in Nevada (all times local):

1:40 p.m.

Bernie Sanders says union workers will be better off under his switch to his government-run "Medicare for All" health insurance proposal because they'll get better coverage and it will give them more clout at the bargaining table.

The Vermont senator and presidential candidate told union members in Las Vegas on Saturday that when union members currently negotiate their contracts they often have to trade off benefits in their health plan against pay raises and other conditions. He says that with guaranteed government health care, the unions will then be free to "sit down and negotiate decent wage increases."

Some unions have said they worry about giving up their hard-fought health care plans under a "Medicare for All" plan.

---

12:20 p.m.

Author and presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson says she's "fine" with schools requiring children to get vaccines before they can attend.

The Democratic presidential candidate was pressed on her position on vaccines at a forum of union workers in Las Vegas. She has faced pushback for suggesting recently the government shouldn't be able to tell anyone what to do with their children. She later said she misspoke.

Williamson later told reporters she would, as president, tell parents to have their children vaccinated. She also says she would boost funding for the Food and Drug Administration to do "independent reviews" of drugs including vaccines. She's expressing distrust with pharmaceutical companies and the way they review and promote drugs.

Williamson also says the job of the president is to be a moral leader and that she would select a vice president who understands the workings of Washington.

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11:30 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden says he's "against any Democrat who wants to get rid of Obamacare."

Biden on Saturday reiterated his argument from the Democratic presidential debates this week that people should be able to keep their employer-based insurance if they want, instead of switching to a government-run system.

Biden, speaking to members of the country's largest public employees union in Las Vegas, said the American people didn't even know everything that was in President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act until Republicans started to try to repeal parts of the law.

Biden stood up and began raising his voice as he defended the law, saying it helped Democrats win elections around the country in 2018.

Biden then said he's against any Republican or Democrat who wants to get rid of the law.

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10:20 a.m.

Elizabeth Warren says broad, vocal support from Americans across the country would allow her as president to pass her numerous policy plans through Congress even if Republicans retain power in the Senate.

The Democratic presidential candidate spoke Saturday at a union forum in Las Vegas. Warren says vocal activism from around the country kept Republicans in 2017 from repealing the Affordable Care Act despite GOP control of Congress. She says that same activism would help her plans become law.

Warren, speaking before about 500 members of the nation's largest public employees union, says that labor would have a voice at the table in a Warren administration as she tries to move the country to a government-run "Medicare for All" health insurance system.

The Massachusetts senator says she'd make sure that union members and other workers are "fully compensated for what they've negotiated for" under their private insurance plans. She didn't explain how that would occur.

---

9:45 a.m.

Julian Castro says he's not attacking former president Barack Obama's record when he says Democrats can learn from the past on immigration policy.

Castro was one of 19 Democratic presidential candidates speaking to union members Saturday in Nevada, an early voting state.

Castro says Obama's administration got "better over time" on immigration by deporting fewer people. He says rival Joe Biden is being disingenuous by accusing Castro of attacking Obama in the recent presidential debate.

Castro, who served in Obama's cabinet, says he has been "effusive" in his praise of Obama but believes Democrats can "keep getting better."

He says Democrats should have used their majorities early in Obama's presidency to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

---

9:10 a.m.

The president of the nation's largest public employees union says his members support the idea of a single-payer government health insurance program even though they've negotiated for hard-fought benefits under private plans.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Lee Saunders says he welcomes the debate among Democratic presidential candidates over whether to eliminate employer-provided health insurance under "Medicare for All" but labor needs to have a voice in discussions about changing America's health care system.

Saunders made the comments to reporters Saturday as his union prepared to host 19 presidential candidates in Las Vegas. He says his union representing 1.6 million workers has not decided if it will endorse in the Democratic primary but will take its time considering because they've "got a lot of friends in the race."

---

1 a.m.

Nineteen Democrats hoping to be the next president have arrived in Nevada seeking support from labor unions in the early voting state.

They'll speak to roughly 500 union members Saturday at a forum by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The public employees union boasts 1.6 million members nationally.

Top contenders such as former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders will be in attendance. Many candidates are hosting other events around Las Vegas as well.

Nevada will be the third state, and the first in the West, where Democratic voters will cast ballots in next year's primary.

Nevada voters often cite the economy as one of the top concerns they want the next president to address.

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