Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Here's Everything Feds Need to Know About Wednesday's GOP Debates

Republican presidential candidates share their thoughts on reforming the federal government.

Fifteen Republican candidates debated a wide variety of issues in a primetime debate Wednesday. The top 11 contenders in polls engaged in nearly three hours of political barbs and bickering. Here are the highlights of the discussion of issues that related to reforming the federal government and its workforce, listed in order in which they occurred.

  • Carly Fiorina: The former Hewlett-Packard executive wasted no time going after the bureaucracy, saying in her opening statement, “Government has grown too big, too powerful, too inept, too corrupt.” She followed that up later in the debate by citing a recent Veterans Affairs Department inspector general report that “307,000 veterans have died waiting for health care.” She added the problem was that “no one will challenge the status quo.”
  • Scott Walker: The Wisconsin governor cited the hack of data maintained by the Office of Personnel Management that affected virtually all federal employees. Walker said he would not hold a state dinner for Chinese leaders because they carried a “massive cyber attack against” our country.
  • John Kasich: The Ohio governor came out against a government shutdown over funding for Planned Parenthood. “When it comes to closing down the federal government, we should be very careful about that,” Kasich said. “All we're going to do is shut the government down and then we’re going to open it up.”
  • Ted Cruz: The Texas senator took the opposite approach, saying Republicans need to stop “preemptively surrendering to President Obama.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie seemed to suggest a similar strategy.
  • Ben Carson: The retired neurosurgeon echoed a sentiment expressed by Christie that we need to beef up the number of Border Patrol agents along the southern border. He also criticized the enforcement policies by Immigration and Customs and Enforcement. Christie also said federal law enforcement should use more drones and fingerprinting to track immigrants.
  • Donald Trump: The billionaire businessman said that all it takes to enforce his controversial plan to deport all undocumented immigrants is “good management” at the federal level.
  • Marco Rubio: The Florida senator had an interesting example of a bloated bureaucracy. “The federal government does all sorts of things it shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “It regulates bathrooms.”
  • Jeb Bush: As the debate turned to foreign policy, the former Florida governor said we must end sequestration, but only as it relates to military spending.
  • Carson: When discussing mandated vaccinations, Carson said “A lot of this is pushed by big government.” He noted there are 4.1 million federal employees -- a number that includes the civilian, postal and military workforce -- and “650 federal agencies and departments,” which he said was responsible for the nation’s high tax rates.  

Prior to the 11 Republican frontrunners taking the stage, CNN held the “undercard” debate for those who didn’t qualify for the main event. The early round saw some heated back-and-forths between the four candidates participating, including between former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and current South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham.

  • Santorum: The former senator voiced the most specific federal employee policy of the early debate, saying he would cut the federal workforce by “10 percent across the board.”
  • Graham: There was one piece of good news for feds from a presidential contender. The fiery senator said, with regard to defunding Planned Parenthood and other fights important to the Republican Party, “The one thing I’m not going to do going into 2016 is shut the government down."
  • Bobby Jindal: The Louisiana governor took issue with Graham’s refusal to fight by whatever means necessary. He said, “It’s time to have Republicans with a backbone in D.C.,” insinuating that, unlike Graham, he would be willing to shut the government down.