John Locher/AP

Here's Everything Federal Employees Need to Know About Tuesday's Democratic Debate

Candidates touch on veterans' issues, family leave and NSA surveillance.

After two Republican debates, the five major Democratic candidates took to the debate stage for the first time Tuesday night. They spoke to a wide range of issues over the course of two hours. Here are the (limited) highlights of the discussion of issues that related to reforming the federal government and its workforce, listed in order in which they occurred.

  • Jim Webb: The former Virginia senator used his opening remarks to flaunt his government service, as a U.S. marine and as a civilian, when he was secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan. He also trumpeted his role in passing a bill to give more education benefits to veterans.
  • Bernie Sanders: The independent Vermont senator discussed his authorship of a law that reformed health care service provided by the Veterans Affairs Department. That law also gave the VA secretary more authority to fire the department’s senior executives quickly.
  • Hillary Clinton: The former State secretary discussed her choice to use a private email address while she led the department. As she has in the past, she called that decision a mistake. Sanders defended Clinton, saying the American people were tired of hearing about her “damn emails.”
  • Clinton: The former New York senator praised the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency created in 2011.
  • Sanders: The senator was asked about why it took so long to get to the bottom of scandals at VA. “I was chairman for two years,” Sanders said of his short stint leading the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. “And when I was chairman, we did take action.” He praised the law’s funding that allowed VA to hire new doctors and nurses.
  • Clinton: The former senator said she did not regret her vote authorizing the National Security Agency to conduct mass surveillance on American citizens. Sanders noted he was the lone senator to vote against that bill. All the candidates indicated they would follow through with pursuing legal action against Edward Snowden, with Clinton noting he could have sought whistleblower protections afforded to federal employees and contractors.  
  • Sanders: Both the Vermont senator and Clinton discussed their desire to create a federal mandate requiring paid family leave. President Obama has used federal employees as a guinea pig on that subject, ordering agencies to advance their workers up to six weeks of paid sick leave to care for a new child or ill family member. Obama has also asked lawmakers to pass a bill granting another six weeks of paid leave for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, though Congress has yet to pass such a bill.
  • Webb: In his closing remarks, Webb made the most direct reference to federal management of anyone on the debate stage. He said the next president will have to deal with, “How you run and manage the most complex bureaucracy in the world."