Long-simmering health care policy disputes between Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren exploded into the open during Thursday night’s Democratic primary debate, as the candidates — often with raised voices — laid bare their fundamental disagreements on “Medicare-for-all.”
Amid the melee, Pete Buttigieg criticized the Democrats for “scoring points against each other, poking at each other” — prompting Julian Casto to interject, “That’s called an election!
“Yeah, but a house divided cannot stand,” Amy Klobuchar retorted.
The brouhaha on stage began from the outset, when Biden set the tone by going after Warren directly: “I know the senator says she’s for Bernie. Well, I’m for Barack.”
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“For a socialist, you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do,” Biden shot back at Sanders shortly afterward, after the Vermont senator suggested corporations would return the money they currently make on high insurance premiums if his sweeping plan were implemented.
Biden then drilled Warren and Sanders for refusing to directly answer whether taxes would go up under their preferred Medicare-for-all proposal.
“The only question here in terms of difference is where to send the bill,” Warren eventually offered.
She added: “We all owe a huge debt to President Obama, who fundamentally transformed health care in America, and committed this country to health care for every human being. And now the question is—how best can we improve on it?”
Warren maintained that she had “never actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company… what they want is access to health care.”
Sanders, his voice rising, repeated a familiar line in defense of his Medicare for All plan against supposed distortions by his opponents, saying, “I wrote the damn bill.”
From left, presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are introduced Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, before a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
“While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill,” Klobuchar snapped back later, to applause. Klobuchar, who does not support Medicare for All, maintained that millions would lose their private coverage.
Castro and Biden tangled at length, as well, in direct and personal terms.
“I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you’re not,” Castro said — leading Biden to respond, “That’ll be a surprise to him.”
Castro hammered Biden for suggesting individuals would not be required to buy into his health care plan in order to receive coverage: “You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in … Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?”
Some commentators said Castro’s jab was an improper, thinly veiled reference to Biden’s age.
The top 10 Democratic candidates vying for the White House took the stage Thursday evening at a long-awaited debate in Houston at Texas Southern University, with frontrunner Biden in the center — alongside Warren, his fastest-rising rival.
The kickoff of the three-hour debate marked the first time that Biden has shared a stage with Warren, who has vowed to focus on policy proposals.
“A house divided cannot stand.”
— Amy Klobuchar, as debate intensified
But it also immediately brought about a bizarre moment, when longshot candidate Andrew Yang revealed he would randomly ten families that registered on his website $1,000 per month — what he called a “freedom dividend.”
The plan prompted a sustained moment of silence from Pete Buttigieg, who took several seconds to begin his own opening statement once Yang finished, and eventually said, “That’s original, I’ll give it that.”
Yang has advanced a plan to give every American at least $1,000 per month if elected — via taxpayer funds.
Earlier in the day, Warren unveiled a plan to increase monthly Social Security benefits by $200 for every current and future beneficiary, calling it “the biggest and most progressive increase in Social Security benefits in nearly half a century.”
WARREN, BIDEN ISSUE VEILED PRE-DEBATE JABS
For the other candidates, the evening offered an opportunity for an electric moment and a potential momentum boost. Harris’ sustained attack on Biden’s decades-old opposition to federally required busing during the June primary debate gained her the nation’s attention, even as critics said she had mischaracterized the former senator’s position.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 23: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during the Democratic Presidential Committee (DNC) summer meeting on August 23, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Thirteen of the democratic presidential candidates are speaking at the DNC’s summer meeting. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Harris’ numbers have fallen since that moment, and big-money donors reportedly said this week they would abandon her candidacy if she didn’t have a strong performance on Thursday.
“Kamala will take on Donald Trump directly,” Harris press secretary Ian Sams promised.
In her opening statement, Harris did just that. She dubiously claimed that the only reason Trump has not been indicted is that Justice Department guidelines prohibit the indictment of a sitting president — a proposition Special Counsel Robert Mueller has explicitly denied.
For his part, Trump will be visible during the debate in Houston — overhead. His campaign said it will use a plane to fly a banner that reads “Socialism will kill Houston’s economy.”
“Socialism SUCKS and @TeamTrump is flying high above the Dem debate in Houston to remind the circus in town that their policies will hurt Houston, Texas and America!” Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted on Wednesday.
The campaign told Fox News this is the first time they’ve done a flyover at the Democratic primary debates. But they note they used a similar tactic on Labor Day, flying banners over beachgoers in a number of cities, urging people to add their phone numbers to the campaign’s list of supporters.
More marginal candidates have suggested they might have also have some surprises in store. O’Rourke, who responded to a question in Spanish during a previous debate appearance, has recently revamped his campaign and focused largely on pushing unprecedented gun-control measures — including mandatory buybacks of legal firearms.
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In his opening statement, O’Rourke urged Americans to be “bigger” than petty politics — just after he stated that the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas was inspired by the president. In his manifesto, the shooter explicitly said Trump had not done so.
foxnews.com · by @gregg_re