Former Vice President Joe Biden, center, speaks as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, far left, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Kamala Harris listen during the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston, Texas, on Thursday night. Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Biden clashes with Warren, Sanders on healthcare in Democratic 2020 debate

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By Tim Reid and Joseph Ax

Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden clashed with progressive challengers Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on healthcare in a debate on Thursday, defending Obamacare and pushing them to be honest about the cost of their plans.

The top 10 Democratic candidates shared the debate stage for the first time in Houston, focusing more on their shared opposition to Republican President Donald Trump and paring back some of the bickering that marked the first two debates this summer.

But the Democrats were quick to leap into battle on healthcare, the issue that has ignited the most heated debates in the campaign for the party's nomination to face Trump in the November 2020 election.

Biden, who served as vice president for eight years under Barack Obama, said he would build on his landmark 2010 Affordable Care Act, and accused Warren and Sanders of wanting to tear it down with Medicare for All, a proposed government-run healthcare program that would eliminate private insurance.

"I know that the senator says she's for Bernie. Well I'm for Barack. I think Obamacare worked," Biden said, asking Warren and Sanders to explain how they would pay for their plans. "This is about candor, honesty, big ideas."

Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts who has moved into second behind Biden in many opinion polls of the Democratic race, praised Obama's healthcare efforts but said more was needed.

"Now the question is how best can we improve on it," she said, adding that under Medicare for All, those at the top would pay more but the middle class would pay less.

Aside from the exchange over healthcare, the moderate front-runner Biden and the rising Warren avoided confrontation, as Sanders and former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro led the charge against Biden.

Sanders, who sponsored a bill in the U.S. Senate to create a Medicare for All plan, said the program based on the existing government-run Medicare program for Americans 65 and older was the most cost-effective approach. Some analysts have estimated his plan would cost $32 trillion over a decade.

Biden said his proposal would give Americans more options, including staying with their plans if they like them.

"I’ve never actually met anybody who likes their health insurance company," Warren fired back.

Castro accused Biden of flip-flopping in his description of his own plan.

"Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?" Castro, 44, asked Biden, 76, who has faced questions about his age.

When Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, noted the exchange was what people did not like about politicians, Castro shot back: "That's called an election.”

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota also tried to calm things down, noting: "A house divided cannot stand," quoting from a famous speech by Abraham Lincoln.

Biden was sharper and more aggressive than in either of the first two debates, when he came under frequent attack for his record on race and criminal justice during his long tenure in the U.S. Senate.

The candidates made an effort to praise the legacy of Obama, after facing criticism from some Democrats after the last debate for attacking his policies on healthcare and immigration.

But Castro, who has lagged badly in opinion polls, accused Biden of being quick to tie himself to Obama when it suited him and walk away when it did not.

"He wants to take credit for Obama's work but not have to answer any questions," Castro, who served in Obama's administration, said in his second attack of the night on Biden.

Sanders took aim at Biden's vote as a senator to authorize the U.S. military invasion of Iraq. He said: "I never believed" either President George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney's arguments in favor of the invasion.

The debate was narrowed to one night and 10 candidates after the party toughened the requirements for qualifying. The previous two Democratic debates in June and July were split over two nights.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang opened the debate by promising to give $1,000 a month to 10 Americans for the next year, calling it a "freedom dividend." The offer drew laughs from a few other contenders.

"It's original, I'll give you that," Buttigieg said.

The sharp bickering during the first two rounds of the debates dismayed some Democrats, who have urged the candidates to rein in their attacks and focus on laying out their own affirmative agendas.

The candidates this time tried to emphasize their areas of agreement. Biden praised former U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke for his work after a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, drawing a sustained ovation from the debate crowd.

O'Rourke, who has called for gun licensing and a mandatory gun buyback for assault weapons, was asked if he was going to take away people's guns.

"I am if it was a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield," he said. "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47."

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

50 Comments
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Entrepreneur Andrew Yang opened the debate by promising to give $1,000 a month to 10 Americans for the next year, calling it a "freedom dividend." The offer drew laughs from a few other contenders.

"It's original, I'll give you that," Buttigieg said.

This not an original idea but goes back to Thomas Paign. It's the Trickle Up Theory because Down never worked.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

wow, talk about a media blackout. Andrew Yang was in that debate but you would never know with that photo

13 ( +13 / -0 )

What's the point of all this though? Clearly Trump is going to win again in 2020....

-7 ( +7 / -14 )

The Democrats were now playing "Old man politics"! Sanders,Biden they will be the oldest POTUS if they were elected!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

A pretty sorry bunch.  Biden should play up his action man/man of the people/friend of the military shtick.  The rest of them should continue to espouse their ridiculous policies designed to play to one or other faction of the Dems.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

What's the point of all this though? Clearly Trump is going to win again in 2020....

Unless they nominate Tulsi Gabbard, and they won't, this is just to see who's going to lose to Trump badly.

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

Not one candidate on that stage has a chance against Trump. Biden wears a suit well but that won't get him elected.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

Unless they nominate Tulsi Gabbard, and they won't, this is just to see who's going to lose to Trump badly.

We'll see if this follows in the Some path as the vast majority of your other predictions, which is to the conclusion of being incorrect.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

more comedy to enjoy but I think Booker and Castro are the wittiest. Harris is lost, Biden senile, Warren and Bernie becoming more loony, and the guy from Indiana tries to exploit it for his gain. I hope they keep up the "good" works and efforts so Trump can tear it up in 2020.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

the keep saying the same thing..."the sky is falling and huge colossal problems like climate change immigration health care."

things arent so bad, trying to find what these huge colossal problems are with good employment numbers, an immigration system now in control, trade polices that work for the US, etc etc, The only thing I can find is the gun violence, but they have never been able to solve that.

but if they get in power, things will surely become bad, on a colossal scale. Tax everything and everyone, sanctuary cities and free needles...straight to the abyss.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

The Democratic debate just finished. My first thoughts:

These are good people who care about Americans and America! Each on stage running for president are smart and capable. Each are a far cry better than Trump and his weak Republicans quacking in their boots if they step out of Trump's temper tantrum tweets.

Vote blue and our country will be better off than today! I can now sleep soundly with confidence for the future and the country I love.

-1 ( +9 / -10 )

It matters not. Vote Blue, no matter who. Here's how: y use the FPCA (Fedral Post Card Application) for your voter registration/ballot request. Make sure you set a reminder for January 1 every year and send in a FPCA (Federal Post Card Application) ballot request form. You can do it completely online at www.votefromabroad.org Then you are guaranteed special protections for US citizens living abroad.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Now you can see and hear for yourself how the Democratic Party is imploding. At least Clinton (Bill) an Obama had charisma.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Vote red.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Do these debates really achieve anything?

Were Trump supporters here impressed by his knob joke, childish name-calling and complete ignorance of substantive issues?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

so Trump can tear it up in 2020.

Well, longtermer, I think Trump is tearing things up just fine right now. Like the long-time tradition and law of applying for asylum on reaching American soil. GONE. Uh, clean water, GONE, EPA pollution standards GONE.

Uh, decency, and class at the White House (Now, trashy fast food is served, and insults are routinely given to anyone who might displease Dear Egomanic) GONE, Uh, having morality (hiring a prostitute--getting away with soliciting, getting away with LYING about paying off prostitute 150,000 dollars--which would have let an an impeachment of any other president and JAIL TIME), GONE, and the economy is now GONE with his temper tantrum trade wars, and him now pushing NEGATIVE interest rates. GONE, GONE, GONE. Did I leave anything out?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

No Business

What's the point of all this though? Clearly Trump is going to win again in 2020....

Clearly? By what English definition of the word?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The Avenger

Vote red.

Isn't that how we used to refer to Russians?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

10 decent people debating the issues of our time. 

What a contrast to the belligerent angry Trump klan rallies.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

TheLongTermer

the keep saying the same thing..."the sky is falling and huge colossal problems like climate change immigration health care."

Those are big problems.

Things arent so bad,

For you, perhaps. And, me. But, for tens of millions of people without health insurance, or whose homes have washed away due to climate-change-induced storms, or who work two jobs and still live paycheck to paycheck...not so much.

trying to find what these huge colossal problems are with good employment numbers

Didn't they just discover that they were inflated, and had to be adjusted downward?

an immigration system now in control

In control/Babies in cages, Tomato/Tomahto

trade polices that work for the US, etc etc,

Seriously? The trade war is destroying US farmers' livelihoods, increasing the costs of consumer goods, and destabilizing world economies.

The only thing I can find is the gun violence, but they have never been able to solve that.

Because of Republican obstructionism. The Democrats in Congress have been trying to get universal background checks and assult weapons bans off the ground for years, but have been stopped cold by the GOP.

But, guns aren't the only thing - Besides the very real healthcare and climate crises, there are women's, POC, and LGBTQ+ rights; the environment, labor rights, campaign finance reform, minimum wage, education, etc

but if they get in power, things will surely become bad, on a colossal scale. Tax everything and everyone, sanctuary cities and free needles...straight to the abyss.

No. Just taxing the ultra-rich back to the levels we had when America was supposedly great.

And, we already have sanctuary cities. And, free needles, methadone, rehab, etc have proven successful in much of the world.

I am looking forward to the removal of the current bunch of buffoons, scoundrels, liars, and cheats from the White House, Cabinet, and Senate as soon as realistically possible.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

to the people who keep crying the sky is falling and its Trumps fault that hurricanes are bigger, I noticed when they evoke Obamas name, its like its in reverence, he could do no wrong, like you might hear the Chinese speak of their leader or North Koreans of Kim.

Obama deserves credit for what he did in his first term, but he was pretty much an ineffectual president because he didnt know what he was doing, neither did his staff. He was more suited as a UN secretary or academic. He deserves criticism, as you do with Trump.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

And, we already have sanctuary cities. And, free needles, methadone, rehab, etc have proven successful in much of the world.

Yes indeed, its working great in LA and San Francisco, where you can get HIV if you step on the used needles

scattered everywhere and human feces from the homeless epidemic.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I haven't watched a political debate in 10 years - I did watch a a couple of the Republican ones in 2016 just because I enjoy going to the circus and seeing the clowns...

These debates are just another symbol of the dumbing down of our culture and the rise of the reality TV view of the world. These are not debates - they are entertainment (if you call it that) - to see who had the best one-liner, or made the worst slip-up. There is no substantive discussion of the issues.

To fully understand where these candidates stand on the issues would require a one-on-one discussion with each, allowing sufficient time to address the key issues of the day; health care, the environment, defense, the deficit, etc. You can't get that in 30 second sound bites.

But I have to say, watching the Dems reminds me of an episode of the old series Dallas - when I watch the Repubs I'm reminded of The Kardashians....and the movie Dumb and Dumber....

2 ( +3 / -1 )

In Japan, the geriatrics are pushing the wrong pedals in their cars causing accidents; in the US, the geriatrics are battling to be POTUS? Time will tell!

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

10 decent people debating the issues of our time.

The only decent person in the left (Tulsi Gabbard) in not the debate..

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

CrazyJoe: The Democratic debate just finished. My first thoughts:

These are good people who care about Americans and America! 

OMG, CrazyJoe, you have got to be kidding! The last thing any of these people care about are Americans and America. All they want is for the government to control your life and my life and everyone else's lives.

This was the most cringeworthy presidential debate I have ever seen. If only Tulsi Gabbard was there to lend a semblance of common sense, oh but no, the DNC deemed her not worthy..

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

This was the most cringeworthy presidential debate I have ever seen.

Was it worse than when Rump cracked a knob joke or denied telling his followers to search out a non-existent sex tape when all you needed to do was check his Twitter toilet ?

That was truly cringeworthy.

They had an adult debate about issues. What’s cringeworthy about that?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

OMG, CrazyJoe, you have got to be kidding! The last thing any of these people care about are Americans and America. All they want is for the government to control your life and my life and everyone else's lives.

This was the most cringeworthy presidential debate I have ever seen. If only Tulsi Gabbard was there to lend a semblance of common sense, oh but no, the DNC deemed her not worthy..

None of the people on the stage had six of their top associates meet with Russians, then lie under oath about it....

None of the people on the stage drafted a false memo saying the meeting at Trump Tower with Russians was about adoptions...

None of the people on he stage promised Putin a penthouse if he allowed him to build a hotel in Moscow...

There's just one person who cares nothing about America or Americans, and that's the Russian asset in the White House...more commonly known as Putin's Poodle...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If Americans never vote for third parties, this is the mess they will have every election.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The far-far-far left needs to realize that even if they get their person elected, none of their gifts without taxes programs will ever be passed.

Only Biden seems to understand how hard getting anything passed is. But he's too old.

Beto is using racism and murders for political gain. He's off the list. You can't alienate most of the voters and expect to be elected.

Please give us someone who doesn't lie, has realistic center goals, will work to end the extreme partisonship, enact Congressional term limits, and drain the swamp.

First steps are to put back the environmental standards that the prior administration got passed. Clean water is very important. Companies/farms should pay as they go to keep it clean.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Typical politicians who can't say the truth. Independent fact checking:

https://www.factcheck.org/2019/09/factchecking-the-september-democratic-debate/

But they are 1000x better the President Trump.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In Japan, the geriatrics are pushing the wrong pedals in their cars causing accidents; in the US, the geriatrics are battling to be POTUS? Time will tell!

In the US, the geriatrics are battling to replace the current geriatric POTUS.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

None of these people will beat Trump...or let’s just say in all honesty, Biden, Sanders and Warren won’t.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

None of these people will beat Trump...or let’s just say in all honesty, Biden, Sanders and Warren won’t.

Watch the predictions, Bass. Remember you backed Carson, wrote Trump off as the leader of a lunatic fringe and said Clinton would win.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Democrats cannot agree if the lights on or off.

It is painful to watch.

A party within a party. Progressive is an under statement, a fundamental miss-understanding of the political and economic realities.

Any government cannot tax the middle earners, classes if you wish to oblivion and expect them to vote for for there own destitution.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Any government cannot tax the middle earners, classes if you wish to oblivion and expect them to vote for for there own destitution.

Setting aside the hyperbolic description of tax levels, we know this statement is utterly incorrect. Look at the countries with the highest quality of life.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Watch the predictions, Bass. Remember you backed Carson,

But I didn’t think he was going to win, I’m a fan though.

wrote Trump off as the leader of a lunatic fringe and said Clinton would win.

But I evolved and learned the error of my misguided ways.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Setting aside the hyperbolic description of tax levels, we know this statement is utterly incorrect. Look at the countries with the highest quality of life.

It’s not only because of healthcare, there are other factors that are involved and need to be considered.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The US would be better off with a 6 year or 8 year term rather than 4 years. Senators serve for 6 years and can focus accomplishing something without always eyeing the election. But even with a longer term, there is no stability.

Presidents repudiate the previous president’s work. Obamacare, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Paris Climate Accord, the Trans Pacific Partnership, The Dakota Access Pipeline and Obama’s orders on immigration all out the window.

Obama reversed a ban on abortion funding that had been restored by George W Bush, revoked by Bill Clinton, and created by Ronald Reagan. 

So it doesn’t matter what Trump does anyway, the next person will go in a different direction and do the same and cancel the tariffs on China, incredibly inefficient. The US canceling agreements makes the Koreans like promise keepers.

The country doesn’t have a plan. It may have a vision but it can’t realize it. You get ten people on stage pecking at each other to have a right to undo what the previous administration’s work; only to have the same thing happen to them. Rinse and repeat.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

American needs universal healthcare and education up to graduation levels. Student debts are now $1.5 trillion.

The two party system fails the people.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

American needs universal healthcare and education up to graduation levels.

No, we absolutely do not! Over 80% of Americans have and are very happy and content with their private employee based healthcare.

Student debts are now $1.5 trillion.

Talk to the Unions that support Democrats they should talk to them about lowering tuition and limit borrowing so they have less of a chance to rack up debt.

The two party system fails the people.

As if Europe is a smooth sailing ship. Lol

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Chip Star, hyperbole or otherwise, the Democrats have to be honest and upfront with whom pays for their economic ideology.

It is a misplaced belief that comparisons to other countries economic or political parity will somehow displace the ability for government to manage the economic realities.

Chip Star, we can walk my reasoning, numbers wise, and bore the living daylights out of all and sundry. The conclusion is you will have to pay, sooner or later. Sorry

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

bass4funk

No, we absolutely do not! Over 80% of Americans have and are very happy and content with their private employee based healthcare.

Well I know you have no understanding what universal healthcare is. You can't speak for 80% of the people, only yourself.

Talk to the Unions that support Democrats they should talk to them about lowering tuition and limit borrowing so they have less of a chance to rack up debt.

Will not resolve the current student debt crisis. The average student debt on graduation $100,000 to $200,000. Only debt waivers will resolve the problem. Gun homicide crimes cost the country $229 billion per year. Get rid of the guns and use the savings for education. Learning instead of bullets.

Universal healthcare and education is the way forward.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Shave $300 billion off the defense budget. Introduce stricter gun laws to reduce the $229 bill costs of gun homicides. Reduce the numbers in prisons by one million.

Introduce cost controls in hospitals. $50,000 for a minor op is too high.

In Japan, because I have retired, the max monthly cost for being out patient is ¥12,000 ($120) and the max monthly cost for in patient ¥35,000 ($350). I healthcare payments are about ¥2,500/month.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

There were 155 million with employer-based coverage, 90 million with other coverage, and 27 million uninsured.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Chip Star, hyperbole or otherwise, the Democrats have to be honest and upfront with whom pays for their economic ideology. 

The issue was whether it will bankrupt the country, or somehow not work.

It is a misplaced belief that comparisons to other countries economic or political parity will somehow displace the ability for government to manage the economic realities.

Other, dmfar less wealthy countries manage the economic realities just fine. Those countries enjoy a higher quality of life than the US does.

Chip Star, we can walk my reasoning, numbers wise, and bore the living daylights out of all and sundry. The conclusion is you will have to pay, sooner or later. Sorry

Having to pay was never in dispute, being able to was. Let's keep the argument in the realm of good faith.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well I know you have no understanding what universal healthcare is. You can't speak for 80% of the people, only yourself.

No, the data speaks for itself. We don’t need that garbage.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/05/03/sorry-bernie-most-americans-like-their-health-insurance-way-it-is/?noredirect=on

https://news.gallup.com/poll/245195/americans-rate-healthcare-quite-positively.aspx

Will not resolve the current student debt crisis. The average student debt on graduation $100,000 to $200,000.

And most kids learn what Besides liberal arts? It’s all a big ripoff. Better off nowadays skipping University, you are not learning anything anyway. It’s also more about connections than anything else. Charlie Sheen, Felicity Hoffmann and countless others or how about Democrats...all of Al Gore kids went to Harvard...seriously? The same goes for virtually every liberal and their kids trying to get an Ivy League education. They all can get it, so easily, but the rest of us have to struggle trying to get in? Not buying it! People do whatever they want, I don’t care, but I think it’s all a waste. Save your money.

Only debt waivers will resolve the problem. Gun homicide crimes cost the country $229 billion per year. Get rid of the guns and use the savings for education. Learning instead of bullets.

Won’t happen and now even less after Beto opened his mouth without thinking. Thanks Beto, make it easy for Trump.

Universal healthcare and education is the way forward

No, it’s a way to destroying the nation.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

and 27 million uninsured.

Then take care of the 27 million that are not insured, I don’t mind it and don’t think that helping those people is a bad thing, everyone else, leave our healthcare alone.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

No, it’s a way to destroying the nation.

Not that is done with gun homicides and big Pharma with opiodes. Last week Johnson and Johnson lost a $500 million damages case.

How many people die from America healthcare?

45,000 die every year from not having it.

Trumps wants to buy the British NHS because he knows its a better healthcare system.

The Japanese have one of the longest life spans, more than 77,000 people over 100 years.

Universal healthcare and Education for all.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

And most kids learn what Besides liberal arts? It’s all a big ripoff. Better off nowadays skipping University, you are not learning anything anyway.

so no more doctors, lawyers and other much needed professional people? So you won't be paying for your kids to go to Japanese uni?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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