Democrats zero in on Elizabeth Warren at debate
Twelve Democrats took the debate stage on Tuesday night, but it was Senator Elizabeth Warren who had most of the speaking time and weathered most of the attacks from her competitors, a manifestation of her front-runner status.
Warren has repeatedly avoided saying she’d raise taxes on middle-class families to pay for the creation of the single-payer health care system she supports, “Medicare for All.” On Tuesday night, she stuck to that message, saying only, “I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle-class families.”
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg retorted, “Well, we heard it tonight — a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question that didn’t get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.”
Sanders, who likes to remind people that he “wrote the damn bill,” chimed in. “I do think it is appropriate to acknowledge that taxes will go up.”
Amy Klobuchar accused Warren of “making Republican talking points” by threatening to take health insurance from millions of Americans and not saying how she’d pay for Medicare for All. She told Warren that she “owes it to the American people to tell them where we’re going to send the invoice.”
Both Klobuchar and Buttigieg support the expansion of health care coverage, along the lines of the Affordable Care Act, and not single-payer health care, which they believe is too costly and takes choice away from the American people. “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something you can actually get done,” Klobuchar said.
Later, Warren challenged the other contenders on support of a wealth tax. “Why is it — does everyone else on this stage think it is more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation of Americans?”
Buttigieg mocked Washington’s “elegant policy prescriptions,” and added that “nothing changes.”
“Why did workers take chance on this president,” he asked. “It’s because it felt like nobody was willing to actually do anything.”
Klobuchar was more direct. “I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth, because no one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire (Tom Steyer) wants to protect billionaires,” she said, to laughter from the audience. “We just have different approaches. Your idea is not the only idea.”
For the first time, abortion came up in the Democratic primary debates, with Kamala Harris bringing up states that have passed restrictive abortion laws that she said would endanger women’s lives. Moderators also brought up the topic later in the debate. Booker said he’d create an office of reproductive freedom and rights if elected.
Warren didn’t receive all the fire, though. Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke went head-to-head on guns, a continuation of the back-and-forth the two have engaged in on the campaign trail.
After O’Rourke was pressed on his mandatory gun buyback plan, Buttigieg answered, “You made it clear you don’t know how this is going to take weapons off the street,” a point that moderator Anderson Cooper also seemed to be making as he questioned O’Rourke.
After O’Rourke called out the “inspiration and leadership” of groups like March for Our Lives and Moms Demand Action, Buttigieg jabbed at O’Rourke by saying, “I don’t need lessons from you on courage, political or personal.”
The debate kicked off with questions about the impeachment inquiry. All the candidates support the impeachment inquiry. Separately, Joe Biden, whose son and his work for a Ukrainian energy company is part of the inquiry, defended himself and his son, saying, “My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong.”
The debate, held in Westerville, Ohio, was co-hosted by The New York Times and CNN.