Fiery ex­changes over costs of health care in­sur­ance

Biden lashes out at San­ders and ‘Medi­care for All’

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Bill Bar­row and Steve Peo­ples

HOUS­TON — Joe Biden vig­or­ously de­fended his health care plan against Democratic ri­vals in Thurs­day night’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate, a high-stakes clash in which health in­sur­ance played proxy for the broader fight for the di­rec­tion of the party.

Biden lashed out at his more pro­gres­sive ri­val, Sen. Bernie San­ders, as a so­cial­ist who hadn’t ex­plained how he and his pro­gres­sive al­lies would pay for his gov­ern­ment-backed “Medi­care for All” plan.

As San­ders noted that ci­ti­zens of the U.S. spend much more on health care than Cana­di­ans or peo­ple in other coun­tries, Biden in­ter­rupted, “This is Amer­ica.” He added, “I’m for Barack,” em­pha­siz­ing his idea that former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s “Oba­macare” should be up­dated, not re­placed.

A fiery San­ders punched back, charg­ing that Biden has to de­fend mil­lions of Amer­i­cans go­ing bank­rupt un­der the health care system Obama im­ple­mented.

The de­bate took place as the Democratic Party’s lead­ing can­di­dates shared the stage for the first time in a prime-time show­down dis­play­ing sharply op­pos­ing no­tions of electabil­ity in the party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion fight.

Biden’s re­mark­ably steady lead in the crowded con­test has been built on the idea that the former vice pres­i­dent is best suited to de­feat Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump next year — a con­tention based on ide­ol­ogy,

ex­pe­ri­ence and per­haps gen­der. San­ders and War­ren, mean­while, have re­peat­edly crit­i­cized Biden’s mea­sured ap­proach, at least in­di­rectly, by ar­gu­ing that only bold ac­tion on key is­sues like health care, the econ­omy and cli­mate change can build the coali­tion needed to win in 2020.

The face­off be­tween Biden, War­ren and San­ders at cen­ter stage dom­i­nated the pre-event talk, yet each of the other seven can­di­dates hopes for a break­out mo­ment with the at­ten­tion of the na­tion be­gin­ning to in­crease less than five months be­fore the first pri­mary votes are cast.

Be­yond Biden and Sens. War­ren and San­ders, the can­di­dates on stage Thurs­day night in­clude Min­nesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; South Bend, In­di­ana, Mayor Pete But­tigieg; Cal­i­for­nia Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris; New York busi­ness­man An­drew Yang; former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Obama Hous­ing chief Ju­lian Cas­tro.

The de­bate was the first lim­ited to one night af­ter sev­eral can­di­dates dropped out and oth­ers failed to meet new qual­i­fi­ca­tion stan­dards. A hand­ful more can­di­dates qual­i­fied for next month’s de­bate, which will again be di­vided over two nights.

View­ers saw the di­ver­sity of the mod­ern Democratic Party.

The de­bate, held on the cam­pus of his­tor­i­cally black Texas South­ern Univer­sity, in­cluded women, peo­ple of color and a gay man, a strik­ing con­trast to the Repub­li­cans. It un­folded in a rapidly chang­ing state that Democrats hope to even­tu­ally bring into their col­umn.

There were also 10 can­di­dates that didn’t make the stage. Here’s what some of them did on de­bate night:

Marianne Wil­liamson won’t be on the de­bate stage when Democratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates face off on Thurs­day. But she’s step­ping onto her own stage af­ter­ward to tell vot­ers “what she would have said, and what should have been asked.”

The self-help author, one of 10 can­di­dates who failed to qual­ify for the Hous­ton event, planned to be “live post-de­bate” from Bev­erly Hills, her cam­paign an­nounced this week. Af­ter the de­bate watch party it is host­ing, her cam­paign will livestream her com­men­tary for fans not in Bev­erly Hills.

So far, Wil­liamson ap­pears to be the only Democratic hope­ful who planned to of­fer com­men­tary on de­bate night. Many of the other nine promi­nent can­di­dates who failed to qual­ify will cam­paign and host public events on the day they are miss­ing what many view as a crit­i­cal step­ping­stone to win­ning the nom­i­na­tion.

Can­di­dates needed to re­ceive at least 2% of sup­port in four polls ap­proved by the Democratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and have 130,000 unique donors. The new stan­dards cut the field in half; in­stead of 20 can­di­dates over two nights as in the pre­vi­ous de­bates, Thurs­day’s event will fea­ture 10 on one night.

The de­bate ap­peared to be a lit­mus test for many can­di­dates. As the dead­line to qual­ify neared, four can­di­dates bowed out in the course of two weeks. New York Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee dropped out when it be­came clear they would not meet the dead­line. Former Colorado Gov. John Hick­en­looper and Mas­sachusetts Rep. Seth Moul­ton left the race af­ter strug­gling to gain trac­tion.

Oth­ers set their sights on the Oc­to­ber de­bate; they have un­til Oct. 1 to meet the same qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Sev­eral can­di­dates, in­clud­ing Mon­tana Gov. Steve Bul­lock, former Penn­syl­va­nia Rep. Joe Ses­tak and Colorado Sen. Michael Ben­net, had events Thurs­day in Iowa.

Cal­i­for­nia bil­lion­aire Tom Steyer, who was the 11th can­di­date to qual­ify for the Oc­to­ber de­bate — push­ing that event to two nights — will hold a town hall in Davenport, Iowa. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gab­bard, who is try­ing to get enough qual­i­fy­ing polls to get on stage in Oc­to­ber, was also cam­paign­ing in the state.

“Rep. Gab­bard em­pha­sized her cam­paign is not fo­cused on the de­bates, and is in­stead spend­ing her time on the ground cam­paign­ing, talk­ing to the Amer­i­can peo­ple di­rectly — with­out the ridicu­lous 60-sec­ond time con­straints of the de­bate stage,” her cam­paign said in an email.

Former Mary­land Rep. John De­laney was in New York for me­dia ap­pear­ances and in­ter­views, his cam­paign said. Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan is sched­uled to speak at an event hosted by New Hamp­shire’s Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union chap­ter hours be­fore the de­bate. This week, Ryan re­leased a Spo­tify playlist of his “New and Bet­ter Agenda,” which in­cludes seg­ments about ed­u­ca­tion, cli­mate change and im­mi­gra­tion.

Mi­ra­mar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Mes­sam will not be on the cam­paign trail. Mes­sam has strug­gled to gain trac­tion but does not ap­pear to have put in as much time in early vot­ing states as many of his ri­vals. “Mayor Wayne Mes­sam will be per­form­ing his may­oral du­ties” on de­bate night, his cam­paign said, pre­sid­ing over a bud­get hear­ing.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/GETTY-AFP

Demo­crat­ice pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls take the stage be­fore de­bat­ing Thurs­day night at Texas South­ern Univer­sity in Hous­ton.

DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP

Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, D-Mass., right, lis­tens as Sen. Bernie San­ders, I-Vt., left, and former Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, right, speak Thurs­day, dur­ing a Democratic pres­i­den­tial pri­mary de­bate hosted by ABC at Texas South­ern Univer­sity in Hous­ton.

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