Updated Jul 30, 2019 - Health

Debate night: Warren and Sanders vs. the moderates

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders joined forces to back Medicare for All, decriminalizing immigration, a trade policy that favors working Americans, and the Green New Deal proposal at Tuesday's Democratic debate, as Warren denounced former Rep. John Delaney and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper of using "Republican talking points."

Why it matters: Tuesday's debate underscored the field's divide, as progressives Warren and Sanders set themselves against the rest of the Democratic candidates, many of whom support more moderate health care policies like a public option or an expansion of the Affordable Care Act. They also disagreed with Warren and Sanders on immigration, trade, and taking on President Donald Trump in the general election.

Medicare for All

Catch up quick: Delaney hung his opening statement on disparaging Sanders and Warren, describing their policies as the road that would pave the way to Trump's re-election.

When asked if she agrees with Sanders on raising taxes for the middle class to pay for Medicare for All, Warren said middle class families would pay less out of pocket for their healthcare — while costs would go up for billionaires and corporations.

  • Rep. Tim Ryan criticized Medicare for All as "bad policy" and "bad politics," claiming that Sanders has no idea whether the plan would improve benefits for union workers who lost their coverage.
    • Sanders hit back: "Sure, I do! It’s my damn bill!"
  • Marianne Williamson separated herself from Sanders and Warren on the issue, saying she had concerns "about what the Republicans would say" on Medicare for All and worried the policy would make it "harder to win" and "harder to govern."


Catch up quick: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock criticized Sanders' immigration plan, saying decriminalizing entry to the U.S. and giving healthcare to undocumented immigrants would cause more people to try to come into the country.

  • Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris have all endorsed Sanders' plan—but Warren was asked to defend it on the debate stage Tuesday.
  • Rep. Tim Ryan agreed that decriminalizing the border — which a number of candidates have endorsed — would encourage immigrants to come into the country illegally, and said: "If you want to come into the country, you should at least ring the doorbell."

Beating Trump

Catch up quick: Hickenlooper was asked point-blank if he believes Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, is "too extreme" to beat Trump.

  • In response, Hickenlooper described the Green New Deal proposal to combat climate change as a "disaster," saying "you might as well FedEx the election to Donald Trump."
  • When asked whether calling herself a capitalist was a means to convince voters that she is a "safer choice" than Sanders, Warren replied: "We can't choose a candidate we don't believe in, just because we're too scared to do anything else."

Green New Deal

Catch up quick: Warren was called to defend the Green New Deal proposal in response to Hickenlooper and Delaney — and she accused Hickenlooper of relying on Republican talking points in his criticism.

  • Warren's response: "I put a real policy on the table to create 1.2 million new jobs in green manufacturing... this could revitalize huge cities across this country, and no one wants to talk about it. What you want to do instead is find the Republican talking point of a made-up piece of some other part and say, oh, we don't really have to do anything."


Catch up quick: Warren's trade plan — which she juxtaposed against current policy she described as "written by multinational corporations" —  came under fire from Delaney, who touted his support for the Trans Pacific Partnership. Hickenlooper sided with Delaney.

  • "Elizabeth is absolutely right," Sanders said amid the debate. "If anybody here thinks that corporate America gives one damn about the average American worker, you're mistaken."
  • Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke shifted discussion on Warren's trade plan back to Trump's steel tariffs, calling tariffs a "huge mistake" — and earning Warren's rebuke.
  • "Anyone who thinks that these trade deals are mostly about tariffs, just doesn't understand what's going on," she said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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