Updated Jul 31, 2019 - Health

Debate night: Harris and Biden go head-to-head

In this image, Biden and Harris shake hands and smile.

Biden and Harris meet on-stage on July 31, 2019. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden greeted Sen. Kamala Harris on the debate stage Wednesday with a request: "Go easy on me, kid."

For the record: 5 senior campaign officials told Axios' Alexi McCammond that Biden was "ready to throw down" on Wednesday, after Harris' took control at the first Democratic debates in Miami. Harris and Biden went head-to-head tonight on these issues:

Medicare for all

Catch up quick: Harris' health care plan would preserve private insurance and cost an estimated $32 trillion per decade, paid "with a tax on financial services." Biden's would preserve the most liked parts of the Affordable Care Act and would cost $750 billion over a decade, per the campaign.

  • "They're probably confused cause they've not read it," Harris quipped, after CNN reminded her about Biden's comments on her health care plan. She characterized Biden's plan as upholding the status quo.
  • "You can't beat President Trump with double talk on this plan," Biden retorted — causing Harris to state that he was "simply inaccurate."


Catch up quick: Harris said Biden had falsely portrayed his position on busing to desegregate schools as similar to her own, and that Biden had "failed to acknowledge" his previous position. Biden accused Harris of failing to desegregate schools in Los Angeles and San Francisco when she was attorney general, and said she "had a police department ... that was abusing people's rights."

  • Harris: She said if the segregationists Biden had worked with in the Senate had their way, neither she or Cory Booker would be members of Senate, "and Barack Obama would not have been in a position to nominate" Biden for the vice presidency.
  • Biden: "I didn't see a single solitary time she brought a case against them to desegregate them," he said, referring to segregated schools in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Women's rights and reproductive care

Catch up quick: Harris joined forces with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's pointed attack over Biden's history on women's rights, pivoting the conversation to his flipped support for the Hyde Amendment. Biden fended off Gillibrand's broadside, saying he's always believed in equal rights for women. In responding to Harris, he maintained that he supports "a woman's right to choose" to end a pregnancy.

  • Harris: "Why did it take you so long to change your position on the Hyde Amendment? Why did it take so long, until you were running for president, to change your position on the Hyde Amendment?"
  • Biden: "Because there was not full federal funding for all reproductive services prior to this point," he responded.

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