DETROIT/WASHINGTON, July 30 (Reuters) - The Democratic Party’s two leading progressives came under fire on Tuesday from a debate stage stuffed with moderates who said their “impossible” proposals and “wish-list economics” risked keeping Republican President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years.
U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders stood side by side on the first night of the second Democratic presidential debate as they fended off criticism from more moderate rivals competing for the party’s nomination to take on Trump in the 2020 election.
Warren and Sanders struck back, saying the rivals have adopted the Republican Party playbook in criticizing progressive policies and they are tired of hearing Democrats shy away from big ideas.
Here are some highlights from the debate.
The first question went to Sanders, of Vermont, when the interviewer quoted former Representative John Delaney as saying the senator’s Medicare for All plan was unworkable and would amount to political suicide that will get Trump re-elected. “What would you say to Congressman Delaney?”
“You’re wrong!” Sanders replied to laughter.
He said middle-class citizens may pay more in taxes, but they will no longer pay private insurance premiums and thus overall less money. They would not have to worry about their care, he added.
“Healthcare is a human right, not a privilege,” Sanders said.
Delaney said there can be a universal healthcare system that guarantees basic care without eliminating private insurance.
“We don’t have to go around and be the party of subtraction and telling half the country who has private health insurance that their health insurance is illegal,” he said.
Warren interjected after their exchange: “We’re not trying to take healthcare away from anyone. That’s what Republicans are trying to do.”
Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said it was time to stop worrying about what Republicans will say.
“Look if it’s true that if we embrace a far-left agenda, they’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. If we embrace a conservative agenda you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. So let’s just stand up for the right policy and go out there and defend it,” Buttigieg said to a round of applause.
Democrats have made access to affordable healthcare one of their defining issues as the Trump administration has worked to chip away at his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama’s signature 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock, trying to make his mark during his first debate appearance, challenged Warren over her proposal to decriminalize border crossings, an issue that has tripped up several candidates this election season.
Bullock said the United States can have a humane approach to immigration with the right leader.
“The biggest problem we have right now that we have with immigration is Donald Trump. He’s using immigration to not only rip apart families but rip apart this country,” he said. “You don’t have to decriminalize everything.”
Warren said Trump and the existing laws are the problem. She called for expanding legal immigration and fixing the border crisis without demonizing immigrants.
“We need to fix the crisis at the border and a big part of how to do that is we do not play into Donald Trump’s hands,” she said.
“But you are playing into Donald Trump’s hands,” Bullock retorted. “A sane immigration system needs a sane leader. And we can do that without decriminalizing and providing healthcare for everyone.” (Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Jonathan Oatis)