Ten out of the 25 major candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination took to the stage of the famous Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan last night to make their case to voters for why they’re the best person to challenge President Donald Trump next fall.
The debate, hosted by CNN and moderated by the same panel as last night’s event featuring the network’s Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and Don Lemon, stayed largely focused on policy, with candidates digging into the details of their complex plans. Here are the highlights from night two.
Harris And Biden Spar Over Health Care
In the most anticipated match-up of the night, former vice president Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) engaged in several heated exchanges Wednesday over race and health care after the California senator blasted the former senator from Delaware on busing in the first set of debates held in June.
Early on, as the candidates discussed health care for nearly the first full hour of the debate, a flustered Harris took heat from all around the stage over the costs of her health care plan, which she unveiled Monday. Biden was Harris’ main critic after jokingly asking the senator to “go easy on me, kid,” as they met on stage at the start of the evening.
Biden blasted Harris’ plan to socialize medicine through a Medicare for All proposal similar to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s as unrealistic.
“This is the single most important issue facing the public,” the former vice president said. “And to be very blunt and to be very straightforward, you can’t beat President Trump with double talk on this plan.”
Biden argued that Harris’ plan is prohibitively expensive, costing taxpayers $3 trillion over ten years, and would knock people off private insurance. Harris argued that her plan provides insurance to everyone in America while Biden’s plan, which builds on the existing Affordable Care Act popularly known as “Obamacare,” still leaves 10 million Americans uninsured.
“Under our plan, we will ensure that everyone has access to health care. Your plan, by contrast, leaves out almost 10 million Americans,” Harris said.
When responding, Biden echoed the infamous line pushing the Affordable Care Act on the 2008 campaign trail, telling voters that if they liked their plan they could keep their plan. That line was listed as PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year in 2013.
“If they like their insurance, they should be able to keep it,” Biden promised, again.
Harris and Booker Tag-Team Biden On Race
In another highly anticipated moment of the night, senators Harris and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) went after Biden over his record on civil rights, with Harris reiterating her attacks on the former vice president’s previous opposition to racially driven busing while in the Senate and Booker going after Biden’s role in crafting the 1994 Crime Bill.
Booker, who labeled Biden the “architect of mass incarceration” last week, said Biden’s recent plan on criminal justice is too little too late after creating laws in the Senate that lead to the exceptionally high rates of incarceration in the United States today.
“Mr. Vice President has said that, since the 1970s, every major crime bill – every crime bill, major and minor, has had his name on it,” Booker said. “And this is one of those instances where the house was set on fire and you claimed responsibility for those laws. And you can’t just now come out with a plan to put out that fire.”
Biden hit back, turning attention to Booker’s time as mayor of Newark, New Jersey where the police department engaged in stop-and-frisk, resulting in a high number of African-Americans incarcerated.
“You had 75 percent of those stops reviewed as illegal,” Biden chastised. “You found yourself in a situation where three times as many African-American kids were caught in that chain and caught up.”
Moments later, Harris also chimed into the attacks against Biden on race, following up on a landmark moment in their first match-up in June about forcibly busing children of one race into schools predominantly enrolled with children of another race.
“Had those segregationists their way, I would not be a member of the United States Senate, Cory Booker would not be a member of the United States Senate, and Barack Obama would not have been in the position to nominate him to the title he now holds,” Harris said.
Biden came out aggressive and turned the attention to his opponent’s record, noting that Harris presided over some of the most segregated school districts in the country as California’s attorney general, in addition to presiding over police departments abusing their power.
“When Senator Harris was attorney general for eight years in the state of California, there were two of the most segregated school districts in the country, in Los Angeles and in San Francisco,” Biden said. “Secondly, she also was in a situation where she had a police department when she was there that in fact was abusing people’s right.”
Gabbard Calls Harris a Bad Cop
Tulsi Gabbard’s shining moment of the night came when the Hawaii representative also went after Harris’ time as California’s attorney general.
“Senator Harris says she’s proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she’ll be a prosecutor president but I’m deeply concerned about this record,” Gabbard said. “She put over 15 hundred people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”
Gabbard also criticized Harris for holding convicts in the state prison system for extended periods of time beyond necessary. Harris responded by saying she created a model criminal justice system for the rest of the country. Gabbard countered.
“The bottom line is, Senator Harris, when you were in a position to make a difference and an impact in these people’s lives, you did not,” Gabbard said. “In the case of those who were on death row, innocent people, you actually blocked evidence from being revealed that would have freed them until you were forced to do so.”
You can buy a limited edition “Kamala Harris Is A Cop” T-shirt from The Federalist here.
Gillibrand Calls Biden a Sexist
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) attacked Biden on the sexes when asked a question about penalizing companies that don’t fix alleged inequalities among men and women in the workplace.
“I want to address Vice President Biden directly,” Gillibrand said, bringing up an op-ed Biden wrote on women participating in the labor force outside the home.
“He believed that women working outside the home would, quote, ‘create the deterioration of family.’ He also said that women who were working outside the home were, quote, ‘avoiding responsibility.’” Gillibrand charged.
Biden shrugged off the attack. “That was a long time ago,” he said.
Gillibrand Pledges to ‘Clorox’ the Oval Office
Speaking of women in the home, Gillibrand, an avid feminist who has built her campaign on the Me Too movement, promised to clean on her first day in office.
“So the first thing that I’m going to do when I’m president is I’m going to Clorox the Oval Office,” Gillibrand promised.
The comment came when moderator Dana Bash asked Gillibrand how the Green New Deal, which Gillibrand cosponsors, is a realistic proposal.
Gillibrand then followed her energetic desire to clean with a promise that the second thing she would do in office if elected would be sign back onto the Paris Global Climate Accords and combat climate change.
Harris Attacks Biden On Hyde Amendment
Harris took another jab at the former vice president Wednesday night over his previous support for the Hyde Amendment, which is primarily known for barring federal taxpayer funds from providing abortions.
After Gillibrand calls Biden a sexist for penning an op-ed suggesting women ought to stay at home, Harris scolded Biden for flip-flopping on supporting the Hyde Amendment, opposing it now as he runs for president.
“I mean, talk about now running for president, you change your position on the Hyde Amendment, vice president, where you made a decision for years to withhold resources to poor women to have access to reproductive health care and including women who were the victims of rape and incest,” Harris said. “Do you now say that you have evolved and you regret that?”
Biden said the bill had his support with the condition that private entities could step in and assist in providing abortion services.
Andrew Yang: I’m An Asian Who Likes Math
Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur without political experience, opened the night with self-depreciating humor while arguing for a universal basic income.
“We need to do the opposite of much of what we’re doing right now, and the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math,” Yang said. “So let me share the math. A thousand dollars a month for every adult would be $461 million every month, right here in Detroit alone.”
Hecklers in the auditorium interrupted at several points of the night, causing candidates to stop speaking until the disrupters were removed from the auditorium.
Members of the audience were shouting “fire Pantaleo,” the New York police officer who was not charged in the killing of Eric Garner. The case involving the police officer ended up as a debate topic of the night, with multiple candidates on stage arguing that Mayor Bill de Blasio, another presidential candidate, should have fired the officer.
Read the full transcript of the second night of this week’s Democratic presidential debate here.