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Senator Bernie Sanders,former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren at the debate last night. John Minchillo/PA
head to head

US Democratic debate focuses on healthcare, gun control and taking on billionaires

There was one thing they all agreed on – President Donald Trump should be impeached.

A DOZEN DEMOCRATIC presidential candidates participated in a spirited debate last night, battling it out on some of the nation’s key issues.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has had a steep rise in the polls and she was a clear target in the fourth Democratic debate, particularly for her more moderate challengers.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg took aim at her for not acknowledging, as Bernie Sanders has, that middle-class taxes would increase under the single-payer health plan both she and Sanders favor.

“At least Bernie’s being honest with this,” Klobuchar said.

“I don’t think the American people are wrong when they say what they want is a choice,” Buttigieg told Warren. His plan maintains private insurance but would allow people to buy into Medicare.

Candidates also pounced on Warren’s suggestion that only she and Sanders want to take on billionaires while the rest of the field wants to protect them. Beto O’Rourke told her it did not seem like she wanted to lift people up and she is “more focused on being punitive”.

Her signature proposal, a 2% wealth tax to raise the trillions needed for many of her proposals, also came under scrutiny.

Technology entrepreneur Andrew Yang noted that such a measure has failed in almost every European country where it’s been tried.

Tweet by @Sarah Reese Jones Sarah Reese Jones / Twitter Sarah Reese Jones / Twitter / Twitter

And Senator Kamala Harris of California went after Warren for not backing her call for Twitter to ban President Donald Trump.

Harris also used the earlier healthcare discussion to raise issues around women’s reproductive health, which she said is “under full-on attack”.

People need to keep their hands off women’s bodies and let women make the decisions about their own lives.

Senator Cory Booker joined her, stating “women should not be the only ones taking up this cause and this fight.”

Lessons on courage

O’Rourke and Buttigieg clashed over future Democratic gun control policies, with O’Rourke saying he believed the government should enforce a mandatory buyback of assault-style rifles.

He said it made sense, if the government is going to ban the sale of these guns, to also ensure those already on the streets are taken back.

Buttigieg – and other candidates – criticised this approach, and he pointed out that the party would put at risk its appeal to moderates.

O’Rourke accused Buttigieg of taking this stance against the proposal because of poll testing.

“I don’t need lessons from you on courage,” Buttigieg responded. “We are this close to an assault weapons ban.”

Associated Press has pointed out that the US is not, in fact, close to enacting an assault-weapons ban.

Legislation under discussion in the Senate would expand background checks for gun sales but even that bill has stalled because of opposition from the National Rifle Association and on-again, off-again support from Trump

Julián Castro took the opportunity to point out that having police officers going door-to-door under this new mandatory policy to retrieve guns from owners would bring its own problems. 

He referenced the murder of 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson who was shot dead by a police officer through the window of her home in Texas this week. The police officer, who fired the shot without identifying himself as a police officer, has been charged with her murder. 

“If you’re not going door-to-door then it’s not really mandatory. But also in the places I grew up in, we weren’t exactly looking for another reason for cops to come banging on the door,” he said. 

“Police violence is also gun violence and we need to address that,” he added. 


The opening question of the night had been an easy one: Should Trump be impeached?

It was the one issue they were all in complete agreement on – all 12 of them – with variations on the word “corrupt” to describe the president.

John Minchillo John Minchillo

Warren was asked first if voters should decide whether Trump should stay in office. She responded, “There are decisions that are bigger than politics.”

“In my judgement Trump is the most corrupt president in the history of this country,” he said, adding that Trump was “enriching himself while using the Oval Office to do that”.

The idea that we have a President of the United States who is prepared to hold back National Security money to one of our allies in order to get dirt on a presidential candidate is beyond comprehension.

Biden, who followed Sanders, offered a rare admission: “I agree with Bernie.”

- With reporting by Associated Press.

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