June 27, 2019 5:05 pm
Updated: June 28, 2019 2:47 am

Democratic debate: Health care, migration take centre stage as Biden, Harris square off

WATCH: Democratic debate: Kamala Harris brings down house with ER story.


Same stage. Same rules. But the Democrats’ second back-to-back debate is fuelled by star power.

The second debate of the 2020 Democratic presidential debate is kicking off with 10 more candidates, including many of the leading White House hopefuls.

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READ MORE: Five takeaways from the 1st Democratic presidential debate

Former Vice-President Joe Biden is centre stage Thursday night in Miami alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Joining them for the two-hour event are two other top contenders: California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. At either end will be the candidates polling at the bottom of the field: author Marianne Williamson and California congressman Eric Swalwell.

Candidates will not get opening statements but will have time for closings.

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WATCH: Democratic debate: Eric Swalwell, Joe Biden clash on question of age

Ten other candidates debated on Wednesday, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Here are the main topics that were debated Thursday night.

The identity of the Democratic Party

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper kicked off the event by defending his warnings on the Democratic Party veering toward socialism.

Hickenlooper said Thursday at the second Democratic presidential debate that if Democrats fail to clearly define themselves as not being socialists, Republicans are going to come at the party “every way they can and call us socialists.”

Hickenlooper says, “We can’t promise every American a government job.”

READ MORE: Reality check: Who got it wrong and right at the first Democratic presidential debate

The former governor also expressed reluctance to the Green New Deal and eliminating private medical insurance.

Biden then became the first to invoke Trump during the second round of the Democratic presidential debate, blasting the Republican president for crediting wealthy Americans for building the nation.

Biden said Thursday that “ordinary middle-class Americans built America.”

WATCH: Democratic debate: Kamela Harris says Americans don’t want a ‘food fight’

Biden says Trump has “put us in a horrible situation,” by signing tax cuts that favour higher-income Americans. Biden says he would make “massive cuts” in the 2017 act’s loopholes and be “about eliminating Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy.”

However, Biden did not address directly the question to him, which was about comments he made during a recent fundraiser, where he assured donors their lifestyles would not suffer by the tax cut reversal.

Health care

Three of the senators running for president have called for health care reform without even waiting for questions about it.

Sanders acknowledged that his proposals for sweeping government programs would require middle-class Americans to pay more taxes. But he says they’d still spend less on health care under his system than they do today through the private insurance system.

The Vermont senator is a self-professed democratic socialist who wants a Medicare-style system to cover all Americans’ health care services. He says he’d make public colleges and universities tuition free and eliminate existing student debt.

WATCH: Democratic debate: Andrew Yang says Russia ‘laughing their asses off’

Sanders said that education proposals would be paid for by taxes on the wealthy and corporations. But he confirms that other Americans would have to pay more taxes for his health care program, in lieu of the existing system of private premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said at Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate that he agreed with Sanders that “health care is a right” for all Americans. But he questioned Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan that would extend coverage to everyone in the country, saying the U.S. isn’t ready for it.

Sanders smirked as he listened to Bennet’s answer before defending his plan. Then, unprompted, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand jumped in and said that she wrote the portion of the bill that Sanders had proposed that would transition the country toward Medicare for All plans.

WATCH: Democratic debate: Bernie Sanders praises Canadian healthcare system

Struggling to restore order, the moderators said repeatedly that they’d “get to” health care questions later.

To drive home the point however, several Democratic presidential candidates discussed the importance of health insurance in their personal lives as their family members were dying or they dealt with their own illnesses.

Biden recalled the deaths of his first wife and baby daughter and, years later, his adult son. He says the best way to ensure all Americans have coverage is to build on “Obamacare” rather than to pass “Medicare For All.”

WATCH: Democratic debate: Kamala Harris brings down house with ER story

Buttigieg says as his father was dying earlier this year, he didn’t have to make medical decisions based on cost because his father had Medicare. He says all people should have the option to access “Medicare for all who want it.”

Bennet spoke about his cancer diagnosis earlier this year.


All 10 candidates at the second Democratic presidential debate say their proposals for government health insurance would include coverage for immigrants in the country illegally.

Biden and Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, argued Thursday that not discriminating against covering all immigrants is humane, fiscally responsible and a matter of public health.

WATCH: Democratic debate: Marianne Williamson accuses Trump of ‘child abuse’

Buttigieg says even immigrants in the country illegally pay sales taxes, indirect or direct property taxes and, in many cases, payroll taxes.

Biden says covering everyone means more people would get primary care and wouldn’t have to wait until they needed emergency room care that taxpayers have to finance. Federal law already requires ERs to treat anyone in need.

READ MORE: Mother of migrant who drowned with his daughter: ‘they died in each other’s arms’

Trump immediately tweeted about Democrats’ answers, saying, “that’s the end of the race.”

The candidates also squared off on the second night of presidential debates are decrying the Trump administration’s immigration policies, but in different ways than those who debated the previous night.

Harris promised Thursday to use her first day in office to help people brought to the country illegally as children become citizens.

WATCH: Democratic debate: Harris slams Biden for segregate-opposition in his early career

She declared she’d use “the microphone that the president of the United States holds in her hand” to be a voice for real reform on the issue.

Biden said he’d invest in Sanders promised to repeal “every damn thing” Trump has done on immigration.

Climate Change

Several Democratic presidential candidates are declaring the climate crisis an existential threat and promising sweeping government action to combat dangers of a warming planet.

But they’re offering few specifics at Thursday’s debate, and only former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper named climate change as the first issue he’d tackle on Day One of his presidency.

Biden said he’d prioritize rebuilding world alliances committed to reducing emissions.

READ MORE: Trump signs executive order aimed at disclosing ‘real’ costs of health care

Sanders said taking on the fossil fuel industry is the key to reducing carbon pollution.

Harris said she supports a Green New Deal, a reference to proposals some Democrats are pushing on Capitol Hill. But Harris isn’t detailing any specific measures she’d take to reduce carbon pollution.


Sanders saaid if the Supreme Court overturns the ruling legalizing abortion, women would have access to the procedure when he’s president through his health care plan, “Medicare For All.”

Several states have passed restrictions on abortion in recent months. Conservatives are hoping the laws will make their way to the Supreme Court, where a new conservative majority could reverse Roe v. Wade.

READ MORE: America’s biggest threats? Democrats say nukes, climate — and Donald Trump

Sanders said during Thursday’s debate that Medicare For All “guarantees every woman in this country the right to have an abortion if she wants it.”

He also said he would only nominate justices who support Roe v. Wade, and he believes justices could be rotated to other courts to “bring in new blood” to the Supreme Court.

International Relations

Candidates continued to highlight Russia and China as geopolitical threats to the United States.

Bennet and Yang said that Russia poses a great threat, but they also criticized Trump’s international relations approach with China.

WATCH: Democratic debate: Pete Buttigeg pressed on South Bend police shooting

Yang described Russia as “our greatest geopolitical threat because they’ve been hacking our democracy successfully.” Yang says, “They’ve been laughing their asses off about it for the last couple of years.”

Buttigieg took the opportunity to attack Trump on tariffs.

Buttigieg said, “The biggest thing we’ve got to do is invest in our own domestic competitiveness.”

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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