Health care was front and center in the first Joe Biden vs. Bernie Sanders debate, with both Democrats demanding stronger action by the government on the issue.
No More Handshakes
Coronavirus fears prevailed, with both contenders refusing to shake hands. The debate, set to be held in Phoenix, Arizona in front of a live audience, was shifted to Washington, D.C.
Moderator Jorge Ramos was also replaced due to possible exposure to the virus. Sanders is 78 and Biden is 77, and there are health concerns over both, as they have been exposed to numerous members of the public while campaigning.
Sanders and Biden talked about the routine changes forced by the current pandemic. They have taken to hand-washing more often. Sanders said he was using a lot of soap and hand sanitizers. Biden chimed in, “I wash my hands God knows how many times a day with hot water and soap.”
Government Needs To Do More On Health Care
Both candidates advocated strong government action on health care. Sanders called for vast economic reforms and the creation of a single-payer health care system to meet challenges like the pandemic.
Biden, on the other hand, pushed the idea of calling the military to assist in the fight against the virus and the creation of a “multi-multi-billion dollar program.” The former vice president compared coronavirus to war, while the senator from Vermont said the disease had laid bare ”the dysfunctionality” of America’s disjointed health care system.
Biden Promises A Female Vice President
Biden assumed the role of unifier and praised Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plans to reform the bankruptcy code. He also promised to have a female running mate. There is a greater chance of the U.S. getting its first woman for vice president as Sanders said that “in all likelihood” he too would opt for a female running mate.
Lots of Trump Bashing, Some Barbs
Biden and Sanders both seemed to agree that President Donald Trump’s current approach to fighting the coronavirus was not enough. Biden pitched the idea that all resources of the government should be used to contain the current pandemic and fix the economic damage the disease is inflicting.
Sanders called COVID-19 an “unprecedented moment in American history.”
Beyond agreeing on Trump’s mishandling of the crisis, the two used the debate to attack each other.
Sanders said it would take a direct confrontation with both the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to effect positive change. In a barb aimed at Biden, he asked, “do we have the guts to take on the health care industry, some of which is funding the vice president’s campaign?”
Biden raised a question over Sanders’ universal health care plan: “with all due respect to Medicare for all, you have a single-payer system now in Italy,” and it can’t ”solve the problem,” he said.
Digging Up The Past
The debate had its heated moments with sharp interjections and candidates attacking each other’s legislative records.
Sanders called out Biden’s readiness to compromise with Republicans and his accommodation of corporate interests.
Biden defended his support for the 2008 bailout of banks.
“All those people Bernie said he cares about would have been in deep trouble,” he said, adding that the country would have been taken into a “great depression” had the bank bailout not been extended.
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