US: Democratic presidential hopefuls clash over health care in Detroit debates

Ten more Democratic presidential hopefuls clashed over health care on Wednesday, with heated exchanges on other topics during the second night of the party's second round of primary debates in Detroit, Michigan.

Senator Kamala Harris, responding to former Vice President Joe Biden's criticism of her recently-released health care plan, said Biden probably didn't read it.

She released a "Medicare for All" plan on Monday after months of inconsistency on the issue, clarifying that she does not support the total elimination of private insurance plans, a step back from her previous stance akin to that of Senator Bernie Sanders.

Biden's campaign later responded that Harris refused "to be straight with the American middle class" on the hefty tax burden brought by her plan. Harris explained on the debate stage that her plan is responsive to American's needs, considering that private "insurance companies have been jacking up the prices for far too long."

Biden doubled down, telling potential voters to be cautious of a 10-year phase-in period proposed by Harris' plan. "Anytime someone tells you -- you're going to get something good in ten years, you should wonder why it takes ten years."

The two polling frontrunners shared the stage with seven other contenders, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who challenged the two by saying they were "at risk of losing the forest for the trees," when the Republicans are chipping away at the Affordable Care Act enacted by former President Barack Obama.

The Wednesday night debate lasted over two and a half hours, during which candidates also battled around topics including education, law enforcement, race, climate change, trade, national security, the Russia investigation, and their individual electability.

Many condemned the current administration's immigration policy. "There's not a single person on this stage if were president would ever separate a child from their parents at the border," Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado said.

"That is what his administration has done in the American people's name, they have turned our border into a symbol of hostility."

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey also weighed in on the administration's treatment of undocumented immigrants, citing his visit to detention facilities.

"Seeing children sleeping on pavement, people being put in cages, nursing mothers, small children, this is not necessary," he said.

President Donald Trump, who recently launched his 2020 re-election campaign, tweeted after the Wednesday debate that "the people on the stage tonight, and last, were not those that will either Make America Great Again or Keep America Great!"

Ten other Democratic hopefuls, including Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, held a face-off a day earlier.

According to a Quinnipiac University Poll released ahead of the Detroit debates, Biden was favored by 34 percent of Democrats and independent voters nationwide, leading the next three forerunners, namely Warren, Harris and Sanders, by a large margin.

The next debates are scheduled to open September in Houston, Texas. As the Democratic National Committee is raising the bar to qualify, a less crowded line-up is expected.

Xinhua

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