2020 Dems debate Medicare for All and wealth tax

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing

July 31, 2019: The 2020 Democratic candidates debated Medicare for All, tax policy, and other topics during the first night of the second presidential primary debate. Donald Trump aired an ad during the debates to criticize the Democratic field on healthcare.

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Notable Quotes of the Day

“Like the last debate, I think this has been really quite substantive and the most heated exchanges have been on actual substantive disagreements about what they want to do as President.”

– Chris Hayes, MSNBC anchor

“But in reality, invitation-to-fight questions tend to emphasize the differences that the moderators select, which may or may not be substantively important ones. It leads the debate to focus on areas of internal candidate differences, leaving policy areas where they agree irrelevant – even if those areas are important, and contain real disputes with the other party.”

– Jonathan BernsteinBloomberg columnist

Debate Highlights

Ten candidates met on stage to debate in Detroit, Michigan, on Tuesday night. CNN hosted and Dana Bash, Don Lemon, and Jake Tapper moderated the event. Read a transcript of the debate here.

  • Steve Bullock emphasized his 2016 gubernatorial win in a red state and criticized what he called wishlist economics. He said he opposed eliminating private insurance and supported the government negotiating cheaper drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Bullock also tied combating gun violence to fighting what he called dark money in politics.

  • Pete Buttigieg called for debt-free college for low and middle-income students and expanding the public service loan forgiveness program and opposed student loan debt cancellation proposals. Buttigieg also said he would withdraw troops from Afghanistan and require any authorization for the use of military force to have a three-year sunset provision. He said age did not matter in the race as much as vision did.

  • John Delaney criticized Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, calling them impossible promises that would lead to Trump’s re-election. He said he was the only candidate on stage with experience in the industry and pitched his own healthcare proposal, BetterCare. Delaney also said that a wealth tax was arguably unconstitutional.

  • John Hickenlooper opposed pulling troops completely out of Afghanistan, saying it would lead to a humanitarian disaster. He described himself as both progressive and pragmatic and said the country needed to focus on manufacturing and the economy rather than issues like a jobs guarantee in the Green New Deal.

  • Amy Klobuchar said she knew how to win competitive elections, particularly in the Midwest. She opposed universal free college, saying it would also pay the tuition of wealthy students. Klobuchar also presented her $1 trillion infrastructure plan, including rural broadband and green infrastructure.

  • Beto O’Rourke said he supported decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings but added that he expected immigrants to follow U.S. laws and reserved the right to criminal prosecution if they did not. O’Rourke called Texas a new battleground state and said he ran a U.S. Senate campaign that did not write off any voter. He also discussed improvements to the El Paso V.A. when he was in Congress.

  • Tim Ryan said that some tariffs were effective but criticized the Trump administration’s use of them. He said the manufacturing base needed to be rebuilt and he would create a post of chief manufacturing officer. Ryan said the eligibility age for Medicare should be lowered from 65 to 50. He also said he would not have met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

  • Bernie Sanders defended his democratic socialist policies as possible, pointing to Medicare’s start more than 50 years ago. While discussing trade policy, Sanders said he would not award government contracts to companies “throwing American workers out on the street.” He also called healthcare a human right and compared the U.S. healthcare system and pharmaceutical prices to Canada’s.

  • Elizabeth Warren criticized other candidates who called for more moderate policies, saying, “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.” Warren advocated Medicare for All, a wealth tax, decriminalization of unauthorized border crossings, and changing the regulatory environment to address corruption. 

  • Marianne Williamson said the Democratic Party needed to talk about the causes and not just the symptoms of issues. She said the conversation on stage was not addressing the “dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country.” Williamson also defended her $500 billion reparations proposal, calling it “payment of a debt that is owed.”



  • Donald Trump began airing an ad Tuesday that criticizes the Democratic field on healthcare for individuals residing in the U.S. without legal permission. The ad is set to air both nights of the debates on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.

Flashback: July 31, 2015

Hillary Clinton released eight years of tax returns showing she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had earned $139 million since 2007 and paid $44 million in federal taxes.