Former Vice President Joe Biden inaccurately claimed on Monday his top rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), started the war of words that has escalated between the two camps over Medicare for All.
Biden, who is one of the only 2020 Democrats to come out in opposition to the universal health care proposal, was asked during a televised CNN town hall in Iowa about criticisms he made regarding Warren’s “elitist” brand of politics. The former vice president made the remarks last week in a self-published Medium piece after Warren suggested he was running in the wrong presidential primary because he was unwilling to support Medicare for All.
“Let’s get something straight, she attacked me,” Biden said when asked about the dust up. “She went out and said…Biden is a coward, Biden is…and she went down the list of saying I should be in a Republican primary. What do you call that?”
The former vice president defended his decision to write the Medium piece, saying there was an “attitude that exists” in the country right now that “if you disagree with me, you must be bad.” Despite the pleas for civility and understanding, Biden proceeded to lambast Warren’s views and attitude as “elitist” and condescending once more. Although the moderator, CNN’s Erin Burnett, attempted to push back against Biden’s comments, what ended up being lost in the mix was that the former vice president had started the altercation over Medicare for All.
Earlier this month, Biden accused Warren of lying about the true costs of Medicare for All and how she would pay for it during an interview with “PBS News Hour.”
“She’s making it up,” the former vice president said when asked about cost estimates Warren’s campaign had released on the proposal. “Look, nobody thinks it’s $20 trillion. It’s between 30 and $40 trillion. Every major independent study that’s gone out there, that’s taken a look at this, there is no way — even [Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)], who talks about the need to raise middle-class taxes, he can’t even meet the cost of it.”
Even prior to the interview, Biden’s campaign had been pressuring Warren for months to explain how she would cover the costs associated from Medicare for All, which some estimate could run upwards of $32 trillion, without raising taxes on the middle class. When the Massachusetts Democrats did finally answer that question with a detailed proposal, Biden’s campaign jumped to claim she was promising to raise taxes on middle class families, even though Warren expressly pledged in her plan there would be “no middle class tax increases.”
“For months, Elizabeth Warren has refused to say if her health care plan would raise taxes on the middle class, and now we know why: because it does,” Kate Bedingfield, the former vice president’s deputy campaign manger, said at the time. “Senator Warren would place a new tax of nearly $9 trillion that will fall on American workers.”
Warren, herself, responded to the attack while campaigning in Iowa by accusing the former vice president of “repeating Republican talking points” on Medicare for All to the benefit of insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry.
“If anyone wants to defend keeping those high profits for insurance companies…drug companies…and not making corporations pay a fair share in taxes,” the senator said, “then I think they’re running in the wrong presidential primary.”
Warren, in part, was echoing her progressive rival from Vermont, Sanders, with the attack. In July, Sanders had publicly accused Biden of parroting GOP talking points in an effort to undermine the credibility of Medicare for All.
“Obviously what Biden was doing is what the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industries, Republicans, do: ignoring the fact that people will save money on their health care because they will no longer have to pay premiums or out-of-pocket expenses,” Sanders, who authored the initial Medicare for Al bill in 2017, told The New York Times over the summer.
Regardless if the rebuke had partially been used before, Warren’s suggestion that Biden should be running as a Republican sent the former vice president’s team spinning. Biden’s campaign manager, Greg Schultz, even claimed Warren has no right to question his Democrat credentials since she herself was a Republican until the age of 47-years-old.
You have to be kidding me. Warren was a Republican until she was 47 years old while Joe Biden has spent his life helping elect Democrats across the country and served with honor in the Senate and with Pres Obama. https://t.co/E9CESedasL
— Greg Schultz (@schultzohio) November 1, 2019
When that attack failed to get traction, Biden penned his Medium piece, accusing Warren of brandishing an “elitist” and “condescending” brand of politics that was eroding the national discourse. Although the former vice president never once mentioned Warren in the piece, his rigorous defense of expanding the Affordable Care Act through a public option left little to the imagination.
The flare-up between the two camps underscores the precarious position Biden finds himself in three months away from the first nominating contest in Iowa. Although the former vice president started the race as the clear frontrunner, leading the field by as much as 32 percentage points at one point, his campaign has steadily declined in recent months.
Biden’s decreasing political fortunes have comes as Warren’s have only increased. The Massachusetts Democrat has leapfrogged Biden in the early primary and caucus states. One recent poll out of Iowa showed Warren leading the field with 28 percent support among Democrats, while Biden was relegated to fourth place with only 12 percent. A similar situation has played out nationally, by which most polls show Warren leading Biden, albeit with a narrow margin.
As the candidates standing in the 2020 field has reversed, with Warren being described as the frontrunner by even some of Biden’s former Obama administration colleagues, the former vice president has only escalated his criticism, as exhibited at the CNN town hall on Monday.
“I’m more of a Democrat from my shoe sole to my ears than about anybody running in this party,” Biden claimed, before clarifying that also included Warren.