Nov. 21--U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren drew wide criticism over her myriad progressive policies in a Democratic presidential debate that offered little new for voters except for a slew of one-liners.
Warren was attacked by her moderate onstage rivals in Atlanta over her support of "Medicare for All," her wealth tax, and her pledges to offer free public college and to cancel student loan debt. Even the MSNBC and Washington Post moderators questioned whether Warren's staunch backing of the government-run health care system could cost her "critical votes."
The Massachusetts senator came prepared to fight back, repeatedly tying the major issues of the night -- climate change and health insurance among them -- back to the premise of her campaign, rooting out corruption in Washington, D.C.
But several candidates were able to get under her skin. From the far end of the stage, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker jabbed at the center-stage Warren by calling her wealth tax "cumbersome" and saying the focus should be on "pathways to prosperity for more Americans" rather than just taxing the rich.
Warren said her wealth tax -- a 2% tax on wealth between $50 million and $1 billion, and a 6% tax on net worth above $1 billion -- "is not about punishing anyone."
But as Booker continued to needle her, Warren snapped back, "I'm tired of freeloading billionaires."
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg was next, continuing his attacks on Warren over Medicare for All by saying it's not an approach that would unify the country.
Warren has staunchly pushed for Medicare for All -- but recently amended her $52 trillion proposal to include a transition plan that begins with a public option and wouldn't fully embrace the government-run system until her third year in office.
That allowed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders -- the bill's original proponent -- to finally strike a contrast with Warren, saying he would immediately push to implement Medicare for All upon taking office.
Former Vice President Joe Biden railed against Warren and Sanders by saying Medicare for All "couldn't pass the U.S. Senate right now ... it couldn't pass the House." Biden cited a lack of support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- mirroring fears that if Democrats go too far left on health care they could lose down-ballot seats to Republicans -- and pushed his own plan to expand the Affordable Care Act.
The progressive policies pushed by Warren and Sanders drew repeated attacks from the moderates on stage throughout the night, highlighting the fractured state of the Democratic Party.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar turned a question on paid family leave into a broader rebuke of the progressives' plans for canceling student loan debt and offering free public college.
"I'd love to staple free diplomas under people's chairs. I'm not going to go for things just because they sound good on a bumper sticker and then throw in a free car," Klobuchar said. "We have an obligation as a party to be, yes, fiscally responsible -- yes, think big, but make sure we have people's backs and be honest with them with what we can pay for."
Klobuchar also hit hard at fellow Midwestern moderate Buttigieg over his lack of experience in Washington -- the enduring line of attack against the 37-year-old mayor and rising star of the moment in the Democratic field, who also took fire Wednesday night over his issues connecting with black voters.
"Washington experience is not the only experience that matters," Buttigieg shot back in one exchange. "There's more than 100 years of Washington experience on this stage and where are we right now as a country."
In a debate that saw the 10 candidates on stage in their fifth outing offer little new by way of policy -- and at times resort to old lines of attack or demure -- U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard stood out in part by going after her own party.
Gabbard derided the Democratic Party as one "that has been and continues to be influenced by the foreign policy establishment in Washington represented by Hillary Clinton and others' foreign policy, by the military industrial complex and other greedy corporate interests" and called for an end to regime-change wars.
The Hawaii congresswoman has been blasting Clinton's lingering influence on the Democratic Party after the former Democratic nominee last month alluded to Gabbard being supported by the Russians.
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris was having none of it, slamming Gabbard by saying, "I think that it's unfortunate that we have someone on this stage that is attempting to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, who during the Obama administration spent four years full time on Fox News criticizing President Obama, who has been full-time criticizing people on this stage as affiliated with the Democratic Party."
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