Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro went after former Vice President Joe Biden during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, describing his health care plan as a betrayal of “the legacy of Barack Obama.”
“I know that the problem with your plan is that it leaves 10 million people uncovered. Now, on the last debate stage in Detroit, you said that wasn’t true when Senator Harris brought that up. There was a fact check of that that said that was true,” Castro said in what appeared to be a prepared attack on the front-runner for the presidential nomination.
Moments earlier in the third debate, which was held in Houston and moderated by anchors from ABC News and Univision, Biden had touted his plan’s coverage.
“Every single person who is diagnosed with cancer or any other disease can automatically become part of this plan,” Biden said. “They will not go bankrupt because of that. They can join immediately and we’re talking four, six, 10 years, depending on who you’re talking about, before we get to Medicare for All, come on.”
Castro sensed an opening and pounced.
“I grew up with a grandmother who had Type 2 diabetes and watched her condition get worse and worse, but that whole time she had Medicare. I want every single American family to have a strong Medicare plan available. If they choose to hold on to a strong solid private health insurance, I believe they should be able to do that, but the difference between what I support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require them to opt in, and I would not require them to opt in, they would automatically be enrolled,” Castro said. “They wouldn’t have to buy in. That’s a big difference, because Barack Obama’s vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered, he wanted every single person in this country covered. My plan would do that. Your plan would not.”
Visibly impatient with the attack on his plan, Biden replied, “They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.”
“You just said that,” Castro shot back.. “You just said that two minutes ago. You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in. You said they would have to buy in.”
“If you qualify for Medicaid, it would automatically —” Biden protested as Castro continued to talk over him.
“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Castro pressed on. “Are you forgetting already what you said two minutes ago? I mean, I can’t believe you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you’re saying that they don’t have to, I mean you’re forgetting that.”
As he has in previous debates, Biden — whose memory and command of facts has been questioned by some Democrats — seemed incredulous. “I said anyone like a grandmother who has no money, they’re automatically enrolled,” Biden said.
“I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you’re not,” Castro shot back.
“That’ll be a surprise to him,” Biden responded.
The exchange did not sit well with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“This is why the presidential debates are becoming unwatchable,” Buttigieg interjected. “This reminds everyone what they cannot stand about Washington. Scoring points against each other, poking at each other and telling each other that my plan, your plan—”
“That’s called a Democratic primary election,” Castro shot back. “This is what we’re here for, it’s an election.”
Biden’s rapid response team highlighted Castro’s former praise for Biden.
Later during the debate, during another clash between on the subject of immigration, Castro returned to the question of Obama’s legacy.
“He wants to take credit for Obama’s work but doesn’t want to answer questions,” Castro said.
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