The Democratic front-runners are duking it out over their plans to reform a health-care system that costs double that of the next-closest high-income country but left 27.5 million uninsured and required Americans to borrow $88 billion to cover medical costs in 2018.
Last weekend, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren sparred over their fixes and how to pay for them: Biden derided the senator’s plan to pay for Medicare for All, suggesting that the $9 trillion in taxes levied on employers would be passed down to company employees. Warren responded that
“Democrats are not going to win by repeating Republican talking points and by dusting off the points of view of the giant insurance companies and the giant drug companies who don’t want to see any change in the law that will bite into their profits.”
At a fundraiser in D.C. on Wednesday, Biden responded to Warren’s implication that his health-care policies borrow from industry suggestions and that his defenses are chewed-up arguments from across the aisle:
That line might not be the one to prove he’s not the naïve candidate in this scenario. In the moment, it appears the former vice-president forgot that after the 2010 landslide midterm handed the House to the GOP, obstruction became the party line. “We’re going to do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can,” said John Boehner weeks before the Tea Party wave, anticipating the decision to shut down the government in 2013, refuse a deficit deal, stonewall the administration with extraneous hearings, and hijack a Supreme Court seat. The suggestion that Republicans are going to wake up from Trumpism after the president exits the White House assumes that obstruction is an orange-hued bug in the system. Of all people, Biden should know the GOP has built that impulse in as a feature.
Whether or not the front-runner was thinking about his time in the White House when he responded to Warren’s criticism, that can-do spirit is part of the larger case he is making to voters in both the primary and general elections: Everything will go back to normal if Trump is voted out. (Whether Democratic voters want the version of the status quo that Biden is selling is another matter, considering the substantial polling numbers the progressive candidates have captured.) Over the weekend in Iowa, Biden reportedly expressed the same sentiment in a less controversial package, claiming, “The road is clear for significant change … The only thing that stands in the way is Donald Trump. The only thing.” Considering that Mitch McConnell recently referred to himself as the “Grim Reaper” of Democratic policy hopes, Trump may not be the only thing.