Biden attacks Warren's approach to health care as 'elitism'

The former vice president is opening a new line of attacks.

November 6, 2019, 6:29 PM

Former Vice President Joe Biden is escalating attacks on Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, decrying her "elitism" and her "my way or the highway" approach to politics amid a heated debate over health care.

"It's representative of an elitism that working- and middle-class people do not share: 'We know best; you know nothing.' 'If you were only as smart as I am, you would agree with me,'" Biden wrote in a post on Medium Tuesday evening. He was responding to comments Warren made in Iowa last week that the former vice president is "running in the wrong presidential primary" and "repeating Republican talking points."

Biden's words mark the opening of a new line of attack from the former vice president against one of his chief Democratic rivals, and they come as the two are set to spar again on the debate stage in Atlanta later this month.

"This is no way to get anything done. This is no way to bring the country together. This is no way for this party to beat Donald Trump," Biden wrote on Medium.

Warren's comments came in response to criticism from the Biden campaign that her plan to pay for "Medicare for All" is unrealistic, an argument made by both moderate Democrats and Republicans.

"You know, 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," Warren said Friday. "But if anyone wants to defend keeping those high profits for insurance companies, and those high profits for drug companies and not making the top 1% pay a fair share in taxes, and not making corporations pay a fair share in taxes, then I think they are running in the wrong presidential primary."

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally in Sterling, Virginia, on Nov. 3, 2019.
Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

Biden, who's touted his nickname of "Middle-Class Joe," continued his critique of Warren on Wednesday morning in a radio interview on SiriusXM's "The Joe Madison Show."

"It was, basically, if you don't agree with Elizabeth Warren, you must ... somehow be not a Democrat, must somehow be corrupt, must not be as smart as she is," Biden said of Warren's comments. "I mean it's just something we don't do in our party. It's not who we are.

"She's got things in her plan that are just not realistic. But when you question it, she talks about it as, 'You just don't understand' or, 'You're sounding like a Republican' which is a talking point used by the other party, not by us."

Biden's criticism of the "Washington elite," a point of attack often used by Republicans against Democrats, and by President Donald Trump in particular, is one Warren can expect to face again by critics who call her too liberal for the broader electorate.

Warren, for her part, has worked hard on the trail to dispel any elitist undertones that might creep into her candidacy, letting her Harvard pedigree take a back seat to her more relatable Oklahoman roots. She has also loudly touted her campaign's grassroots efforts and shunning high-dollar donors, flying in the face of Biden's more traditional campaign strategy.

Philosophical differences on health care between Warren and Biden have reached an inflection point as the Democratic Party struggles to find its nominee.

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks to a crowd of about 500 students and local residents at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, Nov. 4, 2019.
Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Wire via Newscom

While Biden continues to lean into expanding on the Affordable Care Act, established under former President Barack Obama, Warren sides with 2020 rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on a progressive implementation of an entirely new, single-payer system.

On Friday, after months of questions, Warren released a plan outlining how she would pay for it, calling for $20.5 trillion in added funding. The plan to fund Medicare for All is all but sure to broaden the chasm between Warren and Biden -- and her and other Democrats.

In Iowa on Friday, Warren took the stage at one of the largest events of the Democratic primary and played defense, taking aim at "status quo" candidates and getting out ahead of the criticism she would face in coming days.

"Anyone who comes on this stage and tells you to dream small and give up early is not going to lead our party to victory," Warren told massive crowds at the Liberty and Justice celebration in Des Moines. "This is a time of crisis. And media pundits, Washington insiders, even some people in our own party don't want to admit it. They think that running some vague campaign that nibbles around the edges is somehow safe. But if the most we can promise is 'business as usual' after Donald Trump, then Democrats will lose."

She has continued to use the same lines at multiple town halls since then, in what's becoming proactive defenses against her fellow 2020 contenders who criticize the feasibility of her ideas as too optimistic.

Biden has built his third presidential bid around the argument he's the candidate best suited to work across the aisle to get legislation passed, citing his nearly 40 years of experience in politics, and has pushed back on the suggestion his policies are not progressive on their own.

At a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Biden argued that working across the aisle is the way to move things forward, brushing off questions about Republicans' willingness to reciprocate.

"Now, the people that are running against me tell me I'm naive, one said I should be in the Republican primary, God love her," Biden said. "That's not the way you get things done, man."

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