Though it provided a spark for 2020 hopeful John Delaney’s candidacy, the former Maryland congressman’s request to debate New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on one of the most important issues to American voters, health care, was met with a blunt no from the freshman Democrat’s office.
“Lord no,” said Corbin Trent, communications director for Ocasio-Cortez. “I think she’s said her piece.”
Trent added that he expected Ocasio-Cortez would "continue engaging in the debate around health care."
Though both Delaney and Ocasio-Cortez support universal health care access for Americans, the two Democrats stand on opposite ends over how to get there — and their differences showed on Twitter Sunday when Ocasio-Cortez said Delaney’s denouncement of Medicare for All was cause for “elimination” from the 2020 race.
“Since there’s so many people running for President (and not enough for Senate), instead of obsessing over who‘s a “frontrunner,” maybe we can start w some general eliminations. This awful, untrue line got boo’ed for a full minute. John Delaney, thank you but please sashay away,” Ocasio-Cortez said alongside a video of Delaney receiving loud and drawn out boos during his speech before California Democrats over the weekend. In the speech, Delaney denounced Medicare for All as "not good policy."
Delaney, a moderate 2020 candidate and former congressman from Maryland, criticizes the policy because it lacks a private insurance option, while Ocasio-Cortez, the widely-covered new Democrat on Capitol Hill and self-described Democratic socialist, has firmly staked her ground on support for a national, single-payer health care policy.
Delaney responded by asking Ocasio-Cortez for a debate, which became the candidate’s most popular tweet to date, his campaign confirmed.
In a phone interview with ABC News, Delaney described Ocasio-Cortez’s decision not to debate as “too bad.”
“I think that's too bad because I think health care is the most important issue facing the American people and she obviously has an issue with my plan, based on that she tweeted that thing at me, and I would have loved to debate it because I think these things should be a battle of ideas,” Delaney said in a phone interview with ABC News.
"We shouldn't settle this on Twitter, we should settle this with a real debate in front of the American people. That's our job," Delaney said. Earlier in the day on Twitter, Delaney criticized “intolerance to alternative points of view” within the Democratic Party.
“I think it would have been a great space for the American people. But obviously, I respect her and she's free to do what she wants to do,” Delaney said.
The nearly two-minutes of booing at the California Democratic Convention and the tweet from Ocasio-Cortez was precipitated by Delaney’s comments before the liberal San Francisco audience that Medicare for All "may sound good but it's actually not good policy nor is it good politics."
In her tweet Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez defended Medicare for All as “sound policy” and said, “plenty of other countries have single payer + better outcomes than the US.”
Delaney’s proposed plan would automatically enroll people in a public health plan but provide the option for people to opt out and keep their current health insurance.
“The problem with Medicare for all, it's actually really simple, is that it makes private insurance illegal. And 150 million Americans have private insurance, and 70% of them like it according to polling,” Delaney said. “So if we want to actually create universal health care, we're never going to do it by trying to get 150 million Americans to give up what they want.”
The reaction from the crowd didn’t bother Delaney, he said. In fact, he said he considered the resulting conversation around the topic a victory.
“We're 10 months from the first vote being cast in Iowa, and the whole point of a primary is to have a debate. Now, it takes courageous leaders to step forward and try to create the debate. And I just think I did it,” Delaney said.
Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, another 2020 hopeful, has also denounced Medicare for All in outright terms.
“When you tell people the first thing about Medicare for All — either that it takes insurance away from 180 million Americans that have it through their employer or the taxes we would have to pay to afford that $30 trillion program — that 70 percent support falls to the mid-30s,” Bennet said on CNN's "New Day" in early May. “I think we need to level with the American people.”
Though many support the plan, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, who authored the legislation in Congress, there are other candidates have come out in varying degrees of Medicare for All.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has said she doesn’t support getting rid of private insurance right away, while Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey signed on to support Sanders’ Medicare for All legislation but also said he supports private options, which is not part of Sanders’ plan.