02:09 - Source: CNN
Buttigieg takes swipe at Elizabeth Warren's campaign
Washington CNN  — 

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg slammed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s adopted “Medicare for All” plan on Thursday, calling her “extremely evasive” when it came to whether or not the proposal calls for raising taxes on the middle class.

“Sen. Warren is known for being straightforward, and was extremely evasive when asked that question. And we’ve seen that repeatedly,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead,” when asked if his competitors have been upfront about the implementation of Medicare for All.

“I think it’s puzzling that when everybody knows the answer to that question of whether her plan or Sen. (Bernie) Sanders’ plan will raise middle class taxes is ‘yes’, why you wouldn’t just say so and explain why you think that’s the better way forward?”

Buttigieg was responding to Warren’s interview on Tuesday night with late night host Stephen Colbert. When she was asked directly if she would raise taxes on the middle class to pay for health care, the Massachusetts senator failed to answer the question.

Colbert asked Warren, “How are you going to pay for it? Are you going to raise the middle class taxes?”

“So here’s how we’re going to do this. Costs are going to go up for the wealthiest Americans, for big corporations … and hardworking, middle class families are going to see their costs go down,” she replied.

“But will their taxes go down?” Colbert interrupted.

“Here’s the thing,” Warren said before getting cut off by Colbert.

And in last week’s debate, Warren was asked – again – whether Medicare for All would result in tax hikes for the middle class.

“Look, what families have to deal with is cost, total cost,” Warren answered, without directly answering the question about taxes. “And the answer is, on Medicare for All, costs are going to go up for wealthier individuals and costs are going to go up for giant corporations. But for hardworking families across this country, costs are going to go down, and that’s how it should work under Medicare for All in our health care system.”

Buttigieg unveiled his health care plan earlier on Thursday, outlining a middle-of-the-road approach that allows people to opt into a government-backed health insurance option but lets them keep their private insurance plans if they like them.

Buttigieg’s proposal – unlike Sanders’ plan – would not force people onto government health coverage but instead would offer a public option for people who choose to enroll. Buttigieg has argued this would force private insurers to compete with the government-backed plan on price.

Warren, on the other hand, is running on a bill that she first signed on to in 2017: Sanders’ “Medicare for All” single-payer legislation. “I’m with Bernie,” Warren has said more than once in recent months when asked about her vision for the American health care system.

Warren’s decision to wholly embrace another candidate’s idea – particularly on an issue of such outsized significance in the 2020 election – has put her in an unfamiliar position of defending and advocating a proposal that is not uniquely hers. And she’s made clear that she has no intention of authoring a comprehensive health care plan of her own during the Democratic primary contest.

Buttigieg used the third Democratic debate earlier this month to question Sanders directly about his plan, turning to the senator and asking, “I trust the American people to make the right choice for them. Why don’t you?”

And Buttigieg has taken this attack line directly to voters with ads on Facebook and other digital platforms. The mayor has begun sponsoring a post on Facebook that says, “Medicare for All Who Want It will create a public alternative, but unlike the Sanders-Elizabeth Warren vision it doesn’t dictate it to the American people and risk further polarizing them.” Another ad simply states, “I trust the American people to make their health care decisions for themselves.”

“People are used to Washington politicians not giving straight answers to simple questions,” Buttigieg said in his interview with Tapper on Thursday. “But at a time like this on an issue this important, that’s exactly what we need.”

CNN’s Dan Merica, MJ Lee, Gregory Krieg and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.