CNN Democratic debate night 2

By Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Amanda Wills and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 11:59 PM ET, Wed July 31, 2019
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9:01 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Biden is bringing it tonight (so far)

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Tonight in Detroit, Joe Biden is bringing it.

The former vice president, who has more high-profile experience on debate stages than most of his rivals combined, turned in a lackluster performance at the first debate in Miami last month. So far tonight, it’s like he’s a new man.

He’s speaking faster, with an energy and fire that was absent during his first debate. He aggressively defended his health care plan, surrendering little ground in several heated exchanges. 

Even an old standby line -- “this is a bunch of malarkey” -- came out with swagger.

To be sure, the bar was incredibly low after the Miami debate. But his performance so far tonight shows a command that has eluded him for much of the summer.

His challenge, of course, is sustaining this and proving that he’s a front-runner, not simply a placeholder at the front of the pack. 

8:57 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Biden and Harris — and everyone else — square off over her health care plan

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Mark Peterson/Redux for CNN
Mark Peterson/Redux for CNN

Sen. Kamala Harris put out her health care plan ahead of the debate in anticipation of this moment.

But the proposal, which would create a public-private combo plan over ten years, has been criticized from both the "Medicare for All" left and by moderates who want to build on Obamacare.

One of those doubters, former Vice President Joe Biden, accused Harris on Wednesday of misleading people about her position.

“You can’t beat President Trump with double-talk on this plan,” Biden said, after asking rhetorically why something good would take a decade to deliver.

Harris, like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren last night, described her critics’ words as “Republican talking points.”

Earlier in the exchange, Harris suggested Biden and other critics had not read her plan. She also touted the support of former Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard pushed a progressive criticism tied to Sebelius’ endorsement, noting the latter's ties to the private insurance industry.

Harris, though, kept her focus on Biden, whose proposal would create a public option, saying he would effectively solidify the status quo.

As exchange carried on, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio chimed in in favor of Medicare for All, arguing that people don’t like their private insurance -- they like being insured, then accused critics onstage of "fear-mongering." Booker tried to pivot the debate, one he said President Donald Trump would enjoy, and suggested his rivals focus instead on the ongoing GOP challenges to Obamacare.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet also took aim at Harris over the plan’s phasing out of private insurance, saying it would ban an entire industry.

It would not, as Harris noted, but over time will disentangle health insurance from employers -- meaning coverage would no longer be tied primarily to having a job that offers benefits.

Watch the moment:

8:49 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Cory Booker praises protesters who interrupted Bill de Blasio

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker just praised the protesters who briefly interrupted tonight's debate.

"To the folks who were standing up to Mayor de Blasio a few minutes ago—good for you. That's how change is made. #DemDebate," Booker said in a tweet sent while he was on stage at the debate.

Booker is referring to a group of protesters who interrupted his and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's opening remarks.

The protesters were yelling "Fire Pantaleo" — a reference to New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is accused of fatally choking Eric Garner. The Justice Department declined to file charges against the officer.

See his tweet:

Watch the moment:

8:40 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Biden and Harris are debating health care. They've been doing that all week.

From CNN's Tami Luhby

Sen. Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden began this debate by sparring over health care.

Harris, whose campaign released a health care plan this week, backs a version of "Medicare for All."

"The bottom line is this: We must agree that access to health care must be a right and not just a privilege of those who can afford it," she said.

Biden, on the other hand, criticized that plan and said, "Obamacare is working."

Some background: Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris have already taken swipes at each other this week on health care. 

Biden wants to build on the Affordable Care Act, which was implemented while he was in office. He would add a government-backed insurance plan, known as a public option, to the Obamacare exchanges and greatly enhance federal subsidies for purchasing Obamacare plans. He would also expand coverage to low-income Americans who live in the 14 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid by giving them access to the public option with no premiums.

Harris, on the other hand, backs a version of Medicare for All – one that retains a role for private insurers. She would transition to a national health insurance system over 10 years, but allow Americans to sign up for a private option similar to today’s Medicare Advantage, which insurers about one-third of Medicare enrollees. Also, Harris would exempt the middle-class from paying higher taxes for the coverage, levying an income-based premium on households making over $100,000 with an even higher threshold for families living in high-cost area, and slapping additional taxes on Wall Street trades.

Under Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan, households earning above $29,000 would pay an income-based premium. It would also essentially eliminate the private insurance industry.

Watch the moment:

8:42 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Protesters briefly interrupt the debate


Protesters interrupted Sen. Cory Booker and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's opening remarks tonight.

Booker paused his speech as the protesters were removed from the Fox Theatre.

They shouted, "Fire Pantaleo" — a reference to New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is accused of fatally choking Eric Garner.

Some background: The Justice Department announced earlier this month that it was declining to bring federal charges against the New York police officer accused of using a chokehold on the 43-year-old father of six.

See the moment:

8:28 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Kamala Harris' campaign responds to Biden's on-stage request to "go easy"

When Sen. Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden greeted each other on stage, Biden shook her hand and said, "Go easy on me, kid."

Her campaign just responded to that:

8:33 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Key lines from the candidates' opening statements

Mark Peterson/Redux for CNN
Mark Peterson/Redux for CNN

Ten Democratic presidential candidates just wrapped up their opening remarks as they debate kicks off in Detroit.

Here's what they said:

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: "Tonight we have to get to the heart and soul of who we are as Democrats. There are good people on this stage but real differences."

Sen. Michael Bennet: "But for the last three years, we've been consumed by a president who frankly doesn't give a damn about your kids or mine. Mr. President, kids belong in classrooms, not cages."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee: "I am running for president because the people in this room and the Democrats watching tonight are the last best hope for humanity on this planet."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: "We need a nominee who will take on the big fights and win. We need a nominee who doesn't know the meaning of impossible."

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: "I know what patriotism is and I've known many great patriots throughout my life and let me tell you this, Donald Trump is not behaving like a patriot. As president, I will bring this spirit of real patriotism to the White House, serving the interest of all Americans, not just the rich and powerful."

Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro: "I don't want to make America anything again. I don't want us to go backward. We're not going back to the past. We're not going back where we came from. We're going to move forward."

Businessman Andrew Yang: "We need to do the opposite of much of what we're doing right now and the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math."

Sen. Cory Booker: "We have serious problems in America. We have deep wounds and seriously deeply rooted challenges. We desperately need to heal as a nation and move forward because we know in this country that our fates are united, that we have a common destiny."

Sen. Kamala Harris: "This is a moment in time that is requiring us each as individuals and collectively to look in the mirror and ask a question. That question being: Who are we? And I think most of us know that part of the answer to that question is we are better than this."

Former Vice President Joe Biden: "Mr. President, this is America. And we are stronger and great because of this diversity, Mr. President, not in spite of it, Mr. President. So Mr. President, let's get something straight: We love it. We are not leaving it. We are here to stay, and we're certainly not going to leave it to you."

Watch the moment:

8:12 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Here are the rules for tonight's Democratic debate

From CNN's Mark Preston

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during a television interview after the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, 2019 in Miami, Florida.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during a television interview after the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Ten more Democratic candidates running for president will take the stage Wednesday for the second night of debates. Each candidate will have the opportunity to make an opening and closing statement, and the debate will run for two hours.

Here's what else you can expect:

  • Candidates will be given 60 seconds to respond to a moderator-directed question, and 30 seconds for responses and rebuttals, including if they are attacked by name by another candidate.
  • Colored lights will be used to help the candidates manage their remaining response times: 15 seconds = yellow; 5 seconds = flashing red; no time remaining = solid red
  • There will be no show of hands or one-word, down-the-line questions.
  • A candidate who consistently interrupts will have his or her time reduced.
  • Questions posed by the moderators will appear on the bottom of the screen for television viewers.
8:38 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Biden tells Harris on stage: "Go easy on me, kid"

Mark Peterson/Redux for CNN
Mark Peterson/Redux for CNN

Former Vice President Joe Biden was the first person to take the stage tonight. As he greeted the second candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, he asked for a favor.

"Go easy on me, kid," he told her as they shook hands.

Harris stole the show in the first debate when she went after Biden over his early-career opposition to federally mandated busing.

Watch the moment: