Democratic debate: Biden, Warren and Sanders spar over healthcare
Three frontrunners in the race to become Democratic Party candidate for US president have clashed over healthcare at the party’s third debate.
The debate in Houston, Texas, was the first time Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders faced off on stage.
Former Texas lawmaker Beto O’Rourke drew some of the biggest applause with an impassioned plea for gun control.
The winner is likely to face President Donald Trump, a Republican, in the November 2020 poll.
Only the 10 highest-polling Democrats were eligible to take part in Thursday’s debate.
Vice-president under Barack Obama, Mr Biden is leading current polls by a considerable margin with Massachusetts Senator Ms Warren and Vermont Senator Mr Sanders in second and third. The rest of the field are polling in single figures.
As the debate was under way, President Trump told a Republican gathering in Baltimore that he now thought that Ms Warren had a chance of beating Joe Biden, referring to both by derisive nicknames.
The legacy of President Obama came up repeatedly, while there were also questions on immigration, climate change and gun control. But it was healthcare that sparked the fieriest clashes.
The issue of how to reform the US healthcare system has divided moderate and more progressive Democrats.
Mr Biden criticised Mr Sanders’ Medicare for All plan as being too expensive to work and said the country should focus on improving Mr Obama’s Affordable Care Act instead.
“I know the senator [Warren] says she’s for Bernie. Well, I’m for Barack. I think Obamacare worked,” Mr Biden said. “My plan costs a lot of money…but it doesn’t cost $30tn (£24tn).”
Ms Warren defended the policy, saying families have to deal with exorbitant healthcare bills now, and only wealthier individuals and corporations would see increased costs from the plan.
Some of the lower polling candidates also attacked Mr Sanders and Ms Warren, with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar saying of Medicare for All: “I don’t think that’s a bold idea. It’s a bad idea.”