Delaney in Detroit debate: 'Impossible promises turn off independent voters'

Alex Nester
The Detroit News

Detroit — Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney received a lot of air time during Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate here as he sparred with U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren about the future of the party.

Delaney promoted his "BetterCare" plan to make health care a universal right at the beginning of Tuesday night's second round of debates.

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney makes a point Tuesday night in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates  in Detroit.

"We can go down the road Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren want to take us, which is with bad policies like Medicare for All, free everything and impossible promises that will turn off independent voters and get Trump re-elected," the 56-year-old candidate said.

"The public option is great, but it doesn't go far enough," Delaney said. "I'm proposing universal health care, where everyone gets healthcare as a basic human right for free, but they have choices."

He argued that hospitals, especially those in rural areas, would close if all bills were paid at the Medicare rate under a Medicare for All proposal.

"[Bernie Sanders'] math is wrong," Delaney said. "It is well documented that if all bills were paid at the Medicare rate, then many hospitals would close."  

Delaney was booed at the California Democratic Convention in June for saying Medicare for All was politically dumb. He wrote an opinion for the Washington Post, calling Medicare for All "political suicide." 

"But we don't have to go around and be the party of subtraction, and tell half the country who has private health insurance that their health insurance is illegal," he said Tuesday.

Delaney said Detroit's revival is in part due to cooperation between private businesses and local government. 

"Detroit, this city, is turning around because the government and private sector works well together," he said. 

With a net worth of over $90 million, Delaney said he supports increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, responding to Warren's proposed wealth tax.

"I think wealthy Americans have to pay more," he said. "I think I should pay more." 

People who make their income with investments should pay more in taxes than those who work for a living, Delaney said.

"This is the biggest loophole in the tax code," he said. 

The question is not about whether the wealthiest should pay more in taxes, but whether a candidate has a "real solution" to bring about that change, Delaney argued.

"My platform is about real solutions, not impossible promises," he said in a campaign mantra he frequently repeated. 

After the debate, Delaney said he didn’t want to give promises he can’t keep but touched on issues that are critically important to the American people on health care and crime.

“I think when we get to the general election, the American people are going to say, 'What’s your plan? Is it workable? How are you going to pay for it? And how are you going to get it done?”

Delaney said he has a plan to invest in disadvantaged communities like Detroit, promoting public and private partnerships.

“I love Detroit,” he said. “I think you can tell the story of the United States of America through Detroit. A great city that felt a lot of pressure, went in decline and is now turning itself around because the government and the private sector are working well together.”

Delaney was elected to represent Maryland's 6th Congressional District in 2012 and was re-elected in 2014 and 2016. He decided to not run for a fourth term last fall. Prior to running for Congress, Delaney gained wealth as an entrepreneur who built two publicly-traded companies. 

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Staff Writer Leonard N. Fleming contributed