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Campaign Week in Review: Cruz, Rubio Argue About Letting Uninsured People ‘Die on the Streets’

Ally Boguhn

Hillary and Bill Clinton finally addressed welfare reform this week on the campaign trail, and Republicans can’t believe one of their own wants to prevent people from dying in the streets because they don’t have access to health care.

Hillary and Bill Clinton finally addressed welfare reform this week on the campaign trail, and Republicans can’t believe one of their own wants to prevent people from dying in the streets because they don’t have access to health care.

Cruz, Rubio Attack Trump for Saying He Wouldn’t Let People “Die on the Streets” 

Donald Trump in Thursday’s Republican debate said he would do away with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should he be elected, but that his replacement plan would ensure people weren’t left to “die on the streets.”

Fellow candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) were outraged at Trump’s suggestion that people shouldn’t be left without care, and swiftly attacked their rival’s position as being “socialized health care.”

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“Donald, true or false, you’ve said the government should pay for everyone’s health care?” Cruz asked Trump. “Did you say if you want people to die on the streets, if you don’t support socialized health care, you have no heart?”

“Correct. I will not let people die on the streets if I’m president,” Trump responded.

“Have you said you’re a liberal on health care?” Cruz fired back before questioning other details of Trump’s health-care platform, such as who would pay for the plan.

Rubio joined the fray to imply that Trump has a Democratic stance on health care, asking, “This is a Republican debate, right?”

Examining Cruz’s claim that Trump had spoken in support of “socialized health care” during a GOP debate, fact-checking site PolitiFact gave the Texas senator a “pants on fire” rating, noting that Trump “did not say those words, or anything like them, in any recent debate.”

The site found that Trump had supported a single-payer health-care system in the 1990s, but he “does not hold that belief today,” and that “Trump did not say that the government should pay for everyone’s health care” during previous interviews.

Although his political opponents hoped to make it appear that Trump’s health-care platform was similar to Democratic proposals, in truth it is anything but.

As Jordan Weissmann explained for Slate, Trump’s plan is fairly similar to his rivals’ and “for the most part, it looks like a generic Republican approach.” Pointing to Trump’s discussion of his plan during a CNN town hall last Thursday and a series of tweets from the candidate, Weissmann noted that while the business mogul’s plan is vague, it nonetheless bears a striking resemblance to the plans of his Republican peers who say they would repeal and replace the ACA:

What about having the government pay to take care of the ill? Well, if he wants to stick by that, he could offer a tax credit to buy insurance, much like Marco Rubio has discussed, and possibly create government-sponsored high-risk pools, where people with pre-existing conditions can buy coverage, which Rubio has also suggested. If he does go that route, he’ll be taking a more compassionate stance than Ted Cruz, who doesn’t appear to have any inclination to help the sick.

Point being, Trump seems to be settling for something akin to Republican health care orthodoxy, albeit while promising not to demolish Medicare, and allowing the government to negotiate drug prices (because the man loves nothing more than negotiations). It’s possible, as some pundits have argued, that Trump’s not really wedded to GOP dogma and is just parroting lines that he thinks will win him conservative votes. But so far, he’s toeing the line in some big ways.

The Clintons Finally Address Welfare Reform 

Facing criticism from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) campaign, Hillary and Bill Clinton discussed the controversial welfare reform package put out under then-President Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s.

Sanders on Wednesday criticized Clinton’s support of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), her husband’s welfare reform law, claiming the law had ultimately helped increase poverty in the United States.

“What welfare reform did, in my view, was to go after some of the weakest and most vulnerable people in this country,” Sanders said during a campaign event in Columbia, South Carolina, according to the New York Times. “And, during that period, I spoke out against so-called welfare reform because I thought it was scapegoating people who were helpless, people who were very, very vulnerable. Secretary Clinton at that time had a very different position on welfare reform—strongly supported it and worked hard to round up votes for its passage.”

As then-president, Bill Clinton enacted PRWORA, a bill introduced by then-Ohio Rep. John Kasich, in 1996. The sweeping set of welfare reform measures established a strict set of work requirements that recipients of welfare programs must abide by in order to receive benefits.

Hillary Clinton supported the PRWORA as first lady, and went on to speak of it positively during her time as a senator and during her 2008 presidential run. The former secretary of state during her 2016 run had remained silent on the measure—even as news broke that the work requirements implemented under the legislation could leave as many as one million Americans without food assistance this year.

Maya Harris, a senior policy adviser to Clinton’s campaign, said in a statement to the Times that although welfare reform had its faults, such as a five-year lifetime limit on benefits, it was part of a package deal and the candidate had pledged to help address some of its downsides moving forward.

Bill Clinton, when asked Thursday by Politico whether Sanders’ attack on Hillary Clinton’s support of welfare reform was fair, told the publication “Sure,” adding “But nothing’s unfair in politics, I guess.”

The candidate’s husband reportedly suggested that Hillary Clinton had pushed for the reforms to be more progressive. “First of all, she was mostly involved in trying … to get the children’s health care bill passed,” Clinton said. “But I asked her to look at [the welfare reform bill], and she said, ‘You can’t sign this, you can’t block-grant food stamps or medical care, and I think there’s not nearly enough money for transportation and child care in it.’”

Despite those objections, both Hillary and Bill Clinton supported the welfare law, “in part because they wanted to deny the GOP a potent wedge issue in Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign, numerous former administration officials have admitted over the years,” according to Politico.

What Else We’re Reading About

Ted Cruz has lifted a temporary block he put on a bipartisan measure that would help Flint, Michigan, restore its water infrastructure. Remember that time Cruz’s campaign went to help residents of Flint but only gave water to crisis pregnancy centers?

An activist interrupted Hillary Clinton during a private fundraising event in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday, asking for an apology from the candidate for mass incarceration of Black Americans and comments made in 1996 alleging that they were “superpredators.” The activist was removed from the event, but Clinton addressed the matter in a written note to the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart in which she claimed that “Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today.”

A white supremacist super PAC is placing robocalls for Trump in Vermont and Minnesota, Talking Points Memo reports. The PAC is unaffiliated with Trump’s campaign, and the candidate has pledged to return a donation from the organization’s founder.

Kasich was harshly criticized this week after commenting during a town hall in Fairfax, Virginia, that women had “left their kitchens” to help elect him when he initially ran for office. However, the Washington Post noted that in the year Kasich was first elected, the labor force participation rate for women had already been rising for quite some time, and more than half of women were working. Kasich later apologized, claiming “it wasn’t intended to be offensive.”

Sanders visited Flint, Michigan, Thursday, where he held a discussion about the city’s water crisis and criticized forcing its residents to pay for contaminated water. “Why are you paying for the privilege of having poison water?” Sanders asked at the event.

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