ATLANTA — Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said Thursday his approach to beating President Donald Trump in 2020 is to “build a big coalition of Americans” to coalesce around expanded health coverage, reduced trade barriers and action to combat climate change.
The Democratic presidential contender positioned himself as a moderate in a town hall on Thursday and took a big swing at one of his primary rivals: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Bennet called for universal health coverage and said he supports a “public option” that would allow people to buy into Medicare.
But he sharply criticized Sanders’ “Medicare for all” proposal that would eliminate the role of private insurers.
Bennet said his plan is “Medicare for all, if you want it. But if you want to keep the insurance you have, then you could do that as well.”
“Now Bernie is proposing, if you like your insurance, we’re going to take it away from you,” he said.
Bennet said Sanders is “wrong to propose it. I think what we should do is give American people a choice.”
Also during the town hall, he also connected his recent diagnosis and surgery for prostate cancer to his calls for “universal health care.”
“I feel awfully lucky that I had health insurance. It did cost $92,000, and if my family hadn’t been insured, it would have been a disaster for us — and it would have been a real disaster for most American families,” he said.
“I think about not only that, but what it would mean if you were an American citizen and you didn’t have a primary care doctor who could give you a screening that let you know I had cancer.”
Bennet offered broad support for abortion rights, saying decisions should be left to women and their doctors and that he would only appoint federal judges who would “uphold the precedent of Roe v. Wade, to begin with.”
“Women’s reproductive rights are under assault all over the United States. Women’s health care is under assault all over the United States,” he said.
Bennet’s statement comes as a number of states, including Georgia, have passed restrictive abortion bans in recent weeks.
He waded into the controversy, saying he supports Disney, Netflix and WarnerMedia suggesting they could boycott the production of movies in Georgia if the state’s new abortion law takes effect.
“I think it’s important, it’s helpful and it’s necessary. Look, this is a moment when our democracy is under siege in so many different ways. … This isn’t about just politicians,” he said. This is about all of America rising up and saying, we’re going in a different direction.”
Bennet said he believes Trump “probably” committed impeachable offenses — but he remained firm in his stance that Congress should not pursue the president’s impeachment.
“That’s what he wants, to be able to say he was railroaded,” Bennet said of the politics of the process.
Bennet’s answer came as a growing number of Democrats, including some of his 2020 opponents including former Gov. John Hickenlooper, have started to call for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings to begin.
He did, however, say that special counsel Robert Mueller should still come before Congress, a day after Mueller delivered a rare public statement about the findings of his investigation.
“I believe President Trump has probably committed impeachable offenses, and I think Bob Mueller should come to Congress and testify,” Bennet said.
The senator blasted Trump for announcing on Thursday his plans for a 5% tariffs on imports from Mexico.
Earlier Thursday, the president threatened to impose new tariffs if the country does not increase its immigration enforcement actions.
He said Trump has imposed tariffs that hurt American farmers at “the last moment they need them.”
“Commodity prices are already low in this country. People in the Midwest are getting hammered by terrible rains and in my state, terrible droughts. President Trump is making it worse for them,” he said.
Bennet said, if elected, he would take a different tack and would work with other countries in the Western Hemisphere to “stop this refugee crisis,” instead of allowing the United States to look “weak.”
Asked about his plan to defeat Trump, Bennet positioned himself as a moderate and said the Democratic presidential nominee will need to bring people together.
“I think if we have to build a big coalition of Americans — Democrats, Republicans and independents — to overcome the broken politics of Washington, D.C.,” Bennet said.
“It will never fix itself. It will only become more bitter and more partisan if we as a country don’t come together and say, we demand something better.
“I think if we do that, we can not only beat Donald Trump — we can fix our broken politics in Washington, and we can leave our kids in this country an honorable future that we can be proud of.”