Kamala Harris Confronted Joe Biden On Race & 5 Other Democratic Debate Highlights

Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Thursday night, 10 of the 24 Democrats running to unseat President Donald Trump in 2020 participated in a two-hour debate in Miami, Florida. Thursday's debate was the second of two Democratic debates hosted by NBC News, and it covered everything from climate change and foreign policy to the economy and immigration. With so many candidates and debates, it can be hard to keep track of the issues, so here are all the Democratic debate highlights from night two in case you were unable to tune in.

Just one day earlier, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and eight other candidates took the stage in Miami to discuss similar issues. The debate was filled with several heated moments — and Thursday night's debate was no different. Even before the debate began, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made headlines due to the fact that issues he championed back in 2016, such as Medicare for All and student debt forgiveness, have become much more popular among other Democratic candidates.

But Sanders wasn't the only candidate to watch. All of the candidates went head to head on issues like reproductive justice, police brutality, and the Trump administration's immigration policy, and it quickly became clear that they are all vying to make Trump a one-term president. Below are six highlights from Thursday night's debate.

Eric Swalwell Interjecting That He Has $100,000 In Student Debt

Student debt forgiveness and free college education have been prominent issues for the 2020 Democratic candidates, and they unsurprisingly came up within the first 15 minutes of Thursday's debate. When moderators asked South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg why he doesn't support free college, he argued that middle class taxpayers shouldn't be responsible for subsidizing college tuition for the children of the country's richest people.

In his response, Buttigieg brought up his six-figure student loan debt. This prompted California Rep. Eric Swalwell to jump in and point that he also has $100,000 in student loan debts. Swalwell then argued that the country needs a change in government leadership to solve the student debt problem.

Swalwell Tells Biden To "Pass The Torch"

In the vein of changing governmental leadership, Swalwell referred back to something he claimed former Vice President Joe Biden said 32 years ago: "It's time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans."

"Joe Biden was right," Swalwell said, noting that he was only 6 years old at the time. "He's still right today. If we're going to solve the issues of automation, pass the torch. If we're going to solve the issues of climate chaos, pass the torch. If we're going to solve the issue of student loan debt, pass the torch. If we're going to end gun violence for families who are fearful of sending their kids to school, pass the torch."

In response to Swalwell's call to "pass the torch," Biden said that he is "still holding on to that torch, I want to make it clear to you."

All The Candidates Supporting Health Care For Undocumented Immigrants

The candidates all offered different ideas of what the United States' health care system should look like, with Sanders arguing for a single-payer system, while Biden called on Democrats to build on Obamacare. However, all 10 candidates on the stage raised their hands when asked if their health care policy proposal would cover undocumented immigrants.

Kamala Harris On Rape Survivors And Deportation

In addition to sparring with Biden on the issue of immigration, Harris argued that she wanted to go one step further in creating a comprehensive immigration policy by making survivors — regardless of their immigration status — feel able to report rape to law enforcement without worrying that they will be deported. According to a 2018 report from PBS, undocumented immigrants who are victims of a crime are disproportionately likely to face deportation.

On social media, Harris faced some criticism for her comment because she opposed the decriminalization of sex work during her time as a prosecutor. However, she was also applauded for her intersectional framework and for her more recent shift in calling for sex work to be decriminalized.

Buttigieg Admitting He Messed Up

Earlier this month, a white police officer in South Bend, Indiana fatally shot a 54-year-old black man named Eric Logan. The police officer's body camera was turned off at the time of the shooting, per Vox. Since the shooting, Buttigieg — the mayor of South Bend — has largely left the campaign trail to address it, The New York Times reported.

On Thursday night, moderators asked Buttigieg why the police force in South Bend has remained 6% black during his two terms as mayor, despite the fact that the city's population is 26% black.

"Because I couldn't get it done," Buttigieg responded. "It's a mess and we're hurting and I could walk you through all of the things that we have done as a community, all of the steps that we took ... but it didn't save the life of Eric Logan and when I look into his mother's eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back."

Buttigieg added that he wants to work toward a society in which both white people and black people driving a car feel a sense of safety and not of fear upon seeing a police officer approach. Swalwell, however, subsequently chimed in and told Buttigieg to fire South Bend's chief of police. Buttigieg said that the officer in question would be investigated, but Swalwell reiterated that the police chief should be fired because someone died.

Harris Confronting Biden On Race

During a broader discussion on systemic racism and police brutality, Harris noted that she was the only black woman on the stage and that she should be given an opportunity to discuss race. Harris started her remarks by talking about her own experiences with racism growing up, but she then turned to Biden to confront him directly on his own record.

"I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground but ... it is personal and it was hurtful to hear you to talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country," Harris told Biden. "It was not only that but you also worked with them to oppose busing, and there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day and that little girl was me."

Biden responded by describing Harris' comments as a "mischaracterization of [his] position across the board."

"I did not praise racists, that is not true," Biden insisted. "If we want to have this campaign litigate on who supports civil rights and whether I did or not, I'm happy to do that."

"I was a public defender, I didn't become a prosecutor," Biden added, seemingly referring to critics' descriptions of Harris as a "cop" and anti-reform attorney general, per Vox. Biden then went on to defend his record on civil rights, but Harris did not stop pressing him on the issue.

"But Vice President Biden, do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then?" Harris asked. "Do you agree?"

"I did not oppose busing in America," Biden replied. "What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education."

Biden argued that busing was a decision orchestrated by local city councils, but Harris responded that it was the federal government's responsibility to step in and ensure that schools across the country were being appropriately integrated.

While Harris and Biden's exchange was likely one of the most heated and emotional portions of the debate, candidates discussed a wide range of issues, ranging from universal health care and accessible higher education to foreign policy and abortion. Thursday night's debate marked the second of two Democratic debates, and gave candidates trailing behind in the polls — such as former tech executive Andrew Yang and author Marianne Williamson — a chance to share their policy proposals with a wider pool of voters.