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Thursday September 24th, 2020 5:44PM

The Latest: Biden suggests offering Medicare-like option

By The Associated Press
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The Latest on the Democratic candidates running for president (all times EDT):

5:40 p.m.

Joe Biden is suggesting any adult American should have the option to buy "Medicare-like" insurance as part of expanding health-care access in the U.S.

The former vice president made his pitch for a so-called "public option" during his first presidential campaign stop in South Carolina.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and several other Democratic presidential hopefuls back a single-payer health insurance commonly referred to as "Medicare-for-all."

What Biden pitches is adding a government-run insurance program —like Medicare and Medicaid— to the insurance exchanges that were created by the Affordable Care Act that was enacted when Biden was vice president.

Exchanges now sell private insurance policies to individuals who don't otherwise have access to coverage. Biden says even workers with access to employer-based plans should be able to buy a public plan.

___

5:20 p.m.

Joe Biden is emphasizing voting rights in his first presidential campaign stop in South Carolina.

He told supporters in Columbia, South Carolina, that Republican laws making it harder to vote amount to a new era of segregation laws. "You see it," he said Saturday. "You got Jim Crow sneaking back in."

The former vice president added that the Justice Department in a Biden administration would be "aggressive in making sure it doesn't happen." Biden said nearly half of U.S. states in recent years have considered or adopted stricter voting laws that Biden said target "mostly ... people of color."

Many GOP-run states have enacted strict voter identification laws and curbed early voting hours. Some Republican secretaries of state have aggressively removed some voters from rolls.

___

5:15 p.m.

Joe and Jill Biden are emphasizing their long ties to South Carolina as the former vice president makes his first presidential campaign stop in the South's first primary state.

At a rally in Columbia, South Carolina, Jill Biden said the couple came to South Carolina to grieve after Biden's son, Beau, died of cancer in 2015. "Joe and I love South Carolina," she said.

The former vice president credited the late South Carolina Sen. Fritz Hollings for convincing him not to abandon public office after Biden's first wife and daughter were killed in an auto accident weeks after his election to the Senate in 1972.

Biden also noted his friendship with the local congressman, Jim Clyburn, one of the top-ranking House Democrats. Clyburn, who typically doesn't endorse before the South Carolina presidential primary, is not attending Biden's event, but Biden noted one of Clyburn's daughters was at the rally.

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2:25 p.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is warning that the nation remains "at risk" for further foreign interference in its elections and that President Donald Trump "puts us squarely in trouble" with his public warmth toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Massachusetts Democrat, who is running for president, says special counsel Robert Mueller's report "demonstrated conclusively that Russia attacked our electoral system with the purpose of helping Donald Trump."

She says Trump then "turns around two weeks later and says 'we're all good on this'? We're not all good on this."

Trump tweeted on Saturday that his call with Putin the previous day was a sign of "tremendous potential for a good/great relationship with Russia."

Warren spoke to reporters after a campaign stop in Iowa.

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2:10 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts congressman and former Marine, is calling for more funding for the State Department.

His remarks Saturday while campaigning in New Hampshire evoked former U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who said if funding for the State Department is cut, "then I need to buy more ammunition."

Moulton talked about how his own experience serving in the Middle East showed the importance of diplomacy.

He said, "When the State Department goes in first to these conflicts they prevent having to send American troops. So the more money that we invest in the State Department, it doesn't just save ammunition. It saves American lives."

Under his presidency, Moulton said, "we will see a lot less money in the military compared to the State Department."

___

1:45 p.m.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is knocking President Donald Trump as being too soft on Russian President Vladimir Putin during their recent phone call.

Trump and Putin on Friday had their first known call since the release of the special counsel's report on Russian election meddling, and Trump said he didn't warn the Russian president against interfering in future elections.

Klobuchar, a Democratic presidential candidate, said her message would be very different. "What I would say when I'm president to Vladimir Putin is that we've got your number, I've got the FBI after you, I've got the CIA looking at all of this, I've figured out what you guys are up to and we're going to protect our elections and we're going to put increasing sanctions on against you."

Klobuchar also said she was frustrated congressional investigators haven't been able to question special counsel Robert Mueller, whom she described as "the witness we need to go after Russia so that they don't attack our elections again."

She spoke to reporters after an event in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday.

___

1:20 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke says the legacies of "slavery, of segregation, of Jim Crow, of suppression" are "alive and well" today.

The former Texas congressman has given the commencement address at historically black Paul Quinn College in Dallas. He's spoken about overcoming past institutional racism but says "the work is far from over."

He's previously expressed support for creating a commission to study economic reparations for black Americans.

O'Rourke plans to campaign later Saturday in Iowa.

___

1:30 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is focusing his 2020 White House campaign on South Carolina while several other candidates are spending time in Iowa, another early-voting state.

Biden is making his debut visit in the first-in-the-South primary state with a stop in Columbia, the capital. Biden is trying to see whether his message will resonate among black voters whose support will be crucial.

Iowa is the focus for many others in the race. That includes Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Beto O'Rourke, a former Texas congressman.

Scheduled to be in New Hampshire are Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts congressman, and John Hickenlooper, a former Colorado governor.

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