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Biden and Warren Will Debate Tonight—Here’s What They Have Already Clashed On

With Elizabeth Warren’s rise in the presidential campaign polls, some viewers of tonight’s Democratic debate might be looking for clashes between the Democratic U.S. senator from Massachusetts and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner in the White House race.

Among registered voters in the country, Warren is coming in number two right behind Biden in terms of favorability. An NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist Poll released Wednesday showed Warren logging 41% behind Biden’s 45%.

Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents, Warren passed Biden and all other Democrats, coming in with a 75% favorability rating ahead of Biden’s 71%.

Warren is brash and outspoken, whereas Biden forms congenial, personal relationships with colleagues. Warren has portrayed herself as a champion for people. Biden has, too, but did so for years through the lens of a U.S. senator representing Delaware—a pro-corporate state that is home to credit card companies and banks.

Tonight’s event at Texas Southern University, an HBCU in Houston, will mark the first time centrist Biden and progressive Warren will share the stage. Because earlier debates had such a large field, they were spread over two nights. Tensions between the two may show themselves as the field of 10 Democrats with the most donors and highest poll ratings prepare to spar. 

At a CNN marathon town hall meeting last week on climate change, Biden said Americans need a president who has “more than plans,” a probable jab at Warren, whose trademark statement is, “I’ve got a plan for that.”

Here’s a look back at other times the candidates clashed, overtly or covertly.

On Backruptcy

The two have disagreed over the issue of bankruptcy. In a 2002 opinion piece in The New York Times,  then Harvard law Professor Warren attacked then U.S. Senator Biden for voting with Republicans on a bankruptcy bill that Warren warned would “dismantle protection for families.”

Three years later as Warren testified before a Senate hearing on bankruptcy legislation,  Biden claimed Warren’s issue was not with the bankruptcy bill but with usury rates, which cover the credit card industry for anticipated bankruptcies. He said she was offering “a very compelling and mildly demagogic argument.”

When Biden swore Warren in to  the Senate in 2013, he told her, “You gave me hell.” Back in April, when Biden announced his entry into the campaign, Warren told reporters that during the bankruptcy fight, Biden was “on the side of the credit card companies.”

On the 21st Century Cures Act  

In late 2016 in a meeting with Congressional Democratic leaders, Warren criticized legislation that included a cancer-fighting measure named for Biden’s late son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in May 2015.

On the Senate floor, Warren criticized the bill, known as the 21st Century Cures Act, for relaxing standards with the drug industry and said it amounted to “extortion.”

Biden spoke at a White House signing ceremony in support of the legislation, saying it showed that differing interests could work together.

On Crime

Last month, Warren released a post on Medium.com calling for the repeal of the 1994 crime bill, which Biden helped write as a senator. The controversial legislation has long been condemned for sending many low-level drug offenders to prison for decades, derailing their lives and the lives of  their families. T

he bill was passed during the crack epidemic of the 1990s, and only now are many of those inmates being released, some of them as old men.

Warren wrote that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world because of choices  that stack the deck “against the poor and the disadvantaged.”

Biden has rejected the claim that the bill led to voluminous rates of mass incarceration, and has also said portions of the bill were focused on rehabilitation and prevention.

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