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DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s new health care plan Friday, saying his chief 2020 Democratic rival was obscuring the real costs of her $20 trillion “Medicare for All” proposal.
“She’s making it up,” Biden said in an interview with PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff.
Biden’s critique of the Massachusetts Democrat comes as she has surged in the polls in early voting states and challenged him for frontrunner status among the packed Democratic field.
Warren says her $20.5 trillion plan would be covered by employer contributions to the Medicare program, a tax hike on the wealthy and corporations, and cuts in defense spending, among other measures, according to her campaign.
But Biden said the plan, which was released Friday, could cost twice as much as Warren claims.
“Look, nobody thinks it’s 20 trillion dollars,” Biden said, adding that studies have shown the cost was more likely to be “between 30 and 40 trillion dollars.”
The former vice president said in contrast, his plan to strengthen the Affordable Care Act with a public option would cost $750 billion over a decade.
“We can pay for that,” Biden said, “and it can be done now. Not in four years. Not in eight years. Not in ten years.”
At a Democratic debate in October in Ohio, Biden criticized Warren and another progressive rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, for backing health care plans that he said would raise taxes on the middle class.
Sanders acknowledged at the time that his plan would raise middle class taxes, but Warren declined to do the same, drawing criticism from Democrats who said she was sidestepping the issue.
In a press release Friday, the Warren campaign said her “Medicare for All” proposal would be paid for “without raising taxes one penny on middle class families.”
During the interview with the NewsHour, Biden said he believed “Medicare for All” was a nonstarter in Congress and predicted it would encounter opposition from Democrats as well as Republicans.
“I think it is going to be very difficult to even get a Democratic Congress to vote for that,” Biden said.
Biden also touched on persistent questions about his age, saying he would bring experience to the White House and could hit the ground running on domestic policy and foreign affairs. Biden, 76, is the second-oldest person in the race after Sanders, who is 78. Warren is 70.
Biden also said he was not concerned about recent polls showing him trailing Warren and others in Iowa and New Hampshire– the first states with nominating contests next year.
The former vice president noted that he remains far ahead of the pack in the key state of South Carolina and has retained his lead in most national polls.
Daniel Bush is PBS NewsHour's Senior Political Reporter.
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