The Vice Presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris served as a reminder of what a civil and appropriate debate should look like. While the candidates differed on most issues, this debate was very different than the one between President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden, in more ways than one. After Trump’s Covid- 19 diagnosis along with that of many White House officials, additional safety measures were put in place, like having Harris and Pence sit 12 feet apart, with plexi-glass shields in between them. In terms of content, here’s a brief overview of what went down:
- First, moderator Susan Page asked Senator Harris what the Biden administration would do in January and February for the Covid- 19 pandemic, that the Trump administration would not do. Harris first acknowledged severity of the pandemic by stating many statistics, and then put blame on the Trump administration. She explained that the Trump and Pence were warned of the pandemic on January 28th and lethal nature of the disease, yet “the President said it was a hoax. They minimized the seriousness of it” (USA Today Debate Transcript). She then outlined Biden’s plan for testing, contact tracing, and an eventual vaccine. Pence’s responded by claiming that Trump has “put the health of Americans first” (USA Today), and did what no President had ever done by banning travel from China, which Joe Biden had apparently opposed and called the measure xenophobic. Pence also mentioned Operation Warp Speed, and noted that “we will have literally 10’s of millions of doses of a vaccine before the end of this year” (USA Today). He also thought that Biden’s plan was very similar to the Trump administration’s, even going as far to mention plagiarism. Harris responded by reiterating the 210,000 deaths, and when Pence tried to interrupt her, she delivered one of the most memorable lines of the debate, . Page also questioned Pence about the apparent super- spreader event at the White House, yet Pence skirted around the question and mentioned the confidence he had in the American people. The vaccine was questioned next, with Harris stating that “If the public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it. Absolutely. But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it” (USA Today).
“Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking” (USA Today)
- The next topic was the economy, and Page first asked Harris about the Biden-Harris Campaign and it’s proposition to boost the economy, and asked about the effect of raising taxes. Harris highlighted the differences between Biden and Trump, saying Biden “believes you measure the health and the strength of America’s economy based on the health, and the strength of the American worker and the American family.” (USA Today). Biden would invest in infrastructure, repeal a tax bill that benefits the top 1%, invest in clean and renewable energy, and will also invest in education. Pence was asked if Americans should brace for an economic comeback that could potentially take years, which Pence responded to by attacking the economy when Joe Biden was Vice President, stating that Trump had cut taxes, and then saying “On day one Joe Biden’s gonna raise your taxes” (USA Today). He then highlighted the Trump administration’s apparent successes, like adding 11.6 million jobs, and listed all the negative things he thought Biden would do if elected President. This led into an argument between Harris and Pence, about Biden’s plan for taxes, with Harris reiterating that Joe Biden “will not raise taxes on anyone who makes less than 400,000 a year” (USA Today). The Affordable Care Act was also discussed, with Harris adamantly warning the repercussions that could come if it was repealed.
- Climate change was next on the agenda, and Page first asked Pence if he believed man- made climate change has made wildfires and hurricanes more deadly and damaging. He responded by listing Donald Trump’s commitment to the environment and conservation, listing what he believed the Green New Deal would bring, and only said “the climate is changing” (USA Today) in regards to climate change. He also dismissed the new severity of wildfires and hurricanes, claiming “there are no more hurricanes today than there were 100 years ago” and “forest management has to be front and center” (USA Today). Harris got asked about the Biden-Harris administration’s stance toward the Green New Deal, She started by reiterating that Joe Biden “will not ban fracking”, Biden’s understanding of the climate catastrophes, and their plans to be carbon neutral by 2035 and to have net zero emissions by 2050 (USA Today).
- The next topic was China, with Page first asking Pence how he would describe our relationship with China. Pence pivoted to NAFTA, then talked about how “China is to blame for the coronavirus, and President Trump is not happy about it” (USA Today). He also said Trump would stand up to China, and mentioned Trump’s travel ban at the end of January. Harris had the same question, and argued the Trump administration’s approach in China had resulted in “loss of American lives, American jobs, and America’s standing” (USA Today). Harris was also asked about her definition of the role of American leadership in 2020, to which she highlighted the importance of relationships, and how Donald Trump has betrayed some of these relationships. Pence refuted many of Harris’ claims about Donald Trump. Harris also claimed Donald Trump referred to men serving in the military as “suckers and losers” (USA Today). This comment angered Pence, who claimed Donald Trump respects those in the military and “any suggestion otherwise is ridiculous” (USA Today).
- The debate next moved into Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, and the hearing that would commence. Since Pence was a former governor of Indiana, Page first asked him what he would want Indiana to do if Roe v Wade was overturned. Instead of answering this, Pence used his time to go back to the previous topic and talked about Quasem Soleimani. He only mentioned that he hopes Amy Coney Barrett will have a fair hearing, and hopes “we don’t see the kind of attacks on her Christian faith that we saw before” (USA Today). Page then asked Harris what she would want California to do if Roe vs. Wade was overturned, to which Harris responded by saying. Pence did circle back to his original question next, stating “I’m pro- life. I don’t apologize for it” (USA Today). The discussion also went back to the issue of a Supreme Court vacancy during an election, and Harris adamantly re- stated that she and Biden wanted to leave the decision up to the American people. Pence then went back to stating that Biden and Harris would pack the court if they win the election, and how he and Donald Trump stand for separation of powers.
“I will always fight for a woman’s right to make a decision about her own body. It should be her decision and not that of Donald Trump…and Michael Pence” (USA Today)
- Page next went into the topic of racial justice, first asking Harris if she believed justice had been served for the case of Breonna Taylor and the police officers involved. Harris did not believe justice was done, and stated “we need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system, which is why Joe and I will immediately ban chokeholds and carotid holds” (USA Today). Pence responded by saying “our heart breaks for the loss of any innocent American lives…but I trust our justice system” (USA Today). He also believed there was no excuse for the rioting and looting that had occurred. He ended by saying “we will always stand with law enforcement…we have improved the lives of African Americans” (USA Today). Harris then went into her opinions on Donald Trump not condemning white supremacists during his last debate, and claimed he “called Mexicans rapists and criminals. He instituted as his first act a Muslim ban… on the issue of Charlottesville…said there were fine people on both sides” (USA Today). Pence responded by saying the President has condemned the KKK, neo- Nazis, and white supremacists, and he respects all American people. He then attacked Harris’s record as DA in San Francisco, which Harris immediately defended.
- The last topic of the night fell to the election, with Page asking Harris about President Trump’s comments about refusing to have a peaceful transfer of power, and the steps her and Vice President Biden would take. Harris then listed all of the support their campaign had, such as Democrats, but also Independents and Republicans. She continued to list people like Colin Powell, Cindy McCain, John Kasich, and over 500 generals. She also stated the importance of voting. When it was Pence’s turn to speak about the same question, he stated “I think we’re gonna win this election” (USA Today) and then listed the President’s record and criticized Joe Biden’s. Page then ended by asking the candidates a question written by an 8th grader in Utah, which highlighted the fighting between parties and citizens, and asked “if our leaders can’t get along, how are citizens supposed to get along?” Pence said not to assume everything on the news is “synonymous” with the American people, and even people with opposing views can still be friendly, because “we come together as Americans” (USA Today). Harris responded by highlighting Joe Biden’s of “lifting people up and fighting for their dignity” and ways of working in a bipartisan way (USA Today).
Make sure to stay informed about the election, and tune into the next town halls and debates!