Pence and Harris square off in VP debate

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Bloomberg via Getty Images

Harris (left) and Pence (right) engage in the traditional single debate between the major party nominees for the Vice Presidency while Page (center) moderates the debate.

Paul Proteau, Editor

The single Vice Presidential debate of the 2020 election took place on October 7. The debate featured the two major party nominees for the Vice Presidency, incumbent Vice President Mike Pence (R-IN) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). The debate took place at the Univerity of Utah and was moderated by Susan Page of USA Today.

It has been eight days since the controversial first debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Since the debate, many Americans have been on the edge of their seats following Trump’s announcement on October 2 that he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19. Though many of Trump’s administration and allies have tested positive for COVID-19, Mike Pence has tested negative. Nonetheless, plexiglass could be seen between the two candidate’s desks.

The 90-minute debate was separated into 9 segments, approximately 10 minutes each. The candidates sparred on topics ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy to topics concerning race and foreign policy. The candidates also discussed their experience if the President, whoever would be elected, was unable to perform their duty as president.

The first topic, a topic on many American’s minds, was how each administration would handle the COVID-19 epidemic. Pence was on the defense on behalf of Trump’s handling of COVID-19, which polls indicate that the majority of Americans disapprove. Pence discusses Operation Warp Speed and how the Biden answer to the virus is “plagiarism” to the Trump plan on how to fight COVID-19.

Harris went on the attack, as expected, to put blame on the Trump administration for the COVID-19 deaths in the USA. Harris goes on to attack the Trump administration for covering up and downplaying the virus. When attacking Operation Warp Speed, Harris remarks a potential vaccine and says she would not take it if Trump came out with it.

“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.” Harris said.

The topic then moved into the experience of the candidates if the President was unable to perform his duty to the country. Pence initially deflected, attacking the Obama-Biden administration over their handling of the Swine Flu epidemic in 2009. Harris discusses her record in public service.

Page in the segment presses Pence on the question of Trump’s health, as his medical team leaves out answers on the question. Pence answers that there has been transparency between Trump and the American people concerning his health.

“…the care the president received at Walter Reed, White House doctors, was exceptional. And the transparency that they practiced all along, will continue because the American people have a right to know about the health and well-being of their President. And we’ll continue to do that.” Pence said.

The economy was the next discussion, an area where polls suggest that Trump has good handling of the economy. Harris starts by attacking the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA, Trump tax cuts) and expressing how Biden will raise taxes on anyone making over $400k a year. Harris also discusses how the tax revenue (about $4 trillion) will be reinvested in the American people.

“Joe Biden will repeal that tax bill. He’ll get rid of it. And what he’ll do with the money is invested in the American people.” Harris said.

Pence on the other hand defended the Trump economy. Pence rebutted Harris’s claim that it benefitted the rich by saying that it benefitted the working American, particularly blue-collared workers.

“Despite what Senator Harris says, the average American family of four had $2,000 in savings in taxes. And with the rise in wages that occurred, most predominantly for blue-collar, hard-working Americans…” Pence said.

Pence later accused Biden of wanting to raise taxes, citing Biden for wanting to repeal the TCJA. Pence also attacked Harris over Biden’s apparent support for the Green New Deal, which Biden appears to have a mixed view on it. Harris in the Senate has co-sponsored a resolution that called for the Federal government to recognize and create a Green New Deal. Biden on his campaign website says Biden “believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”

Page turns the conversation onto climate change. Where Pence goes on the defense of Trump’s record on conservation efforts, Harris goes on the attack.

“According to all of the best estimates, our, our air and land are cleaner than any time ever recorded. And our water is among the cleanest in the world.” Pence said.

Pence also defends Trump over his recent passing of the Outdoors Act while attacking Biden and Harris over their plan to put the US back into the Paris Climate Accord and accused them of implementing the Green New Deal,

“Now Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would put us back in the Paris Climate Accord. They’d impose the Green New Deal, which would crush American energy…” Pence said.

Harris goes on the attack by discussing the wildfires in California and the hurricanes in the US south.

“Joe understands that the West Coast of our country is burning, including my home state of California. Joe sees what is happening in the Gulf states, which are being battered by storms.” Harris said.

The rest of the segment was a discussion of energy policy to combat climate change which was a back and forth argument.

As for the foreign policy debate, the debate bounced around from China to Russia to the Middle East. Pence defended Trump’s foreign policy by attacking China for the COVID-19 outbreak as well as the trade feud. Harris attacked his narrative saying it led to the loss of American lives and jobs.

“China and the World Health Organization did not play straight with the American people. They did not let our personnel into China to get information on the coronavirus until the middle of February.” Pence said.

Moving forward, Page brings the conversation onto the topic of the Supreme Court. As Senate Republicans begin to push Judge Amy Coney Barrett through confirmation hearings, Democrats are resisting.

“[Barrett is] a brilliant woman, and she will bring a lifetime of experience and a sizable American family, to the Supreme Court of the United States.” Pence said.

Harris goes on the attack concerning the nomination, citing Trump’s pro-life and anti-ACA agenda. Harris also gave a history lesson concerning a Supreme Court vacancy leading up to the election of 1864, claiming that Lincoln let the people decide by electing him or Geroge McClellan. This claim has come under fire though, because of inaccuracies in the story.

Pence also attacked Harris on the question of packing the Supreme Court, a question that the Biden campaign has not stated a position on.

“The people deserve a straight answer. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, the straight answer is they are going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election.” Pence said.

Racial Justice is the next segment, Harris discusses Biden’s intention for police reform such as banning chokeholds, and justice reforms such as federally legalizing marijuana and ending cash bail.

“…Joe and I will immediately ban chokeholds and carotid holds. … We will require a national registry for police officers who break the law, we will – on the issue of criminal justice reform – get rid of private prisons and cash bail and we will decriminalize marijuana, and we will expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana.” Harris said.

Harris also attacks Trump on his comments regarding race, taking hits at his performance in the debate a week before with Joe Biden where he didn’t condemn white supremacists and the Charlottesville riot back in August of 2017.

“Donald Trump, when asked about [the Charlottesville riots], said there were fine people on both sides. This is who we have as the President of the United States. And America, you deserve better. Joe Biden will be a president who brings our country together.” Harris said

Pence shot back at the attacks, attacking the media’s portrayal of Trump’s Charlottesville statement and defending Trump’s record on race.

“Senator Harris conveniently omitted, after the President made comments about people on either side of the debate over monuments, he condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and has done so repeatedly.” Pence said.

The debate then goes into a discussion concerning election integrity. While Harris expresses that the Biden campaign has a “coalition” of supporters, Pence appears confident that Trump will win the election.

“I think we’re gonna win this election…President Donald Trump has launched a movement of everyday Americans from every walk of life.” Pence said.

Though Trump has come under fire for saying he will not accept the election results, Pence didn’t hesitate to take a shot at Biden for spying on his and Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The last question of the night wasn’t asked by Page, but rather asked by Utah native 7th grader Breckyln Brown of Springville, Utah. Though she didn’t ask the candidates directly at the debate, she won an essay contest and had her question read out loud at the debate.

”If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?” asked Brown.

Brown asked this question after watching politicians and people arguing all the time on the news.

Pence answered that it may not always be what it seems, citing the relationship between the late Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. Harris also answered the question, however she appeared to be making a case for Biden, citing his record of bipartisanship.

Though the vice presidential debate wasn’t as controversial as the debate between Trump and Pence, it could be the last in-person debate for this election cycle. As Trump recovers from COVID, Biden is still pushing to have a virtual debate, if and when the two go against each other again.