The gloves come off in VP debate between Pence, Harris

Vice President Mike Pence and California Senator Kamala Harris participate in the only vice presidential debate of the 2020 election. (Courtesy of Laredo Morning Times)Vice President Mike Pence and California Senator Kamala Harris participate in the only vice presidential debate of the 2020 election. (Courtesy of Laredo Morning Times)

Skyler Leathrum, Correspondent

On Oct. 7, California Senator Kamala Harris and incumbent Vice President Mike Pence met in Utah for the only vice presidential debate of 2020.

The debate was moderated by Susan Page of USA Today and extra precautions were taken to protect both candidates and the crowd. Among these were plexiglass dividers between the candidates and requiring the audience to wear masks.

The debate was divided into multiple segments, covering a range of topics including COVID-19, the economy and climate change. 

The first question asked of Harris was what a Biden administration would have done differently in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our plan is around what we need to do around contact tracing and the vaccine and making that vaccine free for everyone,” said Harris.

Pence was asked a similar question on why the U.S. death toll was higher than any other wealthy countries’ death toll. 

“Our plan is similar to the Biden Harris plan, and their plan seems a little like plagiarism,” said Pence.

Harris responded, “Well what you have done so far doesn’t seem to have worked.”

Pence was asked about the event announcing Amy Coney Barrett as the Supreme Court nominee in the Rose Gardens, an event many denote as a “superspreader” event because of the numerous positive cases of those who attended and a lack of social distancing and mask wearing.

“President Trump wants to trust the American People to make their own decisions about their health,” said Pence.

Harris was asked about the vaccine that Trump’s administration is trying to work with multiple companies to prepare it for use as soon as possible, and whether she would trust it and if the American People should trust it. 

“If our public health officials recommend us to take it and Fauci recommends it, I’ll take it,” she said.

Harris was asked about the current jobs crisis and the current unemployment rate and the effect they have had on minority groups.
“Joe Biden will invest the money into the American people,” she said. “We will invest into infrastructure and innovation.”

Pence was asked if the American people should expect a recovery of our economy to which he responded, “Our economy is on the ballot in November” and attacked Biden and Harris on their plan to raise taxes on wealthy Americans.
Harris clarified that “Joe Biden does not want to raise taxes of anyone who is making under $400,000 a year.” 

Pence was asked about the record setting forest fires and hurricanes and whether climate change causes extreme weather.

“The climate is changing and the question is what is causing it,” and attacked the Green New Deal, claiming “we’re actually working toward a better environment.” 

Harris was asked about what the stance would be of the Biden Harris administration on the Green New Deal, as someone who co-sponsored the plan, but Biden said in the last debate he did not support it.

“We have seen a pattern in this administration that they don’t believe in science,” she said. “Joe does and wants to use his plan to create jobs.”

Both candidates were asked about the U.S. relationship with China. Pence took an adversary stance against China, blaming them for the COVID-19 crisis. 

On the other hand, Harris said that China couldn’t be the only one to blame and that “the Trump administration got rid of the pandemic response team.”

Asked what her definition was of American leadership and foreign policy in her opinion, Harris said, “We need to stand with our allies and we need to know who our adversaries are” and that “the current administration has embraced enemies of our democracy.”

Pence responded, saying “When President Trump came into office, ISIS had taken over an area the size of Pennsylvania and the president deployed troops to the Middle East to push back ISIS.” 

He also said that the Obama administration hesitated on the current conflict in the Middle East, further claiming that, with the Trump administration, “the American people are safer.”

Asked about the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade, Pence said that “we hope she gets a fair chance” and that “we hope her christian faith will not be attacked.”

“Joe has been very clear, as the American people are, let the American people fill that seat in the White House, and then we’ll fill that seat on the United States Supreme Court,” Harris replied. “I want women to have the ability to make their own choices about their body.”

Harris and Pence were both asked about the Breonna Taylor case and whether justice was served in the case against the police officers who fatally shot her in her apartment. 

“I don’t believe so and I have discussed this with her mother,” said Harris. “We need reform of our policing and criminal system. This is a time for leadership.”

“I trust our justice system,” said Pence, proceeding to denounce violent protests. “Rioters and looters must be prosecuted.”

Harris was asked if Biden wins and Trump refuses a peaceful transfer of power what she and Biden will do to address that.

“We believe in the American people,” she said. “We believe in our democracy. It is within our power if we use our vote and we use our voice to choose the course of our democracy.”

“The administration of Biden tried to overturn the last election,” said Pence, further saying that “the FBI spied on our campaign” and that the Democrats tried to “impeach the president over a phone call.” 

The final question of the debate was written by Brecklynn Brown, an eighth grader from Utah, who was invited to submit an essay answering the question: “If you could ask the vice presidential candidates one question, what would you ask any why?”

Brown asked: “When I watch the news all I see is arguing between Democrats and Republicans. When I watch the news all I see is citizen fighting against citizen. When I watch the news all I see are two candidates trying to tear each other down. If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?”

“I would tell you that I don’t assume that what you’re seeing on your local news networks is synonymous with the American people,” said Pence.

Pence went on to mention the relationship between the late Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“One very liberal, one very conservative,” he said. “But what’s been learned since her passing was the two of them and their families were the very closest friends. I mean, here in America, we can disagree.”

“One of the reasons Joe decided to run was because of the Charlottesville protests,” said Harris. “Joe has known pain. He has known suffering and he has known love.” she said he wants to extend that love to the american people. 

The next presidential debate is scheduled to be held on Oct. 15, however it is unclear at this time whether this debate will be held on this day or postponed or canceled due to President Donald Trump’s recent diagnosis of COVID-19.

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