This first, and only, vice-presidential debate, moderated by USA Today’s Washington Bureau Chief of Staff Susan Page, took place at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Starting off the night, Susan Page asked about the current administration’s handling of the coronavirus. Senator Kamala Harris described the Trump Administration’s COVID response as “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.”
After sharp criticisms from Harris, Vice President Mike Pence, head of the Coronavirus task force, defended his record on COVID-19, saying “The reality is, Dr.Fauci said everything that he told the president in the Oval Office the president told the American people.”
Pence’s remarks conflict with reporting from journalist Bob Woodward, who released tapes last month of President Trump admitting he knew the virus was deadly. In such tapes, President Trump says, “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
In these tapes, Trump is also heard explaining that he knows how deadly the virus is, far deadlier than the flu, which contradicts statements he has made to the general public concerning the matter.
Trumps’ remarks to Woodward were made February 7, over a month before the first national COVID-19 response took place.
In response to questions about COVID-19, Pence promised a coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year and expressed repeated condolences to the American people.
Later in the debate, Pence claimed China was to blame for the Coronavirus and said the United States should “hold China accountable for what they did to the American people.”
Climate Change and the Economy
When asked about climate change, Harris said a Biden Administration would listen to science and address climate change head-on. Harris spoke of a detailed plan that would invest in infrastructure, make education more affordable, and invest in renewable energy.
Additionally, Harris said the Biden Administration’s plan to combat climate change would also create 7 million more jobs than the Trump Administration’s. These new jobs would be in the renewable energy sector.
Pence spoke of the Trump Administration’s focus on conservation and claimed they have reduced CO2 emissions during their time in office, thanks to a free-market economy that includes both natural gas and fracking.
When asked if he believed climate change to be an existential threat, Pence said, “The climate is changing. We will follow the science.”
The Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade
With the recent death of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg followed by the nomination of controversial Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the question surrounding federal protections for a woman’s right to choose is on the minds of many.
When asked about the possibility of an overturn of Roe v. Wade, Harris said, “I will always fight for a woman’s right to make a decision over her own body. It should be her own decision, not that of Donald Trump or Mike Pence.”
Pence, when asked about the same topic, said he did not know how Amy Coney Barrett would rule on such a case. He went on to say, “I am pro-life. I do not apologize for it.”
Amy Coney Barrett’s lengthy record shows her support for abortion restrictions. In a 2006 anti-abortion ad, she said she would defend “the right to life from fertilization.”
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old from Louisville who was senselessly shot by law enforcement earlier this year while asleep, became the main topic surrounding racial injustice in America.
When asked about Taylor’s tragic death, Pence offered condolences to her family, but ultimately sided with law enforcement, saying that he trusts the criminal justice system.
A grand jury indicted only one of three offices involved in Taylor’s death, the charge was for wanton endangerment.
Harris drew a stark contrast, saying she believes Taylor did not receive justice and detailed a criminal justice reform plan. Such a plan would include a ban on chokeholds, abolishing private prisons and cash bail, decriminalizing marijuana, clearing marijuana records for previously convicted offenders, and establish a national registry for law enforcement who break the law.
Harris ended her answer by saying, “This is a time for leadership on a tragic, tragic issue of unarmed Black people in America who have been killed.”
The next presidential debate, originally scheduled for October 15, has been canceled due to the spread of COVID-19 within President Trump’s Administration.