Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, took the stage tonight at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief for “USA Today,” moderated the debate.
Desks were spaced 12 feet apart and shields were placed between candidates.
Page asked questions similar to those posed in the Sept. 29 presidential debate between Republican nominee President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden. Topics included the COVID-19 pandemic, a COVID-19 vaccine, presidential health, the economy, China and U.S. relations, climate change, the Supreme Court nomination and the election’s integrity.
Both candidates went over time on multiple occasions, although Pence did so more often. There were few interruptions throughout the debate from either candidate compared to the chaos of the last debate.
Pence and Harris frequently avoided or chose not to answer questions; instead, they opted to talk about other topics or to continue a previous discussion.
Harris criticized the Trump administration for acting slowly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Harris said Trump knew about the pandemic since Jan. 28, but did nothing in response, sacrificing frontline health workers.
Pence rebutted, saying Trump had “put the health of the American people first.” He claimed that if Trump hadn’t shut down roughly half the American economy in the second week of March, an estimated 2.2 million people would have died.
Harris said she will take the vaccine, regardless of when it is released, as long as health officials approve the vaccine. She would not, however, take the vaccine based only on President Trump’s recommendation.
Pence claimed a vaccine will be released soon, that five companies are developing vaccines in phase three trials and tens of millions of doses are being produced. Pence criticized Harris for undermining public trust in a vaccine that would be produced during the Trump administration.
The moderator asked about the candidates’ plans in the event of a health issue during the presidency. Both candidates pivoted away from the question
Pence chose to discuss vaccines, while Harris talked about her political history and achievements. Harris said that voters “absolutely” have the right to know the health of presidential candidates.
Harris claimed Biden will repeal Trump’s tax bill on day one and invest in infrastructure and clean energy. Two-year community colleges will be free and public universities will be free for any family earning less than $125,000 annually, she said.
On the other hand, Pence said Biden will raise taxes. He criticized Biden’s plans for being cost-ineffective.
“Biden has a $2 trillion alternative to the Green New Deal that isn’t even much better,” Pence said.
Pence further criticized Biden for his slow economic recovery from the 2008 recession and said “2021 is going to be the biggest economic year in the history of this country.”
Harris said the Trump administration “rode on the coattails” of a strong Obama economy.
Harris said Biden will not ban fracking. She added he intends to join the Paris Climate Accord and criticized Trump for not following the science.
Pence acknowledged the changing climate, but he claimed that air and land are cleaner than ever recorded, and the U.S. has some of the cleanest water in the world. He emphasized the importance of forest management to minimize damage from wildfires and said the Trump administration will continue to listen to scientists.
Harris said American leaders should be honest and know who their adversaries are, which Trump hasn’t done.
“America’s intelligence community told us that Russia played a part in the 2016 elections, but Donald Trump prefers to take the word of Vladimir Putin over American intelligence,” Harris said.
Pence said Trump has had many military achievements and blamed the Obama Biden administration for Kayla Mueller’s death, a human rights activist who was captured and killed by ISIS in 2015.
When it came to China, Harris said the Trump administration had started a trade war that drove farmers into bankruptcy and cost U.S. manufacturing jobs.
Harris said the Trump administration lost the trade war.
“We lost the trade war with China?” Pence responded. “Biden had never fought it. He had been a cheerleader for communist China for the last several decades.”
Pence also added that China was responsible for the virus.
Whether or not someone should be appointed to the Supreme Court 27 days before the election was the issue.
“She’s a brilliant woman. She will bring a lifetime of experience,” he said.
Pence asked Harris whether Democrats would nominate additional justices if Barrett is confirmed and Biden wins this fall.
Harris didn’t answer the question. Instead, she said the nomination should be made by the winner of the election, giving the American people a say.
Harris called for reform in policing and the criminal justice system. She said that justice hasn’t been served for Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in a botched police raid at her home. If elected, she and Biden would ban chokeholds and have a national registry for law enforcement officers that break the law.
“Bad cops are bad for good cops,” Harris said.
Pence said he fully supports the justice system. He said there is no excuse for the rioting and looting during protests for George Floyd’s death. Floyd died in May while being restrained with a police officer’s knee on his neck. Pence said, for Floyd, justice will be served.
The question asked for what the nominee would do if President Trump refused a peaceful transfer of power.
Pence avoided the question and asserted that he and Trump would win the election. He also criticized Democrats for spending three years trying to take Trump out of office.
Harris also avoided the question, and just as Biden had in the first presidential debate, she urged citizens to vote.
The second Presidential debate between Trump and Biden is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 15.
— By Sanjana Anand, Ethan Monasa, Arijit Trivedi and Ming Zhu