By: Noah Rubel
In the past month, Americans have had the opportunity to witness two major debates in U.S political history: the first 2020 presidential debate on Tuesday, Sept. 29 and the vice presidential debate on Wednesday, Oct. 7. Both debates held a small crowd due to COVID-19 and were led by a moderator for each debate.
The vice-presidential debate was deemed much more “presidential” than the actual presidential debate. In this debate, Vice-President Mike Pence and Democratic candidate Sen.Kamala Harris discussed topics presented by the Washington Bureau Chief of USA Today, Susan Page. Page began the event with a question concerning the imposition of lockdowns and mask mandates.
This question involved lots of back-and-forth between Harris and Pence, especially after Harris’ initial response to the question.
“Our plan is about what we need to do around a national strategy for contact tracing, for testing, for administration of the vaccine, and making sure that it will be free for all,” Harris said.
In response, Pence said, “The reality is, when you look at the Biden plan, it reads an awful lot like what President Trump, and I, and our task force has been doing every step of the way. And quite frankly, when I look at their plan that talks about advancing testing, creating new PPE, developing a vaccine, it looks a little bit like plagiarism.”
The next question that Paige posed to Pence and Harris was about the issue of either presidential candidate fulfilling their duties as president because of their age. Neither candidate gave an explicit answer to the question. Following this question, the economy became the next topic of conversation.
Harris had a lot to say about how Biden would handle taxes and education costs.
“Joe Biden will repeal that tax bill, he’ll get rid of it… for folks who want to go to a two-year community college, it will be free. If you come from a family that makes less than $125,000, you’ll go to a public university for free. And, across the board, we’ll make sure that if you have student loan debt, it’s cut by $10,000,” Harris said.
Pence rebutted these claims by using evidence of what Biden did while serving as Vice President.
“When Joe Biden was vice president, they tried to tax and spend, and regulate, and bail our way back to a growing economy. President Trump cut taxes across the board. Despite what Sen. 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, the average household income for a family of four increased by $4,000 following President Trump’s tax cuts. But America, you just heard Senator Harris tell you, on day one, Joe Biden’s going to raise your taxes,” Biden said.
Another subject, which may have been the most important of the debate was the topic of climate change. Pence made his argument by making a few points: Trump has clearly stated his intent to trust the science on the topic of climate change, and also that rejoining the Paris Climate Accord as Biden and Harris intend to do would not be beneficial for the country or the environment.
“What’s remarkable is the United States has reduced CO2 more than the countries that are still in the Paris Climate Accord, but we’ve done it through innovation,” Pence said. “And we’ve done it through natural gas and fracking.”
One of the most important questions that was posed by Page was as follows:
“Senator Harris, as the vice president mentioned, you co-sponsored the Green New Deal in Congress, but Vice President Biden said in last week’s debate that he does not support the Green New Deal. But if you look at the Biden-Harris campaign website, it describes the Green New Deal as a crucial framework. What exactly would be the stance of a Biden-Harris administration toward the Green New Deal?”
Harris responded by reiterating her claims that Biden will not ban fracking, and she emphasized that Biden’s plan involves being more environmentally-conscious as well as promoting jobs.
”Joe is about saying we’re going to invest that in renewable energy, which is going to be about the creation of millions of jobs,” Harris said. “We will achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, carbon neutral by 2035. Joe has a plan.”
In response, Mike Pence rebutted the statements made by Harris by pointing out what the Biden campaign has put on their website along with Harris’ past writings on the Green New Deal legislation. Some of the evidence he provided included Harris repeatedly claiming that she would ban fracking, along with the fact that she was the “first Senate co-sponsor of the Green New Deal.”
The next segue that Pence and Harris went on was the state of the economy and America's trade war with China. Harris immediately attacked the Trump administration on its record against China.
“… the President’s trade war with China. You lost that trade war. You lost it,” Harris said. “What ended up happening is because of a so-called trade war with China, America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Farmers have experienced bankruptcy because of it. We are in a manufacturing recession because of it.”
Pence responded by commenting on Biden’s relationship with China while he served as Vice President. He then contrasted the number of lost jobs with the increase in jobs which has been created under the Trump administration.
"This administration saw 500,000 manufacturing jobs created,” Pence said. “and that’s exactly the kind of growth we’re going to continue to see as we bring our nation through this pandemic.”
After a lot of open forum and talking over Susan Page, the last major topic was regarding whether Harris and Biden planned to pack the Supreme Court if Amy Coney Barrett was appointed as a Justice. Similarly to Biden in the presidential debate, Harris avoided answering the question, a point which Pence intentionally brought attention to.
“I just want the record to reflect she never answered the question,” Pence said. “Maybe in the next debate, Joe Biden will answer the question, but I think the American people know the answer.”