The First, and Only, Vice Presidential Debate: The Highlights

Written by: Hailey Bergren

The one and only debate between Vice President Mike Pence and California Senator Kamala Harris took place on October 7th at the University of Utah. Moderator, Susan Page, started the debate by reminding both candidates of their agreement made prior to the debate to allow each other the full two minutes allotted to respond to questions. Each party’s values and ideologies for their campaign were clearly conveyed during this debate, giving America better direction in how to navigate this election. 

Here are some of the highlights:

Just days after the presidential debate, President Donald Trump reported that he had tested positive for COVID-19, creating a focal point of the VP debate. When asked what the Biden administration would have done differently in response to the Covid outbreak in February/March, Harris began by claiming that “American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” 

She elaborated that Trump was informed of the severity of the threat of COVID-19 on January 28th, but failed to act and goes on to say that The Biden administration would have set forth a plan regarding national strategy, contact tracing, testing, and the development and administration of a free vaccination back in January. 

When asked why our death rates are so high, Pence, the head of the COVID-19 taskforce, responded by claiming that under Trump’s leadership, they have done everything they could and even accused Biden of plagiarizing Trump’s response plan. Pence argued that the major difference in their response to covid is because Trump is more trusting of the American people to make their own choices with their health, as opposed to enforcing mandates like Biden is recommending. 

“We are about freedom and respecting the freedom of the American people.”

 -Vice President Mike Pence

Harris made multiple statements throughout the night regarding the importance of transparency to their campaign, stating how Trump’s administration has failed to do so with not only COVID-19 , but with taxes as well. “[Transparency] has to be across the board. Joe has been incredibly transparent” Harris claimed. This led to the topic of the economy.

“Joe Biden believes that you measure the health and the strength of the economy by the health and the strength of the American worker and the American family. On the other hand, you have Donald Trump who measures the strength of the economy based on how rich people are doing.” 

  -Senator Kamala Harris

Harris accused Trump of riding the coattails of Obama and Biden’s economic success at the end of their term, saying that the first thing that Biden will do is repeal Trump’s tax bill that only benefits the top 1% and the biggest corporations in America, according to Kamala. Pence criticised this, stating that Biden is just going to try to raise the American people’s taxes.

Biden plans to reallocate that $2 trillion saved from repealing Trump’s tax bill by investing the American people through funding infrastructure, renewable energy, innovation, research, and education.  “For folks that 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 a year, you will go to a public university for free, and across the board if you have student loan debt, we will make sure to cut that by $10,000 dollars,” Harris explained.

The next topic discussed was the replacement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s position in the Supreme Court by Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. This brought up the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned, which pro-choice groups worry Barrett’s confirmation would support, and both candidates were asked what they would want their home states to do. Pence made it clear that he is proudly pro-life, suggesting that he would push to ban abortion. Harris responded to the same question:

“I will always fight for a woman’s right to make a decision about her own body, it should be her decision and not that of Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.”

-Senator Kamala Harris

Pence accused Biden of having the intentions of adding more democratic justices to the Supreme Court, were Barrett to be confirmed and he to be elected, and urged America to reject the Biden-Harris ticket in order to protect the Supreme Court and the separation of powers.

Susan Page then brought up the topic of the Breonna Taylor case, just one of the many that have contributed to the uproar across America regarding racial injustice and systematic racism. Harris argued that justice has not been served, and that the Biden administration, if elected, would push for reform of policing and our criminal justice system in America by immediately banning choke holds and carotid holds, require a national registry for police officers who break the law, get rid of private prisons, get rid of cash bail, decriminalize marijuana, and expunge the records of those who have been convicted for marijuana usage and/or possession. 

While Pence did offer his condolences for Breonna Taylor’s family, his statement on the matter was that he trusts the system. 

“This presumption that you hear consistently from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, that America is systemically racist, that he [Joe Biden] believes that law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities, is a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement.” 

-Vice President Mike Pence

The final question of the night was an essay question written by eight grader, Brecklynn Brown, calling into question our leaders’ inability to work together peacefully. Pence explained that we should be celebrating our belief in free and open debate, adding that this expression of freedom of speech is one of the reasons we have been able to create one of the “freest and most prosperous nations in the history of the world.” 

Harris responded to Brecklynn’s concern by ensuring her that the future is bright for this country, because of inquisition and leadership like Brecklynn’s. She concluded the debate with a call to action for America to use their voice as an opportunity to determine what our country’s leadership and future will look like by voting. 

For King County, October 26th is the deadline for online and mail in voter registration and November 3rd is election day, ballots must be postmarked and dropping off in drop boxes before close at 8pm. For more information on the election and voting, visit vote.org. 

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