Looking Back on the Vice Presidential Debate


Isabelle Morse

Vice President Pence and Senator Kamala Harris, now the Vice President-Elect, debated key issues such as COVID-19 and the environment on October 7. Photos of the candidates are from the US Senate and White House.

On October 7, a week and one day after the chaotic first presidential debate, Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence faced off in what was, arguably, the most important vice presidential debate in American history. Whoever is in the White House next year will be the oldest president out of the long line of presidents. This makes the issue of the vice president’s awareness and ability to govern over the American people particularly important in this election. 

Susan Page from USA Today moderated the debate. She began the debate with the topic of COVID-19, as it became a key element in the election of 2020. Senator Harris started with a statement stating that the Trump administration was the greatest failure in history, which she followed up with statistics. 210,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. and 7 million cases have been recorded. Harris referred to the knowledge that President Trump had on the severity of the virus back in January and spoke to the people, saying “[the Trump administration] didn’t tell you.” She stated that Trump had “forfeited [his] right to re-election.” 

Pence weighed in on Trump’s closure of borders from China, adding that Joe Biden called it xenophobic even though no evidence shows he made such a statement. Pence brought up the development and distribution of certain necessary products, such as masks, ventilators and testing supplies, saying they were prioritized and given to the people. He also stated that the Trump administration was just months away from the vaccine. However, Harris rebutted, saying, “Whatever the Vice President claimed the administration has done, clearly it hasn’t worked.” She also argued that the Trump administration has not equipped the American people with the necessities to survive during this crisis. 

When Senator Harris was asked about the vaccine and how the American people and herself would take it, she stated that she would only take the vaccine if scientists approved it. She said that in a situation where only Trump suggested it, she would not take it. Pence stated that the Democrats were playing politics on people’s lives, after Harris made the statement. 

Page made sure to ask whether the American people deserve to understand the health of the president. Pence stated that the American people do have the right to know about the health and well being of the President, and he said that they have that information. Harris answered the same question, saying that Americans do deserve to know, but Trump has constantly hidden such information. She argued this point by bringing up his taxes and the controversies around them. 

Pence stated that when he and President Trump entered office, they had a suffering economy, which they transformed into a thriving one. He said Biden wants to raise taxes, and implement tariffs that will destroy the lives of millions of Americans. Harris said that Biden would not support increasing taxes for the middle class.

Senator Harris made sure to raise the topic of the Affordable Care Act, stating that people with preexisting conditions would have the Trump administration “coming for [them].” Pence refuted that they would find an alternative to the ACA. He said that a V-shaped recovery is in progress, and will continue to progress through their 4 more years of presidency if re-elected. 

When moving onto climate change, Pence said that the good economy over the last 4 years has contributed to a clean climate. “Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact,” said Harris. She stated that a majority of jobs created by Biden will be clean because Biden believes in science, adding that the Trump administration refuses to acknowledge the science. Harris said that climate change is an existential threat and “Joe has a plan.” Pence argued that she was putting environmental concerns ahead of jobs, which would negatively impact the people of America. After a small quarrel between the two candidates, they continued into the subject of foreign interference. 

Senator Harris stated the facts of Russia’s interference in American politics, which prompted her to speak about President Trump’s support of foreign dictatorships, as he has turned away from former allies and friends.

Page eventually moved on to the topic of the Supreme Court. Pence stated that he and Trump are very happy with Amy Coney Barrett’s potential role on the Supreme Court, while Harris stated that in the midst of an election, it is unacceptable to be appointing a new court justice. Considering that the women’s right of control over their own bodies and the Affordable Care Act are both at stake, Harris did everything she could to talk about the details. After this, Pence asked Harris whether they would pack the court if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed; arguing bluntly, Harris said that the Biden administration would indeed pack the court. 

Kamala Harris, when asked about Breonna Taylor, said that justice had not been served, stating, “We need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system.” In contrast, Pence said that he trusts the American criminal justice system. Harris also brought up the incident in Charlottesville, where Trump said that there were decent people on both sides. Trump’s statement drew criticism from many people including Joe Biden who considered it the reason he ran in this election. Harris promised that Biden would not be racist the way Trump has been. 

When asked about the election and whether President Trump would accept the results, Harris stated that the Biden campaign would not suppress the voices of the American people. When moving onto Vice President Pence, he went through accomplishments that the Trump administration have done such as helping the economy and diligently fighting COVID-19. He went on to state the accomplishments that he believes are more important to win in this coming election. 

In comparison to the first presidential debate, this debate was a more controlled and moderated debate. It featured less interruptions and more centralized discussion. Certainly, this debate will have more influence on voters than the previous one.

You can watch the whole debate here.