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Mike Pence, Kamala Harris discuss taxes, healthcare, transparency at debate



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The vice presidential campaign debate between Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence is seen Wednesday on a TV screen. The debate took place in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tribune News Service

Vice President and former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA participated in a civil vice presidential debate Wednesday night compared to the constant interruptions and attacks during the first presidential debate.

The debate consisted of nine roughly 10-minute sections where the candidates were each given two minutes to speak uninterrupted followed by a discussion. 

The moderator, Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of USA Today, asked the candidates about eight key issues: the coronavirus, the role of the vice president, the economy, climate change, the relationship between the United States and China, the Supreme Court nomination, Breonna Taylor and the potential transfer of power following the election.

The COVID-19 pandemic

Page focused on the Biden campaign's plan to combat COVID-19 and the United States’ death toll compared to other wealthy countries.

Harris pointed out more than 7 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 and over 210,000 have died from it. She mentioned the number of businesses closed and Americans who are unemployed as a result of the pandemic. She said a Biden administration will deliver a vaccine to Americans and make it free.

Pence said he believes President Donald Trump has put the health of Americans first by suspending travel to the United States from China earlier this year. He said he thinks the Trump administration will be able to deliver many doses of vaccines by the end of the year.

Page asked Pence about the recent superspreader event in the White House Rose Garden celebrating Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Pence said he was honored to be at the event.

Role of the vice president

Page asked the candidates to address the role of the vice president, specifically asking Pence and Harris if they have discussed presidential disability. Trump is 74 and Biden is 77, making them the oldest presidential candidates in history.

Pence did not answer the question, instead going back to the previous discussion about a vaccine. He said he thinks Harris is undermining confidence in a vaccine for the American people.

Harris said she is honored to serve on the ticket with Biden. She said she and Biden will fight for the dignity of the American people.

During their discussion, Pence said he has been moved by the bipartisan support and concern for Trump’s health since he was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. He said Americans have a right to know about the health of their president and they will continue to provide updates.

Harris said Americans deserve to be updated on the president’s condition and what influences his decisions, bringing up New York Times reports which say Trump only paid $750 in income taxes in 2016 and 2017.

Economy

Page asked the candidates about their plan to help the economy, focusing on the effects of raising taxes and the possibility of an economic comeback.

Harris said Biden will not raise taxes on Americans who make less than $400,000 a year, but will raise taxes on richer Americans, which will allow for investments in infrastructure, renewable energy and innovation.

“There was a time when our country believed in science and invested in research and development,” she said.

Pence said Trump cut taxes for hardworking Americans during his time in office and saved jobs. He said Biden will ban fracking, abolish fossil fuels and cause an economic decline. Harris denied those allegations.

Climate change

Pence said he is proud of his administration’s record on environment and conservation. He said he believes American innovation has led to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Harris said Biden’s administration will create 7 million more jobs than Trump’s, many of which will be jobs focusing on implementing clean and renewable energy. She said the Trump administration does not believe in science, but Biden has seen the effects of climate change firsthand. 

Harris said she and Biden will reenter the Paris Climate Agreement. Pence argued this would be a bad decision and would take away jobs.

Relationship with China

Pence said he and Trump believe China is to blame for the coronavirus pandemic, and they intend to improve the U.S.'s relationship with China, but hold China accountable.

Harris said the Trump administration has caused the loss of American lives, jobs and standing in the world. Biden and former President Barack Obama created an office to monitor potential pandemics, but the Trump administration removed this office, she said. 

America's allies have lost respect for the U.S. because of Trump’s administration and his lack of following through on promises, Harris said.

“Donald Trump doesn’t understand that,” she said. “He doesn’t understand what it means to be honest.”

Supreme Court nomination

Pence said he and Trump are enthusiastic about Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. He said he hopes Barrett receives a fair hearing and does not want her to be criticized for her religious beliefs. 

Harris said she and Biden are both people of faith, and found the accusation that they would criticize anyone’s religious beliefs insulting. She said the seat should not be filled during the presidential election.

The candidates discussed the Supreme Court and the supposed intention of the Democratic Party to “pack the court” by adding seats. Pence insisted a Biden administration would attempt to do so while Harris focused on the issues with Barrett’s nomination, such as the potential loss of abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.

Breonna Taylor

Harris said she does not believe justice has been served for Breonna Taylor and her family deserves justice. She said she and Biden will work to reform the police and criminal justice systems in America.

Pence said he trusts the criminal justice system. He said he and Trump stand with law enforcement. He said while there is no excuse for the death of innocent Americans, there is also no excuse for rioting and looting during protests.

“Our heart breaks for the loss of any innocent American life,” he said.

Harris and Pence debated whether or not Trump has condemned white supremacy, Harris arguing he refused to do so, whereas Pence said he has done so repeatedly.

Transfer of power

Page asked the candidates how they will enforce a peaceful transfer of power after the election, if necessary. Harris said she and Biden would like to encourage Americans to vote. She said their ticket has received support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

“Joe Biden has a deep, deep-seated commitment to fight for our democracy and to fight for the integrity of our democracy,” she said.  

Pence said he believes he and Trump will win reelection because Americans have witnessed Trump’s record on improving the military, economy and law enforcement and appointment of conservatives to different court levels.

“I think that movement of Americans has only grown stronger in the last four years,” he said.

Final question

For the last question of the debate, Page read a question sent in by eighth grader Brecklynn Brown from Springville Junior Highin Springville, Utah. Brown said when she watches the news, she sees the country’s leaders fighting and arguing and tearing one another down. She asked the candidates how citizens can be expected to get along when their leaders do not.

Pence commended Brown for her question and said America is a free nation which participates in open debates and exchanges. He said leaders can disagree, but when the debate is over, citizens come together as Americans, as evidenced by the challenges facing the country in 2020.

Harris said she knows the future is bright when she hears from young leaders like Brown. She said Biden has a reputation of working in a bipartisan way, and hopes young people like Brown will continue to stay engaged and vote in the future.

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