Pence and Harris debate in Utah

Ryan Davey, Contributing Writer

On Oct. 7 Republican vice president Mike Pence and Democratic vice president candidate, Kamala Harris met at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to debate various topics from each party’s political agenda. The debate was the first and only vice-presidential debate scheduled for 2020.

At the debate, there were extra precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was especially important with both the President and First Lady recently contracting the coronavirus. There was a small and socially distant audience with all audience members required to wear a mask. Among other things, both candidates were seated 12 feet apart and plexiglass separated them. Safety was one of the primary concerns of the debate.

After the presidential debate on Sept. 29 between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden consisted of interruption, insults and a moderator who could not control the two candidates, the vice-presidential debate returned to a more normal style of political debate. Both Pence and Harris proved to be exceptional debaters who delivered more material to the American people on each other’s party agenda and the moderator was able to keep the debate under control.

Susan Page of USA TODAY was the first print journalist to ever moderate a vice-presidential debate. Moreover, Page’s opening statements began by telling each candidate that the debate would last for ninety minutes and would be divided into nine segments about ten minutes each. Each candidate had two minutes to answer the question. Some of the primary segment topics were the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, the economy, climate change and finally the Supreme Court.

Page started off the debate by asking Harris a question dealing with the ongoing pandemic.

Throughout the night, Harris constantly mentioned the Trump-Pence Administration due to their poor COVID-19 response. She continued to fall back on the statistic of 210,000 people passing due to the Trump-Pence administration not being able to act fast enough.

Pence was able to respond very quickly to Harris’s claim that the Trump-Pence administration did not act quickly enough. He even went further to talk about how Biden criticized the Trump-Pence administration for their actions taken against COVID-19 in January.

The next segment that Page asked of the two candidates to discuss was the economy. She brought up how there is a current job crisis and job growth has recently stalled. Page also stated that the Biden-Harris Administration’s solution to this problem was to raise taxes.

“Joe Biden believes you measure the health and the strength of America’s economy based on the health, and the strength of the American worker and the American family,” said Harris.

She went on to say that Biden will repeal the Trump tax cuts and will use the money to invest in the American people. For instance, infrastructure, clean and renewable energy, scientific research, and education.

“Despite what Senator 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, hardworking Americans, the average household income for a family of four increased by $4,000 following President Trump’s tax cuts,” said Pence.

Pence also commented on other economic accomplishments fulfilled by the Trump-Pence administration. For example, it rolled back regulations, unleashed American energy, fought for free and fair trade, secured $4 trillion from the Congress of the United States to give direct payments to families and saved 50 million jobs through the paycheck protection program.

The discussion of the economy brought two other segment topics to light on the stage, healthcare and climate change. Page gave time to both candidates to express their party’s views on these two topics.

Harris began by discussing how Biden was responsible with President Barack Obama for the Affordable Care Act. The act brought health care to over 20 million Americans including Americans with pre-existing conditions.

The spotlight was then given to Pence. The Trump-Pence administration believes that Obamacare is a disaster and they want to improve healthcare and to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.

However, Pence was not able to give a clear answer to the American people on how the Trump-Pence administration would create their own health care act that would protect people with pre-existing conditions.

Climate change was the next debate topic, in which tensions began to rise between the two candidates. Page began by posing the first climate change question to Pence.

Pence proudly stated that he believes our air and land are cleaner than any time ever recorded and Trump has made a commitment to conservation and to the environment. Recently, he signed the Outdoors Act which is the largest investment in our public lands and public parks in 100 years.

He continued with saying how if Biden wins the upcoming election, their administration will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and spend two million dollars on a Green New Deal which will not only have negative effects on the climate but also hurt the U.S. economy.

Harris was not able to provide a straightforward answer to the American people about what the Biden-Harris administration stance is toward the Green New Deal but did say the administration would rejoin the Paris Climate Accord right away if they won the election.

The last and one of the most controversial segments during the debate was the filling of the Supreme Court Seat with Amy Coney Barret as President Trump’s nomination.

Pence was enthusiastic about the nominee, meanwhile Harris wants to wait until after the election to appoint a new justice.

This close to the election, the vice-presidential debate was not likely to change many voters’ minds. Nonetheless, it showed sharp contrasts between the two parties’ agendas.

Professor Alethea Gaarden hoped Mercyhurst students learned something from the debate.

“I hope students use this vice presidential debate as an opportunity to focus on fact checking. We have to hold candidates for elected office to high standards, and at minimum, we should demand accurate information from both candidates,” said Gaarden.

The next and final presidential debate will be on Oct. 22 at 9:00 p.m. at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. The debate will be televised on various networks such as CBS, FOX, NBC or CNN. Trump and Biden will be discussing various topics such as the COVID-19 pandemic, American families, race, climate change, national security and leadership.