October 8, 2020 — In a debate dominated by the escalating COVID-19 disaster, Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris squared off on a bunch of well being points Wednesday evening, together with the Trump administration’s dealing with of the virus outbreak, the destiny of Obamacare, and abortion rights.
From the get-go, the coronavirus disaster was entrance and heart throughout the one vice presidential debate, held on the College of Utah in Salt Lake Metropolis.
Plexiglas shields separated Pence and Harris, who had been seated greater than 12 toes aside — a safeguard requested by the senator and initially opposed (however later agreed to) by the vice chairman. The candidates didn’t put on masks, however members of the viewers had been required to take action.
The precautions had been stark reminders of how the coronavirus has ravaged the nation — killing greater than 211,000 individuals, roiling the U.S. economic system, upending American life, and remaking the presidential marketing campaign.
General, the controversy was extra civil than the wild exchanges that marred final week’s presidential debate, with President Donald Trump incessantly interrupting and hectoring former Vice President Joe Biden and even sparring with moderator Chris Wallace of Fox Information.
Whereas neither vice presidential candidate broke a lot new floor on the coverage positions of their campaigns, the occasion marked the primary actual trade of concepts on well being coverage.
Moderator Susan Web page, Washington bureau chief for USA Right now, opened the controversy by turning the dialogue to the White Home’s coronavirus response underneath Trump.
Pence, who heads the White Home coronavirus activity pressure, acknowledged the U.S. goes by way of “a really difficult time,” however he defended and praised the president’s overall response to the disaster.
He singled out Trump’s resolution to ban journey from China on January 31, federal efforts testing 150 million People for the virus, and the White Home’s “Operation Warp Velocity” program to fast-track a COVID-19 vaccine. Up to now, the federal authorities has contracted with six drug corporations — spending almost $11 billion — and Pence mentioned “tens of hundreds of thousands” of photographs can be accessible by yr’s finish. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the Nationwide Institute of Allergy and Infectious Ailments. has said that quantity is extra more likely to be accessible within the early a part of subsequent yr.
Harris known as Trump’s coronavirus response “the best failure of any presidential administration within the historical past of our nation.”
She accused the president of not publicly disclosing that he knew as early as Jan. 28 that the coronavirus represented a big risk — one thing revealed in taped interviews with veteran journalist Bob Woodward launched final month.
“They knew what was taking place, and so they didn’t inform you,” Harris mentioned, including later, “They knew, and so they lined it up.”
She criticized the president for constantly downplaying the general public well being dangers of COVID-19, even after he and first girl Melania Trump had been contaminated with the virus final week. She additionally mentioned the president has set a foul instance by questioning his personal well being advisers’ suggestions on mask-wearing and social distancing.
As well as, Harris ticked off a list of actions her operating mate, former Vice President Joe Biden, has proposed to fight and management the virus. These initiatives include free COVID-19 testing and vaccinations for all People, hiring 100,000 contact tracers and offering “adequate” private protecting tools (PPE), and boosting pay for well being care employees. Biden additionally mentioned this week he would impose a mask mandate on federal property.
Pence dismissed solutions that Trump has despatched blended messages by not carrying masks or embracing social distancing, arguing that these choices are “private” and People ought to be capable of make their very own judgments.
With out providing specifics, he recommended Biden “plagiarized” Trump’s coronavirus sport plan in arising together with his personal plan — a veiled reference to Biden’s withdrawal from his first presidential run 3 many years in the past due to a plagiarism scandal.
Pence additionally defended the White Home Rose Backyard ceremony final month for Choose Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court docket, the place Pence and different attendees had been sitting shut collectively, most not carrying masks. He mentioned “an excessive amount of hypothesis” was prompted by the occasion, however he famous it was open air and mentioned “everybody” was examined for COVID-19 beforehand.
That Sept. 26 occasion, and a reception contained in the White Home that adopted it, is now seen as a “superspreader” occasion that led to a surge in coronavirus circumstances amongst among the Trump administration’s prime officers and three Republican senators. An inner memo from the Federal Emergency Administration Company mentioned that 34 individuals related to the White Home have been contaminated, according to ABC Information.
The candidates additionally sparred over questions concerning the security of a COVID-19 vaccine and the way properly it will work.
When Web page requested Harris if she would take the vaccine as soon as it’s accessible, she mentioned she’d comply with the recommendation of consultants like Fauci. “If Dr. Fauci, the docs, inform us that we must always take it, I will be the primary in line to take it,” she mentioned. “But when Donald Trump tells us we must always take it, I am not going to take it.”
The remark drew a pointy rebuke from Pence, who accused the California Democratic senator of undermining public confidence within the vaccine.
“Cease taking part in politics with individuals’s lives,” the vice chairman mentioned.
Obamacare, Abortion, and the Supreme Court docket
Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, and his push to have the Senate approve her by Nov. 3, drew among the sharpest exchanges of the night.
The president and GOP-led Senate are shifting to seat Barrett earlier than the election. That would permit her to participate within the courtroom’s ruling on a lawsuit in search of to strike down the Inexpensive Care Act, to be taken up Nov. 10, and weigh in on any future vote involving Roe vs. Wade, the landmark ruling granting a lady’s authorized proper to abortion.
Democrats have opposed Senate motion earlier than Election Day, noting that individuals are already voting.
Harris praised Biden’s efforts to assist move the 2010 act and criticized the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal it simply because the nation is confronting the most important well being disaster in 100 years.
She famous Obamacare offers a spread of well being protections for People that may disappear if the legislation is overturned by the excessive courtroom. It requires insurers to cowl People with pre-existing circumstances, with out charging them extra. It additionally permits mother and father to maintain their youngsters on their well being insurance policies till the age of 26.
“In case you have a pre-existing situation — coronary heart illness, diabetes, breast most cancers — they’re coming for you,” Harris mentioned. “If you happen to love somebody who has a pre-existing situation, they’re coming for you. In case you are underneath the age of 26 in your mother and father’ protection, they’re coming for you.”
Pence known as Obamacare “a catastrophe” and echoed Trump’s claims that he has a “higher plan” to switch it, though the president has but to launch any complete well being care plan.
“President Trump and I’ve a plan to enhance well being care and defend pre-existing circumstances for each American,” Pence mentioned.
Trump’s Supreme Court docket nominee has additionally raised the chance the excessive courtroom may overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Pence refused to say whether or not he wish to see a ban on abortion, however mentioned he’s anti-abortion, “and I don’t apologize for it.”
Harris mentioned, “I’ll all the time help a lady’s proper to make her personal resolution.”