More civil but still heated as Pence, Harris debate

The vice presidential debate was much more cordial than last week’s raucous presidential debate that saw frequent interruptions and outbursts.


The vice presidential debate was much more cordial than last week’s raucous presidential debate that saw frequent interruptions and outbursts.

Both Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris consistently sidestepped questions but largely let the other candidate speak throughout the night.

Among the memorable moments - questions on vice presidential succession plans that went completely unanswered and a fly that landed on Pence’s head, distracting the internet in the middle of the debate.

The debate is the only matchup scheduled between Pence and Harris.

Follow along below and in the video player above for updates.

Update - 10:45 p.m. ET: In the final question of the debate, a Utah eighth grader asked a question on the minds of many Americans.

In a time of bitter partisanship, the student asked: "If our leaders can't get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?"

Pence thanked the young future voter for their question and said, "In America, we believe in a free and open exchange of debate and we celebrate that." He said that in America, we always come together, especially in times of need.

Harris also thanked the child and discussed why she felt Biden would help bring people together, saying “Joe Biden has a history of lifting people up,” adding that she believes the nation’s future is bright.

Update — 10:40 p.m. ET: Asked about peaceful transitions of power, Harris said she was proud of the coalition built around Biden, including several high-profile Republicans.

"I believe they are doing that because they know Joe Biden has a deep, deep-seated commitment to fight for our democracy." She also implored the audience to vote, saying this election would determine the future of the country.

She then criticized Trump for attempting to "openly suppress the vote."

Asked about Trump often refusing to accept the results of an election with mail-in ballots, Pence first said that he expected Trump and himself would win the election.

"The same Americans that delivered that historic victory in 2016" would do so again, Pence predicted.

"We stood with the men and women of law enforcement every single day," he went on to say.

He then accused Harris and the Democratic party of trying to overturn the 2016 election, saying Trump was spied on and that Democrats tried to impeach Trump "over a phone call."

Update — 10:30 p.m. ET: Moderator Susan Page then asked each candidate about the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in her Louisville apartment, asking if justice was done when no officers were indicted in connection with her death.

Harris said she didn’t believe so, noting she talked with Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer.

Harris said she was also reminded of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police.

The California senator noted her experience as a former career prosecutor, saying bad cops are bad for good cops.

She said Biden would immediately ban chokeholds, require a national registry for police officers who break the law and get rid of private prisons as well as cash bail — in addition to decriminalizing marijuana and expunging the records of those convicted of marijuana charges.

Pence said his heart breaks for the loss of any innocent life and the family of Taylor has his sympathies, but he trusts in the justice system and was surprised that Harris would think the grand jury got it wrong.

He also said there’s no excuse for what happened to Floyd but there’s no excuse for “rioting and looting” that followed.

The vice president also said the perspective that law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities is a great insult to those serving in law enforcement. He said he and Trump stand behind those service members.

Pence also latched on to Harris’ track record as attorney general, saying that she increased the disproportionate incarceration of Black individuals in California.

Harris said repeatedly she wouldn’t be lectured given her experience, saying that she was the first statewide officer who required agents to have body cameras on full-time and implemented implicit bias training for law enforcement.

Update — 10:25 p.m. ET: As Pence is first asked about whether the potential for an overturn of the Roe. v. Wade decision, and whether his home state of Indiana should pass restrictions, he didn’t directly answer. He instead brought the discussion back to the previous discussion around the killing of the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, praising Trump's decision to order the strike.

After that brief pivot, Pence said he and the president were enthusiastic about Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, saying she would bring a lifetime of experience to the court. Pence slammed attacks on her Catholic faith and said Harris herself attacked a Trump judicial nominee because he was a member of the Knights of Columbus.

Harris rebutted and said Joe Biden and herself are people of faith and to suggest otherwise would be insulting. Harris said it is important to let the voters decide which president should select the nominee. Harris said she would always stand for a woman’s right to decide what to do with her body, before pivoting again to the Trump attacks on the Affordable Care Act, which is set to be debated on the court after the election. She repeated her claim that Americans with preexisting conditions would be at risk of losing their health care. When asked for a potential Trump-Pence health care plan, Pence didn’t address the question and went back to the original question posed by the moderator. While again not directly answering it, he said both he and Trump are pro-life.

Pence then asked Harris if a Biden-Harris administration would pack the court with more justices. Harris did not address the question and instead described how Republican President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 refused to name a Supreme Court nominee, despite having a Republican Senate. Harris said Lincoln did so because he didn’t believe it was fair.

Pence noted that Harris had still not answered whether a Biden administration would pack the court.

Update - 10:10 p.m. ET: Vice President Mike Pence says hesitation on behalf of the Obama administration is to blame for the death of a humanitarian worker killed and abused by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Relatives of Kayla Mueller were among Pence’s guests at Wednesday night’s debate with California Sen. Kamala Harris in Salt Lake City.

During the debate, Pence said that, when Joe Biden was vice president, the Obama administration “hesitated” in moving on al-Baghdadi, and when forces finally went in, Mueller had been moved to another location.

Mueller was kidnapped and held for 18 months before her death was announced in early 2015.

Pence said Mueller’s family believes that, if President Donald Trump had been in office, “Kayla would be alive today.“ Al-Baghdadi was killed during a special forces raid in Syria in 2019.

Speaking to Mueller’s family, Harris said, “What happened to her was awful and it should have never happened.”

Update - 9:55 p.m. ET: The debate moved to climate change.

Pence was asked if he believes man-made climate change has worsened the effects of natural disasters. Pence said he was proud of the administration's record on the environment, touting Trump's commitment to the environment and investments in conservation.

Pence went on to say Biden and Harris support the "Green New Deal" and would crush the energy economy and cost jobs. He also criticized them saying the Biden administration would reenter the Paris climate accord. Pence repeated a Trump criticism that forest management has worsened wildfires.

Asked how a Biden-Harris administration would approach climate change, Harris came back saying their administration would not ban fracking. "That is a fact," she said.

Harris went on to say a Wall Street firm said Biden's administration would create more jobs than Trump. Harris said Joe Biden was better for the environment because he believes in science.

"Joe understands the west coast of our country is burning," she said.

"We have seen a pattern with this administration, which is that they don't believe in science," Harris said, and criticized Trump for his comment that "science doesn't know" while at a conference on the California wildfires.

Harris said the administration planned to be carbon neutral by 2030, and that they would reenter the climate agreement "with pride."

Pence agreed "the climate is changing," before saying that Harris was ignoring that the Biden administration would raise taxes, and insisted that they would ban fracking. He reiterated that Harris and Biden's climate plan was the "Green New Deal" with a different name.

Harris criticized the Trump administration for the effects of Trump's trade war with China and its effect on farmers as well as the job losses she claims came as a result.

She went on to say that "the catastrophe" of the administration has left many Americans afraid and unable to pay rent.

Pence applauded for Trump for having the trade war, saying Biden hadn't fought one and that he had been "a cheerleader for communist China. He also criticized that while Biden was vice president the nation lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs.

"Joe Biden is responsible for saving the American auto industry, and you voted against it," Harris argued back.

Update - 9:50 p.m. ET: As the discussion turns to the economy, moderator Susan Page asked Harris if the Biden plan, which would raise taxes on the nation’s wealthiest, could stall the potential for an economic recovery.

Harris, while not directly answering the question, said the Biden plan is designed for American families, while the Trump plan is designed to help the top 1%. The Democratic vice presidential candidate said that Joe Biden would immediately repeal the 2017 Trump tax law, should he be elected.

“There was a time when America believed in science,” Harris said, in an apparent dig at the Trump-Pence administration, saying Biden would invest in science and innovation to help speed up an economic recovery.

Pence was asked if he believed Americans should brace for a yearslong economic recovery. He also sidestepped the question and attacked the Obama-Biden administration, saying they tried to tax and spend and bail out corporations to improve the economy after the Great Recession.

The vice president claimed Biden wants to raise taxes, stop fracking and ban fossil fuels.

Harris denied a Biden administration would ban fracking and said their plan would not raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000.

As Harris mentioned the Affordable Care Act, which President Trump has sought to repeal, she said Americans with preexisting conditions are most at risk should Trump succeed.

Pence called Obamacare “a disaster.”

Update - 9:40 p.m. ET: The candidates were then asked if they have had conversations with their respective running mates' on assuming responsibilities of the presidency.

Pence declined to answer the question, instead of doubling back to criticize Harris for her answer on a potential coronavirus vaccine, saying she was undermining confidence in a vaccine by saying she wouldn't receive one if doctors did not recommend it.

Harris answered the question by first talking about the day Biden asked her to be his running mate via Zoom call, and how memorable it was for her. She went on to say she and Biden were raised with similar values of hard work and fighting for the dignity of all people.

"Joe has asked me to run with him because he knows we share a purpose," she said.
Asked if voters deserve to know more information on a president's health, Pence thanked Harris and Biden for their concern about Trump's condition and congratulated Harris for being selected as Biden's VP.

Harris acknowledged the compliment, then went on to say Biden has been more transparent than Trump, raising the issue that Trump had paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and owed $400 million in debt.

"It would be good to know who the president ... owes money to," Harris said. She lauded Biden's record of transparency. "He is honest, he is forthright," she said.

Pence responded by saying he respected both Harris and Biden, before going on to defend Trump, saying those reports are "not accurate," and championed Trump's record with the economy.

Update - 9:25 p.m. ET: While sitting down in chairs and separated by plexiglass, Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence delivered their case for why their presidential ticket should be in office as the country continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both quickly dodged questions in initial remarks. Harris avoided answering what Joe Biden’s administration would do differently in January and February regarding potential lockdowns and mask mandates. And Pence avoided answering why the death toll as a percentage of the U.S. population is higher than so many other countries.

Harris launched into why President Donald Trump’s administration didn’t do more when he and Pence knew as early as Jan. 28 that the virus was lethal and airborne and would infect young people.

“They knew what was happening, and they didn’t tell you,” Harris said, adding the president said it was a hoax and the administration minimized the seriousness of it.

The vice president countered that Trump always put the health of Americans first and immediately suspended travel from China before there were even five cases in the U.S.

Pence said that decision alone bought the United States invaluable time and believed it saved lives.

“There’s not a day gone by that I haven’t thought of every American family that’s lost a loved one,” Pence also said.

The former Indiana governor also said his opponents’ plan, such as issues with advancing Paycheck Protection Program and developing a vaccine, “it looks a little bit like plagiarism, which is something Joe Biden knows a little bit about.”

Harris, a former prosecutor, said the claims the administration says are working “clearly haven’t,” noting the number of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 surpassing over 211,000 lives.

“I want to ask the American people: How calm were you when you were panicked when you were going to get your next roll of toilet paper? How calm were you when your kids were sent home from school and you didn’t know when they could go back? How calm were you when your children couldn’t see your parents because you were afraid they could kill them?”

Pence also used his time during the second topic to immediately go back to issues surrounding the pandemic and a potential vaccine.