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 number of well being points Wednesday night time, 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 middle 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 folks, roiling the U.S. financial system, upending American life, and remaking the presidential marketing campaign.
General, the talk was extra civil than the wild exchanges that marred final week’s presidential debate, with President Donald Trump continuously interrupting and hectoring 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 As we speak, opened the talk by turning the dialogue to the White Home’s coronavirus response below Trump.
Pence, who heads the White Home coronavirus job pressure, acknowledged the U.S. goes by “a really difficult time,” however he defended and praised the president’s overall response to the disaster.
He singled out Trump’s choice to ban journey from China on January 31, federal efforts testing 150 million Individuals for the virus, and the White Home’s “Operation Warp Pace” program to fast-track a COVID-19 vaccine. Up to now, the federal authorities has contracted with six drug firms — spending almost $11 billion — and Pence stated “tens of tens of millions” of photographs could 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 prone 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 major 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 let you know,” Harris stated, including later, “They knew, and so they coated 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 stated the president has set a nasty 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 Individuals, hiring 100,000 contact tracers and offering “enough” private protecting gear (PPE), and boosting pay for well being care staff. Biden additionally stated this week he would impose a mask mandate on federal property.
Pence dismissed options that Trump has despatched blended messages by not carrying masks or embracing social distancing, arguing that these choices are “private” and Individuals ought to have the ability to make their very own judgments.
With out providing specifics, he recommended Biden “plagiarized” Trump’s coronavirus recreation plan in developing along 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 Decide Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Courtroom, the place Pence and different attendees had been sitting shut collectively, most not carrying masks. He stated “a substantial amount of hypothesis” was prompted by the occasion, however he famous it was open air and stated “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 instances amongst among the Trump administration’s prime officers and three Republican senators. An inside memo from the Federal Emergency Administration Company stated that 34 folks related to the White Home have been contaminated, according to ABC Information.
The candidates additionally sparred over questions in regards to the security of a COVID-19 vaccine and the way nicely it will work.
When Web page requested Harris if she would take the vaccine as soon as it’s accessible, she stated she’d observe the recommendation of specialists 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 stated. “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 enjoying politics with folks’s lives,” the vice chairman stated.
Obamacare, Abortion, and the Supreme Courtroom
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 transferring to seat Barrett earlier than the election. That might permit her to participate within the courtroom’s ruling on a lawsuit in search of to strike down the Reasonably priced 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 largest well being disaster in 100 years.
She famous Obamacare supplies a spread of well being protections for Individuals that may disappear if the regulation is overturned by the excessive courtroom. It requires insurers to cowl Individuals with pre-existing situations, 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.
“You probably have a pre-existing situation — coronary heart illness, diabetes, breast most cancers — they’re coming for you,” Harris stated. “When you love somebody who has a pre-existing situation, they’re coming for you. In case you are below 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 interchange 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 situations for each American,” Pence stated.
Trump’s Supreme Courtroom nominee has additionally raised the likelihood the excessive courtroom might overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Pence refused to say whether or not he want to see a ban on abortion, however stated he’s anti-abortion, “and I don’t apologize for it.”
Harris stated, “I’ll all the time help a lady’s proper to make her personal choice.”