The Vice Presidential debate between Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence appeared, at first hand, more productive than the Presidential debate that took place September 29th. There were obvious clashes with the moderator, Susan Page, with regard to answering old questions instead of new, or answering entirely different ones than what was asked, but the policy implications that both candidates made were evident in their speech. The following is a breakdown, by topic and candidate, on what was learned about actual policies in the debate.
Senator Harris claims that her and former Vice President Biden have a “national strategy” for contact tracing, testing, and free vaccination that will be put in place should they be elected to office. She also, when prompted, affirmed the idea of a national mask mandate, and Biden has confirmed this as well via Twitter.
On the other hand, Vice President Pence cited his and President Trump’s current plan in place known as Operation Warp Speed. Operation Warp Speed is a partnership between the Trump administration and assorted private companies that will lead to the rapid production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by January 2021. He criticized the nature of the Biden-Harris plan for being a near-plagiarism of their plan, though less effective, and stated that he and President Trump will not introduce any mandates involving the COVID-19 pandemic because they “trust the American people.”
In addition to the U.S. COVID-19 response, Pence added that he and Trump are looking to “hold China accountable” for the virus. What this means exactly is unclear, but likely it’s another round of tariffs, which he also believes that Biden would repeal. Harris did not respond to this particular comment, but she did brandish her own point about how the Trump administration prefers to work with dictators, like Vladimir Putin, which Biden would not do.
It is no secret that Democratic candidates are in favor of more progressive taxing, and Republicans are more in favor of the free-market system. This came to a head in the debate, with Pence slamming Harris for her and Biden’s proposed tax plan. The Trump-Pence administration’s tax bill, according to Pence, cut taxes across the board; that is, for working class Americans and the wealthy alike. He says working-class Americans are paying roughly $2,000 less in taxes under their administration. According to Harris, it only supported the wealthiest billionaires and companies.
The proposed tax plan from the Biden-Harris campaign would repeal Trump’s tax bill and introduce increased taxes of about 28 percent on wealthy companies. This money would be used to invest in infrastructure: clean energy, roads, two-year free community college, student loan forgiveness, and research and development. Upon Pence’s retort that her bill radically increases taxes, which it does for some, she states that nobody who is making less than $400,000 a year will see increases in their taxes.
- Climate Change
“The climate is changing”, is a direct quote from Pence during this debate, but it is not the same as “climate change exists.” Removing several environmental protection laws, decreasing regulation on offshore drilling, leaving the Paris Climate Accords, all of these show that the climate is not a priority. He believes that the free market automatically accounts for the kind of innovation that would offset global warming, though never actually confirming its existence. When asked about actual legislation, he cites the Outdoors Act which was a bill that supported infrastructure in National Parks. While National Parks are an important aspect of our nation’s history and vitality, supporting them is not the same as supporting the environment as a whole.
Responding to Pence’s point about her support of the Green New Deal, Harris discusses her campaign’s plan for the climate, in very minimal detail. Biden will re-enter the Paris Climate Accords, and create more jobs that relate to clean energy to encourage its use over other energy sources.
Pence also says several times in this debate that Biden will ban fracking and lose jobs as a result. Harris says he will not. Notably, neither candidate brought up the environmental impacts of fracking.
- Health Care
Really, not much is known about the Trump-Pence plan for health care, other than that they both believe the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to have been a “disaster” and are seeking its repeal, which is likely to come up in a Supreme Court case sometime soon, and it is certain that the Trump administration will be submitting a brief in favor of striking it down. During the debate, Pence confirmed Trump’s claims that people with pre-existing conditions will be able to maintain their health care coverage once the ACA is repealed, but he did not say exactly how, even when directly asked.
Harris attacked this fact, saying that anyone under the public option right now is at risk with the current administration. She added that her and Biden’s plan would expand the public option, and lower the age for Medicare coverage down to 60.
- Criminal Justice Reform
While Pence states explicitly here that he trusts the justice system and will always stand with law enforcement, Harris provides policy ideas here that are succinct. Among them are banning choke holds, establishing a national registry of officers who break the law, reforming the cash-bail system, and decriminalizing marijuana and expunging the records of those convicted.
Pence notes here that the Trump administration signed the First Step Act into law, which provides programs that are aimed at reducing recidivism in the criminal justice system. The bill passed easily with bipartisan support.
There were many more interesting topics in this debate that are not listed here. This is merely a recap of clear policy implications that were stated explicitly by candidates during the Vice Presidential debate. For more information about the stances of the Trump-Pence and Biden-Harris campaigns, visit their campaign websites. And for a comprehensive review of the statistics and claims made in the debate, see the New York Times fact-check.