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Harris, Pence clash on taxes, Green New Deal, COVID-19, China and packing the Supreme Court

Harris says Biden will repeal the Trump tax reform law on "Day One" and Pence predicts 2021 will be "the biggest economic year in the history of this country” if Trump is re-elected

Updated: October 8, 2020 - 11:15am

Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence sparred over tax policy, the Green New Deal, the pandemic, China and the Supreme Court on Wednesday night during their vice presidential debate.

During the opening segment of the debate, Harris argued that Pence and President Trump have “forfeited” the right to re-election based on their handling of coronavirus pandemic.

Pence said that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden criticized Trump’s decision to restrict travel to and from China in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.

Harris shook her head but did not respond to Pence’s statement about Biden’s position on China travel.

Harris argued that Trump knew how dangerous the virus was and didn’t communicate it to the American public in February.

In response, Pence referenced Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, who had said that everything Trump communicated publicly about the virus early on had reflected the information he discussed with the president in meetings.

Pence said the “American people deserve credit for the sacrifices” they have made during the pandemic for the health of their families and neighbors. He added that the U.S. will have a COVID-19 vaccine in record time and argued that Harris was undermining confidence in a vaccine.

“Stop playing politics with people’s lives,” he said.

Harris and Pence met in their only debate on the 2020 presidential campaign, with Election Day now less than 25 days away.

The fireworks that marked the first presidential debate of the cycle – last week between Biden and Trump – didn't reignite in the vice presidential debate, at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. 

Moderator USA Today's Susan Page vowed to extinguish the kind of interruptions and crosstalk that marred the Trump-Biden debate and largely achieved her goal – with the exception of each candidate occasionally interrupting each other and demanding more speaking time. 

The pandemic, to be sure, was omnipresent, from being a dominant topic of discussion to the protective plexiglass that separated the seated debaters.

Harris criticized the Republican tax reform legislation that Trump signed in 2017 and said Biden would repeal it on "Day One" of his presidency. Pence said Biden's promise to raise taxes would hurt the economy.

Harris said Biden would only raise taxes on individuals and families making $400,000 or more but didn’t elaborate on Biden’s position on the corporate tax rate reductions in the Trump tax reform plan.

Pence predicted that 2021 is “going to be the biggest economic year in the history of this country” if Trump is re-elected.

Pence said Harris told her supporters in the Democratic primary that she will end fracking. In response, Harris said a Biden administration would not end fracking.

“He [Biden] has been very clear about that,” she said.

Harris was asked about Biden saying he doesn’t support the Green New Deal while the Biden campaign website mentions that the Green New Deal is a framework for Biden’s energy plans.

In response, Harris said Biden’s climate plan would seek to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and invest more federal resources toward renewable energy.

Pence said America doesn’t need a “massive $2 trillion Green New Deal” that would impose new mandates on American businesses and families.

“Joe Biden wants us to retrofit 4 million American business buildings – it makes no sense,” he said.

Harris pivoted to trade and argued that the Trump administration has “lost” the trade war with China.

“We are in a manufacturing recession because of it,” she said.

Pence said Biden never fought the trade war with China during his 47 year career in politics.

“Joe Biden has been a cheerleader for communist China over the last several decades,” he said.

Pence said 500,000 manufacturing jobs were created under Trump before the pandemic hit.

“That’s exactly the kind of growth we’re going to continue to see as we bring our nation through this pandemic,” he said.

Pence emphasized that the administration will hold China “accountable” for their handling of the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.

Later in the debate, Pence pressed Harris on her and Biden’s position on expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court but she did not elaborate.

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