Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic challenger Kamala Harris clashed early and often over the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic during their debate on Wednesday, as the White House struggled to contain an outbreak that has infected President Donald Trump and dozens of others.
The policy-heavy debate stood in stark contrast to last week’s chaotic presidential debate between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, which was marred by Trump’s constant interruptions and personal insults from both men.
But the confrontation seemed unlikely to alter the trajectory of the race, as both candidates evaded certain questions but avoided the kind of gaffe that would generate headlines.
The vice president noted that the event was outdoors before criticizing Harris and Biden, who have said they would mandate masks on federal property and encourage the practice nationwide, for not respecting people’s freedom to make their own choices on health.
The two candidates were separated by 12 feet (3.6 meters) and plexiglass shields, a reminder of the pandemic that has claimed 210,000 American lives and devastated the economy.
Pence called the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare, a “disaster.”
The US Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments over the law a week after the election. Republicans are working to seat Trump’s conservative nominee to the court, Amy Coney Barrett, by month’s end over the objections of Democrats.
Pence sought to counter Harris’s attacks by turning the focus to the economy and tax policy, saying: “On Day One, Joe Biden’s going to raise your taxes.” Harris responded by saying that Biden has vowed not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year.
Harris, the first Black woman to serve on a major-party presidential ticket, also attacked Pence on race relations, criticizing Trump for turning down an opportunity to denounce white supremacists at last week’s debate with Biden.