2020 vice presidential debate

By Melissa Macaya, Fernando Alfonso III, Veronica Rocha, Jessica Estepa and Kyle Blaine, CNN

Updated 2:23 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020
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10:31 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Fact check: Pence's claim that the Biden campaign wants to "ban fracking"

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Justin Sullivan/Pool/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence claimed during tonight's debate that the Biden campaign wants to “ban fracking.” 

Facts First: This is misleading. Joe Biden is not running on a proposal to completely ban fracking (hydraulic fracturing, a drilling method used to extract natural gas or oil). However, there is at least some basis for Pence’s claim: During the Democratic primary, Biden sometimes suggested he was proposing to get rid of all fracking. He's also pledged to "establish an enforcement mechanism to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050," which would almost certainly require a significant reduction in fracking.

Biden's written plan never included a full ban on fracking; rather, it proposes "banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters," not ending all new fracking anywhere or ending all existing fracking on public lands and waters. Biden has explicitly said he does not support a nationwide fracking ban (though in part because he doesn't believe such a ban would pass).

Biden created confusion about his stance with some of his comments during the Democratic primary. For example, he had this exchange with CNN's Dana Bash during a July 2019 debate:

Bash: "Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Just to clarify, would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?"
Biden: "No, we would — we would work it out. We would make sure it's eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, either — any fossil fuel."

Could a president even ban fracking alone? No.

Without an act of Congress, the president could not issue an outright ban on fracking across the US. There are, however, a number of regulatory and executive actions an administration could take to prevent or shrink the use of fracking technology, particularly on federal land. However, most fracking takes place on private land, and any attempts to limit it would likely face legal challenges.

For more CNN fact checks, visit our fact check database here

10:33 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Fact check: Pence claims that the Obama administration "left the Strategic National Stockpile empty"

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

Vice President Mike Pence claimed at tonight's debate that the Obama administration "left the Strategic National Stockpile empty" 

Facts First: This is misleading. 

The Strategic National Stockpile was not empty before the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the stockpile contains enough smallpox vaccines for every American, among other medical resources.  

While Trump isn't wrong to suggest he inherited a depleted stockpile of some medical supplies — the stockpile of masks, for example, was drained and not replenished by the Obama administration — it was not completely empty; he inherited significant quantities of other supplies. Congress repeatedly did not pay for the stockpile to be replenished. And Trump had three years in office to build depleted stockpiles back up. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services also confirmed to CNN in late June that there had been about 19,000 ventilators in the national stockpile for “many years,” including 16,660 ventilators that were ready for immediate use in March 2020; the spokesperson confirmed that none of those 16,660 were purchased by the Trump administration.  

You can read a longer fact check here. 

For more CNN fact checks, visit our fact check database here

10:36 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Pence says Americans "deserve a straight answer" on whether Biden would add Supreme Court seats

From CNN's Eric Bradner

California Sen. Kamala Harris ducked Vice President Mike Pence's question about whether a Biden administration would seek to add seats to the Supreme Court if the Trump administration pushes through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

"This is a classic case of, if you can't win by the rules, you're going to change the rules," Pence said, turning to Harris and asking directly if she and Biden were "going to pack the Supreme Court to get your way?"

Harris did not answer directly, instead saying that the Senate should not move forward with Coney Barrett's confirmation.

"Joe and I are very clear: The American people are voting right now. And it should be their decision about who will serve on (the court) ... for a lifetime," she said.

Pence shot back: "You gave a non-answer. Joe Biden gave a non-answer. The American people deserve a straight answer, and if you haven't figured it out yet, the straight answer is, they are going to pack the Supreme Court."

Biden, too, has avoided the question, including when Trump asked him last week in their first debate. The exchanges highlighted the difference between the Democratic ticket and some on the left of the party who have been invigorated by calls for sweeping change in the face of another Supreme Court pick by Trump. Both, however, have also been careful not to disavow the idea.

Watch the moment:

10:37 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Pence and Harris spar over faith and the upcoming Supreme Court fight

From CNN's Dan Merica

Vice President Mike Pence listens as Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris speaks during the vice presidential debate on Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
Vice President Mike Pence listens as Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris speaks during the vice presidential debate on Wednesday in Salt Lake City. Morry Gash/Pool/Getty Images

Mike Pence and Kamala Harris debated the upcoming fight over the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, sparring over how some of Barrett’s religious views could be central to that debate.

“We particularly hope we don’t see the kind of attacks on her Christian faith that we saw before,” Pence said in response to the Supreme Court, noting that some members of the Senate have suggested they have questions about her association with a Christian group called People of Praise.

Pence then hit Harris for questioning another judicial nominee because the pick was a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic group that is anti-abortion.

Harris hit back by casting the attack as personal.

“First of all, Joe Biden and I are both people of faith. And it’s insulting to suggest that we would knock anyone for their faith,” Harris said. “And in fact, Joe, if elected, will be only the second practicing Catholic as president of the United States.”

Barrett’s religious beliefs came up during 2017 confirmation hearings to her current seat on the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals. California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein questioned whether the nominee could separate her faith from her legal opinions.

At issue then, as it is now, is how her faith would inform her approach, especially on legal challenges to abortion rights.

Hear the exchange:

10:35 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Here's who has talked the most so far

About an hour into tonight’s debate, Vice President Mike Pence leads in speaking time with more than 28 minutes, maintaining about a 90 second lead ahead of Sen. Kamala Harris.

10:17 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Where things stand in the fight over Trump's Supreme Court pick

From CNN's Clare Foran and Ted Barrett 

Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris listens to a question from moderator USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page during the vice presidential debate on Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris listens to a question from moderator USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page during the vice presidential debate on Wednesday in Salt Lake City. Justin Sullivan/Pool/AP

A major fight over the future of the Supreme Court is underway as Senate Republicans push to quickly confirm President Trump’s newest Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, amid Democratic opposition.

Trump nominated Barrett following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, setting off a high-stakes confirmation battle in the run-up to an election where control of the White House and Congress are on the line. 

Republicans, who control the Senate majority, signaled early on they would move as quickly as possible to take up the nomination, setting the stage for the possibility of a final confirmation vote before Election Day on Nov. 3.

The vetting process will kick into high gear next week when the Senate Judiciary Committee begins holding hearings on the nomination. During those hearings, which are scheduled to start on Monday, Oct. 12, lawmakers will have a chance to question the nominee ahead of a final vote on the Senate floor on confirmation.

Making matters more complicated, however, three Republican senators — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — recently tested positive for coronavirus and are away from the Senate recovering. 

Lee and Tillis are on the Judiciary Committee and will be needed back in time to process and vote Barrett out of committee and Johnson’s vote will be needed on the floor to ensure enough Republicans are there to confirm her.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have already signaled they won't back any GOP nominee ahead of Election Day. That leaves little room for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to find the votes if members of his conference contract or remain sick with Covid-19 since he can only afford to lose one more Republican besides Collins and Murkowski and still push through a nominee.

But confirming Barrett to the high court remains a top priority for Senate Republicans, who plan to press ahead and do whatever it takes to push for confirmation of the nominee as quickly as possible even in the face of the recent diagnoses within their ranks.

Johnson said on Monday that he will do everything he can to vote for Barrett, even if he has to wear a "moon suit" to do it. And McConnell said on Monday that Republicans remain “full steam ahead with the fair, thorough, and timely confirmation process that Judge Barrett, the court and the nation deserve.” 

10:08 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Fact check: Pence claims Trump "always" told the truth about coronavirus

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Vice President Mike Pence claimed tonight that the Trump White House has “always” told the truth about Covid-19.  

“Let’s talk about respecting the American people. You respect the American people when you tell them the truth,” Harris said. Pence then interjected, “Which we’ve always done.” 

Facts First: That’s false. The Trump administration has not “always” been truthful about the pandemic. 

CNN’s fact-check reporter Daniel Dale called this “a whopper of a lie.” That’s because Trump has made hundreds of false claims during the pandemic, including false claims about his travel restrictions, Covid-19 testing, the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, the national stockpile of ventilators, and more. In recent weeks, Trump even lied about lying about the virus. 

Trump has also admitted, in a series of interviews with Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, that he concealed the true threat of the coronavirus from the American public earlier this year. Trump said, "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic.” 

10:19 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Harris and Pence spar over trade wars

From CNN's Dan Merica

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence participate in the vice presidential debate moderated by Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today Susan Page in Salt Lake City on October 7.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence participate in the vice presidential debate moderated by Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today Susan Page in Salt Lake City on October 7. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris excoriated Vice President Mike Pence and the Trump administration’s handling of trade tonight, leading the vice president to fire back at Joe Biden’s record on trade agreements.

“The vice president earlier said it’s what he thinks as an accomplishment that the President’s trade war with China,” Harris said. “You lost that trade war. You lost it. What ended up happening is because of a so-called trade war with China, America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs.”

Harris went on to note that farmers have experienced more bankruptcies in recent years and manufacturing jobs have dipped.

Pence fired back: “Lost the trade war with China? Joe Biden never fought it.”

“Joe Biden has been a cheerleader for communist China over the last several decades. And Sen. Harris, you’re entitled to your opinion, not your own facts,” Pence said.

Trump made renegotiating trade agreements a key priority during his first term, taking on the North American Free Trade Agreement and renegotiating it into what is now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The effort has been heralded by some trade unions and manufacturers, but farmers have complained about the way the trade war has damaged markets for products ranging from soybeans to cheese to pork.

Watch the moment:

9:59 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Fact check: Pence claimed that Biden called Trump's travel restrictions on China "xenophobic"

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

Vice President Mike Pence claimed that Joe Biden called President Trump’s travel restrictions on China “xenophobic.” 

“Biden opposed that decision. He said it was xenophobic,” Pence said. 

Facts First: This needs context. It’s not clear Biden even knew about Trump’s China travel restrictions when he called Trump xenophobic on the day the restrictions were unveiled; Biden has never explicitly linked his accusation of xenophobia to these travel restrictions. 

The campaign says Biden’s Jan. 31 accusations – that Trump has a record of “hysterical xenophobia” and “fear mongering” – were not about the travel restrictions at all. The campaign says Biden did not know about the restrictions at the time of his speech, since his campaign event in Iowa started shortly after the Trump administration briefing where the restrictions were revealed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.  

Given the timing of Biden’s remarks, it’s not unreasonable for Pence to infer that the former vice president was talking about the travel restrictions. But Biden never took an explicit position on the restrictions until his April declaration of support. 

You can read more about Biden’s comments here.  

For more CNN fact checks, visit our fact check database here