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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10:51 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Karen Pence didn't wear a mask on stage after debate

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen Pence appear on stage after the vice presidential debate against Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris a the University of Utah on Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen Pence appear on stage after the vice presidential debate against Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris a the University of Utah on Wednesday in Salt Lake City. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Second lady Karen Pence appeared to break the agreed-upon rules on masks at the vice presidential debate Wednesday evening upon its conclusion.

In the aftermath of the first presidential debate, where some audience members, including the first lady and other Trump family members, removed their masks, the Commission on Presidential Debates mandated that everyone in the audience, with the only exceptions of the candidates and the moderator, wear a mask during future debates.

After the last questions were answers, Pence joined her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, on stage.

Douglas Emhoff joined his wife, Sen. Kamala Harris. Emhoff wore a mask as he stood by Harris. Karen Pence removed her mask.

Pence’s action was another example of the administration flouting its own guidelines on best public health practices and shirking the opportunity to lead on mask wearing.

Pence was present 11 days ago in the White House Rose Garden for an event nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. At least 12 attendees have since tested positive for Covid-19.

Watch:

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

Fact check: Pence's claims about Biden and the Green New Deal

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

Vice President Mike Pence Mike Pence gestures as he speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Vice President Mike Pence Mike Pence gestures as he speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence said during the debate that “while Joe Biden denied the Green New Deal… the Green New Deal is on their campaign website.” 

Facts First: This is true but needs context. Biden's campaign website does say the resolution is a "crucial framework" for addressing climate change, but his own plan differs from it in several ways. In particular, Biden's plan does not include some of the Green New Deal’s proposed economic actions, such as guaranteeing a job for every American.

After lauding the "framework" of the Green New Deal, Biden's campaign webpage on the environment lays out the bullet points of the candidate’s own plan to combat climate change, which includes items like building out energy-efficient infrastructure and setting a goal for the US to reach zero emissions by 2050.

While the two plans overlap on some environmental objectives, Biden's plan does not include many of the social welfare proposals of the Green New Deal. For instance, he is not calling for a guaranteed job for each American with family and medical leave and paid vacations, as the deal proposes.

In other ways, the proposals differ less dramatically. Biden's plan also has a goal of creating a carbon-pollution-free energy sector by 2035, whereas the Green New Deal proposed reaching 100% clean power in 10 years.

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

11:02 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Harris embraces prosecutorial record and Pence faults her for it

From CNN's Dan Merica

Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator from California, Kamala Harris gestures as she speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator from California, Kamala Harris gestures as she speaks during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris, who was formerly the Attorney General of California and a top prosecutor in San Francisco, embraced her record as a prosecutor on Wednesday night, leading Vice President Mike Pence to quickly accuse her for not doing enough on criminal justice reform.

The fight highlights an issue that has faced the Trump campaign: Attacking Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Harris for being too soft on crime, while also faulting the former California senator for being too hard on crime during her time as a law enforcement official in the state.

“I will not sit here and be lectured by the vice president on what it means to enforce the laws of our country,” Harris said after Pence spoke about criminal justice reform, noting that she had prosecuted trials ranging from child sexual assault to homicide.

Harris has struggled with her prosecutorial record ever since she launched her Democratic presidential campaign in 2019, both leaning on it and running away from it during her primary bid. But Harris’ answer on Wednesday night shows how the Biden campaign believes it could help their bid against Trump and Pence.

Pence hit back at Harris’ comment, noting some of the tough on crime efforts Harris oversaw when she was district attorney in San Francisco and attorney general of California.

“Your record speaks for itself,” Pence said. “President Trump and I have fought for criminal justice reform. … And we will do it for four more years.”

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.”