Pence, Harris debate Trump’s COVID-19 response, Supreme Court nomination and China

In the vice presidential debate, Sen. Kamala Harris pressed the vice president on his leadership of the coronavirus task force. Pence criticized her record as a prosecutor and Biden’s economic plan.
8:52 | 10/08/20

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Transcript for Pence, Harris debate Trump’s COVID-19 response, Supreme Court nomination and China
Tonight, the one and only vice presidential debate in the books. Kamala Harris making history. The first black woman and south Asian American on a major party ticket, sparring with vice president Mike pence, whose job she's trying to win. This showdown coming as a covid outbreak shadows the president and the west wing. So how did they do? For the very latest we go now to ABC's Mary Bruce. Mary? Reporter: Juju, despite the very unusual setting here in the room, the two candidates up on stage separated by that plexiglass, all of us here in our masks, what struck me most about this debates was how it really felt like a normal traditional debate. After last week's disastrous, very raucous debate between the president and Joe Biden, the bar for civility was low. So tonight when we saw a lot of pleasantries, not a lot of interrupting at all, and really a conversation about policy, it did seem rather remarkable. What also felt like a normal debate was how much they refused to simply answer a lot of questions. We saw a lot of reverting back to traditional talking points, often a lot of yes or no questions left unanswered. Two notable dodges that stick out to me, kamala Harris refusing to give a straight answer on packing the court. Mike pence still not saying what their plan is for health care. Thank you, Mary. Now more on tonight's consequential debate with many questions artfully dodged. The most pointed question, on the growing controversy over that white house event linked to a covid outbreak. Vice president pence, you were in the front row in a rose garden event 11 days ago at what seems to have been a superspreader event for senior administration and congressional officials. No social distancing. Few masks. And now a cluster of coronavirus cases among those who were there. How can you expect Americans to follow the administration's safety guidelines to protect themselves from covid when you at the white house have not been doing so? Well, the American people have demonstrated over the last eight months that when given the facts they're willing to put the health of their families and their neighbors and people they don't even know first. Reporter: After the president spent the weekend hospitalized with covid-19, his vice president, Mike pence, tasked tonight with answering for the administration's pandemic response. And for the 34 people connected to the white house outbreak who've also tested positive in the past week. Rose garden event, there's been a great deal of speculation about it. An outdoor event which all of our scientists regularly and routinely advise. The difference here is president trump and I trust the American people to make choices in the best interest of their health. The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country. And here are the facts. 210,000 dead people in our country in just the last several months. Over 7 million people have contracted this disease. 1 in 5 businesses closed. We're looking at frontline workers who've been treated like sacrificial workers. We are looking at over 30 million people who in the last several months had to file for unemployment. Reporter: Senator kamala Harris pressing pence on his leadership of the white house's coronavirus task force. The president said it was a hoax. They minimized the seriousness of it. Whatever the vice president's claiming the administration has done, clearly it hasn't worked. From the very first day president Donald Trump has put the health of America first. Before there were more than five cases in the United States, all people who had returned from China, president Donald Trump did what no other American president had ever done. And that was he suspended all travel from China. The second largest economy in the world. Reporter: The pandemic, front and center. The senator's campaign even requesting plexiglass on the debate stage. This contest more civil and substantive than last week's first presidential debate. "Usa today" Washington bureau chief Susan page tasked with keeping this debate on the Americans also deserve a discussion that is civil. And I want to -- Mr. Vice president, I'm I'm speaking. Senator Harris, you're entitled to your own opinion but you're not entitled to your own facts. Reporter: With that jab the vice president attacking the Biden haf-harris economic plan. Joe Biden and kamala Harris want to raise taxes. They want to bury our economy under a $2 trillion green new deal which you were one of the original co-sponsors of in the United States senate. They want to abolish fossil fuels and ban fracking, which would cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs all across the heartland. I think this is supposed to be a debate based on fact and truth. And the truth and the fact is Joe Biden has been very clear. He will not raise taxes on anybody who makes less than $400,000 a year. He said he'll repeal the trump tax cut. You have Donald Trump, who has reigned over a recession that has been compared to the great depression. Reporter: With the republican-led senate planning to begin confirmation hearings on judge Amy coney Barrett's nomination next week, the future of the supreme court a pressing topic for many Americans. Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court if judge Amy coney Barrett is confirmed? Your party is actually openly advocating adding seats to the supreme court, which has had nine seats for 150 years, if you don't get your way. This is a classic case of if you can't win by the rules you're going to change the rules. Now, you've refused to answer the question. Joe Biden has refused to answer the question. Reporter: But vice president pence never answered the question about the millions of Americans with coverage under the affordable care act in a second trump term. How would your administration protect Americans with pre-existing conditions to have access to affordable insurance if the affordable care act is struck down? Well, thank you, Susan. But let me just say addressing your very first question I couldn't be more proud to serve as vice president to a president who stands without apology for the sanctity of human life. If you have a preexisting condition, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, they're coming for you. If you love someone who has a pre-existing condition, they're coming for you. Reporter: As a biracial former prosecutor, senator Harris addressing the racial injustice seen throughout the country. Bad cops are bad for good cops. We need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system, which is why Joe and I will immediately ban choke holds and carotid holds. George Floyd would be alive today if we did that. We will require a national registry for police officers who break the law. Reporter: But Harris's past as a prosecutor something the vice president tried to use against her. I really need to make this point. When you were D.A. In San Francisco, when you left office, African-Americans were 19 times more likely to be prosecuted for minor drug offenses than whites and hispanics. Thank you, vice president -- When you were attorney general of California you increased the disproportionate incarceration of blacks in California. You did nothing on criminal justice reform in California. You didn't lift a finger past the first step back on capitol hill. The reality is your record speaks for itself -- Thank you, vice president -- Reporter: ABC news political director Rick Klein fact checking some of the biggest moments from tonight's debate. Vice president pence claimed that president trump enacted a total ban on travel from China early in the pandemic. While there was a ban announced, it actually had some significant loopholes. American citizens, health care workers, and a whole lot of others including green card holders were able to travel freely from China, and it should be noted by that point there was a lot of covid-19 already beginning to spread inside the United States and Europe. Senator Harris warned that if the trump-pence ticket is elected it will mean those with pre-existing conditions will lose their health coverage. While president trump has made clear he does not want that to happen, he does not currently have a health care flan that does otherwise and in fact his administration is in the supreme court to try to throw out all of Obamacare, which includes protections for those with pre-existing conditions. One interesting note about this debate were the number of questions not answered by the candidates. There were a whole lot of evasions and pure decisions not to answer. Mike pence didn't want to say what he'd like to see happen in states if roe V. Wade was overturned in terms of abortion rights. Kamala Harris didn't want to talk at all about whether the administration under Joe Biden would look to expand the number of seats on the supreme court. Next week's second presidential debate is still up in the air, dependent on Donald Trump's health. With less than a month until election day, Joe Biden is consistently up several points over president trump in key battleground states. With a fund-raising war chest that continues to trump the president's.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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