Roughly one hour into Wednesday's vice presidential debate, moderator Susan Page asked Vice President Mike Pence how the Trump administration planned to protect Americans with preexisting conditions when the Justice Department was seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
"President Trump says he is going to protect people with preexisting conditions, but he has not explained how he would do that," Page said. "Tell us, specifically, how would your administration protect Americans with preexisting conditions to have access to affordable insurance if the Affordable Care Act is struck down?"
Pence did not answer the question. He instead pivoted to discussing the Supreme Court, and Mr. Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. He asked Senator Kamala Harris if she and former Vice President Joe Biden, and criticized her when she did not respond to his question directly.
"I just want the record to reflect she never answered the question," Pence said about Harris, just moments after he sidestepped the initial question on preexisting conditions.
The exchange between Pence and Harris was emblematic of a debate marked by frequent interruptions, where direct questions to either candidate were not always answered.
Early on in the debate, Pence was asked a question about whether he had discussed presidential disability with Mr. Trump, given the president's age. Pence did not answer, but instead said he "would like to go back" to the earlier topic of discussing a coronavirus vaccine.
"I think we need to move on," Page said when Pence began speaking.
"Well, thank you, but I would like to go back," Pence replied. Page did not follow up with Pence about whether he had discussed presidential disability with Mr. Trump.
Pence also notably avoided answering a question on whether the president would accept the results of the election and commit to a peaceful transfer of power, instead accusing Democrats of trying to overturn the 2016 election with the impeachment process.
Pence was not the only candidate to offer evasive answers, as Harris also sidestepped some questions during the debate. Sheabout the similarities between Biden's climate plan and the Green New Deal, a progressive framework to address climate change. Harris did not say the words "Green New Deal" in her answer.
When asked whether she would support her home state of California removing all restrictions on abortion if Roe v. Wade was overturned, Harris did not answer directly, instead arguing a Supreme Court seat should not be filled so close to the election. Although she briefly touched on abortion, she primarily focused on other cases that will be before the Supreme Court, such as the one about the constitutionality of the ACA.
"I will always fight for a woman's right to make a decision about her own body," Harris said in her one reference to abortion rights.
The candidates frequently interrupted each other, butas she interrupted him. Pence also interrupted Harris 10 times, according to a tally by CBS News, but Harris interrupted Pence only five times.
At one point, Page expressed frustration with Pence for continuing to speak, even after she signaled his time to answer a question had concluded.
"I did not create the rules for tonight. Your campaigns agreed to the rules for tonight's debate with the Commission on Presidential Debates. I'm here to enforce them which involves moving from one topic to another, giving roughly equal time to both of you which I'm trying very hard to do," Page said.
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