VP Debate: Pence, Harris Dodge Question on Presidential Succession

October 8, 2020 Updated: October 8, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence and challenger Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) both evaded a question on presidential succession during Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City, Utah.

When asked by moderator Susan Page about whether they had discussed a succession plan with either of their running mates—President Donald Trump, 74, or Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, 77—in the event of disability while serving as president, Pence and Harris completely sidestepped the question.

“Have you had a conversation, or reached an agreement with [Trump or Biden] about safeguards or procedures when it comes to presidential disability?” Page first asked Pence.

“Thank you. I would like to go back,” the vice president responded, referring to previous remarks made by Harris regarding a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

Harris had just told the moderator that she would be “first in line” to get the vaccine if the doctors recommended it but would not if Trump advised the American people to.

“The reality is that we’re going to have a vaccine, senator, in record time,” Pence said, dodging Page’s question. He instead accused Harris of undermining the public’s confidence in a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We have five companies in phase 3 clinical trials and we’re right now producing tens of millions of doses,” Pence said. “So the fact that you continue to undermine confidence in a vaccine—if a vaccine emerges during the Trump administration—I think is unconscionable.”

Pence added, “Senator, I just ask you: stop playing politics with people’s lives.”

When Harris was asked the same question, she instead reminisced about the day Biden called her to ask if she would be his running mate.

“It was probably one of the most memorable days of my life,” she said.

The moderator’s question comes just days after White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said that the White House was not considering a transfer of power from Trump to Pence in light of the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis last week.

O’Brien told CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday at the time that the possibility of transferring powers of the presidency to Pence was not “on the table.”

Trump spent 4 days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, from Oct. 2, before returning to the White House on Monday. Late Thursday, he praised the experimental treatment he received for COVID-19, saying that he would like to make the treatment more widely available.

The president received an experimental antibody cocktail treatment from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. for his recovery. Trump was able to obtain the treatment through a “compassionate use” exemption. The safety and effectiveness of the drug have not yet been established through clinical trials.

Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.