By Sabrina Edwards and Kennedy Mapes
On Thursday night, former vice president Joe Biden, held a town hall in Philadelphia to answer questions straight from voters while President Donald Trump held his own town hall in Florida at the same time. The two men were previously scheduled to debate, but Trump refused to participate after the format shifted to virtual after Trump tested positive and was hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment.
ABC hosted Biden’s open forum, bringing in voters of all demographics and political standing to ask Biden questions ranging from COVID-19 to taxes and police. The debate was hosted by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
The first topic brought up was COVID-19. Biden was asked how he would’ve handled the pandemic in the beginning and how he would handle it going forward, and how he would follow the science.
Biden said that Trump should’ve spoken up sooner about the virus. He claimed that there should’ve been a national standard when it came to masks, instead of leaving it up to the governors, stating that as a president you need to lead.
“He (Trump) didn’t talk about what needed to be done because he kept worrying, in my view, about the stock market,” Biden said. “He worried if he talked about how bad this could be, unless we took these precautionary actions, then, in fact, the market would go down. And his barometer of success of the economy is the market.”
Following that, Biden was asked if he would get the coronavirus vaccine or make it mandatory. Biden clarified that if the science backed the vaccine, he would take it. When asked if elected would he make it mandated, he said he doesn’t hold that power. However, he mentioned he would pursue governors and mayors to enact a mass vaccine policy in their areas.
Following that, the former vice president was asked about the tax cuts. Biden pledged to eliminate the tax cuts Trump enacted, which are directed at the wealthy, not the middle class. Stephanopoulos asked if he would still raise taxes while the economy was struggling, to which Biden replied, “Absolutely.”
“Besides ‘you ain’t Black,'” the man asked, how could Biden convince Black voters to take part “in a system that has failed to protect them?”
Biden spoke at length on this question, discussing low-income schools, plans to help homebuyers and business owners, and plans he has for black college students. Biden said he will increase funds to K-12 schools in low-income areas as well as historically black colleges.
The 1994 crime bill that Biden helped write was brought up, which he called a “mistake.” He claimed that the bill had positives and negatives, and that the mistakes came from what the states did locally. Biden also pledged to decriminalize marijuana, as well as clear all the records of people with drug charges.
“The crime bill itself did not have mandatory sentences, except for two things,” said Biden. “It had three strikes and you’re out, which I voted against in the crime bill, but it had a lot of things in it that turned out to be both bad and good.”
Biden claimed that America needs community policing and police working with social workers. If elected, he said he will sit down with police, social workers and minority communities to make reforms.
The former vice president was also asked about his opinions on the U.S. Supreme Court. Biden was asked what he has to say to the members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as others who are worried about “erosions of their rights and democracy as a whole” due to President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.
“I think there is great reason to be concerned,” Biden responded.
He then explained that while he was not able to view the hearing in their entirety due to travel, he read through the recaps and he expressed his opinion on Barrett.
“In my reading online of what the judge said—she didn’t answer very many questions at all, and I don’t even think she has laid out much of a judicial philosophy in terms of the basis upon what she thinks of the unenumerated rights in the Constitution.”
Biden then repeated that there is great reason for us to be concerned about the LGBTQ community and that this community is something he has continued to fight for for a very long time to ensure “equality across the board.”
He also expressed his concern for healthcare and President Trump’s plans to get rid of The Affordable Care Act.
The former vice president was also asked about his opinion on the possibility of implementing safeguards in the Supreme Court in order to ensure more balance.
“There is a lot at stake,” said Biden. “The Constitution implies that the way the people have a right to determine who is going to be in the court is how they vote for their senators and their president.”
He then explained that because the election had already begun and millions have already voted, the Supreme Court nomination should not have been held until the end of the election.
When moderator George Stephanopoulos pressed Biden again on the issue of “court packing” and where he stands on the subject, he replied, “If I had answered the question directly you know all of the focus would be on ‘what’s Biden going to do if he wins?’ instead of on ‘is it appropriate what is going on now?’”
He also expressed that while he is still “not a fan” of court packing, that his opinion on it depends on how the current nomination is handled.
Following that, Biden was asked how he intends to restore bipartisanship, civility, and honor to our democracy to which he responded by explaining that grudges cannot be held.
“In politics, grudges don’t work. They’re not—they make no sense and I really mean it.”
He continued by saying “We gotta change the nature of the way we deal with one another.”
Biden was then asked about the environment. He reiterated that he would not ban fracking but that it is something that needs to be closely managed.
“I think you have to make sure that fracking is, in fact, not admitting methane or polluting the well or dealing with what can be small earthquakes and how they’re drilling,” he said.
Biden explained that he believed that renewable energy is the future. He also expressed his concern about comments Trump has made about the environment. He said that the president believes global warming and the environment are a joke, but that he sees it as an opportunity for new jobs.
“I, as President, am going to invest that $600 billion we spend on government contracts only on those things that, in fact, also are not only made in America, but building an infrastructure that is clean and new,” Biden said.
Stephanopoulos pressured Biden further on this issue by citing a quote from a boilermaker in the New York Times that explained that the goal of ending the use of fossil fuels can not be completed if fracking continues. After reminding the public that the boilermakers endorsed Biden’s campaign, he replied that while he is not putting a stop to fracking he will work to stop tax breaks and subsidizing oil.
When asked about Trump’s foreign policy and whether or not it deserved any credit for the peacemaking occurring today, Biden replied:“A little, but not a whole lot. We find ourselves in a position where we’re more isolated from the world than we’ve ever been.”
Biden also explained that our allies have stated that they can’t count on us and he expressed his concern for the relationships Trump has created with questionable figures.
The former vice president was then asked by the mother of a transgender girl, how he intended to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community, specifically the rights of transgender people and how we would change the discriminatory agenda that has been created throughout Trump’s presidency.
“I will flat out just change the law,” Biden replied. “Eliminate those executive orders, number one.
The former vice president also pointed out that transgender women of color specifically are a target and many have been victims of murder.
Following that, Biden was asked about what he would do to push Trump and his followers towards a more perfect union if Biden were to lose the election.
“Well, to be very honest with you, I think that’s very hard. He is not—things have not led themselves to him learning from what’s happened—what’s gone before,” replied Biden. “Hopefully, I will go back to being a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and making the case that I’ve been making at the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware focusing on these same issues relating to what constitutes the decency and honor in this country.”
The last question former Vice President Biden was asked was if he believes the next debate, which is supposed to occur next week, will happen and if he will demand that the President get a COVID test prior to the debate and that it come back negative.
“Yeah,” said Biden. “By the way, before I came up here, I took another test, I’ve been taking them everyday.”
He continued by saying that is just common decency to get tested in order to prevent exposing others to the virus.
In response to the question regarding whether he expects to attend the debate or not, Biden replied that he expects to be there and that he trusts that it will be safe.