Joe Biden kept up his attacks on President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as the Democratic presidential nominee at a town hall on Thursday night also addressed packing the Supreme Court.
“The words of a president matter,” Biden said during the event in Philadelphia that was hosted by ABC News. “When a president doesn’t wear a mask and makes fun of folks like me when I’m wearing a mask for a long time, people say, ‘Well, it must not be that important.’”
The former vice president, who has talked about a national mask mandate to fight COVID-19, added that studies suggest the widespread wearing of face coverings could save 100,000 lives between now and the end of the year.
He also addressed his past comment that he would be open to more lockdowns to halt COVID’s spread, saying he doesn’t think there is a need currently for that — and it’s possible to contain the pandemic without crushing the economy.
“You could open businesses and schools, if in fact you provide them the guidance that they need, as well as the money to be able to do it,” Biden said. “You make sure there’s testing. That’s a really critical piece that he didn’t do — testing and tracing. And you make sure that people are equipped going to schools.”
President Donald Trump took part in an NBC town hall at the same time, with the dueling events occurring on the night that a second Biden-Trump once had been scheduled to take place. During his event, Trump called for tax cuts for the middle class if he’s re-elected, appealing to voters’ pocketbooks as he lags his rival in polls.
In response to questions from ABC’s moderator, George Stephanopoulos, Biden said he’ll come out with a clear stance on potentially expanding the Supreme Court before Election Day. He hasn’t given his view on expanding the high court, as some Democrats call for it in response to the Republican push to give the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat to conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Biden said his stance will depend on how the nomination process for Barrett turns out — “if there’s actually real live debate on the floor” and “how much they rush this.”
The Trump campaign criticized Biden’s comments on the Supreme Court, tweeting that he “admitted he is open to rigging the Supreme Court by adding more seats for liberal activists.”
The questions from the socially distanced voters at the town hall, who included Biden supporters, Trump supporters and undecided Americans, also touched on tax policies, a vaccine for COVID-19, racial inequalities and Biden’s promise to not ban fracking but also invest in renewable energy.
Biden leads Trump by 4.9 percentage points in top swing states that are likely to decide the White House race, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls. Betting markets give the former vice president a 65% chance of winning, while Trump is at 35%.
U.S. stocks SPX, -0.15% DJIA, -0.06% closed with losses Thursday, with the drop blamed in part on fresh coronavirus-related lockdowns in Europe, as well as on the lack of progress in Washington on another coronavirus aid package.