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Fact checking the vice presidential debate

Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence during Tuesday’s vice presidential debate.EPA

WASHINGTON — Here are the claims from Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence during Tuesday’s vice presidential debate, and how they stack up with the facts.

Mike Pence on the ‘war on coal’

PENCE: The economy has stagnated under President Barack Obama, with the Democrat waging a ‘‘war on coal.’’

THE FACTS: The coal industry is struggling, but the Indiana governor incorrectly blamed its woes solely on new federal regulations, omitting the effects of steep competition from cheap natural gas.

A string of major coal companies has filed for bankruptcy in recent years, including Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy. Layoffs and cutbacks have spread economic suffering through coal country in the Appalachians and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.


By contrast, these are boom times for natural gas extraction.

Still, the Obama administration has implemented rules that aren’t making the coal industry’s life any easier. Obama last year imposed a rule requiring coal-fired power plants to cut their carbon emissions as part of his effort to combat climate change. The rule has been suspended pending a legal challenge. Obama also has halted new coal leases on federal lands until it completes a comprehensive review.


Mike Pence on a balanced budget

PENCE, saying he’s proud that ‘‘the state of Indiana has balanced budgets.’’

THE FACTS: True, but that’s not exactly to his credit. A balanced budget is required by law, as it is in every state except Vermont.


Mike Pence on the national debt

PENCE: ‘‘The fact that under this past administration, we’ve almost doubled the national debt is atrocious.... Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want more of the same.’’

THE FACTS: As a share of the total U.S. economy, the national debt has gone up 35 percent, not a doubling.

Still, the debt has ballooned to $19.6 trillion. This largely reflected efforts by the Obama administration to stop the Great Recession.

Would Clinton similarly increase the debt? Not according to an analysis by the independent Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.


The Clinton plan with its tax increases would increase the gross debt — both privately and publicly held— by $450 billion over 10 years. Mind you, that is on top of an $8.8 trillion increase already projected by the government under current law.

As for Trump, the committee says his tax-cut-heavy plan would increase the gross debt by $4.3 trillion —nearly 10 times more than Clinton’s plan would do.


Mike Pence on Obamacare

PENCE: ‘‘Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want to build on Obamacare, they want to expand it into a single-payer program, and for all the world Hillary Clinton just thinks Obamacare is a good start.’’

THE FACTS: Pence has been both for and against the Affordable Care Act at different times. He railed against it while in Congress, but one of his chief accomplishments as governor was Indiana’s expansion of Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 uses federal dollars to help provide health insurance to more than 200,000 low-income Indiana residents who get coverage in exchange for paying a small fee. Pence and his allies have presented the policy as a conservative approach to the Affordable Care Act and have suggested it could be used in other Republican-leaning states that have resisted taking federal money under Obamacare. But he’s taken flak over the law from some conservatives who say no matter what it’s called, it is still a big-government entitlement program.



Tim Kaine on fighting ISIS

KAINE on fighting the Islamic State: ‘‘Donald Trump doesn’t have a plan.’’

THE FACTS: Hillary Clinton also doesn’t have a plan that is materially different than what President Barack Obama is already doing.

She’s described a three-part strategy that involves crushing IS ‘‘on its home turf’’ in the Middle East, disrupting its infrastructure on the ground and online, and protecting America and its allies. All are current elements of the Obama administration’s strategy, so it’s not clear what would change or if she would accelerate any portions of it.

It’s also the case that Trump has not laid out a clear plan.


Mike Pence on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy

PENCE: She was the ‘‘architect of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.’’ He said the Middle East is ‘‘spinning out of control’’ and suggested that the ongoing crisis in Syria was the result of a ‘‘failed and weak foreign policy that Hillary Clinton helped lead’’ in the Obama administration.’’ Moreover, he said that that President Barack Obama and Clinton gave Russia room to launch its aggressive moves in Ukraine.

THE FACTS: Clinton pushed for increased U.S. intervention after Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against rebels. But Obama is the commander in chief and nothing has swayed him thus far.

On Russia, Clinton as secretary of state helped seal a nuclear arms-control treaty and secure Russia’s acquiescence to a NATO-led military intervention in Libya. By comparison, Republican Donald Trump has rung alarm bells in Washington and Europe with his overtures to Russia’s authoritarian leader.


Clinton and her supporters say she would be far tougher on Moscow than Trump, whose unusual foreign policy statements include musings about NATO’s relevance and suggestions that he could accept Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

‘‘You guys love Russia,’’ Kaine said, reminding Pence that he and Trump have praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a great leader.


Idea of police bias not unique to Hillary Clinton

PENCE: ‘‘When African American police officers are involved in a police action shooting involving an African American, why would Hillary Clinton accuse that African American police officer of implicit bias?’’ Pence accused Clinton and Kaine of using recent police shootings ‘‘as a reason to use a broad brush to accuse law enforcement of implicit bias, or institutional racism.’’

THE FACTS: The idea of potential racial bias in police departments has become a center of concern among law enforcement officials across the nation. Police departments are increasing implicit-bias training for their officers, including in large cities where protests over the over the killings of black men by white officers sparked a debate about the role race plays in policing. Experts say the focus on implicit bias is the next frontier of police training and the Justice Department has increasingly pushed for implicit bias training at troubled law enforcement agencies.


Tim Kaine on immigration

KAINE: ‘‘Our plan is like Ronald Reagan in 1986.’’

THE FACTS: Hillary Clinton’s immigration plan is certainly similar to a bill signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. But Clinton’s proposal would offer a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally and would have far broader impact. The estimated population of immigrants living in the United States illegally is now roughly 11 million. In 1986, the so-called Reagan amnesty bill legalized the immigration status of about 3 million people.


There are also some notable differences between the so-called amnesty bill signed by Reagan and Clinton’s proposal. The Reagan bill included a provision that made it illegal for businesses to hire workers who don’t have the legal right to work in the United States. Enforcement of that provision has never fully materialized.

While Clinton’s proposal does include a proposal to deport criminal immigrants, the plan also includes a plan to roll back a law that bars most immigrants who had lived here illegally from returning after either deportation or voluntarily leaving for three or 10 years, depending on how long the person had been living here. That provision actually became law in 1996, while President Bill Clinton was in office but was considered a follow-on to the bill Reagan signed.


Mike Pence on Clinton and Trump Foundations

PENCE: ‘‘The Trump Foundation is a private family foundation. They give virtually every cent in the Trump Foundation to charitable causes. Less than 10 cents on the dollar in the Clinton Foundation has gone to charitable causes.’’

THE FACTS: Rather than send funds to other charities, the Clinton Foundation tends to spend its money on its own programs. Pence’s claim ignores these internal initiatives, overlooking the Clinton Foundation’s work on African farming, climate change and AIDS treatment.

As for Trump’s foundation, news reports have raised multiple questions about its namesake’s generosity.

Funds have been used to buy paintings of Trump and a signed football helmet that belonged to Tim Tebow. Money from the foundation has also reportedly helped settled legal cases against Trump’s for-profit businesses. Trump even paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year after it was uncovered that the foundation broke tax laws by giving a political contribution to Florida’s attorney general.


Mike Pence and Donald Trump on Vladimir Putin

KAINE: ‘‘Governor Pence said, inarguably Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama.’’

PENCE: ‘‘That is absolutely inaccurate. I said he’s been stronger on the world stage.’’

KAINE: ‘‘No, you said leader.’’

THE FACTS: Pence didn’t limit the remark in question to Putin’s position on the world stage, as he claimed in the debate. In an interview on CNN in September, Pence said, ‘‘I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.’’

Trump also has praised Putin, marveling that the Russian leader has an ‘‘82 percent approval rating’’ and insisting that he’s ‘‘a leader, far more than our president has been.’’ Putin has elicited worldwide criticism for the Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.