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Sen. Kamala Harris at Wednesday's vice presidential debate denied Vice President Pence's claim that Joe Biden would ban fracking if elected.

Why it matters: Pence's claims that a Biden administration would "abolish fossil fuels," "ban fracking" and implement the Green New Deal are part of the Trump campaign's efforts to paint the Biden-Harris ticket as a symbol of the far left.

What she's saying: "Joe Biden will not end fracking. He has been very clear about that," Harris said. The California senator also denied that Biden supports the Green New Deal, while attacking the Trump administration's record on climate change and claiming "they don't believe in science."

Worth noting: Harris did indeed call for banning fracking during the primary campaign. Biden's plan did not call for a fracking ban, although Biden appeared to support the idea at least once during remarks in the primaries.

  • But his campaign subsequently said he was referring only to his plan's call to end permitting for new oil-and-gas projects on federal lands.
  • And a nationwide ban would require congressional action, which would be extremely unlikely anyway.

The other side: Pence said "the progress that we have made in a cleaner environment has been happening precisely because we have a strong free market economy," and argued that a Biden administration would worsen the economy by increasing taxes as part of a radical left agenda.

Our thought bubble via Axios' Ben Geman: Pence’s decision to hit Harris on fracking again and again likely has a lot to do with the specifics of the political map as opposed to a broad-based appeal.

  • Natural gas production enabled by fracking is a major industry in Pennsylvania, a critical swing state, and also important in nearby Ohio — another large and competitive state that’s rich in electoral votes.
  • Trump carried both in 2016. And Texas, the heart of the U.S. oil boom, is also a potential pickup for Democrats despite being reliably Republican for a long time.

Go deeper ... Biden: "I am not banning fracking"  

This story has been updated.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

U.S. ambassador to Russia will return home briefly: State Department

John Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during a briefing in Moscow in 2015. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, will now be returning to the United States this week before returning to Moscow "in the coming weeks."

Why this matters: The statement, from a State Department spokesperson, comes just hours after Axios reported that Sullivan had indicated he intended to stand his ground and stay in Russia after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home to talk with his team.

Scoop: Leaked Ukraine memo reveals scope of Russia's aggression

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a military exposition in Sevastopol, Crimea, in Jan. 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia has been holding last-minute military exercises near commercial shipping lanes in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine's economy, according to an internal document from Ukraine's ministry of defense reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: With the eyes of the world on the massive buildup of troops in eastern Ukraine, the leaked memo shows Russian forces escalating their presence on all sides of the Ukrainian border.

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