The decision came after the committee met on Monday afternoon to discuss possible changes to the rules for the format of the debate. They decided the changes were necessary because of how the first debate between Biden and Trump turned into chaos, with the president frequently interrupting the former vice president.
The change is sure to anger Trump and his campaign, who have signaled that any change in procedures will be unacceptable to them, which the commission acknowledged in its statement.
“We realize, after discussions with the two campaigns, that neither campaign can be completely satisfied with the measures announced today,” the statement said. “You may think they are going too far, and you may think they are not going far enough. We believe that these actions strike the right balance and are in the best interests of the American people, for whom these debates are being held. ”
Muting will work like this: At the start of each of the six segments of the debate, each candidate will have two minutes to answer an initial question. During this game, the opposing candidate’s microphone will be muted.
“Under the agreed debate rules, each candidate must be allowed two minutes of uninterrupted time to make remarks at the start of each 15-minute segment of the debate. These remarks should be followed by a period of open discussion, ”said the committee. in a report. “Both campaigns this week have once again reaffirmed their agreement to the two-minute rule, without interruption. ”
The statement continued: “The Commission announces today that, in order to enforce this agreed rule, the only candidate whose microphone will be open during these two minutes is the candidate who has the floor under the rules. For the rest of each, which by design is meant to be spent in open discussion, both contestants’ microphones will be open. ”
Both microphones will be reactivated after each candidate has given their two-minute answer.
“During the periods devoted to the open discussion, the Commission hopes that the candidates will be respectful of each other’s time, which will advance the civil discourse for the benefit of the public,” the statement said. “As in the past, the moderator will split roughly the same time between the two speakers during the 90 minutes. The time spent on any interruption will be returned to the other candidate. ”
The committee’s second presidential debate was called off after Trump refused to participate in a virtual competition, a change that was made due to his positive coronavirus diagnosis.
Following the first debate, the committee did not specify what changes it would make, but its statement at the time indicated that it intended to “ensure that additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates. “.
The commission was also to certify that Trump and Biden had met the 15% voting threshold needed to qualify for debate in Monday’s meeting.
Biden had made it clear that he wanted the debate committee to change the rules, and said the way Trump had conducted the first debate was a “national embarrassment.”
“I just hope there is a way the Debate Committee can control our ability to answer questions without interruption,” Biden said the day after the first debate.
The Trump campaign had previously spoken out against any rule changes. Campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told CNN in a statement after the first debate that the committee “shouldn’t move the goals and change the rules in the middle of the game.”
In a letter to the committee on Monday, Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien previously called disabling candidates’ microphones “unacceptable.”
“It is totally unacceptable that anyone wielding such power, and the decision to make this change amounts to giving more editorial control of the debate to the Commission which has already demonstrated its bias towards Biden,” Stepien wrote in a previously released statement. . the campaign accepted the change.
He also challenged the topics announced for Thursday’s debate so as not to focus more on foreign policy. The commission announced last week that the topics would be “Fighting COVID-19”, “American Families”, “Race in America”, “Climate Change”, “National Security” and “Leadership”.
“We urge you to recalibrate the subjects,” Stepien wrote in the letter. At no point did Stepien indicate that Trump would withdraw from the third debate if the change was not made.
Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo responded to the Trump campaign’s complaint by saying in a statement, “The campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would pick the topics. questions about its disastrous response to COVID. As usual, the President is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs. ”
This story and its title have been updated with the debate rules commission editing and comments from the Trump and Biden campaigns.