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Political positions of Joe Biden

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joe Biden served as Vice President of the United States from 2009 to 2017 and in the United States Senate from 1973 until 2009. A member of the Democratic Party, he made his second run for President of the United States in the 2008 presidential election, later being announced as Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's running mate in 2008. He was elected Vice President in 2008 and reelected in 2012. In April 2019, Biden announced his 2020 presidential campaign.[1] He became the presumptive Democratic nominee in April 2020 and will face Republican incumbent Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.[2]

Over his career, Biden has generally been regarded as belonging to the mainstream of the Democratic Party.[3][4] Biden has been described as centre-left[5] and has described himself as such.[6] His policies emphasize the needs of middle-class and working-class Americans[7] and have drawn political support from those groups.[8] Various commentators and observers have likened Biden's views and proposals to the populism of Ted Kennedy, whom Biden cites as a mentor,[9] and to the Christian democracy of continental Europe.[10]

Biden has supported campaign finance reform including the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and overturning Citizens United;[11][12] the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act;[13] the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009;[14][15] tax credits for students;[16] carbon emissions cap and trade;[17] the increased infrastructure spending proposed by the Obama administration;[15] mass transit;[18] renewable energy subsidies;[17] student loan forgiveness;[19] and reversals of Republican tax cuts for the wealthy.[20][7][21] He supports building upon the Affordable Care Act through a public health insurance option, as opposed to a single-payer system.[22][23] He supports decriminalizing cannabis on a federal level and supports a state's right to legalize it on a state level.[24] Biden has been publicly in favor of same-sex marriage since 2012 when he became the highest-ranking U.S. official to voice support for same-sex marriage, preempting Obama on the subject.[25] Biden supports the Roe v. Wade decision and since 2019 has been in favor of repealing the Hyde Amendment.[26][27]

Lifetime ratings

Joe Biden's lifetime ratings[28][29][30][31]
Date Organization Advocacy Lifetime rating
2008 Alliance for Retired Americans Retirees 96%
2008 American Civil Liberties Union Civil liberties 86%
1995 American Conservative Union Conservatism 13%
2008 American Conservative Union Conservatism 12.67%
2008-2009 American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Unionism 86%
2008 American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Public-sector trade unions 86%
1988-2008 Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence Gun violence prevention 96%
2008 Council for Citizens Against Government Waste Fiscal conservatism 22%
2001-2002 Information Technology Industry Council Information and communications technology 73%
2008 League of Conservation Voters Environmentalism 83%
1989-2013 NumbersUSA Anti-immigration 21%
1993-2014 The Lugar Center Government operations 58%
2008 United States Chamber of Commerce Business 36%
2002 National Rifle Association Gun rights 8%[32]
2020 National Rifle Association Gun rights D-[33]

Social issues

Affirmative action

Biden has supported affirmative action policies.[34]

Capital punishment

Since June 20, 2019, Biden opposes capital punishment. Biden supports legislation to eliminate the capital punishment at the federal level, and incentivize states to abolish capital punishment. He supports individuals on death row instead serving life sentences without probation or parole.[35][36] Prior to June 20, 2019, he had supported capital punishment. He originally wrote the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 included Title VI, the Federal Death Penalty Act, creating 60 new death penalty offenses under 41 federal capital statutes,[37] for crimes related to acts of terrorism, murder of a federal law enforcement officer, civil rights-related murders, drive-by shootings resulting in death, the use of weapons of mass destruction resulting in death, and carjackings resulting in death. However, he voted against limiting appeals in capital cases and also opposed rejecting racial statistics in death penalty appeals.

Crime

Biden helped author the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which deployed and trained more police officers, increased prison sentences, and built more prisons. The bill led to a decrease in crime rates while also introducing the Violence Against Women Act. Part of the bill was an assault weapon ban and additional money was redirected towards crime prevention programs. Some critics say that the law had the unintended by-effect of creating a financial incentive for jailing people and keeping them there for longer periods of time; this had a disproportionate impact on minorities.[38]

In the aftermath of the 2020 killing of George Floyd, a slogan of "defund the police" arose, which some interpreted to mean abolition of police departments. Biden stated in a June 2020 opinion piece, "While I do not believe federal dollars should go to police departments violating people's rights or turning to violence as the first resort, I do not support defunding police." President Donald Trump and his allies falsely insisted that Biden did, with the Trump campaign spending at least $20 million on campaign ads during July to make that argument.[39][40] As a senator, Biden had long forged deep relationships with police groups and was a chief proponent of a Police Officer's Bill of Rights measure which was supported by police unions but opposed by police chiefs.[41][42] As a 2020 presidential candidate, Biden faced criticism from some on the left for his proposal to double federal spending for community policing programs, to $300 million.[43]

Drugs

Biden earned a reputation for being a "drug warrior", leading efforts in the war on drugs.[44] During the 1980s crack epidemic when both Democrats and Republicans were "tough on crime", Biden was the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee that passed numerous punitive measures against drug offenders. In 1986, Biden sponsored and co-wrote the Anti-Drug Abuse Act which caused a large disparity between the sentencing of crack cocaine and powder cocaine users. Black drug users were more likely than whites to use crack and hence were incarcerated in larger numbers.[45][46] In 1982, he advocated for the creation of a drug czar, a government official overseeing all anti-drug operations. This led to the establishment of the Office of National Drug Control Policy by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.[44]

Biden favored increased funding for anti-drug efforts. He frequently criticized President Reagan in this regard,[47] stating in 1982 that the administration's "commitment is minuscule in terms of dollars".[48] He also criticized President George H. W. Bush's anti-drug strategy as "not tough enough, bold enough or imaginative enough",[49] stating that "what we need is another D-Day, not another Vietnam, not a limited war, fought on the cheap".[47]

Biden advocated for increased use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement agencies.[49] Biden played a key part in the passage of the Comprehensive Forfeiture Act in 1983, partnering with Strom Thurmond, a conservative Republican. A Washington Post article described Biden's role in the negotiations: "He got the Democrats to agree to strengthen forfeiture laws and allow judges to hold more defendants without bail; he persuaded the Republicans to drop such controversial provisions as a federal death penalty, and he made sure Thurmond got most of the credit. Civil liberties groups said the measure could have been far worse without Biden."[50] Biden supported increased penalties against those caught selling drugs within 1,000 feet of schools.[51]

In the early 2000s, Biden was critical of raves, describing most of them as "havens" for use of ecstasy and other illegal drugs.[52] He was the sponsor of the bipartisan Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy (RAVE) Act in 2002; the bill's successor, the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, was later enacted as part of a broader 2003 crime bill that became law.[52][53] The legislation, an expansion of the existing 1986 federal anti-"crack house" statute, provided for civil and criminal penalties for event promoters and property owners/managers who knowingly allowed their property to be used for sale or consumption of drugs.[54] The legislation was opposed by the ACLU and electronic dance music enthusiasts who viewed it as overly broad.[53][55] Responding to criticism, Biden said that the statute would not target law-abiding promoters, saying on the Senate floor: "The reason I introduced this bill was not to ban dancing, kill 'the rave scene' or silence electronic music—all things of which I have been accused. In no way is this bill aimed at stifling any type of music or expression. It is only trying to deter illicit drug use and protect kids."[53] Although the law has been rarely used, advocates such as Drug Policy Alliance and DanceSafe argue that it discourages event producers from engaging in harm reduction efforts, and have sought to clarify the law.[56]

During the 2007 Democratic primary debate at Howard University, Biden acknowledged the consequences of the drug laws he authored and supported in the 1980s. He said there is a need to close the disparity in punishment between crack and powder cocaine users and a "diversion out of the prison system" and into treatment.[51] In 2010, Biden supported the Fair Sentencing Act which aimed to reduce the disparity.[57]

Biden has a history of opposing marijuana legalization. As a young senator in 1974 he opposed legalization in contrast to his other more liberal views.[58] In 2010 he maintained this position, stating: "I still believe it's a gateway drug. I've spent a lot of my life as chairman of the Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalize."[49] In a 2014 interview, Biden said "I think the idea of focusing significant resources on interdicting or convicting people for smoking marijuana is a waste of our resources" but said "Our policy for our Administration is still not legalization."[59] In 2019 and 2020, during his presidential campaign, Biden expressed support for decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing medical marijuana; reclassifying it as a Schedule II drug to ease marijuana research; automatically expunging prior convictions for marijuana convictions; and allowing states to legalize without federal interference.[60][61]

As Vice President, Biden actively engaged with Central American leaders on issues of drug cartels, drug trafficking, and migration to the U.S. caused by insecurity and drug violence. (See Central America below.)

Education

Biden was a major author of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990[62] and voted in favor of the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994.[63] He voted in favor of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, but in 2007 called for the legislation to be scrapped or overhauled.[64] He supports class size reductions and investment in early childhood education.[64] During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden has proposed tripling Title I funds (which go to low-income schools) to pay for increases in student supports and teacher salaries; doubling the number of school guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, and nurses; providing for universal prekindergarten, and fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act within a decade.[62] Biden also supports federal infrastructure legislation providing funding for school buildings; allowing high school students to use Pell Grants for dual enrollment; and expanding career and technical education through school/community college/employer partnerships.[62] Biden opposes federal funding for for-profit charter schools.[65] Biden's plans have been praised by the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers,[65] the major U.S. teachers' unions, which both endorsed Biden in 2020.[66][67] In April 2020, Biden proposed forgiving student debt from public colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions, for people earning up to $125,000 per year.[19]

Gun policy

Throughout his career, Biden has supported gun control measures.[68] Although he voted for the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act, a bill supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that passed the Senate 79–15, Biden also authored the 1993 federal assault weapons ban, and is a longtime supporter of universal background checks, and received "F" ratings from the NRA while he was in Congress.[69] The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence endorsed Biden's 2020 presidential campaign.[70]

Biden supported the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which established five-day waiting periods for handgun purchases and background checks.[71] He had a central role in the passage of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, which banned the manufacture, transfer, or possession of certain firearms classified as assault weapons (with a grandfather clause excepting guns owned prior to its implementation).[72] After the ban expired in 2004, Biden voted in favor of renewing it in a 2007 Senate vote.[68] The Obama/Biden administration also unsuccessfully pressed for renewal of the ban.[72] Biden voted against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) of 2005, which immunizes firearm manufacturers from lawsuits based on gun violence.[68]

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, Obama named Biden to lead a task force on gun violence and community safety.[73][74][75] Biden and the administration proposed universal background checks (with an exception for gun transfers between family members),[76] resumption of public health research on gun violence, and reinstatement of the federal assault weapons ban.[73][74][75] Proposals requiring legislative action were killed in the Republican-controlled Congress[73][74][75] amid opposition from the NRA.[76] During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden's proposals on gun violence include universal background checks for gun sales, repeal of PLCAA, reinstatement of the assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines, and incentives for states to adopt red flag laws.[74]

Biden owns two shotguns.[77][78]

Homeland security

After the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, a domestic terrorist bomb attack that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Biden drafted anti-terrorist legislation, which was ultimately defeated. He later claimed publicly on several occasions that the USA PATRIOT Act, which eased restrictions on the Executive branch in the surveillance and detention of those suspected of terrorism or facilitating it, was essentially a duplicate of the anti-terrorist legislation he had drafted years earlier.[79] Biden supported the PATRIOT Act but voted to limit wiretapping on the bill. He supports implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations to fight terrorists but voted to preserve habeas corpus rights to the alleged terror suspects serving in Guantanamo Bay. In the 1990s, he voted in favor of 36 vetoed military projects and supports efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. He was given a 60% approval rating from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reflecting a mixed voting record on civil rights issues. During a debate on November 15, 2007, Biden clarified the PATRIOT Act's effect and his continued support for it and his opposition to racial profiling.[80]

On the War on Terror, Biden voted in favor of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 and the Patriot Act of 2001.[81][82]

Immigration

Senate

While in the Senate, Biden voted in favor of the 1986 immigration bill (which passed) and the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill (which failed).[83] In a 2007 Democratic presidential primary debate, Biden said that it would be impractical and expensive to deport every unauthorized immigrant in the U.S. and proposed an earned path to citizenship, saying: "Get a background check on all of them, take out the criminals, get them back, and provide for a means by which we allow earned citizenship over the next decade or so. Folks, being commander in chief requires you to occasionally be practical."[84] Biden voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized and partially funded the construction of fencing along the Mexican border,[85] mostly as a means to combat cross-border drug trafficking.[84] During the same campaign, Biden said that would not allow sanctuary cities to ignore federal law.[86] In 2007, Biden said that illegal immigration would not stop unless U.S. employers stopped hiring undocumented workers, saying: "All the rest is window dressing."[87]

Vice presidency

As vice president, Biden supported the 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, a bill crafted by the Gang of Eight (four Democratic, four Republican senators) that would have created a 13-year pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants with security checks, devoted unprecedented resources to border security, created a new work visa program, and established a mandatory employment verification system to ensure that persons hired are authorized to work in the U.S. As president of the Senate, Biden personally presided over the Senate when the bill passed 68–32.[88][89] The legislation failed, however, in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.[90]

2020 proposals

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden issued his "Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants," in which he pledged to "secure our border, while ensuring the dignity of migrants and upholding their legal right to seek asylum. ... enforce our laws without targeting communities, violating due process, or tearing apart families," "ensure our values are squarely at the center of our immigration and enforcement policies," and create a "fair and humane immigration system."[91] Biden's proposals would undo Trump's immigration policies,[92][93] which Biden has criticized as immoral, inhumane, ineffective, economically damaging, and unconstitutional.[91] He pledged a reversal of the Trump administration's family separation policy, travel/refugee bans, and severe restrictions on asylum,[91][93] calling these policies "cruel and senseless" and "un-American."[91] If elected, he pledges to reverse Trump's public charge rule and "so-called National Emergency," which diverted money from the Defense Department to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.[91] Biden criticized Trump's promotion of a border wall, noting that smuggling through legal ports of entry, rather than simple illicit border-crossing, is the dominant method by which illicit drugs enter the U.S., and that "sophisticated criminal organizations" can easily circumvent physical barriers through "border tunnels, semi-submersible vessels, and aerial technology."[91] Biden has called for better security along the border and at ports of entry through technology and infrastructure (such as "cameras, sensors, large-scale x-ray machines, and fixed towers") as well as through improved coordination between federal agencies, as well as Mexican and Canadian authorities.[91]

During his 2020 campaign, Biden proposed a "surge" of humanitarian resources to the border and restoration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented youth raised in the United States (the "Dreamers").[91] As a longer-term goal, Biden said he supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.[92][93] Biden also pledged to create a program to allow U.S. military veterans deported by the Trump Administration to return to the United States.[91] He supports evidence-based alternatives to prolonged immigration detention,[91] and a ban on for-profit detention centers.[92] Biden does not support abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as some on the left wing have called for, but said that his administration would ensure that ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers "abide by professional standards and are held accountable for inhumane treatment."[92] Biden does not support the decriminalization of unauthorized border-crossing,[92] but pledged to restore "sensible enforcement priorities" that focus deportation and other enforcement efforts on persons convicted of serious crimes.[93][91] rather than people "who have lived, worked, and contributed to our economy and our communities for decades."[91] To address a backlog in the immigration courts, Biden proposed a doubling of the number of immigration judges and interpreters.[92] Biden also opposes Trump's attempts to withhold federal grant funding from sanctuary cities.[86]

Regarding migrant crises, Biden's 2020 immigration policy emphasized a need to address the root causes of migration from the Central America's Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, such as endemic instability, corruption, gang violence and gender-based violence, and a lack of the rule of law. Biden pledged to update the Central American Minors Program and advance humanitarian aid, stability, and economic development in the region. He also stated that he would use the Temporary Protected Status program for persons whose countries of origin suffer from violence or unsafe conditions.[91][93]

Internet privacy and file sharing

In 2006, in its Technology Issues Voter's Guide, CNET.com gave Biden a score of 37.5% on his Senate voting record.[94][95] Biden was a co-sponsor of the Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act of 2007.[96]

Biden also sponsored two bills, the Comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Act (SB 266) and the Violent Crime Control Act (SB 618), both of which contained language seen as effectively banning encryption.[97] Crypto notes Biden wrote that language into the text of SB 266.[98] Phil Zimmermann, the creator of Pretty Good Privacy, has said it was SB 266 that "led [him] to publish PGP electronically for free that year, shortly before the measure was defeated after vigorous protest by civil libertarians and industry groups."[99] He later stated in a Slashdot article that he was not specifically criticizing Biden, that he would consider the Senator's "whole body of work" when considering whether to vote for him on the Democratic ticket in 2008, and that "considering the disastrous erosion in our privacy and civil liberties under the (Bush) administration, I feel positively nostalgic about Biden's quaint little non-binding resolution of 1991".[100]

LGBTQ issues

While in the Senate, Biden voted in 1993 for a broad defense bill that included the "don't ask, don't tell" law on LGBT service in the U.S. military, after voting to remove the amendment.[25][101][102] As vice president, Biden supported the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, which repealed the prohibition on open service by gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in the U.S. military.[101]

In 1996, Biden voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act which prohibited the federal government from recognizing any same-sex marriage, barring individuals in such marriages from equal protection under federal law, and allowing states to do the same.[103] In the Senate, Biden was an outspoken critic of congressional Republicans' efforts in 2000s to adopt a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage; in arguing against the proposal in 2004, Biden cited his position that same-sex marriage was an issue for states to decide.[25] In a May 2012 Meet the Press interview, Vice President Biden reversed his previous position and publicly supported marriage equality, saying he was "absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction beyond that."[104] Prior to Biden's statement on Meet the Press, the Obama administration endorsed civil unions, but not same-sex marriage.[105] Biden's decision reportedly forced Obama's hand, pressuring Obama to accelerate his own public shift to support same-sex marriage.[106][107] In 2013, Section 3 of DOMA was ruled unconstitutional and partially struck down in United States v. Windsor. The Obama Administration did not defend the law and congratulated Windsor.[108]

Biden supported the U.S. Supreme Court's 5–4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which held that same-sex couples have a federal constitutional right to marry. Biden issued a statement saying that the ruling reflected a principle that "all people should be treated with respect and dignity—and that all marriages, at their root, are defined by unconditional love."[109] In an event with the group Freedom to Marry, Biden described the decision as "the civil rights movement of our generation" and as consequential as Brown v. Board of Education.[110] Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the case, endorsed Biden's 2020 presidential run, as did other LGBT leaders.[111]

Biden supports the Equality Act, proposed federal legislation that would extend the nondiscrimination protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to cover discrimination "on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition of an individual, as well as because of sex-based stereotypes."[112] The legislation would protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination across the country in housing, public accommodations, public education, credit, and the jury system, in addition to current federal employment protections.[113]

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden vowed to support legislation and action to prohibit discrimination against transgender people and to combat hate crimes targeting LGBT persons, including violence and harassment against transgender people.[114][115][116] He has criticized Republicans, and particularly Vice President Mike Pence, for using "religious freedom as an excuse to license discrimination."[115][116] He supports the Safe Schools Improvement Act, a proposed anti-bullying law.[115]

Religious faith

At a November 2011 campaign event, in response to a question about how Biden viewed Mitt Romney's Mormon faith in November 2011, Biden said, "I find it preposterous that in 2011 we're debating whether or not a man is qualified or worthy of your vote based on whether or not his religion ... is a disqualifying provision. It is not. It is embarrassing and we should be ashamed, anyone who thinks that way."[117] Biden cited the anti-Catholic prejudice encountered by John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election.[118]

Women's rights

In 1994, Biden drafted the Violence Against Women Act. This law provided $1.6 billion to enhance investigation and prosecution of the violent crime perpetrated against women, increased pre-trial detention of the accused, provided for automatic and mandatory restitution of those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down portions of the VAWA on Constitutional grounds in United States v. Morrison.

Biden has said, "I consider the Violence Against Women Act the single most significant legislation that I've crafted during my 35-year tenure in the Senate. Indeed, the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 was the beginning of a historic commitment to women and children victimized by domestic violence and sexual assault. Our nation has been rewarded for this commitment. Since the Act's passage in 1994, domestic violence has dropped by almost 50%."[119] He has also said that the Act "empower[s] women to make changes in their lives, and by training police and prosecutors to arrest and convict abusive husbands instead of telling them to take a walk around the block".[120]

In 2017, Biden told a group of students that having sex with a woman while she is drunk is rape.[121]

In 1991, Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when it held confirmation hearings on Republican President George H. W. Bush's nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. During the nomination process, Thomas was accused of a consistent pattern of sexual harassment, to which Anita Hill testified before the committee.[122] During the hearing, Biden referred to an inconclusive FBI report on the accusations by Hill as "he said, she said."[123] Biden voted against Thomas's confirmation both in the committee and on the Senate floor.[124] In 2017, Biden issued an apology to Hill over her treatment in the hearings, stating: "Let's get something straight here, I believed Anita Hill. I voted against Clarence Thomas... I am so sorry that she had to go through what she went through. Think of the courage that it took for her to come forward.”[125] Speaking in 2018, Biden expressed regret about not being more firm in preventing Senate colleagues on the committee from engaging in what he called "character assassination" of Hill, saying: "Anita Hill was vilified when she came forward, by a lot of my colleagues, I wish I could have done more to prevent those questions and the way they asked them....Under the Senate rules, I can't gavel you down and say you can't ask that question, although I tried. And so what happened was she got victimized again during the process."[126]

Abortion

Roe v. Wade

In a 2019 article about Biden's record on abortion, his press secretary Jamal Brown said that when Biden arrived in the Senate in 1973 he thought Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, but now "firmly believes that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and should not be overturned". In 1981, he voted for a failed constitutional amendment allowing states to overturn Roe v. Wade. In 1982, he voted against the same failed constitutional amendment allowing states to overturn Roe, and in 2006, he stated in an interview that "I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. I think it's always a tragedy[.]"[127] He now says he would consider codifying the Roe precedent into federal law in case the ruling is overturned by the United States Supreme Court.[128][129] He pledged that he would appoint United States Supreme Court justices who shared his beliefs in upholding Roe.[130]

Federal abortion funding

From 1976 to June 5, 2019, Biden supported the Hyde Amendment.[131][132] On June 6, 2019, Biden reversed his support and now supports repealing the Hyde Amendment.[133] In 1981, he voted to end federal funding for abortion for victims of rape and incest.[128] Biden previously supported the Mexico City policy, but now supports repealing it.[129]

Post-viability abortion

In 2003, Biden voted for the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003".[134] In 2007, he opposed the United States Supreme Court ruling in the case of Gonzales v. Carhart which upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. He defended his opposition, saying he opposed the court's reasoning for the ruling, not the decision itself.[135]

Economic issues

Agriculture and rural issues

Biden supported the 2008 farm bill, calling it a "responsible compromise."[136] When he chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden identified agricultural development and global food prices as major issues.[136]

While in the Senate, Biden called for strong action against invasive species, citing the economic and environmental risks associated with them, including displacement of native shipping, introduction of disease, and interference with shipping.[136]

In the Senate, Biden paid particular attention to issues affecting the poultry industry, which is economically important to Delaware, especially in the Delmarva peninsula.[136] In the 1990s, Biden criticized the Russian government for threatening to ban imported U.S. chicken,[136] and in 2008 criticized the Russian government for banning imports of chicken from 19 poultry processing plants in the United States, Biden stated that "Russia is once again using non-tariff barriers as an excuse to close its markets to American poultry. ... Russia has repeatedly shown that it is not ready to abide by the rules of international trade."[137] Biden described the Russian action as "part of a bigger picture in which Russia has failed to behave as a responsible member in the international community" can called for the U.S. to block Russia's application to join the World Trade Organization.[137] Biden also worked to promote funding to research avian influenza.[136]

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden has outlined a rural and agricultural policy broadly similar to that of the Obama administration. The plan aims to obtain net-zero emissions for agriculture (making the U.S. the first nation to do so) via incentives and permitting farmers to join carbon markets. The plan also calls for changes in trade policy to encourage U.S. agriculture exports; expansion of broadband Internet in rural areas; renewable energy investment; promotion of local and regional food; and an expansion of the USDA Conservation Stewardship Program to encourage farmers to adopt carbon sequestration and other environmental practices.[138]

Banking and financial regulation

During the 2000s, Biden sponsored bankruptcy legislation, which was sought by MBNA, one of Delaware's largest companies and Biden's largest contributor in the late 1990s,[38] and other credit card issuers.[139] He fought for certain amendments to the bill that would indirectly protect homeowners and forbid felons from using bankruptcy to discharge fines.[139] He also worked to defeat amendments which would have protected members of the military and those who are pushed into bankruptcy by medical debt. Critics expressed concern that the law would force those seeking bankruptcy protection to hire lawyers to process the required paperwork and would make it more difficult for students to execute education-related debt.[38] The overall bill was vetoed by President Bill Clinton in 2000, but then finally passed as the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act in 2005, with Biden supporting it.[139] During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden moved to the left on the issue, endorsing Senator Elizabeth Warren's bankruptcy reform proposal, which would roll back many aspects of the 2005 law.[140][141][142]

During and after the Obama/Biden administration, Biden strongly supported the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act; the Dodd-Frank act implemented new financial regulations designed to prevent a reprise of the 2008 financial crisis and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.[143][144][145] He also supported the pro-consumer Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act.[145]

Energy and environment

Biden has been credited with introducing the first climate change bill in Congress.[146] Biden's initial bill, the Global Climate Protection Act, was introduced in 1986; it died in the Senate, but a version was included in a bill signed into law by President Reagan as an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act in December 1987.[146]

In 2008, Biden was the lead sponsor of a "Sense of the Senate" resolution calling on the U.S. to be a part of the United Nations climate change negotiations, and was a cosponsor of the Boxer-Sanders Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, at the time the most stringent climate bill in the Senate. The legislation would have created a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse-gas emissions and required a reduction in U.S. emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.[147] He strongly opposed opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.[148][149] In 2007–2008, during his presidential campaign, Biden called for a gradual increase in automobile fuel-economy standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2017,[147] called for increase production of renewable energy,[147] and identified energy security and resolving the energy crisis as key priorities.[150]

In June 2019, Biden's presidential campaign unveiled a $1.7 trillion climate policy plan aiming to eliminate U.S. net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The proposal incorporated elements of the Green New Deal proposal.[151] Biden's plan would eliminate fossil fuel subsidies; halt issuance of new permits for oil and gas extraction on public land and water; step up Clean Air Act enforcement; strengthen fuel economy standards to promote a shift to electric vehicles; regulate methane pollution; and create "aggressive" energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings.[151] Biden also promised that he would re-enter the Paris Agreement (from which Trump pulled the U.S.) on his first day in the White House and called for "a major diplomatic push to raise the ambitions of countries' climate targets."[151] To pressure countries failing to meet their climate obligations, Biden also called for "carbon adjustment fees" to be levied on goods imported from countries that failed to meet emissions targets.[151] The plan also won considerable support from the fossil fuel industry.[152]

Transportation

During the Obama administration, Biden was the lead figure promoting the administration's proposal to spend $53 billion over six years toward construction of a national intercity high-speed rail network, in furtherance of Obama's goal (outlined in the 2011 State of the Union Address) to extend high-speed rail access to 80% of the American population over a quarter-century.[153][154][155] Republicans in Congress rejected the proposal, which did not advance.[156][157]

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden has released a $1.3 trillion infrastructure improvement plan, which would follow up on Obama administration priorities.[158] The plan calls for $50 billion investment in repairs to existing roads and bridges in his first year in office; $10 billion over a decade to transit construction in high-poverty parts of the U.S.; doubling funding for BUILD and INFRA grants, and more funds for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.[158] The plan also includes proposals for investments in high-speed rail, public transit, and bicycling,[157] as well as school construction, replacement of water pipes and other water infrastructure, and expansion of rural broadband.[159] The plan also specifically calls for the rebuilding of the Hudson River Tunnel and the expansion of the Northeast Corridor, as well as rail investments in California and the Midwest and West.[157] Biden proposed funding the plan through tax increases on high-income Americans and corporations; the campaign stated that "reversing the excesses of the Trump tax cuts for corporations; reducing incentives for tax havens, evasion, and outsourcing; ensuring corporations pay their fair share; closing other loopholes in our tax code that reward wealth, not work; and ending subsidies for fossil fuels" would provide the revenue for the plan, making it deficit-neutral.[159]

Trade policy

In the Senate, Biden had a mixed record on trade policy,[160][161] but consistently supported "a U.S.-led, rules-based international order with an emphasis on reducing trade barriers and setting global trade standards."[162] He voted in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and Morocco-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, but voted against free-trade agreements with Singapore, Chile, Oman, and the Dominican Republic and Central America (CAFTA), viewing their labor and environmental protections as insufficient.[160][161] He voted in favor of fast track trade promotion authority in 1998 and in favor of permanent normal trade relations with China in 2000.[160][161] During the Obama administration, Biden was a strong advocate for the Trans-Pacific Partnership,[163] arguing that the U.S. withdrawal from the TPP "put China in the driver's seat" by allowing it to "write the rules of the road for the world" in the absence of U.S. participation.[161]

Biden has been critical of Chinese trade tactics, including "dumping" of steel and Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property.[161] He has criticized the Trump trade war with China for failing to "resolve the issues at the heart of the dispute";[161] for the trade war's negative effect on U.S. agriculture and manufacturing;[161][164] and for Trump's unilateral approach.[162] Biden also criticized Trump for labeling Canada and the European Union as "national security threats,"[161] arguing that this undercuts multilateral efforts with allies to combat Chinese trade abuses.[161][162] He supports pressuring China on environmental issues and supports the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement.[161]

Healthcare

Biden is a staunch supporter of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama administration's signature health care reform legislation.[165][166] He has condemned the Trump administration's attempts to strike down the ACA in court.[165] During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden has promoted a plan to expand and build upon the ACA, paid for by revenue gained from reversing some Trump administration tax cuts.[165] Biden's plan is to create a public option for health insurance, with the aim of expanding health insurance coverage to 97% of Americans.[165] He does not support single-payer health care proposals such as Medicare for All.[167] Under Biden's proposal, "no one would be required to pay more than 8.5 percent of their income toward health insurance premiums."[168] Under Biden's plan, all those on the individual insurance market would qualify for tax credits on premiums (a change from existing law, which caps premium tax credits at four times the federal poverty level, or under $50,000 for an independent). To reduce prescription drug prices, Biden proposes allowing import of prescription drugs and authorizing Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices.[165] In April 2020, Biden proposed lowering the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60.[19]

Labor unions

Biden was given an 85% lifetime approval rating from AFL–CIO.[169]

Biden was a cosponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act.[170]

Tax

Biden opposed the George W. Bush administration's tax cuts enacted mostly in 2001 and 2003, noting that most of the benefits of the tax cuts went to the very wealthiest U.S. families, and arguing that the cuts did not help working-class and middle-class Americans.[171] The Obama/Biden administration advocated keeping the cuts in place for 98% of U.S. taxpayers but letting them expire on income over $250,000 earned by couples (or income over $200,000 for individuals).[171]

After the Republicans took control of Congress in the 2010 election, Biden was designated as the administration's chief negotiator with congressional Republicans—specifically, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—regarding the Bush tax cuts, which were about to expire.[172] The administration opposed extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but also did not want to trigger tax increases for non-wealthy Americans when the economy was continuing to recover from the Great Recession.[172] The result was a deal: "Biden and McConnell hashed out a deal that extended all the Bush tax cuts until after the 2012 election, while injecting another $300 billion as an economic stimulus, including a new payroll tax cut for workers, extended unemployment benefits for victims of the recession and expanded tax credits for college students and the poor. By reopening the Senate, the deal also enabled the historic vote to repeal the ban on gay people in the military."[172]

Social Security

Biden opposes privatizing or means-testing of Social Security.[173] He was given an 89% approval rating from the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), reflecting a pro-senior citizen voting record.[174] Biden has called for an expansion of Social Security, including by increasing payments to the oldest Americans (persons who have been receiving retirement benefits for at least 20 years); setting a minimum guaranteed benefit (equal to at least 125% of the federal poverty level) for all Americans with at least 30 years of work; and increasing monthly survivor benefits for widows and widowers by about 20%.[173] Biden has proposed to fund the expansion, and to make the Social Security Trust Fund solvent over the long-term, through tax increases on the highest income-earners.[173] Biden has condemned Trump for waging "a reckless war on Social Security" by signing an executive order in 2020 that deferred the collection of the payroll tax that funds Social Security, and for Trump's comments suggesting that he might seek to forgo the tax.[175] Biden said that Trump's move will "undermine the entire financial footing of Social Security."[175]

Welfare

Biden voted for the 1996 bipartisan welfare reform compromise legislation.[176]

Foreign and military policy

In general

Biden has said that, "The United States will always reserve the right to defend itself and its allies, by force, if necessary. But force must be used judiciously to protect a vital interest of the United States, only when the objective is clear and achievable, with the informed consent of the American people, and where required, the approval of Congress."[177] He has emphasized "returning the United States to its traditional role as the leader of a world order based on promotion of democracy, multilateralism, alliance-building and diplomatic engagement"[178] and pledged in 2020 that if elected, he would reinvigorate the U.S.'s traditional alliances, including with countries alienated by Trump, and would convene a summit of major heads of state.[179]

Biden opposes covert or military action aimed at regime change, but has said that "it is appropriate for us to provide nonmilitary support for opposition movements seeking universal human rights and more representative and accountable governance."[177] With respect to humanitarian intervention, Biden has said the U.S. has "a moral duty, as well as a security interest, to respond to genocide or chemical weapons use" but that such cases "require action by the community of nations, not just the United States."[177]

Biden has said that, if elected president in 2020, he plans to restore U.S. membership in key United Nations bodies, such as UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and possibly the Human Rights Council.[179]

Africa

Biden opposed U.S. government funding of abstinence-only sex education programs in Africa, and in 2007, cosponsored the HIV Prevention Act which would end President George W. Bush's mandate that one-third of all funds be earmarked to abstinence-only programs.[180] Biden favors greater U.S. engagement with Africa to counter growing Chinese influence on the continent.[179]

Libya

In 2011, during the Obama administration's internal debate on the Libyan Civil War, Biden opposed the U.S. intervention.[181][182] Biden stated he was "strongly against going to Libya" due to the instability it would cause after Muammar Gaddafi was deposed, recounting to Charlie Rose later: "My question was, 'OK, tell me what happens.' He's gone. What happens? Doesn't the country disintegrate? What happens then? Doesn't it become a place where it becomes a petri dish for the growth of extremism? And it has."[183] Biden publicly defended the Obama administration's ultimate decision to participate in the Libya intervention, saying in 2011, "NATO got it right. In this case, America spent $2 billion and didn't lose a single life. This is more the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward than it has in the past."[184]

Sudan

Biden favored an American deployment of troops to Darfur during the war in Darfur, saying that 2,500 U.S. troops could stop the violence in the region.[180]

West Asia

Iran

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden has been a prominent voice calling for "hard-headed diplomacy" with Iran. He also has called for the implementation of "coordinated international sanctions" on Iran, adding "we should complement this pressure by presenting a detailed, positive vision for U.S.–Iran relations if Iran does the right thing."[180]

In 2007, Biden voted against a measure to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. He wrote in December 2007 that "War with Iran is not just a bad option. It would be a disaster." Biden threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Bush if he had started a war with Iran without Congressional approval.[180] In an interview in September 2008, Biden stated that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps was a terrorist organization and that the Bush administration already had the power to designate it as one. He stated that he voted against the measure out of concern that the Bush administration would misuse the measure to justify a military attack against Iran.[185]

As vice president, Biden vigorously defended the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration between Iran and the U.S. and other global powers.[186] Biden has criticized Trump's withdrawal from the agreement and the Trump administration's Iran strategy as "a self-inflicted disaster," saying in 2019 that Iran had "only gotten more aggressive" since Trump "unilaterally withdrew from the hard-won nuclear agreement that the Obama-Biden Administration negotiated."[187] Biden said, "I have no illusions about Iran. The regime has long sponsored terrorism and threatened our interests. It continues to detain American citizens. They've ruthlessly killed hundreds of protesters, and they should be held accountable for their actions. But there is a smart way to counter them, and a self-defeating way. Trump's approach is demonstrably the latter. The only way out of this crisis is through diplomacy — clear-eyed, hard-nosed diplomacy grounded in strategy, that's not about one-off decisions or one-upsmanship."[188] If elected president, Biden said he would reenter and strengthen the nuclear agreement once Iran is in compliance.[189]

Iraq

Joe Biden speaking
Joe Biden speaking

In 1990, after Iraq under Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Biden voted against the first Gulf War, asking: "What vital interests of the United States justify sending Americans to their deaths in the sands of Saudi Arabia?"[190] In 1998, Biden expressed support for the use of force against Iraq and urged a sustained effort to "dethrone" Hussein over the long haul.[191] In 2002, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he stated that Hussein was "a long-term threat and a short term threat to our national security" and that "We have no choice but to eliminate the threat. This is a guy who is an extreme danger to the world. He must be dislodged from his weapons or dislodged from power."[192] Biden also supported a failed resolution authorizing military action in Iraq only after the exhaustion of diplomatic efforts.[193] Biden subsequently voted in favor of the 2002 resolution that authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, saying, "I will vote for this because we should be compelling Iraq to make good on its obligations to the United Nations. Because while Iraq's illegal weapons of mass destruction program do not — do not — pose an imminent threat to our national security, in my view, they will, if left unfettered. And because a strong vote in Congress, as I said, increases the prospect for a tough, new U.N. resolution on weapons of mass destruction, it is likely to get weapons inspectors in, which, in turn, decreases the prospects of war, in my view."[194]

During the Iraq War, Biden consistently criticized the George W. Bush administration for "its failure to exhaust diplomatic solutions, its failure to enlist a more robust group of allies for the war effort, and the lack of a plan for reconstruction of Iraq."[194] He criticized Bush in March and April 2003 for failing to make robust diplomatic efforts to avert war, but said at the time that it was "the right decision" to "separate him (Hussein) from his weapons and/or separate him from power."[194] In an interview of Meet the Press in November 2005, Biden said of his 2002 vote to authorize the use of force: "It was a mistake. It was a mistake to assume the president would use the authority we gave him properly. ... We gave the president the authority to unite the world to isolate Saddam. And the fact of the matter is, we went too soon. We went without sufficient force. And we went without a plan."[194] In 2007, Biden strongly opposed Bush's "troop surge" in Iraq, calling it a "tragic mistake."[195] He promoted legislation to repeal and replace the 2002 resolution that authorized the war, arguing that it was no longer necessary because Hussein had been removed for power and executed, and because no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq.[195] The replacement resolution favored by Biden would provide that U.S. troops could combat terrorism and train Iraqi forces, but begin a "responsible drawdown" of U.S. troops that would end in the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.[195]

In May 2006, in an op-ed in the New York Times, Biden and Leslie H. Gelb, the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, proposed a plan for a decentralized, federal Iraq, with a relatively weak central government with strong Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish regional administrations that would govern largely autonomously within their own regions.[195][196][197][198] Under the plan, there would not have been a partition of the country,[197] but the central government would have its responsibilities limited to areas of common concern, such as "border defense, foreign policy, and oil production and revenue sharing."[196] The goal of the plan was to halt the high level of sectarian violence in Iraq between Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.[195][196][197] Biden likened the plan to the 1995 Dayton Agreement, which led to an end to the Bosnian War.[196][198] The plan received a mixed reception.[196] A non-binding "sense of the Senate" resolution in support of the plan, sponsored by Biden and Senator Sam Brownback (Republican of Kansas), passed the Senate in a September 2007 on a 75–23 vote.[196][197] However, the proposal was opposed by Bush administration and many Iraqi political parties, including the United Iraqi Alliance of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.[196] The autonomy/federalism proposal was broadly unpopular among Iraqi Arabs, both Sunni and Shia,[199][196][200] but was welcomed by Iraqi Kurds and the Kurdistan Regional Government,[199] as well as by Iraq President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and proponent of Iraqi federalism.[196]

In a 2016 interview with Council on Foreign Relations president Richard N. Haass, Biden spoke about changing "the fundamental approach [America] had to the Middle East", and that the lesson learned from Iraq is "the use of force with large standing armies in place was extremely costly, [and] would work until the moment we left."[201]

Israel

Joe Biden at the World Economic Forum in Jordan in 2003
Joe Biden at the World Economic Forum in Jordan in 2003
Biden with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, January 2014
Biden with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, January 2014

In the Senate, Biden developed lifelong relationships with Israeli officials through his work on the Foreign Relations Committee,[202] beginning with Golda Meir in 1973.[203][202][204] Biden called his meeting with Meir as a young senator on the eve of the Yom Kippur War "one of the most consequential meetings I’ve ever had in my life."[205] He has regularly described himself as a Zionist,[180][203] and is a longtime supporter of Israel, which Biden considers to be a key U.S. strategic ally in the Middle East.[203][206] When Biden was selected by Obama as a running mate, National Jewish Democratic Council chairman Ira Forman praised the choice, saying, "There is no one you could possibly pick who knows the issues, who is committed to Israel's security and knows Israeli leaders, as much as Joe Biden."[207] During the 2008 presidential campaign, Biden stressed in a Florida campaign event that he and his running mate Obama were both strongly pro-Israel and would make Israeli more secure.[204][208][209] Biden also said: "A strong America is a strong Israel. I have a 35-year record of supporting Israel, and Israel's security is enhanced the stronger America is."[210] In the 2008 vice-presidential debate, Biden stated "no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. I would have never, ever joined this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my passion."[211]

In 2008, Biden criticized the George W. Bush administration and John McCain, arguing: "By any empirical standard, Israel is less secure today than it was when George Bush became president. He has made one foul-up after another that John has supported."[204][208] Biden called for a proactive role in the Israel-Palestinian peace process,[206] which he argued would be advanced if the U.S. took steps to "regain the respect of the world."[210] He called for increased engagement with Syria over the Golan Heights dispute, the disarmament of Hezbollah, and Syrian influence in Lebanon.[206] In 2008, discussing the possibility of Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, Biden said it was "not a question for us to tell the Israelis what they can and cannot do" but that he had "faith in the democracy of Israel" and supported additional diplomatic efforts to avert military conflict.[185] In April 2009, Biden again said that Israel would not launch a unilateral strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, stating: "I think (Israel) would be ill-advised to do that. And so my level of concern is no different than it was a year ago."[212]

Throughout his career, Biden has a strong relationship with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), speaking at the group's events and fundraisers;[205] Biden and AIPAC have mutually praised each other.[213] Nevertheless, Biden has not always agreed with the group's stances, saying in 2008:"AIPAC does not speak for the entire American Jewish community. There's other organizations as strong and as consequential" and adding "“I’ve never disagreed with AIPAC on the objective. Whenever I’ve had disagreement with AIPAC it has always been a tactical disagreement, not a substantive disagreement."[214] Biden strongly opposed granting executive clemency to Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted of spying for Israel, saying "If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life."[202][215]

Biden has consistently supported a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, saying it is (1) "the only path to long-term security for Israel, while sustaining its identity as a Jewish and democratic state"; (2) "the only way to ensure Palestinian dignity and their legitimate interest in national self-determination"; and (3) "a necessary condition to take full advantage of the opening that exists for greater cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors."[205] He cosponsored the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 which expressed U.S. support for a two-state solution.[180][216] In a 2007 interview, when asked about the failure to achieve Israeli-Palestinians peace, Biden stated that "Israel's a democracy and they make mistakes. But the notion that somehow if Israel just did the right thing, [the peace process] would work ... give me a break." He also stated that "The responsibility rests on those who will not acknowledge the right of Israel to exist, will not play fair, will not deal, will not renounce terror."[207] During the 2008 vice-presidential debate, Biden stated that the Bush administration's policy with regard to the Middle East had been "an abject failure" and pledged that, if elected, he and Barack Obama would "change this policy with thoughtful, real, live diplomacy that understands that you must back Israel in letting them negotiate, support their negotiation, and stand with them, not insist on policies like this administration has."[211] In a 2010 speech to the Jewish Federations of North America, Biden said "There is no substitute for direct face-to-face negotiations leading eventually to states for two people secured—the Jewish State of Israel and the viable independent state of Palestine. That is the only path to the Israeli people's decades-long quest for security, and the only path to the Palestinian people's legitimate aspirations for nationhood."[217] Speaking in 2019, Biden said, "At present, neither the Israeli nor Palestinian leadership seems willing to take the political risks necessary to make progress through direct negotiations," and said that if elected president, he would focusing on urging "both sides to take steps to keep the prospect of a two-state outcome alive."[205] Following Trump's controversial move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Biden said he would not return the embassy to Tel Aviv if elected president, but that he would re-open the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem for outreach to Palestinians.[205]

Biden has consistently criticized Israeli settlement policy.[205] In a 2009 speech at the AIPAC conference, Biden called upon Israel "to work towards a two-state solution" by dismantling existing Israeli settlements, halting new settlement construction, and allowing Palestinians freedom of movement, and called on the Palestinians to "combat terror and incitement against Israel."[218] In a 2016 speech to J Street, Biden said that he had "overwhelming frustration" with the Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the government's promotion and expansion of settlements, legalization of outposts, and land seizures. Noting that he had opposed Israeli settlements for more than three decades, Biden said that they are counterproductive to Israel's security. In the same speech, Biden criticized Palestinian terrorist attacks and Palestinian recourse to the International Criminal Court, which he called "damaging moves that only take us further from the path toward peace," and called out President President Mahmoud Abbas for failing to condemn terrorist attacks. Regarding a multi-billion dollar defense deal that the U.S. was negotiating with Israel, Biden said "Israel will not get everything it asks for, but it will get every single solitary thing it needs," and said: "No matter what political disagreements we have with Israel – and we do have political disagreements now – there is never any question about our commitment to Israel's security."[219][220] In a subsequent speech in December 2019, Biden criticized Netanyahu for his drift to "the extreme right in his party," calling this move a bid to retain political power and a "serious mistake."[221]

Biden criticized Israel's plan to annex parts of Palestinian territory in the West Bank.[222] On June 17, 2020, Biden's foreign policy advisor Tony Blinken said that Biden "would not tie military assistance to Israel to things like annexation or other decisions by the Israeli government with which we might disagree." Biden said that if elected president he will firmly reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign "which singles out Israel and too often veers into antisemitism – and fight other efforts to delegitimize Israel on the global stage."[223]

Saudi Arabia

Biden criticized U.S. involvement in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, saying that if elected president, "I would end U.S. support for the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen and order a reassessment of our relationship with Saudi Arabia." He has criticized the Trump administration's policies toward Saudi Arabia, including the sale of arms.[164]

Syria

In a 2018 conversation for Foreign Affairs, Biden described Syria as "a classic example of the biggest conundrum that we have to deal with." He sees America's current situation in Syria as having "lost the notion among our European friends that we know what we're doing, that we have a plan." He emphasized the necessity of stabilizing Syria, especially in major cities like Raqqa.[224] Raqqa is in ruins after lengthy battles between ISIL and Kurdish forces, the SDF, with assistance from the U.S.-led coalition.[225] Biden said a multi-billion dollar investment is required to rebuild the city. He believes Iran, not Russia, will be the biggest beneficiaries in the short term, if Syria remains a battlefield. President Bashar al-Assad will also need to be removed from power, otherwise Syria will never have peace or security.[224]

The nonstarter is, for Russia, the idea that Assad stays in power and continues to control means there’s a guarantee that there will never be peace or security in that country, because so many—so many, you know, bottles have been broken here, man. I mean, there’s no way he can put that together.

— Joe Biden, "Foreign Affairs Issue Launch with Former Vice President Joe Biden"

Biden said there is no uniting principle in Syria, unlike Iraq, hence only certain safe harbors can be established in the region to reduce the number of displaced people and deaths.[224]

Turkey

Biden meets with Turkish President Erdoğan on July 24, 2016
Biden meets with Turkish President Erdoğan on July 24, 2016

In 2014, Biden said that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had "poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda, and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world."[226] Biden lated apologized to the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over comments that Turkey supported jihadist rebels in Syria.[227]

In August 2020, Biden called for a new U.S. approach to the "autocrat" President Erdoğan and support for Turkish opposition parties.[228]

In September 2020, Biden demanded that Turkey "stay out" of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, in which Turkey has supported the Azeris.[229][230]

South Asia

Biden and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan look on as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on June 8, 2016
Biden and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan look on as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on June 8, 2016

Afghanistan and Pakistan

In 2008, Pakistan awarded the Hilal-e-Pakistan (Crescent of Pakistan) to Joe Biden and Senator Richard Lugar “in recognition of their consistent support for Pakistan”.[231] This was after Biden passed a bill authorizing $7.5 billion in non-military aid to Pakistan as the chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.[232]

In a 2008 interview, Biden criticized Bush for presenting Iraq as the primary front against terrorism, saying the U.S. should "urgently shift our focus" from Iraq to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, which Biden described as "the real central front on the so-called war on terrorism," noting that "The Afghanistan-Pakistan border is where the 9/11 attacks were plotted... It's where most attacks on Europe since 9/11 have originated. It's where Osama bin Laden lives and his top confederates still enjoy safe haven, planning new attacks.[233] Biden said that "the outcome of that battle is going to be determined less by bullets than by dollars and determination" and that the U.S.'s "original sin was starting a war of choice [the intervention in Iraq] before we finished a war of necessity [the war in Afghanistan]."[233]

During the Obama administration's internal debates, Biden argued strongly against the 2009 surge of troops to Afghanistan, putting him on the opposite side of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.[182][234] Biden argued that rampant corruption and ineffectiveness in the Afghan government, military, and police made the U.S. strategy unworkable, and was "agnostic" about the survival of the Kabul-based government.[234] In 2012, speaking to West Point graduates, Biden argued that the Obama administration's drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq allowed the U.S. "enabled us to replace and rebalance our foreign policy" to focus on other challenges.[235] In 2020, during his presidential campaign, Biden pledges to bring home the remaining U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan during his first term in office, and that "any residual U.S. military presence in Afghanistan would be focused only on counterterrorism operations."[236]

East Asia

With respect to Asia, Biden favors restoring the "traditional U.S. stance supporting the presence of American troops in Japan and South Korea."[179]

China

Biden and China's leader Xi Jinping raised a toast at a State Dinner in September 2015
Biden and China's leader Xi Jinping raised a toast at a State Dinner in September 2015

In 2016, Biden described the Trans-Pacific Partnership as an agreement that was as much about geopolitics as economics. Being part of the Obama administration, he supported the agreement in an attempt to "rebalance towards Asia" against a stronger and bolder Chinese foreign policy in the region.[201]

In 2018, Biden said he had spent more time in private meetings with Chinese leader Xi Jinping than any other world leader. He believes Xi thinks of Russia as "an occasional foil", and neither countries will come together in an alliance, but both can use each other for benefits relative to America.[224]

On June 4, 2019, Biden tweeted that "China's continuing oppression of its own people, especially the abuse and internment of more than one million Uyghurs, is one of the worst human rights crises in the world today. It can't be ignored."[164] He expressed support for Hong Kong's protests.[237]

During a Democratic debate in February 2020, Biden criticized Xi Jinping and said “This is a guy who doesn’t have a democratic — with a small d — bone is his body. This is a guy who is a thug.”[238][239]

North Korea

Speaking in 2006, Biden described North Korea as a "paper tiger" that lacked the capacity to directly cause harm to America, but condemned North Korean nuclear testing as a "deliberate and dangerous provocation."[180] He proposed a requirement, included in the 2007 national defense authorization act, for the Bush administration to appoint a special coordinator on North Korea, and described Korean Peninsula tensions as one of "the three most important things that the next president is going to have to deal with" (along with policy on Iraq and Iran).[180]

As vice president, Biden visited South Korean President Park Geun-hye and visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone. In a 2013 speech in Seoul, Biden said: "The United States and the world have to make it absolutely clear to Kim Jong-un that the international community will not accept or tolerate nuclear arms in North Korea. The simple fact is this—North Korea can never achieve security and prosperity so long as it pursues nuclear weapons, period. We are prepared to go back to the six-party talks when North Korea demonstrates its full commitment to a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization."[240]

Biden has criticized Trump's warm personal relations with Kim as "antithetical to who we are," saying, "Are we a nation that embraces dictators and tyrants like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and Kim Jong-un?"[241] Biden also criticized Trump for engaging in "three made-for-TV summits" that have led to no "concrete commitment from North Korea."[242] Biden has pledged, if elected president, to discontinue Trump's direct personal diplomacy with Kim[243] and engage in a "sustained, coordinated campaign with our allies and others" to pressure North Korea toward denuclearization."[242] North Korean state media attacked Biden in 2019 as "an imbecile"; a spokesman for Biden's campaign responded: "Trump has also been repeatedly tricked into making major concessions to the murderous regime in Pyongyang while getting nothing in return. Given Vice President Biden's record of standing up for American values and interests, it's no surprise that North Korea would prefer that Donald Trump remain in the White House."[241]

Europe

Former rebel leader Hashim Thaçi and Biden with Declaration of Independence of Kosovo, May 21, 2009
Former rebel leader Hashim Thaçi and Biden with Declaration of Independence of Kosovo, May 21, 2009

Albania

In his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden stated that he supports Albania's territorial security and its reform agenda aimed toward becoming a future EU member.[244]

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In the 1990s, Biden was involved in efforts to stop the Bosnian Genocide by Bosnian Serb forces.[244] Biden supports Bosnian territorial integrity and sovereignty, its multi-ethnic society and future membership in NATO and the EU.[244]

Kosovo

During the Kosovo War (1999), Biden supported a resolution for US military intervention against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).[244] Biden has pressed Serbia over the issue of missing persons and war crimes.[244] He supports the independence of Kosovo and considers it "irreversible".[245]

In his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden supports an agreement of mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia, and for Kosovo to attain EU visa liberalisation.[244]

NATO allies

Biden with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on February 7, 2015
Biden with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on February 7, 2015

During his campaign for the presidency, Biden has called for restoring friendly U.S. relationship with fellow NATO member states, which have been strained by insults and antagonism from Trump,[179] as well as by criticism by Trump of NATO and other multilateral alliances.[246] Biden criticized Trump's decision to withdraw 9,500 U.S. troops stationed in Germany.[247] Biden has criticized Trump for treating NATO as "a protection racket" rather than "the most significant military alliance in the history of the world" and Biden advisors have identified a strengthened NATO as a key component of countering a rising China.[247] According to European diplomats and trade experts, a Biden presidency would like lead to a boost in the U.S.-British "special relationship"; repair alliances broken during the Trump administration; and enhance the likelihood of a trans-Atlantic trade agreement.[246]

Poland

Biden condemned LGBT-free zones in Poland, saying they "have no place in the European Union or anywhere in the world." The Polish Embassy in the United States tweeted that Biden's assertion "is based on inaccurate media information, as no ‘LGBT-free zones’ exist in Poland."[248]

Biden placed Poland alongside Belarus and totalitarian regimes, saying: "you see what is happening from Belarus through Poland and Hungary and the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world. Our current president supports all thugs in the world."[249]

Russia

Biden, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi meeting in Italy in June 2011
Biden, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi meeting in Italy in June 2011
Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, June 7, 2014
Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, June 7, 2014

In 1999, Biden cosponsored a draft resolution condemning Russia's military campaign to crush a Chechen separatist insurgency, the use of indiscriminate force by the Russian army against civilians and violations of the Geneva Convention, and urged a peaceful resolution of the conflict.[250][251]

In 2005, Biden cosponsored a Senate resolution criticizing Russia for failing to uphold its commitments at the 1999 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Summit, which included agreements on a completed Russian military withdrawal from Moldova's breakaway, pro-Russian region of Transnistria. That resolution also expressed disapproval of Russia's demand for the closure of the OSCE Border Monitoring Operation (BMO), which served to observe border crossings between Georgia and the Russian republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia. That bill passed in the Senate.[180]

Biden introduced legislation in July 2008 urging members of the Group of Eight to "work toward a more constructive relationship with Russia", and encouraging Russia to behave according to the G-8's "objectives of protecting global security, economic stability, and democracy." The resolution also called on Russian and U.S. leaders to increase cooperation and funding for the Nunn-Lugar program and other nonproliferation initiatives. It also emphasized the need for a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty. The resolution passed.[180]

Biden has voiced concerns about Russia alleged backsliding on democratic reforms. In August 2008, Biden criticized Russia's military action in Georgia in support of South Ossetian separatists. "By acting disproportionately with a full-scale attack on Georgia and seeking the ouster of Georgia's democratically elected President Mikheil Saakashvili, Moscow is jeopardizing its standing in Europe and the broader international community—and risking very real practical and political consequences", Biden wrote in a Financial Times op-ed. Biden urged Russia to abide by the negotiated cease-fire.[180]

In a 2018 Foreign Affairs op-ed co-written with Michael Carpenter, Biden described Russia as a kleptocratic, nationalist-populist state that considers Western democracy its existential threat. He acknowledged that the Kremlin launched coordinated attacks across many domains—military, political, economic, informational—against various Western democratic countries, including cyberattacks on the 2016 United States presidential election and 2017 French presidential election. As a result of Russia's threat, Biden supports a "strong response" with cooperation from America's allies and campaign finance reform that will prohibit foreign donations from flowing into domestic elections.[252]

Western democracies must also address glaring vulnerabilities in their electoral systems, financial sectors, cyber-infrastructure, and media ecosystems. The U.S. campaign finance system, for example, needs to be reformed to deny foreign actors—from Russia and elsewhere—the ability to interfere in American elections. Authorities can no longer turn a blind eye to the secretive bundling of donations that allows foreign money to flow to U.S. organizations (such as “ghost corporations”) that in turn contribute to super PACs and other putatively independent political organizations, such as trade associations and so-called 501(c)(4) groups. Congress must get serious about campaign finance reform now; doing so should be a matter of bipartisan consensus since this vulnerability affects Democrats and Republicans in equal measure.

— Joe Biden, Michael Carpenter, "How to Stand Up to the Kremlin"

He also condemned President Trump for equivocating "on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election, even after he received briefings from top intelligence officials on precisely how Moscow did it."[253]

At the 2019 Munich Security Conference, Biden reiterated his opposition to Russian interference in elections and their actions against European neighbors, saying, "We have to be explicit in our response and make clear to Russia that there's a price to pay for these transgressions of international norms", and that the U.S. needs to continue to support its NATO allies, as well as Georgia and Ukraine who are not part of NATO, by "establishing virtually continuous air, land and sea presence on NATO's eastern perimeter." He also expressed concerns about Russian influence operations targeting American politics.[254]

North America

Central America

As part of the Obama Administration, Biden supported the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) to combat drug cartels and strengthen law enforcement in Central America. Between 2008 and 2011, the Department of State provided $361.5 million to Central American countries. The State Department stated five main goals to CARSI:

  1. Create safe streets for the citizens in the region.
  2. Disrupt the movement of criminals and contraband within and between the nations of Central America.
  3. Support the development of strong, capable and accountable Central American governments.
  4. Re-establish effective state presence and security in communities at risk.
  5. Foster enhanced levels of security and rule of law coordination and cooperation between the nations of the region.[255]

When Biden met with Central American leaders in Honduras in 2012, he reiterated the Obama Administration's pledge of $107 million in aid for the region. The Administration would work with Congress to provide the funds under CARSI. These initiatives were part of a larger effort for institutional reform in the region to counter drug trafficking.[256][257]

During the 2014 Central American child-migrant crisis, Biden supported a $1 billion economic aid package to affected Central American countries. In an op-ed for The New York Times, he wrote, "the security and prosperity of Central America are inextricably linked with our own."[258] He also supported further institutional reforms to combat corruption in those countries, so they can provide their people with safer living conditions.[259]

Cuba

While in the Senate, Biden voted for the Helms-Burton Act and supported the U.S. embargo against Cuba; in 2006, Biden called for the U.S. to be "putting together a plan as to how we are going to play a positive role in moving that country, after the Castros are gone ... more toward democratization and liberalization."[180][260] As vice president, Biden supported Obama's Cuban thaw and reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.[261] Biden stated that the lifting of U.S. trade and travel restrictions removed an "ineffective stumbling block to our bilateral relations with other nations in the hemisphere" and made it easier for the U.S. to engage on issues around human rights.[261]

Biden has criticized Trump's moves to roll back the détente between the U.S. and Cuba, writing in an op-ed that Trump's resumptions of restrictions on travel and commerce harm Cubans seeking "greater independence from the Communist state" and alienate Western Hemisphere allies.[262] Biden also wrote that "Trump's...callously limiting the ability of Cuban Americans to reunite with and support their families in Cuba, and the administration's Latin America policy, at best, is a Cold War-era retread and, at worst, at worst, an ineffective mess."[263] If elected president, Biden has pledged to restore Obama-era U.S. relations with Cuba.[179][264]

See also

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