Former Vice President Joe Biden is a Washington veteran who spent decades as a U.S. senator and is now on his third run for president. He’s a meme sensation, one half of an unlikely bromance and a lover of ice cream cones. He’s viewed by many as a folksy, spontaneous and gaffe-prone elder statesman of the Democratic Party.
The “scrappy kid from Scranton,” as former President Barack Obama called him, would be the oldest person elected U.S. president in history if he won the 2020 race; he’d be 77 years old on Election Day. Here’s where he stands on eight key issues.
Climate change: Demands action to combat climate change. Supports Paris climate accord.
Biden has called climate change an “existential” threat and has called for the Trump administration to take action on the issue. As vice president, he helped orchestrate the Paris climate accord, which he has called the “best way to protect our children and global leadership.” His strong stance on climate change is longstanding, going back beyond his time as vice president. In 1986, then-Senator Biden introduced the first ever climate bill to establish a task force on the issue.
Economy: Promote the middle class. Raise the minimum wage.
Biden’s speeches since leaving office in 2017 have focused on income and the hollowing out of the middle class. To address income inequality, he supports a “pro-growth, progressive tax code that treats workers as job creators,” and closes loopholes that benefit shareholders over laborers. He supports reducing non-compete clauses to expand opportunities for workers to seek fair pay, and increasing tax credits for low-income families. In September 2015, Biden celebrated New York state raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, even as the Obama administration pushed to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour.
Education: Free public college. Universal Pre-K.
The former vice president was one of the first Democrats in recent years to advocate for free public education. In his speech announcing that he would not run for president in 2016, Biden called for 16 years of free public education, including community college and four-year public colleges. He has also backed universal pre-Kindergarten, paid for by closing some loopholes in the tax code. As a senator in the 1970s, he fought against busing children to schools outside their districts to promote desegregation of public schools, but he has rarely spoken about his views on the issue in recent years.
Guns: Ban assault weapons. Universal background checks.
Biden has long supported greater gun control measures, including an assault weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and universal background checks. After the Sandy Hook mass shooting in 2012, Obama appointed Biden to lead the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force (the initiative failed to pass a universal background checks bill in Congress). As a senator, Biden authored the assault weapons ban legislation that passed in 1994, seven years after he first introduced it. The law lapsed in 2004 and has not been reinstated. Biden also voted in 1993 for the Brady Bill, which established waiting periods for handgun purchases and created the current background check system. Despite his long record supporting gun control measures, Biden voted in 1983 for the Firearm Owners Protection Act, a bill that allowed firearms dealers to sell guns through the mail, online and at gun shows.
Health care: Fix the Affordable Care Act.
Biden has not yet articulated a comprehensive health care platform. He also hasn’t come out in favor of proposals to expand Medicaid to those over the age of 55, or Medicare for All — a popular idea among some 2020 Democrats. As part of the Obama administration, Biden fought for the passage of the Affordable Care Act. When Republicans attempted to repeal the legislation in 2017, Biden published an op-ed in The Washington Post listing the achievements of the health care law, including improvements in emergency care, addressing the opioid crisis and expanding Medicaid.
Immigration: Against a border wall. Supports a path to citizenship for “Dreamers.”
During the government shutdown that ended in February, Biden criticized President Donald Trump’s call for a southern border wall. In 2006, Biden was one of 26 Senate Democrats who voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act to fund construction of 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
As vice president, Biden championed the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which protects immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Biden has called Trump’s decision to rescind the program, which remains tied up in a legal battle, “cruel,” “inhumane” and “not America.” Since leaving office, Biden has not commented on whether U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be revised or abolished, a call repeated by some other Democrats. As a senator, he voted for the 2002 Homeland Security Act that replaced the agency known as Immigration and Naturalization Service with ICE.
Social issues: Advocate for Violence Against Women Act and preventing sexual assault.
Biden’s record on supporting domestic violence and sexual assault survivors is mixed. As vice president, Biden appointed the first White House advisor on Violence Against Women to prevent gender-based violence worldwide. In the Senate, he authored the Violence Against Women Act and led the charge to pass it. Since leaving the White House, he has been actively involved in the “It’s on Us” campaign to prevent assault on college campuses. When Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings last fall, Biden spoke out in support of survivors and said women deserve the presumption of innocence when making sexual misconduct claims.
But Biden has also faced criticism for his handling of the 1994 Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas, who had been accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill. (Biden at the time was the chairman of an all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee.) Biden voted against Thomas’ confirmation, and has said he regrets how he handled the hearing. He’s also been accused recently of making unwanted physical contact, such as hugs and kisses on the head, with women. In a video statement on Twitter, Biden agreed to be “more mindful” of women’s personal space in the future.
Foreign policy: Supports international alliances like NATO.
Biden has spoken extensively about the importance of the United States engaging with the world and cooperating with America’s allies. As vice president, Biden brought decades of foreign policy experience to the White House, including his tenure as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-chairman of the NATO Observer Group. Biden was a critical foreign policy advisor to Obama. As a Senator, he voted in favor of the Iraq War in 2002, but later opposed President George W. Bush’s troop surge, and in 2006, co-wrote a five-step strategy to pull U.S. forces from the country.
Correction: This article has been updated to show that Joe Biden will be 77 on Election Day 2020.