Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics
newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
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 ever elected to the U.S. presidency if he won the 2020 race; he will be 77 years old on Election Day. Here’s where he stands on eight key issues.
In August, Biden unveiled a new clean energy plan, pledging to spend $2 trillion over four years to invest in renewable fuels, more efficient infrastructure and fight climate change. As part of that plan, Biden has an ambitious goal: To make electricity and power in America carbon-free by 2035. He would also aim to make the U.S. carbon-neutral across all sectors by 2050.
Biden has described climate change as 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, and has pledged to recommit the United States to that agreement. In 1986, then-Sen. Biden introduced the first ever climate bill to establish a task force on the issue.
Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan lays out his approach to pandemic recovery, offering relief funds to states, cities and the unemployed. Among his programs, Biden would hire people to fight the pandemic in the newly-created Public Health Jobs Corps. Separately, Biden proposes a 10 percent tax credit to encourage more manufacturing jobs in the U.S., alongside a 10 percent tax penalty for profits in some businesses, like call centers, that operate overseas but profit off sales in the U.S.
To address income inequality, he supports a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour and a “pro-growth, progressive tax code”that closes loopholes benefiting shareholders over laborers. Biden would roll back tax cuts enacted under President Donald Trump, raising taxes on Americans earning more than $400,000 a year and using the revenue to fund a variety of programs from infrastructure to climate to addressing economic disparities.
The former vice president was one of the first Democrats in recent years to advocate for free extended 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. In 2019, facing criticism, he explained that position this way: “I don’t believe a child should have to get on a bus to attend a good school. There should be first-rate schools of quality in every neighborhood of this nation, especially in 2019 America.”
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.
Under his plan, Biden would offer Americans the chance to buy in to a government-run healthcare plan or “public option” similar to Medicare. In addition, he would increase tax credits that are part of the Affordable Care Act in order to increase the amount of coverage for lower-income families.
In general, Biden would reverse many of Trump’s immigration policies. Biden’s plan would provide a path to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country. Soon after becoming president, he would reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, and make DACA recipients, so-called “Dreamers,” eligible for federal student loan aid. In addition, his immigration plan would reform and expand the legal immigration system, reinstate many former practices and avenues for consideration of asylum and end prolonged detention and any separation of migrant families.
Biden has pledged to stop new construction of the Southern border barrier that Trump has championed since he was a candidate, but indicated he would not tear down what has been built so far. As president, Biden has said he would focus more on other methods of securing the border, including better technology. He has supported building fencing in the past. 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.
Biden supports some federal funding of abortion, especially in cases where a woman could not otherwise afford the procedure. This is a reversal of Biden’s decades-long opposition to such government funding. In announcing this position in June, Biden said “circumstances have changed,” citing several states that had passed additional restrictions on abortion in recent months and nodding to concern that abortion rights are under attack.
While Biden has sharply criticized Trump’s tariff policy, particularly regarding China, he and his advisors have said he will make a determination later on whether to keep or reverse those tariffs.
In general, Biden has spoken extensively about the importance of the United States engaging with the world and cooperating with America’s allies.
The U.S. would keep a small troop presence in Afghanistan under a President Biden, he told Stars & Stripes in September. Biden also said he does not plan on making any major defense cuts.
As vice president, Biden was a critical foreign policy advisor to Obama. When he was 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 out of the country.
Correction: This article has been updated to show that Joe Biden will be 77 on Election Day 2020.
Tess Conciatori is a politics production assistant at PBS NewsHour.
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
Support Provided By: