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How Joe Biden Works

Key Issues and Policy of Joe Biden

Joe Biden, Jill biden
Joe Biden stands with his wife Dr. Jill Biden while waiting to be introduced to a town hall at the Proulx Community Center in Franklin, New Hampshire on Nov. 8, 2019. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Back in 2007, when Biden launched his second presidential campaign, he made foreign policy his key issue, arguing that the ongoing War in Iraq was possibly "the biggest foreign policy blunder in America's history" [source: Guttman]. Biden took criticism for this stance on the war, especially since he initially voted in favor of sending U.S. troops into Iraq in 2002. He later changed his opinion, and in February 2007, he proposed that Congress repeal its authorization of the use of force in the Middle Eastern nation, which would have effectively ended the war [source: Giroux].

For the 2020 election, Biden is focusing on a new set of key issues starting with health care. Biden served alongside President Obama when the Affordable Care Act was narrowly passed and remains a strong advocate of the landmark health care law, which provided health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and drew the ire of small-government conservatives. While other former Democratic presidential hopefuls have embraced a single-payer "Medicare for All" model, Biden advocates adding a "public option" to the ACA [source: Glueck].

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Climate change is also at the top of Biden's priority list. No late-comer to environmentalism, then-Senator Biden introduced a bill called the "Global Climate Protection Act" back in 1986 that warned against melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels [source: PolitiFact]. In the run-up to the 2020 election, Biden has not officially signed on to a Green New Deal like other former Democratic candidates, but he has proposed a $2 trillion plan to make the U.S. carbon neutral by 2050 [source: Wise].

In both of his most recent presidential runs, Biden was a staunch critic of Republican tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. While he doesn't believe in "punishing the rich" with exorbitant tax rates, he does think that everyone should pay their fair share without exploiting loopholes. In the 2020 election, Biden is campaigning on a promise to repeal the 2017 corporate tax cuts signed by President Trump [source: Chicago Tribune].

What about racial justice and policing reform? When he was a senator from Delaware, Biden embraced a "tough on crime" persona that culminated in his authorship of the 1994 Crime Bill, which increased the nationwide police force by 100,000 and enlarged prisons to accommodate tougher sentencing laws. Some of Biden's critics in the Black community blame him for creating the conditions that led to the mass incarceration of Black men. Today, Biden has changed his stance, apologizing for the failures of the 1994 bill and advocating for criminal justice reform that reduces the prison population and recognizes the existence of racial bias in policing and sentencing [source: Kranish].

When it comes to hot-button social issues, Biden's positions largely align with the Democratic mainstream. Although a practicing Catholic, Biden supports abortion rights, and in 2019 rescinded his support for the Hyde Amendment, which had barred any federal funding for abortions [source: McCammon]. On gun control, Biden supports a ban on the sale of any new assault-style rifles and a buyback program for existing assault rifles [source: Lybrand]. On LGBTQ rights, Biden has evolved from opposing same-sex marriage in the 1990s to pledging his support for it in 2012 even before President Obama did [source: Nagourney and Kaplan].

Next we'll look at Biden's two-term tenure as vice president and how he came to be the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in 2020.

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