"We need to confront racial and income-based disparities in our justice system and eliminate overly harsh sentencing for non-violent crimes. As president, Biden will... Eliminate the death penalty. Over 160 individuals who’ve been sentenced to death in this country since 1973 have later been exonerated. Because we cannot ensure we get death penalty cases right every time, Biden will work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example. These individuals should instead serve life sentences without probation or parole."
Source: Joe Biden, "Justice," joebiden.com (accessed Aug. 26, 2019)
[Editor's Note: Biden previously expressed a PRO opinion on this question. Read Biden's former position on whether the death penalty should be legal.]
Pro Should Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases Be Made Law?
"In the months ahead, Biden will also detail his plan to tackle the public health epidemic of gun violence in America, starting with universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Biden’s plan to reduce gun violence will address not only mass shootings but also daily acts of gun violence that don’t make national headlines."
Source: Joe Biden, "Justice," joebiden.com (accessed Aug. 27, 2019)
Con Should Recreational Marijuana Be Legal Federally?
"I’m the guy that put in the drug courts to divert people from the criminal justice system. So we have to change the whole way we look at this, and we put people in prison, we have to equip them when they get out. Nobody who got in prison for marijuana for example immediately upon being released they shouldn’t be in there for a misdemeanor. That should be a misdemeanor, they should be out and their record should be expunged. Every single right should be returned."
[Editor's Note: Andrew Bates, a Biden spokesperson, clarified Biden's statement to CNN: "As he said [Tuesday, May 14, 2019], Vice President Biden does not believe anyone should be in jail simply for smoking or possessing marijuana. He supports decriminalizing marijuana and automatically expunging prior criminal records for marijuana possession, so those affected don't have to figure out how to petition for it or pay for a lawyer. He would allow states to continue to make their own choices regarding legalization and would seek to make it easier to conduct research on marijuana's positive and negative health impacts by rescheduling it as a schedule 2 drug."
Source: Arlette Saenz, "Joe Biden Supports Decriminalizing Marijuana, Stops Short of Calling for Legalization," cnn.com, May 16, 2019]
"The Biden Plan will make health care a right by getting rid of capital gains tax loopholes for the super wealthy. Today, the very wealthy pay a tax rate of just 20% on long-term capital gains. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the capital gains and dividends exclusion is the second largest tax expenditure in the entire tax code: $127 billion in fiscal year 2019 alone. As President, Biden will roll back the Trump rate cut for the very wealthy and restore the 39.6% top rate he helped restore when he negotiated an end to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in 2012. Biden’s capital gains reform will close the loopholes that allow the super wealthy to avoid taxes on capital gains altogether. The Biden plan will assure those making over $1 million will pay the top rate on capital gains, doubling the capital gains tax rate on the super wealthy."
Source: Joe Biden, "Health Care," joebiden.com (Aug. 29, 2019)
"The American middle class built this country. Yet today, CEOs and Wall Street are putting profits over workers, plain and simple. It’s wrong. There used to be a basic bargain in this country that when you work hard, you were able to share in the prosperity your work helped create. It’s time to restore the dignity of work and give workers back the power to earn what they’re worth.
It’s well past time that we increase the federal minimum wage to $15."
Source: Joe Biden, "Joe's Vision for America: Restoring the Basic Bargain for American Workers," joebiden.com (accessed July 24, 2019)
Not Clearly Pro or Con Should Student Loan Debt Be Forgiven?
"Student debt is something that you should not have to pay back unless, when you graduate, you're making more than 25 to 30 thousand dollars. When that debt gets paid back it should not be at a 10% rate, it should be at 5%. And if you go into public service, the debt could be forgiven."
Source: C-Span, "Joe Biden in Keene, New Hampshire," c-span.org, Aug. 24, 2019
[Editor's Note: As a senator, Joe Biden supported the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA), which exempted student loan debts from discharge in bankruptcy.
Alan Collinge, "Joe Biden Has No Plan for Student Loans," goodmenproject.com, Aug. 28, 2019
Julia Kagan, "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA)," investopedia.com, Apr. 7, 2019]
"We can pay for this with the [Trump administration] tax cut that we're going to reverse as well as eliminating some of these loopholes that make no sense. Let me give you one example. I don't want to be generic about it. I want to give you an example. For example, you could send everyone in this state [New Hampshire] to a community college for free. And the entire United States for free, if they're qualified. Cutting in half the cost of... a four-year degree, because in every state you're able to transfer these community college credits to the state university, cutting in half the cost of education, a four-year education if that's what you desire. But, here's the deal, it costs six billion dollars a year. There goes that big-spending Democrat Biden, man, look at him. I can eliminate one of the 1.6 trillion dollars in loopholes. It's called stepped-up basis... If you just eliminate that one out of one trillion six hundred plus billion dollars, every single solitary kid could go to qualify to go to community college for free, cutting in half the cost of their four-year education, increasing productivity by 2/10 of one percent by most studies, as well as having eleven billion dollars to put toward the deficit."
Source: C-SPAN, "Joe Biden in Hampton, New Hampshire," c-span.org, May 13, 2019
Con Should Voters Be Required to Show Photo Identification in Order to Vote?
"On the civil rights front, we see renewed attacks on voting rights across the nation. This year alone , there were 83 initiatives in 29 states to limit access to the ballot box in the name of preventing corruption where no corruption was found. In the name of preventing widespread fraud where none was occuring. States like Wisconsin, which passed a voter ID law in the name of combatting voter impersonation. That was the rationale. According to the federal court, the state, and I quote, 'could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occuring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.' Or, in my native state of Pennsylvania, where a state court judge ruled that the state 'wholly failed to show any evidence of in-person voter fraud.' But the fiction of widespread voter fraud continues to persist. Because, without it, no American worth their salt could ever defend these new laws in limiting the franchise."
Source: CBS News, "Joe Biden: Voter ID Laws Aim to 'Repress Minority Turnout,'" cbsnews.com, July 24, 2014
Con Should the US Expand Fossil Fuel Extraction on Public Land?
"On day one, Biden will use the full authority of the executive branch to make progress and significantly reduce emissions. Biden recognizes we must go further, faster and more aggressively than ever before, by... [p]rotecting America’s natural treasures by permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas impacted by President Trump’s attack on federal lands and waters, establishing national parks and monuments that reflect America’s natural heritage, banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, modifying royalties to account for climate costs, and establishing targeted programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewables on federal lands and waters with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030."
Source: Joe Biden, "Climate," joebiden.com (accessed Oct. 10, 2019)
Pro Should the US Adopt a Climate Change Plan such as the Green New Deal?
"Vice President Biden knows there is no greater challenge facing our country and our world. Today, he is outlining a bold plan – a Clean Energy Revolution – to address this grave threat and lead the world in addressing the climate emergency.
Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face. It powerfully captures two basic truths, which are at the core of his plan: (1) the United States urgently needs to embrace greater ambition on an epic scale to meet the scope of this challenge, and (2) our environment and our economy are completely and totally connected."
Source: Joe Biden, "Climate: Joe's Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice," joebiden.com (accessed Aug. 29, 2019)
Pro Should the US Re-Enter a Nuclear Deal with Iran?
"The historic Iran nuclear deal, negotiated by the Obama-Biden administration alongside our allies and other world powers, blocked Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Yet Trump decided to cast it aside, prompting Iran to restart its nuclear program and become more provocative, bringing the region to the cusp of another disastrous war. If Tehran returns to compliance with the deal, President Biden would re-enter the agreement, using hard-nosed diplomacy and support from our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities."
Source: Joe Biden, "American Leadership," joebiden.com (accessed Sep. 30, 2019)
Con Should the US Have Withdrawn Troops from Northern Syria in Oct. 2019?
"Donald Trump sold out the Syrian Democratic Forces — the courageous Kurds and Arabs who fought with us to smash ISIS’s caliphate — and he betrayed a key local ally in the fight against terrorism. But that’s not all — he betrayed our brave troops, who sacrificed alongside them. He betrayed our word as a nation — raising doubts among our allies around the world about America’s security commitments. And he betrayed our security by green lighting a Turkish incursion that will create chaos and destruction, setting conditions for ISIS to regrow."
Source: Joe Biden, "Statement by Vice President Joe Biden on the Consequences of Donald Trump’s Decision to Remove Troops from Syria," medium.com, Oct. 10, 2019
"As president, Biden will be a champion for improving access to health care and the health of all by:
Expanding access to contraception and protect the constitutional right to an abortion...
Reverse the Trump Administration and states’ all-out assault on women’s right to choose. As president, Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion, such as so-called TRAP laws [Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers], parental notification requirements, mandatory waiting periods, and ultrasound requirements."
Source: Joe Biden, "Healthcare," joebiden.com (accessed Aug. 7, 2019)
Con Should the US Switch to a Medicare-for-All Healthcare System?
“I believe we have to protect and build on Obamacare. That's why I proposed adding a public option to Obamacare as the best way to lower costs and cover everyone. I understand the appeal of Medicare for All. But folks supporting it should be clear that it means getting rid of Obamacare, and I’m not for that...
I know how hard it is to get that [healthcare legislation] passed. I watched it. Starting over makes no sense to me at all. I knew the Republicans would do everything in their power to repeal Obamacare, they still are. But I'm surprised that so many Democrats are running on getting rid of it."
Source: Joe Biden, "Healthcare," joebiden.com (accessed Aug. 7, 2019)
Con Should the US Decriminalize Illegal Border Crossings?
"The fact of the matter is... if you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It's a crime... I have guts enough to say his [Julian Castro's decriminalization] plan doesn't make sense. Here's the deal. The fact of the matter is that, in fact, when people cross the border illegally, it is illegal to do it unless they're seeking asylum. People should have to get in line. That's the problem."
Source: NBC News, "Democratic Debate Transcript: July 31, 2019," nbcnews.com, July 31, 2019
[Editor's Note: Biden raised his hand during the June 27, 2019 Democratic debate when Jose Diaz-Balart asked "If you'd be so kind, raise your hand if you think it should be a civil offense rather than a crime to cross the border without documentation?" Diaz-Balart followed-up to clarify Biden's position, however Biden did not give a direct response to the question of decriminalization verbally.]
Pro Should LGBTQ+ People Have Protection from Being Fired for Being LGBTQ+?
"Vice President Biden’s full support for LGBTQ employment protections, and more broadly, LGBTQ equality, has been clear over the years through his vocal support of the Equality Act, early support for marriage equality, hate crimes legislation, the right for our transgender brothers and sisters to serve openly in the military, and more. As a supporter of the Equality Act, Vice President Biden believes that LGBTQ people are entitled to equal protection in the workplace under Title VII. And as an out gay man, myself, I am deeply appreciative of Biden's advocacy and impact over the years."
Source: Kate Sosin and Nico Lang, "SCOTUS Will Rule on LGBTQ Job Discrimination. Here's What the 2020 Candidates Stand," thedailybeast.com, May 3, 2019
[Editor's Note: Jamal Brown, national press secretary for Biden for President, issued this statement via email to The Daily Beast on behalf of Biden.]
Pro Should Transgender People Be Allowed to Serve in the US Military?
Shannon Scott: “I served over ten years in the United States military and two combat tours in Iraq, and after that service, I was forced to make one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever been forced to make, and that was to choose between serving my country and my true identity as a transgender woman.”
Joe Biden: “If I were President, you would not have to choose. Not a joke. You would not have to choose. The fact of the matter is that we're in a position where transgender men and women are in a position where they should be able to do anything anybody else in the world can do. There should be no difference.”
Source: Veronica Rocha and Brandon Tensley, "CNN's LGBTQ Town Hall: Biden: Transgender People Should Be Allowed to Serve in the Military," cnn.com, Oct. 10, 2019