Joe Biden is a former Democratic U.S. Vice President. He began his public service career in 1970 when he was elected to the County Council of New Castle, Delaware. Two years later, he challenged a Republican incumbent from Delaware and became the sixth youngest Senator in U.S. history. Biden served in the Senate for more than three decades, chairing the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees. He first ran for President in 1988 and again in 2008. He announced his 2020 campaign with a YouTube video, which he released in April 2019.
On the Issues
AAI tracks statements, both official and on the campaign trail, of each presidential candidate on the issues we care about most. Click on an issue to read what Joe Biden has said on the campaign trail. For our take on why these are the 12 issues that are most important to our community, read here.
"Our Constitution begins with three simple words, “We the People” — not “We the Donors.” But for too long, corporations and special interests have corrupted our political process and rigged it in their favor. Today, I’m releasing my plan to change that:https://joebiden.com/GovernmentReform/"
"Biden is offering an ambitious proposal to ensure that our government works for the people. Specifically, President Biden will:
- Reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics and make it easier for candidates of all backgrounds to run for office;
- Return integrity to the U.S. Department of Justice and other Executive Branch decision-making;
- Restore ethics in government;
- Rein in Executive Branch financial conflicts of interest; and
- Hold the lobbied and lobbyists to a higher standard of accountability.
These steps are an essential part of renewing our democracy, and to ensuring that it works for the people and includes everyone." (10/14/2019, Twitter, JoeBiden.com)
“I am the guy that extended the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. We got to the place where we got 98 out of 98 votes in the United States Senate doing it. I have also argued very strongly that we in fact deal with the notion of denying people access to the ballot box. All of those things has happened since Vice President Biden was in the Senate. And we face structural problems that we have to overcome with a broad coalition. It’s the only way we can do it. We need to root out the corruption in Washington, expand people’s right to get to the polls.” (6/28/19, The New York Times)
“Today the Supreme Court refused to stop politicians rigging our democracy by writing election rules for their own benefit. It couldn’t have happened without Justices put there by Donald Trump and Republicans — another reason why Democrats must take back the White House in 2020.” (6/27/19, Twitter)
- “What’s happened is, between gerrymandering and unlimited campaign spending, we found ourselves in a position where an awful lot of Republicans have become intimidated by the president.” (5/14/19, Washington Post)
- “Voting is the purest, most fundamental act of citizenship. Efforts to disenfranchise eligible voters are just as un-American now as they were during Jim Crow. We must strengthen our democracy by guaranteeing that every American’s vote is protected. We’ve got to make it easier—not harder—for Americans to exercise their right to vote, regardless of their zip code or the color of their skin, and make sure we count every voter’s voice equally. Finally, we must protect our voting booths and voter rolls from foreign powers who seek to undermine our democracy and interfere in our elections.” (Joe Biden campaign website)
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
- "One of my arguments is that we don't -- and when we talk about being able to get married on Sunday and get -- or Saturday and get fired on Monday, the vast majority of American people don't think that's possible. The vast majority of people don't know that that is possible. They know you can't be fired because you're African- American , you can't be fired because you're this, that or the other, but they don't know that. And one of the things I will do as president of the united states is constantly remind people of what the facts are....
.... try it out next time you're in a restaurant. You're sitting there and you're waiting on or you meet the maitre'd and say by the way, let me ask you a question. Do you think somebody got married on Monday they could get fired on Tuesday?They're going to look at you and tell you no. They don't know it. The American people are better than we give them credit for. But we allow -- we allow the homophobes to be able to control the agenda because they let this -- no, I really mean it. I really, truly mean it. Try it. Try it. People don't know it. And so I would constantly talk about and educate the public. Part of the responsibility of a president is to convince, is to persuade, to be able to let people know what is actually going on out there." (10/10/2019, CNN Equality in America Town Hall)
- “Make no mistake, the Trump Administration added a citizenship question to the Census to deliberately cut out the voices of immigrants and communities of color. It’s wrong and goes against our core values as a nation.” (6/27/19, Twitter)
- “Folks, the fact of the matter is, the bottom line is, we have a lot to root out— but most of all, there’s systematic racism that most of us whites don’t like to acknowledge even exists. We don’t even consciously acknowledge, but it has been built into every aspect of our system.” (1/29/19, Remarks at National Action Network, Biden School)
Securitization and Surveillance
- “Now I believe [Social Media Companies] have a duty to make sure their algorithm and platforms are not misused to sow division here at home, or empower the surveillance states to be able to facilitate oppression and censorship in China or elsewhere.” (7/11/19, ABC)
- COOPER: It's good to see you. I want to start right away with questions from the audience. Someone, actually I believe you know, you've met before. Judy Shepard is here.
BIDEN: Hey, Judy. How are you?
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Vice president.
COOPER: For those watching at home who may not know, Judy, her son Matthew was murdered when he was just 21 years old. He was tied to a fence and robbed and beaten and then left for dead by two men that he had met in a bar. Judy and her husband Dennis started the Matthew Shepard Foundation. They now travel around the country speaking out about how to make community more accepting. Judy, your question, please.
SHEPARD: Thank you.
Thanks. Mr. Vice president, our son Matthew was murdered in 1998. While we have since passed federal hate crime legislation, we know that more needs to be done. And this administration is fueling hatred amongst LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants, and so many more. What will you do as president to help reduce violence and hate crimes against LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities?
BIDEN: First of all, Judy, it's good to see you. It really is good to see you. I don't want to ruin a reputation, but I consider Judy a friend.
SHEPARD: Thank you. Feeling is mutual, sir.
BIDEN: Judy, I think there are a whole range of things. First of all, think of what has happened between 2012 and 2016, the progress made, and what's happened just since 2016 and now. The president has pulled back almost every single solitary administratively positive thing we did from the Affordable Care Act, to Title IX, just across the board. And there's a number of things we have to do. First and foremost, I think we have to pass the Equality Act. That's important.That's important because it would change a whole range of things. And by the way, I suspect, Anderson, this is going to one forum you're going to get very little disagreement among the Democratic candidates. I'm proud of the position they all have, because every one of us -- if there is differences, they're just in degree and emotional concern. Number one.
Number two, what we had before to deal with hate crimes was we had a position in our administration within the department of -- both Department of Justice as well as within Homeland Security, a provision to keep watch on these groups that we know are out there, like terrorist groups -- they're similar -- know are out there to be able to follow -- without violating their first amendment rights -- to be able to follow what they're doing and follow up on threats that come forward, because they come forward in many different forms.
Number three, what we have to do is we have to make sure that we make title -- this is a civil rights issue. It's covered by, in my view and the court may not agree, this is a civil rights issue, protected by civil rights, the Civil Rights Act, and we should be focusing on how to enforce that. My Justice Department, I guess any one of the Democrats' Justice Department will in fact do that. Lastly, I think that it's really important that we start early. We start early and we begin to acquaint all our children. My son Bo, who you knew, met, who died, my son started an organization to deal with children of abuse, bullying, and also those engaged in LGBTQ issues, particularly young people. And what he did was begin to try to educate the population about what's going on. Look, all of you, I'm not saying -- you may not all be members of the community, but all of you understand that if the American people knew what was really going on in my view, Anderson, things would be different. (10/10/2019, CNN Equality in America Town Hall)
“We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts.” (1/29/19, Twitter)
- “America has been made better, all the struggles many of you in this room have endured and led. But we’ve learned in the last two years that it doesn’t take much to awaken hate—to bring those folks out from under the rocks. That part of American society has always been there, will always be there, but has been legitimized. 50 years later, the hate that cut your dad down, is still nurtured by those forces of darkness. We saw it in Charlottesville, as Klansmen, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis, literally, slunk out of their dark rooms and their digital hideaways—their crazed, vicious faces, literally, contorted and illuminated by torch light. You couldn’t make up a Hollywood movie, like that. In a historic city, and confronted by decent, honorable Americans, who said this is not us. Dr. King knew these faces well—the same lost souls who once stood like cowards hooded behind burning crosses. They have been deliberately awakened again—it is not an accident, they have been deliberately reawakened again. Unearthed by loose talk and by direct appeals to prejudice from the alt-right.” (1/29/19, Remarks at National Action Network, Biden School)
Criminal Justice Reform
“Right now, we're in a situation where, when someone is convicted of a drug crime, they end up going to jail and to prison. They should be going to rehabilitation. They shouldn't be going to prison. When in prison, they should be learning to read and write and not just sit in there and learn how to be better criminals.
And when they get out of prison, they should be in a situation where they have access to everything they would have had before, including Pell grants for education, including making sure that they're able to have housing, public housing, including they have all the opportunities that were available to them because we want them to become better citizens.
That's the essence of what my plan, in detail, lays out. I'm happy to discuss it more in detail if the senator would want to. And so I -- you know, I look -- anyway, that's what I think my plan -- I know what my plan does, and I think it's not dissimilar to what the senator said we should be working together on getting things done.” (6/28/2019, Second democratic debate transcript at NBC)
- “Ladies and gentlemen, we must say to the states: no more mandatory minimums. Enough is enough is enough. We should be reducing those sentences. And, federally, we need to once and for all, finally, eliminate all of the disparity between crack and powder cocaine. We need [to end] the legacy of debtors’ prisons—and we have a legacy of debtors’ prisons called cash bail. My daughter runs the Delaware Criminal Justice Center, she’s been fighting for two years. Finally, the Attorney General of Delaware just announced they will eliminate cash bail in the State of Delaware— it can be done!” (1/29/19, Remarks at National Action Network, Biden School).
Bigoted Speech: Instances of Condemnation and/or Use
“How far is it from Trump’s saying this ‘is an invasion’ to the shooter in El Paso declaring ‘his attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas?’ Not far at all. How far is it from the white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville - Trump’s ‘very fine people’ -- chanting ‘You will not replace us’ – to the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh saying Jews ‘were committing genocide to his people?’ Not far at all,” Biden plans to say. “In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation." (8/7/19, Bloomberg)
“Mr. President, this is America. And we are stronger and great because of this diversity, Mr. President, not in spite of it, Mr. President. So, Mr. President, let's get something straight: We love it. We are not leaving it. We are here to stay. And we're certainly not going to leave it to you.” (6/28/2019, Second democratic debate transcript at NBC)
- "America is unique in all of the world. America, folks, is an idea, an idea stronger than any army, bigger than any ocean. More powerful than any dictator or tyrant. It offers hope to the tired, the poor, your huddled masses, to breathe free. It is written on the Statue of Liberty. We seem to have given up on that. America guarantees everyone, and I mean everyone, be treated with dignity. America gives hate no safe harbor." (5/18/19, CNN)
RAMOS: We've been hearing a lot about what's been happening here in Texas. Only a few weeks ago, the deadliest massacre of Latinos, Latinos, in modern U.S. history happened in this state, in El Paso. So the fear among Latinos -- and you know this -- is very real.So let me start with an issue that is causing a lot of division in this country: immigration. Vice President Biden, as a presidential candidate, in 2008, you supported the border wall, saying, "Unlike most Democrats, I voted for 700 miles of fence." This is what you said. Then you served as vice president in an administration that deported 3 million people, the most ever in U.S. history. Did you do anything to prevent those deportations? I mean, you've been asked this question before and refused to answer, so let me try once again. Are you prepared to say tonight that you and President Obama made a mistake about deportations? Why should Latinos trust you?
BIDEN: What Latinos should look at is -- comparing this president to the president we have is outrageous, number one. We didn't lock people up in cages. We didn't separate families. We didn't do all of those things, number one. Number two -- number two, by the time -- this is a president who came along with the DACA program. No one had ever done that before. This is the president that sent legislation to the desk saying he wants to find a pathway for the 11 million undocumented in the United States of America. This is a president who's done a great deal. So I'm proud to have served with him. What I would do as president is several more things, because things have changed. I would, in fact, make sure that there is -- we immediately surge to the border. All those people who are seeking asylum, they deserve to be heard. That's who we are. We're a nation who says, if you want to flee, and you're freeing oppression, you should come. I would change the order that the president just changed, saying women who were being beaten and abused could no longer claim that as a reason for asylum. And by the way, retrospectively, you know, the 25th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act is up. The Republican Congress has not reauthorized it. Let's put pressure on them to pass the Violence Against Women Act. Now (inaudible) back...
RAMOS: Yeah, but you didn't answer the question.
BIDEN: Well, I did answer the question.
RAMOS: No, did you make a mistake with those deportations?
BIDEN: The president did the best thing that was able to be done at the time.
RAMOS: How about you?
BIDEN: I'm the vice president of the United States. (9/12/2019, third Democratic debate transcript at ABC)
(on if higher deportation rates would resume if he were president) “Absolutely not”
“The fact is what the senator from New York talked about is seeking asylum. That woman, the women she spoke to are entitled to asylum. That is not crossing the border illegally. What we should do is flood the zone to make sure we have people to make those decisions quickly. With regard to -- with regard to the secretary's point, I already proposed and passed $750 million for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, to be able to change the circumstance why people fled in the first place.
In addition to that, we're in a circumstance where if in fact you say you can just cross the border, what do you say to all those people around the world who in fact want the same thing to come to the United States and make their case, that they don't -- that they have to wait in line. The fact of the matter is, you should be able to -- if you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It's a crime. It's a crime, and it's not one that in fact.” (6/28/2019, second Democratic debate transcript at NBC)
“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. And the only reason this particular part of the law is being abused is because of Donald Trump. We should defeat Donald Trump and end this practice.” (6/28/2019, Second democratic debate transcript at NBC)
“The asylum process is a real process, and this president is ruining it. It has nothing to do with that section of law. That's what he's doing, number one. Number two, we should in fact - and we had proposed and we tried to get passed in our administration, I proposed, significantly increasing the number of legal immigrants who are able to come. This country can tolerate a heck of a lot more people. And the reason we're the country we are is we've been able to cherry pick from the best of every culture. Immigrants built this country. That's why we're so special. It took courage. It took resilience. It took absolutely confidence for them to come. And we should be encouraging these people. And by the way, anybody that crosses the stage with a - with a - with a PhD, you should get a green card for seven years. We should keep them here.” (6/28/2019, Second democratic debate transcript at NBC)
- "DREAMers are Americans, and Congress needs to make it official. The millions of DREAMers and undocumented individuals in the United States can only be brought out of the shadows through fair treatment, not ugly threats." (6/25/19, Twitter)
- "The millions of undocumented people in the United States can only be brought out of the shadows through fair treatment, not ugly threats. Trump’s efforts to repeal Temporary Protected Status (TPS) across the board have injected unnecessary uncertainty into the lives of thousands of families.” (6/24/29, Fox News)
- “7 years ago, Barack Obama and I offered security to DREAMers, young people brought here as kids who only know America as home. Trump is trying to break our country's promise to them & continues to threaten their status. DREAMers are Americans. It’s time we kept our word to them.” (6/16/19, Twitter)
NO BAN Act
- “One year ago, the Supreme Court upheld Trump's Muslim ban—one of this administration's most egregious attacks on our core values. Wielding the politics of fear and intolerance by slandering entire religious communities as complicit in terrorism is wrong, and it’s not who we are.” (6/26/19, Twitter)
- On the November 2019 Gaza flare-up: "Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorist threats. It is intolerable that Israeli civilians live their lives under the constant fear of rocket attacks. That's why our administration was such a strong supporter of Israel's life-saving Iron Dome." (11/12/19, Twitter).
- "The idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find to be absolutely outrageous." (11/02/19, Jerusalem Post)
“Sustaining our iron-clad commitments to Israel’s security, regardless of how much you may disagree with this present leader, Israel is essential. (7/11/19, ABC)
Elias A. Newman: “I’m an American Jew who’s very concerns about what the Netanyahu government is doing to Palestinians currently...”
BIDEN: “There’s no answer, no answer but a two state solution”
Newman: I’m wondering if you think that the occupation is a human rights crisis and if you’ll pressure Israel when you’re president.”
BIDEN: “the answer is I think the settlements are unnecessary, number one, and I think it is why – Here's the deal, the only answer is a two state solution, number one. Number two, the Palestinians have to step up to be prepared to stop the hate. So it’s a two way street.”
Newman: “Do you believe the occupation is a human rights crisis, Joe?
BIDEN: “I think occupation is a real problem, a significant problem.”
Newman: “And will you pressure Israel to end the occupation as president?”
BIDEN: “You know anything about my record? You know I have.”
BIDEN: Yes, but I also got to pressure the Palestinians to stop the hate, to stop the calling for violence. The Palestinian leadership before Palestinians were offered 85%-95% of what in fact they were asking for. They turned it down. They poked them in the eye. It takes two to do this and Bibi knows I completely disagree with him... The only survival for Israel is a two-state solution. The only survival for the Palestinians is a two-state solution.
Reporter: “But vice president, you have been paying lip service for a two-state solution for a long time now, while a one state reality has been created on the ground. I am asking what meaningful pressure will you put on the Israeli government to end the occupation.”
BIDEN: “Constantly pressuring them in terms of what they can and cannot do relative to what is accepted internationally. We spoke out against their occupation in our administration, but they are an ally and the fact of the matter is they are allowed to have a Jewish state in the Middle East that is free and secure. They are over-responding to what has happened, but the fact of the matter is Israel is a necessary Jewish state in the region and until if you notice, not one single solitary Palestinian has said, “I agree that there will be a Jewish state in the region”... I will tell them [the Palestinians] to accept the notion that Israel has the right to exist and I will insist on Israel, which I have done, to stop the occupation of those territories.” (7/14/19, Twitter)
If Not Now activist: “Will you commit to meaningfully pressuring the Israeli government to end the occupation?”
BIDEN: “The relationship has never been about individual leaders it’s been about the kinship, the values That Americans and Israelis share. Support for Israel is too important to be a political football or a partisan issue. It’s about all that unites us as a people: our shared democratic values, our spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, our determination to overcome every obstacle and endure.... We also have to tell each other the truth and that includes offering criticism on polices that are counterproductive to peace because despite the fact that there is violence and recrimination that we see today in the region, it’s still the most important element to Israel’s security. You know, we have to help Palestinians return to the peace table, but they have to be ready to recognize a two-state solution as the only way forward.” (6/5/19, The Times of Israel)
- “If Tehran returns to compliance with the deal, I would rejoin the agreement, and work with our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s destabilizing activities, which under the agreement we were allowed to do, we had partners to do with us.” (7/11/19, ABC)
“Make no mistake: Iran continues to be a bad actor that abuses human rights and supports terrorist activities throughout the region. But what we need is presidential leadership that will take strategic action to counter the Iranian threat, restore America's standing in the world, recognize the value of principled diplomacy, and strengthen our nation and our security by working strategically with our allies." (6/20/19, The Hill citing 6/20/19 tweet, excerpted below)
- "Two of America's vital interests in the Middle East are preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and securing a stable energy supply through the Strait of Hormuz. Trump is failing on both counts... He unilaterally withdrew from the hard-won nuclear agreement that the Obama-Biden Administration negotiated to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Trump promised that abandoning the deal and imposing sanctions would stop Iran’s aggression in the region. But they’ve only gotten more aggressive.” (6/20/2019, Twitter)
- “The way to keep Iran from being a nuclear power is to stay in the agreement. That’s what was negotiated.” (6/14/19, Fox News)
U.S. Presence in the Arab World
- [AUDIENCE QUESTION] ZIKOWSKI: I recently visited a country where homosexuality is illegal and could result in the death penalty. What is your stance on LGBTQ rights when it comes to our relationships with other countries that may have very different cultural beliefs? Should we be actively promoting acceptance of LGBTQ people across the globe? And should we continue to provide aid and trade with countries that persecute gay people?
BIDEN: Yes and no. And let me explain what I mean by that. If you notice, in some of your varying form, I've been the most outspoken critic, starting with Chechnya and every single country who has passed laws that relate to whether or not you, in fact -- it's a crime, you can be stoned to death, you can be punished, et cetera, et cetera, if you are gay, number one. Number two, in my State Department, not a joke, we will have a special office that's devoted directly to promoting LGBTQ rights around the world. Around the world. Now, two other things. Interesting phenomenon. I know I heard a question about -- asked about the Catholic schools and Catholicism. Guess the first nation in the world to change their constitution to allow gay marriage? Ireland. Ireland, OK? Number one.
Number two, look what's happened as well in India. I was in India promoting a proposal when I was vice president that I had to have universal women's -- the Violence Against Women Act made a condition upon which aid goes to other countries, deny aid if they don't provide it. And at the time -- I'm not saying I'm the reason why India changed, but my vocal opposition and our vocal opposition to the way they in fact dealt with LGBTQ populations was, in fact, part of the reason I think they changed.
Lastly, I would, in fact, curtail aid, curtail foreign assistance to countries who, in fact, engage in -- engage in this kind of behavior, just like I would if I were dealing with China and what they're doing to the Uighurs, a million Uighurs out -- you know, Muslims. So what's the difference? It is pure, unadulterated prejudice.
COOPER: So a country like Saudi Arabia?
BIDEN: Saudi Arabia, same thing. By the way, they have very little social redeeming value. No, I've been blunt about it. I've been very, very blunt about it. Very blunt about it. I know they are supposedly our ally and all the rest. And I'm -- look, there are certain things that we cannot tolerate. We cannot be part of propping up governments who abuse in any fundamental -- culture is never a rationale for pain. Never a rationale for prejudice. It really isn't. (10/10/2019, CNN Equality in America Town Hall)
“I will never hesitate to protect the American people, including, when necessary, by the use of force. I worked with President Obama to craft the military and diplomatic campaign that ultimately defeated ISIS.” (7/11/19, ABC)
“It’s long past time we end the forever wars, which have cost us untold blood and treasure. I have long argued that we should bring home the vast majority of our combat troops from the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and narrowly focus our mission to deal with Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the region. And we should end our support for the Saudi led war in Yemen; it’s hurting us.” (7/11/19, ABC)
- “I made sure the president turned to me and said Joe, get our combat troops out of Iraq. I was responsible for getting 150,000 combat troops out of Iraq and my son was one of them. I also think we should not have combat troops in Afghanistan. It’s long overdue. It should end. And I thirdly I believe that you are not going to find anybody who has pulled together more of our alliances to deal with what is the real stateless threat out there. We cannot go it alone in terms of dealing with terrorism. So I would eliminate the—the act that allowed us to go into war and not the AU and fan make sure that it could only be used for what it’s intended—what its intent was and that is to go after terrorist but never do it alone. That is why we have to repair our alliances. We put together 65 countries to make sure we dealt with ISIS in Iraq and other places. That is what I would do.” (6/28/19, The New York Times)
“I did make a bad judgment, trusting the president saying he was only doing this to get inspectors in and get the U.N. to agree to put inspectors in. From the moment "shock and awe" started, from that moment, I was opposed to the effort, and I was outspoken as much as anyone at all in the Congress and the administration.
Secondly, I was asked by the president in the first meeting we had on Iraq, he turned and said, Joe, get our combat troops out, in front of the entire national security team. One of the proudest moment of my life was to stand there in Al-Faw Palace and tell everyone that we're coming -- all our combat troops are coming home. I opposed the surge in Afghanistan, this long overdue -- we should have not, in fact, gone into Afghanistan the way.” (6/28/2019, Second democratic debate transcript at NBC)“Vice President Biden believes it is past time to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen and cancel the blank check the Trump administration has given Saudi Arabia for its conduct of that war." (5/1/19, Washington Post)