Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Campaign Issues

U.S. Policy toward Africa

Sen. Biden (D-DE) advocates sending U.S. troops to Darfur. He says 2,500 U.S. troops would likely be sufficient to stem the violence. In July 2007, he introduced a resolution with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) calling for the deployment of an international peacekeeping mission to Darfur. That resolution passed unanimously. In July 2008, Biden said the United States, the rest of NATO and "all other capable nations" should "step up" to provide peacekeeping forces in Darfur with helicopters and other equipment, and to end Sudan's "effective blockade" of those supplies.

In terms of HIV/AIDS prevention, Biden says the United States should stop funding abstinence-only sex education programs in Africa. In 2007, he cosponsored the HIV Prevention Act, which would do away with the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) earmark mandating that one-third of all funding from that initiative be granted to abstinence-until-marriage programs. That act has not yet been voted on.

U.S. Policy toward India

Sen. Biden (D-DE) called U.S. ties with India the "single most important relationship that we have to get right for our own safety's sake" (Rediff.com). He faced criticism in 2006 for commenting that "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent" (AP). But, Biden says, he has had a "great relationship" with the growing Indian population in Delaware. Rediff.com called Biden "the driving force" behind the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006, which was intended to help India develop its nuclear energy program. Biden voted to approve the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement in October 2008. He called that bill's passage "a victory for U.S.-India relations," but said there is "still much to be done in India," including U.S. support for Indian energy production, counterterrorism, and public health efforts.

Biden cosponsored the Energy Diplomacy and Security Act of 2007, which calls on the secretary of state to establish "petroleum crisis-response mechanisms with the governments of China and India."

Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

For years, Sen. Biden (D-DE) has been calling for the prison camp at Guantanamo to be shut down, saying it has "become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world."

Biden says the prisoners should be moved to the maximum security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He has cosponsored legislation that would release all Guantanamo prisoners who have not been charged. This would mean releasing nearly all the prisoners.

Biden praised the Supreme Court's June 2008 decision that Guantanamo prisoners have the constitutional right to contest their detention in federal courts. He called the ruling "an important and much-needed check by a co-equal branch of government on an Administration which has shown utter contempt for the rule of law."

Biden voted against the Military Commissions Act.

Domestic Intelligence

Sen. Biden (D-DE), who was in the Senate at the passage of FISA in 1978, spoke out against Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, which he called "unconstitutional" and an "illegal expansion of presidential power" in a January 2006 Miami Herald op-ed. But like many of his fellow candidates who have spoken out on this issue, Biden's objections to the program appear to lie more in Bush's circumvention of the courts than in the eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. "There is nothing the president needed to do to protect Americans that could not have been done through FISA," said Biden, citing provisions in the act for emergency seventy-two-hour warrantless wiretapping, and even for fifteen-day surveillance without a warrant in case of a war declaration.

Biden voted to confirm Michael Hayden as CIA director, despite Hayden's role in administering the NSA wiretapping program.

Afghanistan

Like Barack Obama, Biden says Afghanistan is the "central front" in the war on terror, not Iraq. In a July 2008 speech, Biden said he supports Obama's plan to send two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan. Biden's Senate website says even one additional combat brigade "would make an enormous difference" in Afghanistan.

Biden called the Bush administration's announcement that it will provide $10.2 billion in aid to Afghanistan "a good start—but only a start." In a June 2008 statement on the funding, Biden asked, "Will there be a genuine increase in development aid and will it actually reach the Afghan people? Will the security aid actually be spent improving the police and army? Or will it be siphoned off—as has so often been the case—by well-connected contractors?"

Biden also says the United States needs to provide Afghan farmers with "alternate livelihoods" outside of opium production. "We should be trying to root out the corruption in the Afghan government that lets the druglords operate with complete impunity. We should be taking out refining plants where the narco-barons turn the opium into raw heroin," he says.

Editor's Note:
Sen. Biden withdrew his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 3, 2008 and was named Sen. Barack Obama's running mate on August 23, 2008.

Democracy Promotion in the Arab World

Sen. Biden (D-DE) has said that the promotion of democracy in the Middle East is necessary but must be paired with a realist outlook. "There is often a short-term conflict between democracy promotion and our vital security interests," he said at a March 2005 speech to the American Jewish Committee. "Pushing too hard, too fast on democracy [in the Middle East] risks alienating governments whose help we need," such as Russia and China. He echoed this sentiment in a 2006 statement at a Senate hearing on non-governmental organizations and democracy promotion (PDF).

Biden sponsored a provision to the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 to create a $20 million fund for Palestinian democracy and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. That act was passed. Biden has also advocated public diplomacy efforts in the Middle East through international broadcasting, a strategy that the United States has used for decades, most notably in the case of Radio Free Europe broadcasts during the Cold War.

Energy Policy

Sen. Biden (D-DE) has called energy security his "first priority." In spring of 2007, Biden called the energy crisis the "single most consequential problem we can solve."

Biden opposes offshore drilling. In a July 2008 op-ed, Biden argued that the oil companies are not drilling on a large portion of the leases they already have access to. "Assuming oil companies drilled in new areas, it would take at least a decade for new production to begin," Biden wrote. Biden said tax breaks for oil companies should be rescinded, and has called for a windfall profits tax "to fund everything from mass transit to high-speed rail to the next generation of safe, efficient cars."

In 2006, Biden voted against the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which allowed for new drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico. That bill passed. Early in 2007, Biden, with Barack Obama (D-IL) and several other senators, reintroduced the Fuel Economy Reform Act, which is aimed at annually increasing fuel economy standards by four percent for cars built between 2009 and 2011. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (PDF) was voted on twice in the Senate. Although Biden initially supported it, he voted against the act the second time it was introduced. The act included provisions for tax credits for fuel cell vehicles, certain energy saving household appliances, and increased use of biofuels. The act, which also calls for the extension of Daylight Savings Time, passed in Congress.

In a September 2007 interview with Grist.org, Biden said he does not think clean-coal or coal-to-liquid technologies would be preferable in the United States, "because we have other, cleaner alternatives." He also says automobiles should reach a 40 miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency standard within ten years.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Sen. Biden (D-DE) is a self-described Zionist. Biden believes the United States should maintain extremely close ties with Israel, because in his view, the Middle East has only progressed when "the Arab nations have known that there is no daylight between us and Israel," as he said in a March 2007 interview with Forward. Biden dismissed the Iraq Study Group's claims that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is related to the problems of the Iraq War, saying on Shalom TV in March 2007 that Israel's behavior has "nothing to do" with Iraq.

Biden cosponsored the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. That act, which passed, expressed U.S. support for a two-state solution. It also deemed the Palestinian Authority a terrorist organization and cut off all U.S. funding until it renounces terrorism, acknowledges Israel's right to exist, and holds up its former agreements with Israel. He has regularly supported military and financial aid packages to Israel throughout his long career on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which he is now chairman.

North Korea Policy

Sen. Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supports a policy of direct engagement with Pyongyang, as well as sea-based anti-missile defense against North Korea's growing ballistic missile arsenal. After Pyongyang launched missile tests in July 2006, he referred to the reclusive state as a "paper tiger" (CBS) incapable of doing direct harm to the United States. He repeated that sentiment after the North Korean nuclear test, which he called a "deliberate and dangerous provocation" that could spark an arms race in East Asia.

During a June 2007 Democratic debate in New Hampshire, Biden said he considers defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula one of "the three most important things that the next president is going to have to deal with" along with shaping Iraq and Iran policy.

In 2006, he joined Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Carl Levin (D-MI) in proposing a requirement for the Bush administration to appoint a special coordinator on North Korea. The legislation passed as part of the Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2007.

Cuba Policy

Sen. Biden (D-DE) has supported the U.S. policy of economic embargo and now calls for the development of a strategy for democratization in a post-Castro Cuba. In a CNN interview in 2006, Biden said, "We should be putting together a plan as to how we are going to play a positive role in moving that country, after the Castros are gone, to—more toward democratization and liberalization in their society."

In 1996, Biden voted for the Helms-Burton Act, also known as the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act. That act, which was passed, sought more stringent international sanctions against the Castro government.

U.S. Policy toward China

Sen. Biden (D-DE) subscribes to the view that the U.S. should attempt to engage and guide China. In a 2001 speech before the Asia Pacific Council of the American Chambers of Commerce, Biden said, "Our top priority should remain integrating China into the community of nations, articulating the rules of the road, and then holding the Chinese government accountable for its actions."

In 2000, Biden voted for the U.S.-China Trade Relations Act, which normalized trade relations with China.

Defense Policy

Sen. Biden (D-DE), the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, has warned that the "increasing dominance of the military in our foreign policy may inadvertently limit our options – when the military is the most readily available option, it is more likely to be used, whether or not it is the best choice."

"We have to change the complexion of this force structure [in Iraq], so we don't become an Algeria figure like the French did, liberate and then occupy. We don't want to be the occupiers," Biden said in 2003.

In 1999, Biden opposed the National Missile Defense Act, which would have allowed deployment of an unproven, as yet undeveloped National Missile Defense system intended to defend the country against missile attacks. Biden said that bill, which was never passed, was "a political document, not a substantive piece of legislation that adds anything to the concept of what our strategic doctrine should be."

Biden did later support the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions, which the U.S. and Russia both ratified. That treaty stipulates that the U.S. and Russia must reduce their strategic nuclear warheads to between 1700 and 2200 warheads by 2012, a move which, Biden said, "will move us further away from the Cold War era. "

In 1999, Biden and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) cosponsored a bill to authorize the president to use "all necessary force" in the Kosovo conflict. In 2003, Biden voted in favor of the appropriation of $87 billion to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraq

Although Sen. Biden (D-DE) initially supported the war in 2002, he has become one of its fiercest critics in the Senate. With Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, Biden proposed a five-point plan (PDF) for the future of Iraq. The plan calls for a federalized Iraq with three regional governments (Kurd, Sunni Arab, and Shiite Arab) and a centralized government for management of "truly common interests" like oil and border defense. The plan also advocates a "regional non-aggression pact" and a redeployment of U.S. troops by the end of 2007. Biden says that a "small residual force" of U.S. troops should remain in the region even after that redeployment. Still, Biden strongly opposes permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. In August 2006, Biden sponsored an amendment, which passed, opposing any attempt to create permanent bases in Iraq.

In early 2007, Biden cosponsored the Iraq War Policy Bill, which expressed disagreement with President Bush's troop surge plan, though it did call for a continuation of military operations against al-Qaeda and other insurgents in Anbar province. That bill failed in the Senate.

Biden also sponsored the Iraq War Policy resolution in January 2007. That measure expressed that "it is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Iraq." The resolution also failed in the Senate.

Trade

Sen. Biden (D-DE) in general espouses free trade policies but has been a recent critic of Bush administration bilateral and regional agreements on opening markets. He voted against the creation of FTAs with Oman in 2006 and with Singapore and Chile in 2003. He also voted against the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2005. All of those bills were passed in the Senate. Biden criticized CAFTA, as well as the Singapore and Chile bilateral deals because, he said, they lacked effective provisions to ensure enforcement of labor and environmental standards.

Biden also voted against the Trade Act of 2002, which reauthorized the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA), granting certain trade benefits to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. In 1999, Biden voted in favor of the Africa Free Trade bill, which authorized a "new trade and investment policy for sub-Sahara Africa" and the granting of trade benefits to Caribbean countries. Through that bill, the U.S. tied trade benefits for sub-Saharan African countries to those countries' free market and democratic policies. Biden also voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993.

Homeland Security

Biden, who sits on the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, has said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has inadequately responded to the country's security challenges. If elected president, he says he would create a Homeland Security and Public Safety Trust Fund "to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations and invest in law enforcement." He wants an additional $10 billion a year for the next five years to be allocated to homeland security, raised by increasing taxes on the very wealthy. This would be used to fund the hiring of an additional 1,000 FBI agents and 50,000 police officers, among other items.

In 2006, Biden voted against making FEMA independent from the DHS. In August 2008, Biden announced the allocation of over $6.1 billion in DHS funding for the Delaware Emergency Management Agency. The grant "will boost ongoing homeland security preparedness initiatives here in Delaware," Biden said.

Biden voted in favor of the USA Patriot Act in 2001 and voted to adopt a conference report to reauthorize it in 2006. In 2005, Biden voted for the Homeland Security Grant Program Amendment, which restored $565 million in cuts to first-responder programs. That amendment passed. He also voted for the National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004, which would create a National Intelligence Authority (NIA) that would serve to facilitate U.S. intelligence activity. That act would also create a National Counterterrorism Center.

Iran

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Biden (D-DE) has been a prominent voice calling for "hard-headed diplomacy" with Iran. In July 2008, Biden should first engage directly with Iran in the context of talks with the Permanent Five Members of the UN Security Council and Germany, and "ultimately country-to-country, just as we did with North Korea." He also has called for the implementation of "coordinated international sanctions" on Iran, adding "we should complement this pressure by presenting a detailed, positive vision for U.S.-Iran relations if Iran does the right thing."

Biden has spoken out forcefully about a possible war with Iran. "War with Iran is not just a bad option. It would be a disaster," he wrote in December 2007. Biden has threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Bush if he starts a war with Iran without Congressional approval.

Climate Change

Sen. Biden (D-DE) has been a prominent voice calling for legislation to stop climate change. In February 2007, after the release of the IPCC report, Biden urged fellow lawmakers and President Bush to take action, saying, "We have wasted the past six years on the sidelines of international negotiations and our leadership is needed to produce a global solution."

In July 2008, Biden sponsored legislation to create an "International Clean Technology Deployment Fund" to help developing countries fight climate change. That bill has not yet reached a vote.

Biden cosponsored the Clean Power Act of 2005, a bill which would have implemented a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon dioxide emissions had it become law. With Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-IN), Biden has proposed two Senate resolutions on climate change. They put forward the Lugar-Biden Climate Change Resolution (PDF), passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May 2006. More recently, Biden and Lugar proposed Senate Resolution 30, which calls for the United States to comply with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and to establish a "bipartisan Senate observer group" to monitor international climate change negotiations.

Immigration

Biden said in November 2006 that Mexico's corruption, inequality, and its "erstwhile democracy" (AP) are to blame for illegal immigration.

Along with most of his colleagues in the Senate, Biden voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized the construction of a 700-mile fence on the border of the U.S. and Mexico. He also voted for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which he said "enhances our control over the border, allowing us to better deal with future illegal immigrants as well as drug traffickers and potential terrorists." He also supported the act because it provided a path to legalization for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.

Biden opposed an amendment (FOX) to the recent immigration reform bill that would have prevented criminals from becoming citizens. That amendment failed.

United Nations

Sen. Biden (D-DE) has called the United Nations "an essential forum for the advancement of U.S. foreign policy and national security interests." At a speech on the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nations in 2005, Biden praised reform efforts, including the establishment of the Human Rights Council to replace the Human Rights Commission, a change which he said would "more effectively advance the rights and freedoms that continue to be denied to far too many." He also praised the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission, aimed at bolstering fragile states.

U.S. Policy toward Russia

Sen. Biden (D-DE) has voiced concerns about Russia backsliding on democratic reforms. In August 2008, Biden criticized Russia's military action in Georgia. "By acting disproportionately with a full scale attack on Georgia and seeking the ouster of Georgia's democratically elected President Mikheil Saakashvili, Moscow is jeopardizing its standing in Europe and the broader international community – and risking very real practical and political consequences," Biden wrote in a Financial Times op-ed. Biden urged Russia to abide by the negotiated cease fire.

Biden introduced legislation in July 2008 urging members of the Group of Eight to "work toward a more constructive relationship with Russia," and encouraging Russia to behave according to the G-8's "objectives of protecting global security, economic stability, and democracy." The resolution also called on Russian and U.S. leaders to increase cooperation and funding for the Nunn-Lugar program and other nonproliferation initiatives. It also emphasized the need for a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty. The resolution passed.

In 2005, Biden criticized Putin for making regional governorships appointive positions, and said he had "manipulated the Duma to eliminate most of the opposition." In December 2006, Biden warned that Russia was "moving more and more toward an oligarchy."

In 2005, Biden cosponsored a Senate resolution criticizing Russia for failing to uphold its commitments at the 1999 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Summit, which included agreements on a completed Russian military withdrawal from the Moldova. That resolution also expressed disapproval of Russia's demand for the closure of the OSCE Border Monitoring Operation (BMO), which served to observe border crossings between Georgia and the Russian republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia. That bill passed in the Senate.

Biden previously supported the lifting of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which attaches conditions to trading with Russia. But he became opposed to the repeal after Russia imposed a cap on U.S. poultry imports in 2002. Biden's state of Delaware is a major poultry producer. In response to news in August 2008 that Russia planned to ban chicken imports from nineteen U.S. plants, including two in Delaware, Biden criticized Russia for "once again using non-tariff barriers as an excuse to close its markets to American poultry." Biden said Russia's application to join the World Trade Organization should remain on hold "[u]ntil Russia reverses their recent actions—both big and small."

U.S. Policy toward Pakistan

Sen. Biden (D-DE) has taken a particularly active role in engaging Pakistani leaders and raising awareness about the crisis in the country, which he has called "the most complex country we deal with." In an October 2007 Democratic debate, Biden warned that an unstable Pakistan would have far more dangerous implications for the United States than a nuclear Iran.

Biden cosponsored the Enhanced Participation with Pakistan Act of 2008, which would triple U.S. non-military aid to Pakistan, granting $7.5 billion over five years in assistance for development projects. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July 2008, but has not yet reached a vote in the Senate as a whole. In November 2007, Biden said as president, he would increase humanitarian aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year, triple what it is now (NPR). He advocates tying non-security aid to Pakistan to "progress in developing democratic institutions and meeting good-governance norms."

Before Bhutto's assassination, Biden said he would reexamine "big-ticket weapons systems" in U.S. military aid to Pakistan, including F-16 jets and P-3 maritime surveillance aircraft, if Musharraf did not "restore his nation to the democratic path." In 2007, Biden cosponsored a resolution condemning Musharraf's imposition of a state of emergency, and calling on Musharraf to relinquish his military post, which he later did. In August 2008, Biden applauded Musharraf for resigning from the presidency of Pakistan.

Biden said in a November 2007 speech that increasing U.S. resources in Afghanistan "would embolden Pakistan's government to take a harder line on the Taliban and al-Qaeda."

Financial Policy

Sen. Biden (D-DE) voted in favor of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act in October 2008.

Biden supports increased regulation and transparency in the financial industry. "If we're going to bail you out, if we give you an opportunity, if we give corporations the inside track, then you better damn well open your books to us and let us see exactly what you have," Biden said in September 2008.

Biden said he opposed the federal bailout of AIG in September 2008 in an interview with the Today show. Soon after, he appeared to back off of that position, telling an Ohio crowd he had not yet been briefed on the matter.

In a February 2007 op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News, Biden praised the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 as having "helped restore confidence in American companies by holding corporate executives more accountable for their record-keeping and financial reporting, improving the quality of corporate auditing, and requiring greater transparency of companies' financial statements."

Publications