(On Aug. 23, 2008, Senator Joe Biden was announced as Barack Obama's Vice-Presidential selection. On Sep. 4, 2008, ProCon.org sent its 65-question survey to Nancy Orloff at Senator Biden's Senate office and to Sen. Obama's campaign office for completion. We have not received a reply as of Oct. 20, 2008. Senator Biden's responses to 23 of our 65 questions were posted when we covered him as a presidential candidate until he withdrew on Jan. 3, 2008.
The questions we have posted below, ranging from abortion to the War on Terror are identical to the 23 questions we have asked Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.)
Democratic Vice-Presidential Nominee US Senator (D-DE)
Pro: "Mr, Russert: You have changed your position on abortion. When you came to the Senate, you believed that Roe v. Wade was not correctly decided and that you also believed a [sic] the right of abortion was not secured by the Constitution. Why did you change your mind?
Sen. Biden: Well, I was 29 years old when I came to the United States Senate, and I have learned a lot. Look, Tim, I'm a practicing Catholic, and it is the biggest dilemma for me in terms of comporting my, my religious and cultural views with my political responsibility. And the decision that I have come to is Roe v. Wade is as close to we're going to be able to get as a society that incorporates the general lines of debate within Christendom, Judaism and other faiths, where it basically says there is a sliding scale relating to viability of a fetus. We can argue about whether or not it's precisely set, whether it's right or wrong in terms of its three months as opposed to two months, but it does encompass, I've come to conclude, the only means by which, in this heterogeneous society of ours, we can read some general accommodation on what is a religiously charged and a publicly-charged debate. That's the, that's the decision I've come to...
...[T]he decision's the closest thing politically to what has been the philosophic divisions existent among the major confessional faiths in our country. And that's why, I think, that's why I've come to the conclusion some long time ago, over 25 years ago, that is the-it is the template which makes the most sense."
Interview with anchor Tim Russert, Meet the Press, Apr. 29, 2007
Pro: Voted Yes on the "Cuba Sanctions" bill (H.R. 927):
"A bill to seek international sanctions against the Castro government in Cuba, to plan for support of a transition government leading to a democratically elected government in Cuba, and for other purposes."
Pro: "As the author of two major federal crime laws that extend the availability of the death penalty to sixty additional crimes, I support capital punishment as a crime-fighting technique. But we must implement the death penalty in a way that is consistent with our values as Americans. Just as we would not execute a 12-year-old, I have long argued that we should not execute a mentally retarded person whose mental capacity might be far more limited. That's why I led the fight in 1990 to oppose the extension of the federal death penalty to mentally retarded persons."
"Biden Statement on Supreme Court Decision on the Execution of Mentally Retarded Individuals," Press Release, June 20, 2002
Pro: "College is on the verge of becoming a luxury good. Rising costs are putting college out of reach for more and more Americans...If we expect to maintain our status as a leader in the global economy we must do more for our students."
"Sen. Biden Champions Legislation to Make College More Affordable," Press Release, May 15, 2007
Pro: Cosponsor of the "Ballot Integrity Act of 2007" (S.1487), a bill "To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require an individual, durable, voter-verified paper record under title III of such Act, and for other purposes":
"TITLE II-BALLOT INTEGRITY
Sec. 201. Promoting accuracy, integrity, and security through individual, durable, voter-verified paper records. Sec. 202. Requirement for mandatory manual audits."
Pro: "By declaring he has 'no interest' in the Kyoto treaty, the President has walked away from yet another important environmental commitment...I can't say I'm surprised, but I am disappointed. Many of our allies are upset, and with good reason. The President's decision to turn his back on this treaty is a huge setback for the environment and could delay action on global warming for years...
The United States has an inescapable responsibility to lead on global environmental challenges. It's wrong to simply walk away from this international agreement."
"Biden Calls on Bush to Reconsider His Stance on Global Warming," Press Release, Mar. 30, 2001
Con: "I oppose registration. I oppose a lot of the - there is a Second Amendment and it's real. The question is, though, there are certain things that I have strongly supported: eliminating cop killer bullets, assault weapons, the dealing with the ability to have multiple rounds in a gun...I don't view that as any infringement on the Second Amendment...
...[Y]ou have others in our party who believe very strongly that if they could they'd legislate no hand guns under any circumstances. They'd legislate restrictions and registration, which I do not support."
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "The path to universal health care starts with making sure that the most vulnerable, our children, have health insurance [by] [e]xpanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program [SCHIP] to at least 300 percent of the federal poverty level...
While insuring all children must be our top priority, it is also important to offer uninsured adults access to health care...Senator Biden would allow uninsured Americans to buy into an insurance program that mirrors the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP)...
Small businesses would be allowed to participate in the program to help provide insurance for their employees."
"Health Care: Four Practical Steps Toward Health Care For All," Joe Biden's official candidate website (accessed Nov. 2, 2007)
Now Not Clearly Pro or Con: "Biden: ...There doesn't need to be a 700- mile fence. But there does need -- look, we ought to start -- we all love this phrase: Start talking truth to power. Fourteen million illegals: Now, you tell me how many buses, carloads, planes -- they're going to go out and round up all these people, spend hundreds of millions and billions of dollars to do it, with the whole world watching, while we send these folks back. Rather than get a background check on all of them, take out the criminals, get them back, and provide for a means by which we allowed earned citizenship over the next decade or so...
[Wolf] Blitzer: If you don't think there needs to be a fence, why did you vote for that legislation?
Biden: Well, that fence was -- the reason I voted for the fence was that was the only alternative that was there. And I voted for the fence related to drugs. A fence will stop 20 kilos of cocaine coming through that fence. It will not stop someone climbing over it or around it. And so -- but this bill has a much more reasonable provision in it. It has much -- a shorter fence. It does have the Border Patrol requirements. And it is designed not just to deal with illegals, it's designed with a serious drug trafficking problem we have."
Democratic Presidential Debate, New Hampshire, hosted by CNN, June 3, 2007
[Editor's Note: Prior to Joe Biden's June 3, 2007 Not Clearly Pro or Con position above, regarding building a border fence, he has also expressed a Pro position as indicated by his Sep. 29, 2006 US Senate vote in support of the "Secure Fence Act of 2006."]
Pro: "SEC. 3. CONSTRUCTION OF FENCING AND SECURITY IMPROVEMENTS IN BORDER AREA FROM PACIFIC OCEAN TO GULF OF MEXICO...
(1) SECURITY FEATURES.-
(A) REINFORCED FENCING.-In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide for least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors..."
"Secure Fence Act of 2006" (H.R.6061), Library of Congress website, Sep. 29, 2006
Con: "Stephanopoulos: ...In all of these conflicts we see the hand of Iran at work, they're arming Hamas, they're arming hezbollah...they're accelerating their nuclear program, they're also arming insurgents in Iraq. Isn't it a fair conclusion to say that Iran is now waging war against the United States and our allies?
Biden: What we don't want to do about it is we don't want to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. So, if and when any diplomatic or military action need be taken down the road, we're by ourselves. And that's why staying with the Europeans, that's why not using military force at this time, that's why continuing to tighten the diplomatic noose and sanctions around Iran is the way to go."
This Week with George Stephanopoulos, June 17, 2007
Con: "It is the President's time - and his responsibility - to answer a question that the general carrying out his policies in Iraq could not answer: is pressing ahead with the war making America safer?
Based on everything we heard this week from the President's surrogates and everything I have seen and heard during my eight trips to Iraq, the answer is no.
The President's strategy in Iraq is not succeeding. It is not making America safer. Doing more of the same would be a disaster."
"It's Bush's War but it's America's Future," Joe Biden's official candidate website (accessed Nov. 2, 2007)
Pro: "...[M]ore and more Americans understandably want a rapid withdrawal, even at the risk of trading a dictator for chaos and a civil war that could become a regional war. Both are bad alternatives.
There is a third way that can achieve the two objectives most Americans share: to bring our troops home without leaving chaos behind. The idea is to maintain a unified Iraq by federalizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis breathing room in their own regions...
[The central government] would call on the US military to withdraw most US troops from Iraq by the summer of 2008, with a residual force to keep Iraqis and their neighbors honest."
"Iraq: A Way Forward," Joe Biden's official candidate website (accessed Nov. 2, 2007)
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "[Katie] Couric: Should marital infidelity be part of the equation, in your view, when a voter is evaluating a candidate?
Biden: I think that's for every voter to decide. Voters make -- as they should -- make decisions relative to the leaders based on their needs. The need of the voter. And if you have someone who is, you need someone to be a great general to win a battle and he is a no-good guy, you'd never wanna show up for dinner. You might very well say, I'd vote for that guy to be the general. I'd vote that person or that woman to be the -- you know, the governor, or whatever.
I think people make very rational decisions based upon whether or not the character flaw in the individual they're looking at relates to something that affects their lives or the life of their country. And for some people, the overwhelming requirement, overwhelming characteristic they want is honesty. And that would be a difficult thing for ... the voter who has that as the highest priority, to vote for someone like that."
"Candidates Offer Views on Infidelity," CBS Evening News with Katy Couric, Dec. 19, 2007
Con: "I can't believe the American people can't see through this. We already have a law, the Defense of Marriage Act. We've all voted-not, where I've voted, and others have said, look, marriage is between a man and a woman and states must respect that. Nobody's violated that law, there's been no challenge to that law. Why do we need a constitutional amendment?"
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "We have not devoted nearly enough science or time to deal with the pain management and chronic pain management that exists. There's got to be a better answer than marijuana. There's got to be a better answer than that. There's got to be a better way for a humane society to figure out how to deal with that problem."
"Your Guide to the Candidates' Views on Medical Marijuana," Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, May 12, 2007
Not Clearly Pro or Con: Voted Yes to S.476, the "CARE Act of 2003," Apr. 9, 2003:
"An original bill to provide incentives for charitable contributions by individuals and businesses, to improve the public disclosure of activities of exempt organizations, and to enhance the ability of low-income Americans to gain financial security by building assets, and for other purposes... Section 307 - Modifies the definition of convention or association of churches to state that no such grouping shall fail to qualify merely because individuals are members or because individuals have voting rights in such organization."
"S.476, CARE Act of 2003," Govtrack.us website, Apr. 9, 2003
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "For me, as a Roman Catholic, I'm prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths--Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others--who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They're intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life--I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society."
Meet the Press interview with Tom Brokaw, Sep. 7, 2008
Con: "Protect Social Security, Not Privatize It: Social Security is the foundation of retirement security for millions of Americans. For a typical worker retiring at age 65, Social Security replaces 40 percent of pre-retirement income. Joe Biden opposes privatization of Social Security."
"A Secure Retirement: A Promise to Keep," Joe Biden's official candidate website (accessed Nov. 16, 2007)
We write to urge you to expand the current federal policy concerning embryonic stem cell research...
We very much appreciate your words of support for the enormous potential of this research, and we know that you intended your policy to help promote this research to its fullest. As you know, the Administration's policy limits federal funding only to embryonic stem cells that were derived by August 9, 2001, the date of the policy announcement. However, scientists have told us that since the policy went into effect more than two years ago, we have learned that the embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federal funding will not be suitable to effectively promote this research. We therefore feel it is essential to relax the restrictions in the current policy for this research to be fully explored."
Letter written to President Bush, signed by 58 US Senators, including Joe Biden, June 7, 2004
Pro: "Campaign spending has spiraled wildly out of control and will continue unabated unless we pass fundamental reforms. We've got to limit the amount of money spent on campaigns, and that requires a constitutional amendment, a measure we should employ only when it's essential and when there is no alternative. With a crisis of public confidence in our politics and government, we must take bold and swift action to fix our broken system."
"Biden Calls for Constitutional Amendment 'To Fix Our Broken System'," Press Release, Mar. 26, 2001
Con: "I write today to seek your support for legislation that prohibits United States personnel from engaging in water-boarding or any other form of torture. On July 25, 2007, I introduced S. 1876, the National Security with Justice Act, which among other things prohibits all United States personnel from using on a detainee any interrogation technique not expressly authorized by the Army Field Manual...
When we countenance torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees, we diminish our ability to argue that the same techniques should not be used against our own troops. We need to send a clear message that torture, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees is unacceptable and is not permitted by US law. Period. Therefore, Section 106 of my bill prohibits all officers and agents of the United States from using techniques of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation. I urge you to support S. 1876 and join me in banning all United States personnel from engaging in torture."
Letter from Joe Biden to US Senators, Joe Biden's official candidate website, Oct. 30, 2007