* Biden’s Senate Voting Record & Policy Positions

  • Click here to return to Joe Biden’s main profile page. Below is an overview of Biden’s policy positions and his voting record on key pieces of legislation during his years in the Senate: Opposed Funding for South Vietnam in 1970s Shortly after he was first elected to the Senate, Biden voted against U.S. funding to help the […]

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Below is an overview of Biden’s policy positions and his voting record on key pieces of legislation during his years in the Senate:

Opposed Funding for South Vietnam in 1970s

Shortly after he was first elected to the Senate, Biden voted against U.S. funding to help the South Vietnamese government stave off its North Vietnamese Communist invaders. He insisted that “the United States has no obligation to evacuate one — or 100,001 — South Vietnamese.” Biden’s vote, which was in line with the votes of most in Congress’ new Democrat majority, paved the way for the ultimate fall of Saigon (in April 1975) and the subsequent mass slaughter of Indochinese peasants.

Favored Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 Rise to Power in Iran

In 1979 Senator Biden shared President Jimmy Carter‘s belief that the fall of the Shah in Iran and the advent of Ayatollah Khomeini’s rule represented progress for human rights in that country. Throughout the ensuing 444-day hostage crisis, during which Khomeini’s extremist acolytes routinely paraded the blindfolded American captives in front of television cameras and threatened them with execution, Biden opposed strong action against the mullahs and called for dialogue.

Opposed Reagan’s Funding of Nicaraguan Contras in 1980s

Biden opposed President Ronald Reagan’s effort to fund the Contras, an anti-Communist rebel group in Nicaragua. As the New York Sun points out:

  • “On October 3, 1984, Mr. Biden voted to prohibit the Reagan administration from spending money against Nicaragua from the intelligence budget.”
  • “On June 6, 1985, the Senate approved an amendment offered by a Georgia Democrat, Sam Nunn, to release $38 million in humanitarian aid to the Contra rebels fighting Mr. Ortega’s Sandinistas. The amendment passed, but Mr. Biden was one of 42 Senators who opposed it.”
  • “In 1986, Mr. Biden wanted to require the Reagan administration to negotiate with Mr. Ortega’s government before sending any money to the Contras.”
  • “Mr. Biden voted again in March 1987 for halting aid to the Contras.”

Opposed Reagan Military Buildup in 1980s

Throughout the 1980s, Biden opposed Reagan’s proactive means of dealing with the Soviet Union. Biden instead favored détente — which, in practice, meant Western subsidies that would have enabled the moribund USSR to remain solvent much longer than it ultimately did. Biden was a leading critic of the Reagan defense buildup, specifically vis a vis the MX missile, the B-l bomber, and the Trident submarine.

Missile Defense

Biden criticized President Reagan for his “continued adherence” to the goal of developing a missile defense system known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, calling the President’s insistence on the measure “one of the most reckless and irresponsible acts in the history of modern statecraft.”

Biden’s opposition to missile defense continued for decades thereafter:

On July 24, 2001, on July 24, 2001, Biden chaired a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in which he said in a prepared statement:

“I worry that funds devoted to missile defense, or the recent tax cut, are hurting our ability to meet these more current and realistic threats. And I worry that a narrow-minded pursuit of missile defense, without having any notion of what missile defense to develop, could derail both our programs in Russia, as well as our negotiations with North Korea.”

On July 31, 2007, Biden said:

“In 2001, Bush’s new foreign affairs team were so intent on going ahead with Reagan’s Star Wars missile defense shield that they were willing to pull out of earlier arms control treaties to get there, inviting, in my view, another arms race. The missile defense system seemed to be the perfect metaphor for the neoisolationist policy. Let’s arm the heavens, they were saying, and protect the US, the rest of the world be damned. The [Bush] administration had said they were willing to walk away from the decades-old ABM Treaty in order to unilaterally develop and deploy the missile defense system, and now they were putting real money behind it. They were willing to put tens of billions of dollars into the Maginot line in the sky that could quite likely set off another arms race, while cutting funding for a program to help Russia destroy its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons before they got into the hands of terrorists.”

On December 13, 2007, Biden said:

“[We should] cut somewhere in the order of $20 billion a year out of the military for special programs, from Star Wars, to a new atomic weapon, to the F-22, to the Nimitz-Class Destroyer. You can save $350 billion. That would allow me to do everything I want to do — my priorities on education, health care and the environment — and still bring down the deficit by $150 billion.”

Environment

Biden believes that global warming is caused by industrial and automotive pollution, and that broad and immediate action must be taken to curb its effects. In 2007 he co-sponsored the BoxerSanders Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, perhaps the most stringent climate bill in the history of the Senate. Labeling the U.S. as the world’s “largest emitter of greenhouse gases,” the bill sought to implement a cap-and-trade system requiring the U.S. to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Biden has called for the raising of fuel-economy standards for automobiles to an average of 40 miles per gallon by 2017.

During a September 2008 vice presidential debate against his Republican opponent Sarah Palin, Biden said: “I think it [climate change] is manmade. It’s clearly manmade. If you don’t understand what the cause is, you cannot come up with a solution.”

Alaskan Oil Pipeline

In the midst of the Arab oil embargo of 1973, Biden was one of only five U.S. senators to vote against the first Alaskan pipeline bill. That pipeline has since yielded many billions of barrels of oil for the United States.

Oil Drilling 

Biden consistently opposed all bills seeking to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.

In 2006 he voted against a bill “providing for exploration, development, and production activities for mineral resources in the Gulf of Mexico.”

And in 2007 he voted against a bill that would have allowed for natural gas exploration and extraction off the coast of Virginia.

Regarding the use of coal, Biden has said: “We’re not supporting clean coal,” and “no coal plants here in America.”

Abortion

His Roman Catholic beliefs notwithstanding, Biden believes that abortion should remain legal in the United States, and that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision should not be overturned. “The best policy for our country on the question of abortion is a policy of government neutrality,” he once said. “Put another way: I do not believe that the government should be involved in making judgments on whether a woman can, or should have an abortion, or — if she chooses to do so — in paying for that abortion.”

In 1997 Biden voted against the continuance of a policy stipulating that federal health insurance plans would not pay for abortions except in cases where the woman’s life was in danger or the pregnancy was the result of incest or rape.

In 2004 Biden voted against a bill that would have attached criminal penalties to the killing or injuring of a fetus while carrying out a violent crime on a pregnant woman.

In July 2006 he voted against parental notification laws and against punishing those who would transport minors across state lines to get an abortion.

In 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2003, Biden voted in favor of bills to prohibit the procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion.

Gun Rights

In 2007, Biden received an “F” rating from the Gun Owners of America, and in 2008 he garnered a 7% rating from the National Rifle Association — all for his consistent record of voting to limit the rights of gun owners and manufacturers.

Biden also voted in favor of exposing the firearms industry to potentially crippling lawsuits when guns they produce are used in criminal activity.

Counter-Terrorism

In 2007 Biden voted against a bill permitting the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General “to authorize foreign intelligence acquisition concerning those reasonably believed to be outside of the U.S., provided that written certification is presented that the procedure does not constitute electronic surveillance under existing law, the surveillance is made with the assistance of a communications provider, and the significant purpose of the acquisition is to obtain foreign intelligence information.”

Immigration & the Border

Biden voted “Yes” on allowing illegal aliens to participate in Social Security, and “Yes” on allowing more foreign workers into the U.S. for farm work.

In 2006 he voted in favor of erecting a fence on the U.S./Mexico border, but later explained that for him, the vote was an anti-drug trafficking vote, not one aimed at curbing illegal immigration.“I voted for the fence related to drugs,” Biden said. “A fence will stop 20 kilos of cocaine coming through that fence. It will not stop someone climbing over it or around it.”

In 2007 Biden voted against a bill to prohibit illegal aliens convicted of serious crimes — such as aggravated felonies, domestic violence, stalking, violation of protection orders, crimes against children, or the illegal purchase or sale of firearms — from gaining legal status.

That same year, he voted to scrap a point-based immigration system (i.e., a system which seeks to ensure that people with skills that society needs are given preference for entry into the United States). He advocates instead a system focusing on the reunification of family members, even if that means permitting the foreign relatives of illegal aliens to join the latter in America.

Sanctuary Cities

Biden voted in favor of continuing to send federal funds to sanctuary cities.

Voter ID

Biden voted against requiring a photo ID from people registering to vote.

English Language

Biden voted “No” on declaring English the official language of the United States.

In 2006, Senator Biden received an 8 percent rating from the U.S. Border Control (a nonprofit lobbying organization dedicated to ending illegal immigration and securing our America’s borders), signifying that his voting record reflected an open-borders stance.

Taxes

Throughout his Senate career, Biden, with few exceptions, generally supported higher taxes, though he did vote against specific tax increases which were advanced by Republican presidents.

When President Reagan pushed for across-the-board-tax cuts in 1981, Biden twice voted for bills that would have watered down Reagan’s proposal. When the full Reagan tax cuts came up for a final vote, however, Biden voted in favor of them, as did 88 of his 99 Senate colleagues.

In March 1983 Biden voted for a $40 billion increase in Social Security taxes.

In June 1986 Biden supported Democrat Senator George Mitchell’s effort to raise the top income tax rate to 35 percent.

In October 1990 Biden voted against President George H.W. Bush’s proposed 5-year, $164-billion tax hike.

Also in 1990, he supported an amendment sponsored by then-Senator Al Gore to raise the income-tax rate on middle-class Americans (i.e., married couples earning more than $78,400 a year and individuals earning more than $47,050) from 28 percent to 33 percent.

In August 1993 Biden voted in favor of Bill Clinton’s proposed $241 billion in new taxes over five years.

In May 2001 Biden voted against both of President George W. Bush’s major tax cut proposals — one for $350 billion and another for $1.35 trillion over a ten-year period.

In all but three of the 16 years spanning 1992 to 2007, the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU) — which grades each member of Congress on taxing and spending issues — gave Biden an “F” rating. In 2007, NTU gave him a 4 percent rating and ranked him 94th out of 100 senators.

On September 18, 2008, Biden (who was then Barack Obama’s vice presidential running mate) said this about Obama’s proposed tax hike on people earning more than $250,000 per year: “We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people…. It’s time [for high earners] to be patriotic … time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut.”

Supreme Court

In 1987 Biden was a key player in preventing the confirmation of President Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, warning that Bork would strip minorities, women, and children of their civil rights.

In later years, Biden similarly (though unsuccessfully) sought to derail the Supreme Court nominations of Clarence Thomas, William Rehnquist, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito, who, like Bork, were all strict constructionists who opposed judicial activism; i.e., they subscribed to the tenet that a Justice’s duty is to interpret the law and the Constitution as it is written, and not to legislate from the bench.

The First Gulf War

In 1990 Biden opposed President George H.W. Bush’s decision to forcibly drive Saddam Hussein‘s army of occupation out of Kuwait. He stated that the U.S. had no “vital interests” in repelling the invasion, and he predicted that American casualties would be astronomical in number.

The 9/11 Attacks: Biden Calls for U.S. to Send $200 Million to Iran

Shortly after 9/11, Biden told his staff that America should respond to the worst act of terrorism in its history by showing the Arab world that the U.S. was not seeking to destroy it. “Seems to me this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran,” he said.

Iraq War (2003-07)

Prior to the Iraq War, Biden consistently spoke out about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. “He’s a long-term threat and a short-term threat to our national security,” Biden said of Hussein in 2002. “… We have no choice but to eliminate the threat. This is a guy who is an extreme danger to the world.” Also in 2002, Biden said: “Saddam must be dislodged from his weapons or dislodged from power.”

Consequently, in October 2002 Biden voted “Yes” on authorizing the use of military force against Iraq. He continued to express his resolve on the matter in 2004, emphatically stating: “I voted to give the President the authority to use force in Iraq. I still believe my vote was just.”

In 2005 Biden told the Brookings Institution: “We can call it quits and withdraw from Iraq. I think that would be a gigantic mistake. Or we can set a deadline for pulling out, which I fear will only encourage our enemies to wait us out — equally a mistake.”

In April 2007 Biden appeared with the late newsman Tim Russert and defended Vice President Dick Cheney and the international community’s assessment of Saddam’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction) program. “[E]veryone in the world thought he had them [WMD]…. This was not some, some Cheney, you know, pipe dream.”

But later in 2007, while running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Biden said that his 2002 vote authorizing the use of force against Iraq “was a mistake” that he regretted. “I vastly underestimated the incompetence of this administration,” Biden said during a 2007 Democratic primary debate in Carson City, Nevada.

Iraq War (Troop Surge of 2007)

In June 2007 Biden told the Boston Globe that General David Petraeus’s “surge” strategy of sending an extra 20,000 troops to Iraq “is not going to work either tactically or strategically” in terms of quelling the insurgency. On Meet the Press, Biden said that while Petraeus “believes that it [the surge] is a good idea,” “[v]irtually no one else believes it’s a good idea.”

Syria

In 2007, Biden scolded then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for testifying (to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations) that for the foreseeable future the Bush administration would not be negotiating with Syria or Iran because “they are not engaging in constructive behavior.” Said Biden: “I do not agree with your statement, Madame Secretary, that negotiations with Iran and Syria would be extortion, nor did most of the witnesses we heard in this committee during the last month. The proper term, I believe and they believe, is diplomacy, which is not about paying a price but finding a way to protect our interests without engaging in military conflict. It is, I might add, the fundamental responsibility of the Department of State, to engage in such diplomacy, as you well know.”

Civil Rights

Biden is a defender of affirmative action (i.e., race-, ethnicity-, and sex-based preferences) in academia and the business world.

He was also a supporter of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Biden’s response to a November 2006 U.S. Airways incident involving six Islamic imams is instructive. The imams in question were removed from a plane shortly before takeoff because several passengers and crew members had become alarmed by what they perceived to be their (the imams’) suspicious behavior. The Council on American-Islamic Relations subsequently filed a lawsuit on behalf of the imams, against both the airline and the complaining passengers. In response to the suit, two Republican congressman, Peter King and Steven Pearce, crafted an amendment seeking to create legal immunity for citizens who report suspicious behavior in good faith. The amendment was initially approved by lawmakers in March 2007, but Senator Biden voted against it.

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