Democrats and Republicans are both calling the 2020 presidential race the most consequential ever, or at least in recent history.
It’s indeed a high-stakes election, arriving on the heels of a worldwide pandemic, massive economic losses, and alarming social unrest. Here’s a breakdown of where the candidates stand on each issue, including past achievements and future promises.
Would nationalize the U.S. COVID response, especially with regard to COVID test distribution and data collection.
Would increase testing for people without symptoms, in order to improve contact-tracing. He also wants to ramp up production of rapid-response tests, which return results in minutes rather than days. Biden’s website doesn’t provide specifics on funding.
Would establish daily, expert-led health briefings.
Would be slow to open schools.
Proposed a three-month-long national mask mandate, but walked back on that proposal last week, saying it would be unconstitutional.
Left COVID policy largely decentralized, with states distributing tests individually and reporting their own data.
Said in a July tweet that he would withhold federal money from schools that didn’t re-open and criticized CDC recommendations as “very tough & expensive guidelines.”
Encouraged colleges on Sept. 10 to keep students on campus since college-age hospitalizations are few and sending students home could spread the disease to high-risk Americans.
Policing and Criminal Justice Reform
Opposes calls to “defund the police.” He would instead create a $300 million community policing program to increase racial diversity in police departments and improve police relationships with communities.
Would “rein in” qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that often allows law enforcement officials to avoid prosecution for violating a person’s rights. Would also repeal mandatory minimum sentencing, which requires judges to issue minimum sentences according to particular crimes, and can result in unfair punishment.
Was criticized for not addressing violent protests during the Democratic National Convention.
Has urged various state and local leaders to have federal troops quell riots, which have resulted in several deaths, injuries, and property damage.
Signed the First Step Act, which decreases mandatory minimums, helps former prison inmates find jobs, and retroactively reduces crack cocaine sentences that disproportionately affect African-Americans.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Democrats’ proposal to end qualified immunity is a “non-starter,” saying it would result in police pulling back.
Would spend $750 billion over 10 years to support the Affordable Care Act, enacted during the Obama administration.
Would increase funding for Medicaid and provide incentives for more states to expand Medicaid.
Opposes the movement among Democrats toward Medicare for All. Instead, he’s pursuing a public option that would act as an alternative to private insurance. He also would lower medicare eligibility from 65 years old to 60, which would potentially give access to 20 million more Americans.
Asked the Supreme Court to dismantle Obamacare, which could cause 23 million Americans to lose health insurance.
Would restrict access to Medicaid, the program for low-income Americans. He would impose work requirements, limit Medicaid spending growth, and also convert Medicaid spending into block grants.
Signed a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to fund healthcare for 9 million children and pregnant mothers.
Would push for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Obama created through executive order, to be made permanent through law. The program protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children (known as “Dreamers”) from deportation. Biden also promotes making Dreamers eligible for federal student aid and giving them debt-free access to community college.
Would cease building the border wall but would not tear down existing structures and instead focus more on border enforcement and screening.
Tried to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) that allowed Dreamers to stay in the country. The Supreme Court struck down his decision this past June. The Trump administration responded by preventing new enrollments and limiting renewals to one year.
The administration has also completed at least 265 miles of the proposed U.S. Mexico border wall, aiming to have 450 miles completed by the end of the year.
Plans to spend $2 trillion over four years on clean energy projects, with the aim of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2035.
Wants all new buses built in America to be zero-emissions by 2030.
Would re-enter the U.S. into the Paris Climate agreement, a global commitment to fight climate change.
Rescinded or rolled back several Obama-era environmental regulations, such as methane emissions, to simplify regulations for energy businesses.
Proposed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule which will reduce greenhouse gasses, empower states, promote energy independence, and facilitate economic growth and job creation.
Removed U.S. from Paris Climate Agreement.
Would make college education free for students from families that make under $125,000. For those with loans, he would set the repayment rate at 5% for those with over $25,000 in discretionary income. People who make less than that would owe nothing.
Would triple Title I education funding, which would increase teacher salaries and student support.
Would undo Trump administration rule bolstering protections for those accused of sexual assault on college campuses.
Hinted at restoring Obama-era guidelines that would help increase diversity on college campuses.
Signed a law providing $255 million in permanent HBCU funding and increased Pell grants to low-income students.
Emphasized school choice, i.e., redirecting funds from traditional schools to private and charter schools. In 2018, he proposed cutting education department funding by 13.5% and giving $168 million to charter schools and $250 million to private school choice program.
Rolled back Obama-era regulations regarding campus sexual assault. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos followed this by more narrowly defining sexual assault and increasing protections for those accused of committing it.
Rescinded Obama-era guidelines on the use of race in admissions.
Would codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that allowed abortion, into law.
Would reissue guidance specifying that states cannot refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers.
Would restore the Obama-Biden contraception mandate that existed before the Hobby Lobby ruling: providing an exemption for houses of worship and an accommodation for nonprofit organizations with religious missions.
Last year, Biden opposed the Hyde Amendment, a reversal of his previous position. The amendment prohibits federal funding from being used for abortion, with exceptions for rape and incest and saving the life of the mother.
Was the first president to speak at the annual March for Life rally in Washington D.C., which started in 1974.
Promised Supreme Court judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Issued a rule allowing health care workers to refuse to provide services like abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide, if they cite a religious or conscientious objection.
Taxes and the Economy
Would raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour.
Would raise the marginal tax rate on the highest income earners from 37% to 39.6%. No one making under $400,000 a year would encounter a tax hike, he said in May.
Would raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.
Would amend Trump’s Opportunity Zones program to make it better at reporting data.
Dropped income tax rates, saving taxpayers $64 billion.
Dropped corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.
Created Opportunity Zones program, which creates incentives for investors to pour money into low-income communities by offering to cut their capital gains taxes. So far the program has attracted $75 billion in capital through 2019.
Wants to re-enter the so-called “Iran deal,” which the U.S. exited under Trump. The deal was cut by Obama in an effort to pressure Iran into limiting its nuclear weapons buildup.
Biden has not said he would remove Chinese tariffs, although he has criticized Trump for implementing them. He also proposed a 30.8% surtax on domestic company profits stemming from overseas affiliates, which is higher than Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods or metals.
Does not plan to pull troops out of Afghanistan, for the sake of maintaining the stability of the region.
Brokered peace treaties on Sept. 15 between Israel and two of its Arab neighbors, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The treaties normalize diplomatic relations between the countries.
Entered a partial phase 1 trade deal with China in January. He refused to enter phase 2 negotiations, citing China’s mishandling of COVID-19.
Ordered a strike that took out Qassem Soleimani, the second most powerful official and military leader in Iran.
Tried to pull U.S. troops out of Syria twice, only to replace them in smaller numbers after their removal spurred violence in the region. He also promised to pull troops out of Afghanistan by election day.