5 Ways Joe Biden Is Different From Other Candidates

October 14th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

Although Vice President Joe Biden was not on stage Tuesday night in Las Vegas for the first Democratic presidential primary debate, his presence was certainly known.

Draft Joe Biden, the super PAC desperately angling for a Biden ticket, reportedly scheduled the below ad to run before the debate began on CNN, the New York Times reports.

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Biden's will-he-won't-he deliberations have been a topic of fevered interest recently, with rumors circulating last week that the VP had himself leaked the possibility of a run to the New York Times, and had met secretly with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) in August to propose a joint ticket. Even Tuesday's TV spot isn't the first; the Biden super PAC released a similar ad last week also urging a 2016 run.

So while Biden didn't share the debate stage Tuesday (CNN preemptively invited him to participate, but Biden declined), he will no doubt be on the minds of many as a potential sixth candidate next to Democrats Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee. Here are some of the ways Biden has differed with other candidates on the issues young voters care about.

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Student Debt

College affordability has become a central campaign issue for Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But Biden has a dodgy history when it comes to student debt, having supported as a Delaware senator legislation in 2005 that made student loan forgiveness more difficult. The legislation effectively blocks most students from using bankruptcy courts to protect against creditors chasing outstanding private student loan debt. Previously, student debtors could use bankruptcy protections to discharge, reschedule, or renegotiate student loans. It's not the only instance where Biden has come down hard on student debt: according to an International Business Times investigation, Biden has "played a consistent and pivotal role" in pandering to financial industry interests at the expense of students over the years.

Criminal Justice Reform

One of Biden's most frequently touted legislative achievements is the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which put more than 100,000 police officers on the streets, and allocated nearly $10 billion for the construction of new prisons after President Bill Clinton signed it into law. The bill was decidedly of its time, expanding many already tough-on-crime facets of 1990s criminal justice, including qualifying more crimes for capital punishment, incentivizing longer terms for criminals and three-strike life sentence mandates, and eliminating Pell Grants for prisoners. If he runs, Biden will likely face pointed criticism from groups such as Black Lives Matter and others who felt the firsthand effects of what he often refers to as 1994 Biden Crime Bill. Notably, the bill included many aspects championed by liberal groups, including a federal ban on certain assault weapons, and the Violence Against Women Act.

Marijuana/Drug Reform


Biden is not known for his progressive stance on marijuana, joining Clinton and O'Malley as politicians with a track record of support for the War on Drugs. "There are candidates in this race with new ideas and rational, health-focused strategies for addressing marijuana use," Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project told the Huffington Post. "[B]ut Biden isn't one of them." That said, as vice president, Biden has been party to President Barack Obama's support as various states have rolled out both medical and recreational legal frameworks for legal pot across the country, and he has said that convicting people for smoking it is inappropriate. Critics also note that he helped create harsher drug penalties in the late 1980s, and created the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Minimum Wage

Like some of his potential fellow candidates, Biden has backed efforts to increase the minimum wage. Last month, he appeared at the side of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to support the Gov.'s efforts to introduce a statewide minimum wage hike to $15 per hour. "By raising the minimum wage for fast-food workers in New York, you're not just doing it in New York," Biden said. "You're going to make every single governor look at themselves. You're leading the way for the country."

LGBTQ Rights

Both Clinton and Biden courted the support of the LGBTQ community earlier this month at Human Rights Campaign events. Biden gave the keynote address, calling for a federal equality act to broaden civil rights protections to the community, expanding trans rights in the military, and classifying service members kicked out of the military under Don't Ask Don't Tell to "honorable discharge," MSNBC reported. Biden said that despite the media flurry around people like Kim Davis, the American people were on the side of LGBTQ equality. "There are homophobes still left," he said, "most of them are running for president."

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