Human rights and a climate fight: What Joe Biden has promised if he wins

After a challenging year in the US, Joe Biden is hoping voters see him as an ideological alternative to Donald Trump to take the country forward - but what does he stand for?

Joe Biden

Joe Biden his hoping Americans back him over Donald Trump. Source: AFP/Getty Images

For many Americans, this year has been defined by their country's continued struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, a growing push for action on climate change, and further deteriorating race relations.

Mr Biden has presented himself as an ideological alternative to Mr Trump, taking a more progressive approach to immigration, human rights and climate action - all areas the Trump administration has sought to wind back.

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The Democratic nominee has 36 years of experience as a US senator under his belt, eight of which were served as vice president of the Obama administration.

Here’s a look at some of the most defining issues of the US election, and how Mr Biden plans to handle them if he is elected.

Coronavirus

To date, the US is the hardest-hit country from the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 9.3 million cases and more than 230,000 deaths.

Mr Biden has vowed to provide free testing for all and to hire 100,000 people to set up a national contact tracing program. He also said he wants at least 10 testing centres in every state, to double the number of drive-through testing sites, and to make it mandatory for governors to wear masks.

Voters in Hialeah, Florida.
Voters wear masks in Hialeah, Florida. Source: Getty Images


Mr Trump has faced , from downplaying the crisis and ignoring experts’ advice to trivialising the use of masks and giving credence to unproven drug treatments.

He has defended his handling of it though, saying the US could have had 2.5 million deaths "if we didn't do it properly".

Healthcare

Healthcare is a defining issue of most elections, but COVID-19 has made it even more pressing.

If elected president, Mr Biden has said he will expand the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, a legislative achievement by the Obama administration which expanded health insurance to millions more Americans. It also made it illegal to deny coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions.

Mr Biden has proposed expanding a health care plan that will reach “an estimated 97 per cent of Americans”, and also to lower Medicare eligibility from age 65 to 60.



Mr Trump’s health coverage plan, called “America First”, centres on financial freedom and giving patients more choice. His administration has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saying it’s one step closer to socialised medicine.

He has also signed an executive order strengthening Medicare Advantage, a private insurance alternative to Medicare.

Abortion rights

and can be a deal-breaker issue in conservative Christian communities. 

If elected, Mr Biden says he will protect a woman’s right to choose and will fight to keep abortion access legal.

He has also expressed support for repealing the Hyde Amendment, which blocks taxpayer money from being used to allow women to get abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the woman is facing danger.



Mr Trump has barred federal family planning funds from going to organisations that provide abortions or assist patients in receiving them - the most well-known being Planned Parenthood.

He has also expanded the Mexico City Policy, which prevents any US global health funds going to foreign groups that provide or inform patients about abortions.



In October, Mr Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court following the death of veteran progressive Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Abortion rights advocates have voiced concern that Ms Barrett, a devout Roman Catholic, could that legalised abortion.

Climate change

Mr Biden has made action on climate change a key pillar of his campaign.

In August, he announced a $US2 trillion plan to roll out renewable energy infrastructure over the next four years.

The money would be put towards a range of measures including energy efficiency upgrades, constructing half a million electric vehicle charging stations, and providing populous American cities with zero-emissions public transport options.



He also plans to remove fossil fuels to generate electricity by 2035 - and bring the country to net zero emissions by 2050 - by instead using wind, solar and other energy forms such as nuclear, hydropower and biomass.

Mr Biden has also vowed to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, and commit the US to the pact’s goal of preventing global average temperatures from rising more than two degrees.

Mr Trump announced the country’s withdrawal from the accord on 1 June 2017. It’s due to come into effect the day after the election - if he wins.

He said it created an unfair burden on the US and had little impact on other countries' emissions. 

Refugees

Mr Biden has pledged to raise the US refugee resettlement cap to 125,000 during his first year in office after it was drastically cut by the Trump administration.

He has also said he will end the Trump era policy of requiring asylum seekers to make their case outside the US.

On World Refugee Day in June, Mr Biden released a statement accusing Mr Trump of trying “to change America from a nation of refuge and liberty to one of division and intolerance”.



In October this year, the Trump administration unveiled its proposal to further slash the country’s refugee intake to a record low of 15,000.

As it was released, Mr Trump told a rally in Minnesota that Mr Biden’s intake plan would “turn Minnesota into a refugee camp ... overwhelming public resources, overcrowding schools and inundating hospitals”, calling it a “disgrace”.

Mr Trump halted refugee admissions to the US in March saying it was necessary to protect American jobs amid the impacts of COVID-19.

His administration has also defended its contributions to the relief of humanitarian crises around the world. 

LGBTQI+

Mr Biden has vowed to pass the Equality Act within his first 100 days in office, should he win the election.

The bill seeks to amend the Civil Rights Act to nationally prohibit discrimination on the basis of one’s gender identity or sexual orientation, in a move that would apply to everything from employment and public education to housing and the jury system.

There are still 29 states that have not outlawed discrimination against members of the LGBTQI+ community.

Joe Biden has promised to put top priority on passing the LGBTQ rights legislation known as the Equality Act within 100 days should he win Tuesday's election
Joe Biden has promised to put top priority on passing the LGBTQ rights legislation known as the Equality Act within 100 days should he win Tuesday's election Source: Getty Images


The Trump administration opposes the Equality Act, which has remained in the Senate since May 2019.

In August 2019, the White House issued a statement saying the bill was “filled with poison pills”.

“The Trump Administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, the House-passed bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights,” the statement said.

Immigration

Mr Biden’s campaign notes that 11 million undocumented citizens in America have “been living in and strengthening our country for years” and says if he was elected they would be able to receive documentation provided they register, are up-to-date on their taxes and have passed a background check.

Mr Biden has also promised to “aggressively advocate” for legislation to keep immigrant families together. 



This is in sharp contrast to Mr Trump, whose 2016 campaign largely centred on building a wall along the US-Mexico border to keep illegal immigrants out.

During his time in office, Mr Trump has separated migrant children from their parents, something Mr Biden labelled as "criminal". 

Mr Trump has defended his policies and said the separated children are "so well taken care of", additionally pointing out the "cages" they were housed in were built under the Obama administration. 

'Muslim ban'

In January 2017, Mr Trump signed an Executive Order banning foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the country for 90 days.

The ban was eventually overturned by a US appeals court, but a revised proclamation was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

The Biden campaign has stated that, if elected president, Mr Biden will rescind the travel bans.



“The Trump Administration’s anti-Muslim bias hurts our economy, betrays our values, and can serve as a powerful terrorist recruiting tool,” the Biden campaign website says. “Prohibiting Muslims from entering the country is morally wrong, and there is no intelligence or evidence that suggests it makes our nation more secure.

“It is yet another abuse of power by the Trump administration designed to target primarily black and brown immigrants.”

Mr Trump has defended the ban, saying the security of Americans is a priority.

"You see what's going on in the world, our country has to be safe," he said earlier this year. 

Race relations

The issue of race relations in the US is a complex and long-standing one. 

The death of George Floyd, a black man who died after he was held under the knee of a white police officer for nine minutes in May, saw a series of nationwide protests echoing across the country for months.

Mr Biden has said he believes racism is a problem in the US and must be dealt with through broad economic and social programs.

He has made a $30 billion investment fund to create business support for minorities and promised to eliminate zoning ordinances that make it harder for people of colour to purchase or rent a home.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden making their final appearances on the campaign trail.
The American people will decide whose policies they value the most. Source: AAP


Mr Biden has also proposed policies to reduce incarceration, address race, gender and income-based disparities in the justice system, and further rehabilitation for released prisoners.

That said, the Democratic candidate has faced scrutiny for his previous record on race relations.

He spoke out against school desegregation in the 1970s, supported a 1994 crime bill that’s since been blamed for the mass incarceration of black men, and in 2007 drew a backlash for referring to Mr Obama as the "first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy" during a New York Observer interview.



Meanwhile, political experts have accused Mr Trump of actively fuelling racism in the US during his presidency. During the first presidential debate, he refused to condemn white supremacists and told the far-right Proud Boys group to “stand back and stand by” -

He has also called Black Lives Matter protesters “anarchists” and “thugs”. 

Mr Trump claims to have “with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln”.

He has denied allegations of racism, saying at the final presidential debate with Mr Biden last month that he was "the least racist person in the room". 


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10 min read
Published 4 November 2020 at 8:01am
By Gavin Fernando