With the 2020 election just hours away, CBS News has compiled a comprehensive look at where the presidential candidates stand on some of the major issues facing the nation. Their stances and plans were compiled based on information available on President Trump’s and Joe Biden’s respective campaign sites, as well as official documents and prior CBS News reporting.
A look at where the rivals stand on key issues:
Scientists expect climate change to cause irreparable damage to the world, including from the increasing prevalence of record-breaking natural disasters like the wildfires and hurricanes that ravaged the country this summer. One study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature found that failing to sufficiently reduce greenhouse gases could cost the global economy as much as $792 trillion by the end of the century.
Biden has repeatedly said he believes in the threat climate change poses, and has said he will:
- Transition the U.S. into a 100% clean energy economy with a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050
- Make a $2 trillion investment in sustainable infrastructure and a clean energy economy, including providing “every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options” and upgrading 4 million commercial buildings to make them more energy efficient
- Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, which requires countries to set their own goals for reducing carbon emissions
- Require public companies to disclose the climate risks and greenhouse gas emissions of their operations
- Biden has also said he will not ban fracking, though he would ban new fracking on federal lands
Mr. Trump, who has suggested scientists don’t understand climate change, has rolled back or weakened Obama-era environmental protections. His campaign website does not include any second-term plans to combat climate change. Here’s some of what he has done:
- Expanded offshore oil and gas drilling, and worked to expand fossil fuel production in the U.S. But roughly two months before Election Day, he signed an executive order banning offshore drilling for 10 years along Florida’s Gulf coast and the Atlantic coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina
- Rolled back Obama-era climate protections, including an EPA rule that pushed coal plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other human health hazards and had stricter rules about soot, heavy metals and toxic gasses
- Eased air and water pollution penalties against companies during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Began withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement
- Signed an executive order “establishing the One Trillion Trees Interagency Council” to oversee the goal of protecting and restoring one trillion trees by 2030
- Signed the Save Our Seas Act of 2018, which reauthorized the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program to receive $10 million a year through 2022 and encouraged political leaders to help clean up oceans
- Signed the Great American Outdoors Act, which uses royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and uses revenues from energy development to provide up to $1.9 million a year for five years to maintain national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas and American Indian schools
- Put $38 billion toward the EPA’s “clean water infrastructure” project.
Monday night’s Supreme Court confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett has thrown the future of legal abortion into question. Barrett, who has voted to support restrictions on abortion in two cases as a federal judge, has filled the seat of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, solidifying a conservative majority.
Biden, who has said he’s personally against abortion, has said he refuses “to impose my religious beliefs on other people” and has pledged to make Roe v. Wade “the law of the land.” Biden has said he supports what is outlined in Roe v. Wade — that states cannot prohibit abortion until the third trimester of pregnancy, and can never prohibit an abortion to save the life or health of the patient.
Biden plans to:
- Pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade into law, which would require Senate approval
- Repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding of abortion except for cases of rape, incest or when the pregnancy endangers the patient’s life
- Mandate that states can’t refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers, and allow such organizations to receive Title X funding
- Rescind the Mexico City Policy, which prevents nongovernmental organizations from receiving federal funds if they discuss abortion as a family planning option or provide the procedure
- Restore the Affordable Care Act mandate that strictly limited the organizations that could refuse to provide their employees health insurance that covered contraceptives
- “Do everything” to end abortion restrictions mandated by states, including parental notification requirements, mandatory waiting periods and ultrasound requirements
Mr. Trump has said he is “pro-life” with exceptions for rape, incest and saving the life of the patient, and pledged in 2016 to only nominate “pro-life” judges to the Supreme Court. The Trump re-election campaign website does not offer any plans on abortion, but Mr. Trump has done the following:
- Excluded clinics where “abortion is a method of family planning” from receiving Title X funding, which was designed to provide affordable reproductive care to low-income women
- Reinstated the Mexico City Policy.
Criminal Justice Reform
From the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor to calls to defund the police, criminal justice reform has been a key issue in 2020.
While Biden has resisted calls from the left to defund police, he has outlined a plan for systemic criminal justice reform that includes the following:
- Create a $20 billion competitive grant program focused on incarceration prevention designed to incentivize states to end mandatory minimum sentencing and take other steps to reduce incarceration rates
- Eliminate the death penalty at the federal level and incentivize states to follow suit
- End solitary confinement
- Fund initiatives to partner police departments with mental health and substance use disorder experts, social workers and disability advocates
- Support legislation that will eliminate mandatory minimum sentences at the federal level
- Decriminalize cannabis and automatically expunge prior convictions
- Mandate that those facing charges for drug use alone be sent to treatment instead of jail at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow suit
- End cash bail and end incarceration for the inability to pay fines and fees
- End the federal use of private prisons
- Invest $1 billion per year in reforming the juvenile justice system
Mr. Trump has largely touted “law and order” throughout his campaign, and has said he will:
- Fully fund and hire more law enforcement officers
- Increase criminal penalties for assaults on law enforcement officers and “bring violent extremist groups like ANTIFA to justice”
- Keep people in jail until trial and “end cashless bail,” which refers to a few states that do not condition a person’s release from jail on whether they can pay bail
During his term, he has:
- Signed the First Step Act, which gives judges more discretion when they sentence some drug offenders, boosts prisoner rehabilitation efforts, and reduces life sentences for some drug offenders with three convictions
- Announced more than $98 million in funding for states, cities and tribal nations to hire 802 full-time officers
- Provided state and local law enforcement with surplus military equipment, including armored vehicles
- Sent federal law enforcement to cities experiencing racial injustice protests following the death of George Floyd
- Signed an executive order to create a national police misconduct database, with Department of Justice grant funding only going to agencies that submit the necessary information to the database. The order also tasks the DOJ and Health and Human Services to create guidelines for programs that would send social workers, along with police, to cases related to mental health, homelessness or drug addiction
- Reversed an Obama-era directive to phase out private prisons.
Tax Reform and Economy
The U.S. tax system has been described as an “engine of inequality.” Currently, the top 0.1% of the population owns 20% of U.S. wealth, experts say, and without changes to the tax system, that ownership could increase up to 40%.
Biden has said he will not raise taxes for people who make under $400,000 a year and will provide tax cuts for the middle class. He has also said he “will require corporations and the wealthiest Americans to finally pay their fair share.”
Biden said he will:
- Raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%
- Raise the top individual income tax rate to 39.6%
- Increase the Child Tax Credit to $3,000 per child for children ages 6 to 17, and $3,600 for children under 6. He also plans to make the credit fully refundable and give families the option to receive monthly payments
- Offer up to $8,000 in tax credits to help low-income and middle-class families pay for child care
- Extend COVID crisis unemployment insurance
- Invest $400 billion of federal money in products made by American workers
- Allocate $10 billion to state and local venture capital programs, and prioritize business owners who create jobs and growth in lower-income urban, tribal, and rural areas
- Increase federal funding for non-profit incubators and innovation hubs and prioritize those serving people of color
- Create 1 million new auto industry jobs
- Enact legislation to impose penalties on corporations and to hold company executives personally liable when they interfere with workers’ organizing efforts
- Repeal the Taft-Hartley provisions that allow states to impose “right to work” laws, which allow workers to choose not to pay dues to a union that represents them
Mr. Trump has said since his initial run for office that he will help the middle class through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. But the act cut taxes for U.S. corporations and some of the wealthiest families while providing fewer benefits to the middle class. An analysis found it resulted in the 400 richest families in the country paying a lower overall tax rate than the middle class.
In his second term, Mr. Trump said he will:
- Cut taxes to “boost take-home pay and keep jobs in America”
- Create “Made in America” tax credits
- Create tax credits for companies that “bring back jobs from China”
- Create 10 million jobs in 10 months
- Create 1 million small businesses
- Allow pharmaceutical and robotics companies to fully deduct expenses if they “bring back their manufacturing” to the U.S.
- Provide no federal contracts to companies that outsource to China
During his tenure, Mr. Trump has:
- Passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which in part lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. The corporate tax cut is projected to lower tax revenues by $2 trillion over a decade
- Doubled the estate tax floor, which some call the “death tax,” to $11.18 million per taxpayer. As a result, only about 2,000 estates per year in the U.S. are expected to be liable for federal estate tax. The move is likely to save Mr. Trump’s own family tens of millions of dollars
- Created a payroll tax “holiday” that allows companies to delay collecting payroll taxes so that employees can defer having taxes taken out of their paychecks until 2021, at which point employees will have to pay back the amount deferred. There is no evidence that any major retailers have yet taken advantage of the holiday
- Extended extra benefits for unemployed workers in September, providing $400 a week — down from the $600 that had previously been provided. The funds were diverted from the FEMA emergency fund, and were only projected to last six weeks at most.
COVID-19 has killed more than 220,000 people in the U.S., and infected millions more. Experts have said wearing masks and social distancing could drastically reduce transmission and death rates.
Biden has heavily criticized the Trump administration’s response, and has said his plans for addressing COVID-19 are focused on testing and tracing, a sufficient personal protective equipment supply, treatments and vaccines, safely and effectively reopening communities, and protecting those who are most at-risk for contracting the virus.
Biden has said he will:
- Make coronavirus tests free for all Americans, and double the number of drive-thru testing sites
- Create real-time dashboards that track COVID-19 hospital admissions and supply chain information, including the availability, allocation and shipping of essential equipment and PPE
- Hire at least 100,000 contact tracers
- Work with governors and mayors to mandate that people wear masks when they are with people outside their household
- Restore the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense. The Trump administration eliminated the team in 2018, but some of the team’s members were absorbed into pandemic response positions within the National Security Council, Reuters reported
- Rejoin the World Health Organization
While the Trump administration took a number of actions to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Mr. Trump has repeatedly downplayed the potential impact of COVID-19. In September, just days before he announced he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 himself, Mr. Trump told rally-goers in Ohio that coronavirus “affects virtually nobody.”
According to his campaign, Mr. Trump’s second-term plans include:
- Develop and distribute “100 million doses” of a vaccine in 2020 through Operation Warp Speed
- Make Regeneron’s antibody cocktail and other drug therapeutics free and available to all Americans
- Make critical medicines and supplies for U.S. health care workers
- Refill stockpiles and prepare for any future pandemics
- “Return to normal” in 2021
Here is how the Trump administration handled the pandemic:
- Issued travel restrictions, including screening passengers flying to the U.S. from China in January and banning passengers from more than two dozen European countries in March
- Created the Coronavirus Task Force at the end of January and declared a national emergency in March
- Signed the CARES Act to expand unemployment insurance and provide stimulus checks to qualifying individuals, but called off negotiations for a second bill that would have provided more stimulus checks, restored $600 in extra weekly jobless benefits and funded education and child care
- Approved the Paycheck Protection Program, which allocated $659 billion to provide loans to small businesses
- Committed more than $1 billion to Operation Warp Speed, an initiative to expedite the development of a coronavirus vaccine and make millions of doses available by the end of the year
- Submitted a notice of withdrawal from the World Health Organization, which will go into effect July 6, 2021
There were more mass shootings in the U.S. last year than there were days in the year, according to research group Gun Violence Archive. The violence has prompted nationwide calls for reform.
Biden, who has said he is a gun owner himself, has pushed for thorough gun reform that closes purchasing and licensing loopholes. He has also pushed for there to be stricter access to guns and tighter tracking of where guns, ammunition and accessories go.
Here are the plans Biden has listed on his campaign website:
- Ban the manufacture of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and institute a program to buy them back
- Require background checks for nearly all gun sales, including those sold online, at gun shows and through other means without a federal dealer’s license
- End online firearm and ammunition sales, and incentivize states and local governments to require gun licenses and adopt red flag laws, which allow law enforcement to temporarily confiscate firearms from people who are determined to be a risk to themselves or others
- Mandate that the FBI create a process so that state and local law enforcement is quickly made aware of people who fail gun purchase background checks
- Create a $900 million, eight-year initiative to fund evidence-based interventions in 20 cities with the highest number of homicides and 20 cities with the highest number of homicides per capita
- Prohibit states from using federal money to arm or train educators to use firearms
Mr. Trump has repeatedly touted his support for the Second Amendment. But the president did enact a gun reform policy when he banned bump stocks, a product that makes it easier to fire bullets more quickly. Here is what he has done throughout his presidency:
- Opposed House bill H.R.8, which would have established background check requirements for firearm transfers between unlicensed individuals, saying it would “impose burdensome requirements on certain firearm transactions”
- Opposed House bill H.R. 1112, which would have extended the time federal authorities have to complete background checks for gun sales, saying it would “unduly impose burdensome delays on individuals seeking to purchase a firearm”
- Reversed a 2007 rule that allowed the Social Security Administration to provide information to the gun background check system about people who have severe mental disabilities that prevent them from working
- Narrowed the definition of “fugitive from justice,” which helps determine who can purchase a gun. The term now only applies to people who flee their state to avoid criminal prosecution or giving testimony in a criminal proceeding, and are subject to criminal prosecution or testimonial obligation
- Has pushed for educators to be trained and armed, saying in 2018, “If you had a teacher with — who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly” .
Aside from the urgent conversation about how to pursue education amid the pandemic, there are ongoing debates about student loans, public schools, teacher salaries, and student safety.
Biden has pushed to better equip public K-12 schools with funding to increase teacher pay, health and academic resources for students, and funding and support to improve overall infrastructure. He has also campaigned for better and more affordable access to public higher education.
Here are the plans Biden has listed on his campaign website:
- Triple funding for Title I, which provides financial assistance to schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families, and mandate that K-12 districts increase teacher salaries
- Increase mental and physical health professionals in K-12 schools, designate federal funds to improve K-12 public school buildings and increase funding to support disabled students
- Double the maximum value of Pell grants, and allow high school students to use them for dual enrollment courses
- Establish universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds
- Provide up to two years of tuition-free community college for students, including part-time students and DREAMers. The plan is to have a partnership with states, with the federal government paying 75% of the costs and states paying 25%. The federal government would cover up to 95% of the costs for Native American tribes operating community colleges that serve low-income students
- Make public colleges and universities tuition-free for families who earn less than $125,000 a year
- Adjust student loan repayment policies so people who earn less than $25,000 a year don’t have to make or accrue interest on undergraduate student loan payments. Others will pay 5% of their discretionary income over $25,000 toward their loans, and their loans will be forgiven after 20 years of making payments through the program
- Invest $18 billion in grants for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions
According to his campaign, Mr. Trump says he will:
- Advocate for school choice, allowing parents to choose if they want to send their kids to private charter schools that are supported by taxpayer money
- Teach “American exceptionalism”
Here’s what he has done during his presidency:
- Pushed for schools to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic and threatened to pull federal funding from districts that moved to remote learning
- Suspended some student loan repayments and set loan interest rates for some loans to 0% through December 31
- Said in September he will sign an executive order to establish a national commission, called the “1776 Commission,” that promotes “patriotic education”
- Signed legislation to provide more than $250 million a year to HBCUs
- Revised Title IX so that cases of sexual misconduct will have to be proven to be “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” and that it had to have occurred during an educational program or activity in order for a school to respond, which activists say will “make it more difficult for victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault to continue their educations”.
U.S. immigration policy has faced increased scrutiny under President Trump, who implemented a number of changes affecting longtime immigrants in the U.S., recent border crossers and people abroad looking to move permanently. The Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy that led to family separation, and has worked to limit the number of unauthorized border crossings by keeping migrants off U.S. soil throughout their immigration and asylum proceedings.
Biden has said the current treatment of immigrants, particularly those who are seeking refuge or are undocumented, is “wrong.”
Here are his plans:
- In his first 100 days in office, Biden said he would put a moratorium on deportations to reassess the deportation process, reinstate DACA, enforce independent oversight of ICE, end family separation and reunite currently separated families, reverse Mr. Trump’s restrictive asylum policies, invest in case management initiatives for asylum-seekers, reverse the public charge rules, stop using Department of Defense money to build border barriers, dramatically increase admissions of refugees from 18,000 to 125,000, order an immediate review of Temporary Protected Status programs, and meet with Central American, Mexican and Canadian leaders to create a multi-national plan to address the root causes of U.S.-bound migration, including violence and poverty
- Push for legislation that creates a pathway to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants who register, are caught up on taxes and have passed a background check
- Create a citizenship path for agricultural workers based on work history while enforcing labor and safety rules
- Increase how many visas are awarded for family-based and employment-based immigration, and exempt recent STEM Ph.D. graduates from any caps
- Expand protections for undocumented immigrants who are victims of workplace violations
- End for-profit immigration detention centers
- Propose a four-year, $4 billion package supplemented by international donors and regional partners to assist Central America in developing security and economic programs
Mr. Trump has tightened border restrictions and pushed for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. As stated on the White House website, Mr. Trump aims to end family-based migration, terminate the diversity visa lottery system and create a “merit-based” immigration system.
Mr. Trump says he will:
- Continue to exclude undocumented immigrants from welfare, health care or free college tuition
- Continue to crack down on cities and jurisdictions with so-called “sanctuary” policies that limit local law enforcement cooperation with ICE
- Prohibit companies from hiring immigrants for lower pay
Here’s what he has done during his presidency:
- Enacted a travel ban on a group of mostly African and Asian countries in 2017, and expanded that list in 2020
- Oversaw a “zero tolerance” policy that led to the separation of thousands of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border
- Rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children
- Signed an executive order barring “sanctuary” cities from receiving certain federal grants
- Ordered the hiring of 10,000 new ICE agents and 5,000 new Border Patrol agents
- Made it more difficult for immigrants to obtain green cards and visas by broadening the factors that could be used to deem them “public charges” who are likely to rely on government benefits, like food stamps and housing vouchers, while in the U.S.
- Turned back more than 66,000 asylum-seekers to Mexico and required them to wait there for their U.S. court hearings under the “Migrant Protection Protocols” program
- Set the refugee cap for fiscal year 2021 at 15,000 people, a record low. Mr. Trump has repeatedly dropped the cap from 110,000, the number set by former President Obama in his last year in office.
This year, there has been a strong emphasis on veterans’ health care, the opioid epidemic, prescription drug prices, and insurance coverage.
Biden has largely been pushing to expand the Affordable Care Act, which was put into place when he served under Barack Obama.
Here are Biden’s plans:
- Provide a public health care option with more affordable costs
- End surprise billing by barring health care providers from charging patients out-of-network rates when they do not have control over the provider they see
- Repeal a law banning Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices
- Establish an independent review board to determine the price for new specialty drugs that do not have competition
- Impose a tax penalty on drug manufacturers that increase costs of their brand, biotech or generic drugs over the general inflation rate
- Allow consumers to buy some prescription drugs from other countries
- Double federal investments into community health centers
Mr. Trump has fought for the Affordable Care Act to be eliminated and replaced — but he has not yet announced a specific health care plan of his own. He has repeatedly said he will protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, but his administration has been fighting against those protections in court.
According to his campaign website, Mr. Trump says he will:
- Cut costs of prescription drugs
- Lower the cost of health insurance premiums
- End surprise billing
- Cover pre-existing conditions
- Protect Social Security and Medicare
Here’s what he has done during his presidency:
- Proposed cutting more than $100,000 from SAMHSA, and $1 trillion from Medicaid and Affordable Care Act premium tax credits over 10 years
- Proposed cutting funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Signed executive orders aimed at reducing insulin costs
- Declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency and created a commission to combat the issue
- Created a task force to focus on suicide prevention for veterans
- Signed an executive order that says it is the administration’s policy to cover pre-existing conditions, although experts have said the order has no legal standing without congressional authorization.
Written by Li Cohen