Tag Archives: Biden 2020

Biden: ‘Trump’s Impulsive Decision May Do More to Strengthen Iran’s Position Than Any of Soleimani’s Plots Could

Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning for president: “We need checks and balances that actually serve to check and balance the worst impulses of our leaders — in any branch.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

While most Americans give little consideration to foreign policy credentials of their candidates for president, over the “kitchen table” issues such as health care, education, taxes, foreign policy should loom largely over the 2020 election as Americans are waking up to the fact that while a president is for the most part constrained by the legislative branch (Congress) on what can be accomplished domestically (recall how Republicans obstructed Obama on health care, immigration reform, gun safety, climate action and infrastructure and why Medicare for All, a wealth tax may still be a pipe dream), a president is virtually unrestrained in making foreign policy at a time when the world is smaller and more globally interdependent, such as addressing climate change.

And while the Constitution theoretically gives Congress the power to declare war, presidents have found loopholes in addressing “imminent threats.” Trump has gone so much further in pulling out of treaties (the Iran nuclear deal), trade agreements and mutual assistance pacts like the Paris Climate Accord, while taking actions to weaken NATO alliance. The way he has dealt with North Korea has only made the world less safe and the list goes on: Iraq, Syria and ISIS, Turkey and the Kurds, Yemen, Venezuela, Australia.

Of the Democratic candidates for president, Vice President Joe Biden is hoping that voters will appreciate his vast experience (which Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg try to diminish because of his vote, along with just about every other Senator, to give George Bush power to address what they were told (lied) was an imminent threat of Saddam Hussein’s use of Weapons of Mass Destruction).

Now there are a few Democrats, like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who are introducing legislation to rescind the 2002 AUMF and require the President to get Congress’ authorization for use of military force, make it specific and require reauthorization after a period of time. But that is already in the Constitution and they are faced with a president who has demonstrated over and over he does not respect the bounds or oversight on him by the Constitution, with Congress apparently unwilling to do anything about it.

Vice President returned to New York to speak again on foreign policy and the unfolding situation in Iran, drawing a contrast to how Trump has mishandled the situation. These are his prepared remarks:

Six months ago, here in New York City, I made the case that Donald Trump was “dangerously incompetent and incapable … of world leadership.”
 
In the past few days, in the wake of the killing of Iranian General Soleimani, Donald Trump has proven it beyond dispute.
 
The haphazard decision-making process that led up to it, the failure to consult our allies or Congress, and the reckless disregard for the consequences that would surely follow — was dangerously incompetent.

In the wake of such an enormous escalation that has exploded geo-politics in the region and put the United States and Iran on a collision course, what would we expect of an American President – and what have we heard from President Trump?
 
We have not heard a sober-minded explanation to reassure the American people about his decision and its consequences.
 
Not level-headed words meant to dial down tensions and take us off the path of conflict.

No press conference or consultation with Congress.
 
No — all we have heard from this president is tweets. Threats. Tantrums.
 
And all we have heard from his administration are shifting explanations, evasive answers, and repeated assertions of an imminent threat, without the necessary evidence to support that conclusion.
 
And since this is a president with a history of lying about everything — who has destroyed his own credibility, and that of the United States on the global stage — neither the American people, nor our allies, are inclined to take his word for it.
 
If there was an imminent threat that required extraordinary action, then we are owed that explanation — and the facts to back it up.
 
These are matters of deadly import, so let me be unmistakably clear: Donald Trump does not have the authority to go to war with Iran without Congressional authorization.
 
Working with Congress is not an optional part of the job. Presidential notification to Congress about the need to exercise war powers cannot be satisfied in 280 characters or less. 
 
And no president should ever take the United States to war without securing the informed consent of the American people.
 
So — because he refuses to level with the American people about the danger in which he has placed American troops and our diplomatic personnel and civilians, as well as our partners and allies, or to demonstrate even a modicum of presidential gravitas — I will.
                                                                                           
That starts with an honest accounting of how we got here.
 
Make no mistake: this outcome of strategic setbacks, heightened threats, chants of “death to America” once more echoing across the Middle East, Iran and its allies vowing revenge. This was avoidable. 

The seeds of these dangers were planted by Donald Trump himself on May 8, 2018 — the day he tore up the Iran nuclear deal, against the advice of his own top national security advisors. The day he turned his back on our closest European allies, and decided it was more important to him to destroy any progress made by the Obama-Biden Administration than build on it to create a better, safer world.
 
When we had the Iran Deal, we had verifiably cut off every one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. International inspectors repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance, as did our intelligence agencies. One of the greatest threats to stability in the region and global security was off the table.
 
And when the Iran Deal was in force, we did not have this dangerous cycle of tit-for-tat provocation and response.
 
There was a united front of allies and partners to address Iran’s other destabilizing actions throughout the region.
 
The Iran Deal was not only accomplishing the critical mission it was designed for,  
it created an environment where diplomacy was possible.
 
But Trump walked away — not Iran.
 
Trump made the United States the international outlier.
 
Trump re-imposed significant sanctions designed to exert “maximum pressure” on the regime,  with claims that it would deter Iranian aggression and return Iran to the negotiating table to secure a much-promised “better deal.” And on both fronts, as many anticipated at the time, Trump’s promises were empty, baseless, and naïve.
 
And since then, all that has materialized is an utterly predictable cycle of escalating conflict with Iran.
 
Of course Iran would seek to demonstrate that the pressure we were exerting was not cost free – that it could take actions to make life more difficult for us, as well.
 
So Iran began again to enrich uranium beyond the limits allowed under the Iran deal. Iran attacked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone. 

Yet the administration had no plan to prevent, mitigate, or appropriately respond to these provocations. Instead, Trump acted erratically and impulsively. He ordered a retaliatory strike, then called it off at the last minute — feeding Iran’s sense of impunity. 

Then, the administration imposed more sanctions, shot down an Iranian drone, issued a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker. 

Before long, Iran attacked Saudi oil facilities and Iranian-backed militia in Iraq restarted rocket attacks against our bases. Until one of those attacks, against our base in Kirkuk, killed a U.S. citizen and wounded others. It was a tragic loss of life, and an act condemned by all Americans.

In response, Trump bombed five sites in Iraq and Syria tied to the militia group, killing at least 25.
 
Iraqi protestors, organized by Iranian-backed militia, assaulted our Embassy in Baghdad and breached the outer wall. No injuries were reported, but Trump was embarrassed by the images of a burnt-out reception area.
 
He ordered a drone strike to kill Soleimani — perhaps the second most important official in Iran — near the Baghdad airport. And rushed thousands more troops to the region to deal with the fallout. 

Action and reaction. Provocation and response. All predictable — and, indeed, all predicted.
 
A president who says he wants to end endless war in the Middle East is bringing us dangerously close to starting a new one.
 
A president who says he wants out of the region sends more than 18,000 additional troops to deal with a crisis of his own making.
 
And an administration that claims its actions have made Americans safer in the same breath urges our citizens to leave Iraq and puts Americans throughout the region on notice because of the increased danger.
 
I have no illusions about Iran. The regime has long sponsored terrorism and threatened our interests. It continues to detain American citizens. They’ve ruthlessly killed hundreds of protesters, and they should be held accountable for their actions.
 
But there is a smart way to counter them  —  and a self-defeating way. Trump’s approach is demonstrably the latter.
 
Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops and thousands of innocent lives throughout the region. He was the mastermind, but he was not the whole of the regime or its capacity to strike back.
 
So the question is: was the reward of removing a bad actor worth the risk of what comes next?

We don’t have any evidence to suggest that Trump or anyone around him thought seriously about that calculus. It’s been reported that the Pentagon — which has long warned against taking a shot like this — was shocked that Trump would take such a risk.
 
This is not just a question of whether Iran will retaliate — it almost certainly will — but what it will mean for our troops and our personnel throughout the region. What it will mean for our allies and partners who also have troops in harm’s way that are impacted by this decision. What it will mean for our long-term mission to counter Iran and prevent ISIS from bouncing back, and our ability to pursue our broader strategic aims in the region.
 
Already, we are seeing the fall out.
 
Iran has declared it will no longer abide by any of the constraints set up under the nuclear deal — putting it back on track to obtaining material for a nuclear weapon, and pushing the region closer to a nuclear crisis.
 
Our forces in Iraq and Syria are now focused on protecting themselves and preparing to leave — putting the counter-ISIS mission on hold, and allowing a deadly terrorist organization the room to regroup and reactivate.
 
The Iraqi parliament has voted to eject all American and coalition forces from the country. And however you may feel about an American military presence in the Middle East,  there is a right way and a wrong way to draw down our troop presence. Getting unceremoniously kicked out is unequivocally the wrong way. And if we do end up having to leave, that would be another boon to Iran — tipping the balance of power in the region.
 
Where, just weeks ago, there were spontaneous protests across Iran against the regime, the killing of Soleimani has taken that pressure off the regime.
 
Trump’s impulsive decision may well do more to strengthen Iran’s position in the region, than any of Soleimani’s plots could have ever accomplished.
 
Whether or not we see more loss of life, more threats against American interests and assets — this is already a debacle.
 
And at what is possibly the most dangerous time in recent American history — at precisely the moment when we should be rallying our allies to stand beside us and hold the line against threats — Donald Trump’s short-sighted “America First” dogmatism has come home to roost.
 
Our closest allies are calling for restraint and de-escalation — on both sides. Making a moral equivalence between us and Iran.
 
Russia and China are quietly reveling in the prospect that the United States may once more be bogged down in another major conflict in the Middle East. They would love nothing more than to be able to pursue their own interests,  and carve out their own spheres of influence, without the United States challenging them on human rights, on abusive trade practices, or on meddling in other nations’ democracies — because we are too busy fighting Iran.
 
We are alone. And we alone will have to bear the costs of Donald Trump’s folly.
 
This is also the moment when we most feel  the lack of a functioning national security process or any investment in diplomacy. 

After three years of hollowing out the State Department; disrespecting and dismissing our intelligence community; destroying the relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill; throwing out the deliberate policy making process that has served Republican and Democratic administrations for decades; corroding the value of the word of the United States; abusing our allies; embracing dictators; creating, not solving, foreign policy crises on the international stage — we are in a much worse position to meet the demands of this crisis than we were when President Obama and I left office.
 
President Trump has no strategy here. No endgame. And here’s the hardest truth of all: His constant mistakes and poor decision making have left us with a severely limited slate of options for how to move forward — and most of the options are bad. 
 
But there are some key steps that any responsible commander in chief would take. And, while I don’t expect Donald Trump will listen to me, I hope he listens to those around him who understand the gravity of the threats we now face.
 
He should take all necessary steps to protect our forces and ensure the security of our diplomats, civilians, and overseas facilities — not just in the Middle East, but anywhere that Iran might strike back.
 
He should ensure that federal authorities are working with states, local governments, and private institutions to guard against the heightened risk of cyber attacks.
 
He should stop tweeting so he doesn’t box us in with his threats, such that the only options left to us or Iran are increasingly damaging strikes and counterstrikes.
 
And he should immediately reach out to our European partners and others to send private signals of deterrence and de-escalation to Iran and find a way to avoid the onrush of war.
 
The best way to do that, of course, would be for President Trump, to rejoin the Iran Deal and build on it — if Iran also moves back into compliance with its obligations — and re-establish international consensus about how to confront the threats from Iran.
 
The only way out of this crisis is through diplomacy — clear-eyed, hard-nosed diplomacy grounded in strategy, that’s not about one-off decisions or one-upsmanship. Diplomacy that is designed to de-escalate the crisis, protect our people, and secure our regional interests — including our counter-ISIS campaign.
 
No one wants war. But it’s going to take hard work to make sure we don’t end up there by accident.
 
Finally, and this one’s not optional, Mr. President, you have to explain your decisions and your strategy to the American people.
 
That is your job as President — Not Dear Leader, not Supreme Leader.
 
Democracy runs on accountability. And nowhere is that more important than in the power to make war and bring peace. You are required to work with Congress. You are required to abide by the War Powers Resolution. You cannot pursue a war with Iran absent Congressional authority. The existing AUMFs — the Congressional Authorizations for the Use of Military Force — do not apply.
 
The American people do not want, and our Constitution will not abide, a president who rules by fiat and demands obedience.
 
I served in the executive branch of our government for eight years, but I served in the legislative branch for 36 prior to that, and I understand better than anyone that the system will not hold unless we find ways to work together to advance our national interests — not the political interests of one person or one party.
 
We need to restore the balance of powers between the branches of government. 
 
We need checks and balances that actually serve to check and balance the worst impulses of our leaders — in any branch.
 
We need to use our system to bring us together as a nation — not abuse it to rip us apart.
 
That’s not a naïve or outdated way of thinking. That’s the genius and timelessness of our democratic system, which has, for more than 240 years, allowed us to remake ourselves, reckon with our shortcomings, and move ever forward.
 
That’s what we owe to those brave men and women who step forward to wear the uniform of these United States; who dedicate their lives to diplomatic service; who choose to join the Peace Corps or to work in development; who represent the best of our country all around the world — and who are, today, doing so at greater risk because of the actions of our president. 
 
Thank you — and in these dangerous times — may God protect our troops.

At a fundraiser before his speech, he told the gathering:

“Did you ever think you’d see the time when we would be engaged in potential conflict and our NATO allies would be applying a moral equivalence between what we do and what the Iranians do? I never thought I see that day I spent my entire professional career dealing with NATO and dealing with foreign policy…Now the president says he did this to make us safer. Make Americans safer. Yet, we’re surging another roughly 18,000 forces in the region. And we find ourselves in position where there’s no evidence that they thought through how to protect our diplomats and our military personnel.”

Mr. Biden used the Iran situation to argue “the next president better be able to on day one, know how to begin to bring things together.”

Later in the day, at another fundraising event, news of an Iranian air strike on a US military base in Iraq started breaking. Without more details about the event, Biden said he would only speak briefly and generally about what happened:

“What’s happening in Iraq and Iran today was predictable – not exactly what’s happening but the chaos that’s ensuing,” he said, faulting Trump for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and the recent order of a missile strike killing a high ranking Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, according to the pool report by Julia Terruso of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Some of the things he’s done and said in the meantime have been close to ludicrous, including threatening to bomb holy sites…And I just pray to God as he goes through what’s happening, as we speak, that he’s listening to his military commanders for the first time because so far that has not been the case.”





Vice President Joe Biden Decries Rise of Anti-Semitism

With increasing violence against Jewish people, including the massacres at a New Jersey kosher grocery, in California and Pittsburgh, desecrations at Holocaust Memorial Center on Long Island, and attacks on Jews in New York City and upstate New York, as Jews around the world celebrate Chanukah and the historic victory over religious repression, Vice President Joe Biden, a candidate for President, issued a statement decrying the rise of Anti-Semitism and reflecting on “the battle for the soul of this nation.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With increasing violence against Jewish people, including the massacres at a New Jersey kosher grocery, in California and Pittsburgh, desecrations at Holocaust Memorial Center on Long Island, and attacks on Jews in New York City and upstate New York, as Jews around the world celebrate Chanukah and the historic victory over religious repression, Vice President Joe Biden, a candidate for President, issued a statement decrying the rise of Anti-Semitism and reflecting on “the battle for the soul of this nation.” This is from the Biden campaign:

Statement from Vice President Joe Biden on the Rise of Anti-Semitism and the Battle for the Soul of This Nation

Across America, and around the globe, the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism is shredding the fabric of our communities, tearing apart the lives of innocent people and their families, and eroding the soul of our nation. 

This tide of hatred fueled last week’s horrific act of domestic terrorism that took the lives of a police officer and three people at JC Kosher Supermarket in New Jersey. It’s the same hatred that unleashed the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history last year at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. That led a gunman armed with an AR-15 style gun to storm the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in California earlier this year on the last day of Passover. 

We have to fight the pernicious and persistent evil of anti-Semitism at every level of our society — starting with our political leaders. My dear friend, the late Tom Lantos, had a saying that I’ve quoted frequently. He said, “The veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.” That means we have to stand up and speak out every time anti-Semitism rears its head, because silence can all too quickly become complicity. 

Yet, after Charlottesville, instead of condemning a naked display of hatred, Trump assigned a moral equivalence between those streaming through the night with torches, chanting anti-Semitic bile — and the courageous neighbors and activists who stood against them. He gave license and safe harbor to white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and the KKK. 

We have all seen what has followed. There’s a short line from those white supremacists in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us,” to the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, saying Jews “were committing genocide to his people.” 

Since he took office, Trump has presided over a historic increase in hate crimes and biased-incidents targeting people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ Americans, and people of Jewish faith. Active hate groups grew to 1,020 in the U.S. last year, with white nationalists leaping almost 50%, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. FBI data shows that most of our religion-based hate crimes are aimed at Jews. At the end of 2017, Trump’s first year in office, anti-Semitic incidents increased nearly 60%, the largest one-year increase since the Anti-Defamation League started keeping records 40 years ago. 

As I said after Charlottesville, we are in a battle for the soul of this nation. And, it’s why I am running for president. 

Trump announced his first campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists.” He called a major American city a “disgusting rat-and rodent-infested mess” that “no human being” would choose to live in. He tried to ban a whole religion from entering our country. He has repeated anti-Semitic tropes and sought to turn U.S. support for Israel into a political football.  
 
In both clear language and cynical code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy and anti-Semitism in this nation. The Jewish people know better than anyone, that any action designed to marginalize one ethnic or religious group imperils us all.

Trump’s actions have only worsened the crisis: retweeting white nationalist postings. Cutting funding for Obama-Biden initiatives put in place to counter violent domestic extremism. 

As I said earlier this year, we must enact a federal domestic terrorism law. We have to make the same commitment to rooting out domestic terrorism as we’ve made to stopping it internationally. And, we can do it without infringing on people’s free speech and without trampling civil liberties.

We must appoint leadership at the U.S. Department of Justice who will prioritize the prosecution of hate crimes – making clear that there is no place for such vitriol in this country.

We must defeat the National Rifle Association to get weapons of war off our streets and out of dangerous hands. I know we can because I’ve done it before – twice. As president, I’ll do it again. I’ll ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require background checks for all gun sales, and close the hate crime loophole by enacting legislation to get guns out of dangerous hands of those convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime.

And, we have to condemn pernicious stereotypes wherever we find them, and stand up to those who seek to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations. No nation, including Israel, is immune from legitimate criticism, but it should not be unfairly singled out. 

Hate didn’t begin with Donald Trump, and it won’t end with him. But this is a defining moment in our nation’s history. A moment where we are once again called to fight against the same forces of hate and intolerance that we’ve battled throughout our history. Yet it’s in these times, when what’s at stake matters the most, that we decide who we are, and maybe more importantly, who we want to be.

I am running for president because I believe in the best of America. I believe in our values of equality, giving everyone a fair shot, and treating everyone with dignity and respect. We are a country that gives to hate no safe harbor. We lead by the power of our example, not just the example of our power. So let us renew our commitment to our better angels and do what this president cannot: Stand together against hate, and stand up for what, at our best, this nation believes.

Read Joe Biden’s full plan to end gun violence at joebiden.com/gunsafety

See Joe Biden’s statement on Medium HERE

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden Advances Plan to Assist Military Families, Caregivers, Survivors

Vice President Joe Biden with Dr. Jill Biden are proposing an expansive plan to assist military families, caregivers and survivors © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Second Lady in the Obama Administration, Dr. Jill Biden worked closely with First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of bettering lives for military families. VP Joe Biden, candidate for President, is proposing a plan to reinvigorate and expand that program for military families, caregivers and survivors. This is from the Biden campaign:

FACT SHEET:
The Biden Plan to Fulfill Our Commitment to Military Families, Caregivers and Survivors

As parents of a service member who deployed to Iraq, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden understand that it’s not just military members who sign up to serve our nation, their families do too. The Bidens understand the sleepless nights, wondering if your deployed loved one is safe; the difficulties children experience while their parent is serving far away; and all the added sacrifices and challenges, big and small, military families face because they choose selfless service. Our military families never fail to give their best to the United States, and we owe them our best in return.
 
Less than one percent of Americans sign up to serve. They volunteer to shoulder the sacrifices necessary to keep our country safe. That’s why Vice President Biden has long been adamant that, as a nation, our one truly sacred obligation is to properly prepare and equip our troops when we send them to war, and to take care of them and their families — during deployments and when they return home.  
 


Building on the Biden Commitment to Military Families  
The Obama-Biden Administration made support for our military families a signature issue–and a personal priority. Together with First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Biden created Joining Forces, a national initiative driving top-level focus on the issues that matter to military families, service members, and veterans including employment, education, and wellness. Joining Forces supported opportunities that led to the hiring or training of more than 1.5 million veterans and military spouses and drove reforms in all 50 states to reduce credentialing barriers for qualified military spouses seeking employment. Dr. Biden also supported the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Military Spouse Employment Partnership, which brought together hundreds of companies to help 100,000 military spouses find jobs.
 
As a life-long educator, Dr. Biden spearheaded “Educate the Educators”–a commitment from more than 100 colleges and universities to take steps to meet the unique needs of military-connected children–and championed the GI Comparison tool to help veterans and military family members choose high-quality post-secondary educational institutions. She also worked to make sure that all 50 states signed the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children to better address relocation challenges facing military school-aged children. 
Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden continued this commitment after leaving office, making support for military families a key focus of their continued public service. The Biden Foundation sought to drive economic opportunity for military spouses, create supportive educational environments for military-connected children, and change the conversation around mental health for service members, veterans, and their families.

As President and First Lady, the Bidens will ensure we keep our national commitment to military families by relaunching and strengthening Joining Forces, making it a priority for a Biden Administration.
 

 
We know that many future service members come from military families. So family readiness is integral to mission readiness, both now and in the future. This cannot be an afterthought. It is a national security imperative, and it should be resourced and supported as such.
 
Through nearly two decades of sustained warfare, military families have met many challenges and sacrificed much for our country. They have answered the call to duty again and again. To sustain the world’s finest fighting force, Biden will ensure that families on the homefront receive our full support and the benefits they have earned and deserve through:

Paying Service Members a Competitive Wage

Providing Resources for Military Spouses, Caregivers, and Survivors

Prioritizing Support for Military Children  

President Biden will inspire a future generation of Americans to volunteer for military service by ensuring we fulfill our obligations to the generations who have already answered the call to serve our country and by supporting the well-being of ALL military families.
 
Modernize Compensation to Keep Pace with the Current Economy: Today, more military families are struggling to make ends meet, and some report food insecurity, lack of quality childcare, and poor financial health. That is totally unacceptable. Military service members and their families risk everything for our country–they must be guaranteed a living wage. But the existing compensation framework simply does not allow military families–especially those who are young and more vulnerable–to thrive in today’s modern economy. President Biden will work aggressively to update the federal workforce compensation framework for service members so that the government leads the way in ensuring hard-working families can attain a middle class life, and he will support legislation which will, in the meantime, provide an additional allowance for military families living below the poverty line.
 
Create Stability by Increasing Time between Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Moves: Every year, more than 400,000 Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves occur for service members and their families. This system is expensive, and it is broken. Military families consider frequent relocation as a driver for negative outcomes in career opportunities for military spouses, military child education, and the development of supportive social networks. While every service member and family understands that mission is paramount, we must invest in solutions that build stability for families and set conditions for service member retention and military family well-being.
 
As president, Biden will commission research and develop solutions to support the increase of time between PCS moves while ensuring we meet targets for Operational and Personnel Tempo in order to meet our national security demands. This will require that we comprehensively examine the potential positive and negative impacts of any changes to deployment cycles, unit assignment policies, and force size calculations. One such solution could be investing in the creation of virtual or hybrid learning scenarios for mandatory Professional Military Education (PME) so that service members and their families can remain in place, rather than PCS to a new base for a short educational tour.
 
Ensure Military Spouse Professional and Economic Opportunity: Military spouses are often more highly educated than their civilian peers, yet they face an unemployment rate of around 30%. Frequent relocation and high operational tempos often stifle their career trajectory. The military personnel system was designed with the single-earner family in mind, but many military families, like their civilian counterparts, depend on earning a second income or simply want the opportunity for the military spouse to pursue a career. Military families are increasingly experiencing challenges such as food insecurity or insufficient savings for emergencies, and with far too many military spouses unemployed or underemployed, meeting these needs is a challenge. LGBTQ military spouses may also be disproportionately affected when they reside in states that are allowed to discriminate based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The Trump Administration has not only allowed but encouraged these discriminatory practices, all while claiming to support the military. It’s hypocritical and just plain wrong.
 
To increase economic opportunity for military spouses, President Biden will:

Invest $500 million in a 3-year Department of Defense (DOD) military spouse entrepreneurship pilot program, which will provide micro-grants, mentorship, and technical assistance to military spouses who are interested in starting or growing small businesses.

Ensure that the DoD’s Military Spouse Education and Career Opportunity office is fully funded and staffed so that effective programming such as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) scholarships, and the Military Spouse Transition Program (MySTeP) have the opportunity to deliver results and raise awareness and utilization among military families.

Build bridges between the private sector and the U.S. government to help educate employers about the value of military spouse talent, drive commitments to hire, retain, and promote them, and create concrete career opportunities, as Joining Forces did.

Expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to include military spouses.

Undo the Trump administration’s discriminatory policies and redouble efforts with state officials to ensure that LGBTQ military spouses have the support they need to pursue successful careers.

Continue efforts begun during the Obama-Biden Administration to put an end to unnecessary occupational licensing requirements. While licensing is important in some occupations to protect consumers, in many occupations licensing does nothing but thwart economic opportunity. If a military spouse who works in an occupation that requires a license or credential and has to move because of their military member’s career, they may have to get certified all over again. As president, Biden will build on the Obama-Biden Administration’s efforts to incentivize states to reduce unnecessary licensing requirements and to ensure licenses are transferable from one state to the next.

Fully fund installation-based child care facilities and expand awareness of the DoD fee assistance program, as supported by leading advocates for military families,, so that military spouses can more easily pursue their educations and careers and tap into respite care to relieve stressors of deployments.

Improve Support for Caregivers: Caregivers of wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans face a variety of challenges, including negative health outcomes, lost wages, and difficulties planning their future. They are essential to military families and our veterans, and we owe them the same commitment and support that they show to our wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans. 
 
As president, Biden will:

Ensure that caregivers of active duty service members receive adequate professional and peer support, including competent mental health care, financial readiness training, and transition support throughout the rehabilitation timeline (whether that is leading to the service member’s medical retirement or a return to duty).

Provide transparency and high-touch case management via in-person or telehealth sessions with caregiver coordinators for those caregivers enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Caregiver Support Program, especially to provide personalized assistance as they navigate dual eligibility for benefits and services from both the DoD and VA.

A critical part of meeting our commitment to military families is to do so on time, something the Trump Administration has failed to do. President Biden will ensure that the eligibility expansion for the VA Caregiver Support Program meets its timelines and collects longitudinal satisfaction data through regular surveying of those enrolled or enrolling in the program.

Help caregivers of wounded, ill, injured, or elderly veterans pay for long-term care by providing relief through the creation of a $5,000 tax credit for informal caregivers, modeled off of legislation supported by AARP. This tax credit will be in addition to the financial support provided by the VA Caregiver program.

Support proposals to expand opportunities for much needed respite care for caregivers, to include those offered within DoD, VA, and through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Institute a waiver for the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 35), so that spouses and survivors who have not accessed their benefits in the allotted time frame will have the opportunity to request additional time.

End Needless Financial Burdens Facing Survivors: As President, Joe Biden will end the needless financial burdens caused by the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency Indemnity Compensation Offset (SBP/DIC Offset) or “Widow’s Tax.” It is wrong that we punish the families of the fallen financially in the wake of their extreme sacrifice. 
 
Improve Military Child Education: There are more than 1 million children of active duty service members worldwide. Whether they are educated in Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools, local school districts, parochial schools, home schools, or online schools, military children require support to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed in their education. 
 
As president, Biden will:

Propose legislation to expand the Military Student Identifier (MSI) to all military-connected children (to include children of National Guard and Reserve personnel regardless of activation/order status), children of veterans, and children of deceased service members or veterans, who are often impacted by the service of their parents. Under the Obama-Biden Administration, we passed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, which included the MSI, a designation that allows educators and schools to better understand where military-connected children are receiving their education, and how we can better support them. Currently, the MSI extends only to children of active duty service members, excluding children of National Guard, Reserve, veterans, caregivers, and children of the fallen. But these children face unique challenges too, and we need to know who they are so we can determine what support they need .

Promote efforts across states to streamline enrollment requirements, standardize educational resources, and train teachers and school-based leadership to ensure we are meeting the unique needs of military children effectively, no matter where they study or how often they have to move.

Promote greater awareness of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children among military families, teachers, and administrators.

Create and disseminate training tools that empower military-connected parents to better advocate for their children.

Provide financial incentives for school districts to train educators on the unique needs and barriers faced by military-connected youth so that they are able to help military children thrive, no matter where they receive their education.

Support and protect post-9/11 GI benefits for veterans and qualified family members by strengthening the GI Bill Comparison Tool and School Feedback Tool to help put an end to post-secondary institutions’ predatory practices.

Enact legislation eliminating the so-called 90/10 loophole that gives for-profit schools an incentive to enroll veterans, service members, and military family members who are using the GI Bill or Tuition Assistance in programs that aren’t delivering results. 

Expand and Improve Behavioral Health Services for Military Dependents: Children and spouses in military families are resilient, but they do experience high levels of stress, whether due to frequent moves, deployment and training schedules of the service member, or weak social/emotional support networks. School-age children and adolescents who experience separation from a parent (either through deployment or other assignments) show higher levels of emotional and behavioral distress. About 25 percent of high school freshmen and juniors in a military family have reported suicidal thoughts during the previous year, and the stresses of military life can exacerbate health issues, among them depression, anxiety, or substance use disorders.
 
Biden has committed to achieving mental health parity, expanding access to behavioral health care, and removing the stigma surrounding behavioral health issues. He will redouble our efforts to ensure enforcement of mental health parity laws and expand funding for mental health services.
 
It is also essential that we invest in an infrastructure that promotes health and well-being, reduces risky behaviors, and provides timely, convenient access to high-quality mental health and substance use/abuse services for military dependents. We must ensure that DoD facilities are fully staffed, equipped, resourced, and able to support the behavioral health of military dependents. If this capacity is not in place, we must invest in solutions to create additional affordable, accessible, and high-quality capacity in the civilian sector. Care must be effective and grounded in evidence-based treatments. Providers must be culturally competent, educated in the unique needs of military families. And families who seek support should never go into debt for treatment or be concerned about confidentiality.
 
The Biden Administration will:

Increase funding for and expand access to telehealth for military families, particularly in areas not able to access timely care.

Expand the number of free, non-medical Military OneSource counseling sessions for military families from 12 sessions to 18 and expand access to Coast Guard families regardless of activation status.

Invest in recruiting and retaining behavioral health care professionals in military treatment facilities to ensure there are enough clinicians to support the needs of not only our active duty force, but military dependents.

Redefine the federal “Health Professional Shortage Areas” (HPSAs) to specifically include military-impacted geographies.

Expand the National Health Services Corps to incentivize early professional behavioral health providers to serve this population.

Re-prioritize and expand the work of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) interagency task force on the behavioral health needs of veterans and military families, to include issues related to traumatic brain injury, substance use disorder and addiction, and other related conditions. Additionally, President Biden will fully restore SAMHSA’s focus on evidence-based solutions and appoint a specific position on the Domestic Policy Council to drive a whole-of-government focus on these issues. 

Direct the Department of Defense to produce a robust, annual report on the state of military family behavioral health, in coordination with VA and SAMHSA.

Guarantee Safe Housing: The government has broken its trust with military families by providing sub-par housing. Now, we have to work twice as hard to rebuild this trust. That will require the utmost transparency and accountability from both the government and the private sector partners charged with housing the families of our service members.
 
The Biden Administration will:

Enforce a comprehensive and standardized tenant bill of rights for all military families, and as advocates have rightly demanded, ensure DoD senior leadership enforces compliance. We won’t be making more empty promises to military families. We will hold these landlords, and ourselves, accountable.

Require regular, standardized, objective, and published reporting of military family satisfaction and concerns from all housing.

Establish a public-facing document outlining expectations of quality and consequences for all housing providers and, when necessary, terminate long-term leases held by private companies.

Know our Families: Long periods of sustained war-fighting have made us reactive in our responses to military family needs. To best support these families and optimize their health and well-being, we must improve our understanding of their current and emerging needs. We can’t be caught on our heels. We must anticipate and prepare solutions that respond to the evolving needs of military families across the military life cycle. We must be able to track and identify emerging trends so that we can be nimble and responsive to the changing needs of our military families.
 
As president, Biden will:

Convene a multi-disciplinary working group of policy makers, program leaders, and research and subject-matter experts to construct a strategic research plan to inform solutions to support military families.

Designate specific resources for research and development related to military families outcomes within the budget of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to include resources for research within both the Military Family and Community Policy and the Defense Health Program.

Require that DoD work across the federal government to leverage national and state-level assessments of health and well-being to ensure they appropriately assess military affiliation in ongoing data collections across the United States. It is imperative that all national surveys include variables that allow us to examine how well military families fare relative to others.

With Latest North Korean Missile Test, Biden Attacks Trump for Foreign Policy Failures

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea.  Foreign policy is Biden’s greatest strength among the Democratic rivals for 2020. Here is his statement:

This morning, North Korea fired two missiles in a deliberate attempt to provoke its neighbors and intimidate the United States — again. It was the 12th such test the regime has conducted since May in violation of UN resolutions, and which President Trump has down-played. After the latest round of denuclearization talks collapsed almost immediately in Stockholm earlier this month, these tests are a stark reminder that Donald Trump — a self-proclaimed deal maker — has achieved nothing but a string of spectacular diplomatic failures that are making the American people less safe.    

His “love letters” to murderous dictator Kim Jong Un have delivered little more than made-for-TV moments. North Korea today has more fissile material and more capability than when talks began, and Trump has given away our leverage — including suspending military exercises with our allies and granting Kim co-equal status at two summits with the president of the United States of America — for practically nothing in return. Now a more confident Kim is ticking up the pace of his violations because he believes he can pressure Trump to bend to his will. There is no deal, because there is no strategy and no patience for the kind of tough, hard diplomacy that actually produces results.

It’s a pattern we see over and over again. Donald Trump talks a big game, promises the greatest deal ever, then gives away America’s best negotiating tools in exchange for a photo op for himself. He only cares about his own self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. And every single time, it’s the American people who end up paying. 

He pulled us out of the successful Iran nuclear deal, promising he’d get a better one. He hasn’t. And now, Iran has taken its nuclear program out of the deep-freeze and ramped up its aggressive acts across the region — and Trump has no strategy to deal with these predictable responses.

He pulled us out of the Paris climate accord and dismisses climate change as a hoax. In less than a week, we will officially notify our departure from Paris, even as California is on fire and states throughout the Midwest are still recovering from record flooding over the summer.

He scuttled negotiations with the Taliban that might have opened the door to a peace settlement, reportedly because he didn’t get the Camp David moment of glory he wanted. Meanwhile he’s significantly weakened our negotiating position by imposing a possibly politically-motivated timeline for removing our troops from Afghanistan, without extracting any concessions from the Taliban in return.

His vaunted Middle East peace deal has yet to emerge. He gave away our strongest asset to take on ISIS by precipitously withdrawing our troops from Northeast Syria. He promised to get tough with China, saying trade wars were “good and easy to win.” But at more than a year in, what do we have to show for it? Nothing but pain for American farming and manufacturing, and vague promises that would only restore trade levels with China back to where they were before Trump’s irresponsible trade war.

The American people can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump’s art of no deals.

Biden: Baghdadi Was Win for National Security Professionals But Trump’s Reckless Foreign Policy Makes Nation Vulnerable to Terrorism

Vice President Joe Biden on the assassination of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, praised the skill and commitment of our military, intelligence, and national security professionals “beyond compare,” but criticized Donald Trump saying, “He has no strategy for securing our nation against terrorist threats. He has no strategy for anything. Every day that Donald Trump directs American national security is a dangerous day for the United States.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the 2020 candidate for President, issued a statement criticizing Trump’s “lack of strategy to secure our nation against terrorist threats.”

The successful operation to take Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi off the battlefield was a win for American national security. And it’s an important reminder of the skill and commitment of our military, intelligence, and national security professionals. They are beyond compare. 
 
I’m glad President Trump ordered the mission. But as more details of the raid emerge, it’s clear that this victory was not due to Donald Trump’s leadership. It happened despite his ineptitude as Commander-in-Chief. 

It’s been reported that Trump’s reckless decision to withdraw our troops from northern Syria forced the planning for the mission to be accelerated and the timeline compressed. His erratic behavior made it harder and more dangerous for the special forces carrying it out. And they had to fly through territory that is now hostile to the U.S., taking fire along the way—including territory we controlled just weeks ago. 

Trump has also made it less likely we will be able to successfully replicate a mission like this in the future. The operation leveraged a limited presence of U.S. counterterrorism capabilities in the region, which he keeps trying to dismantle. It was made possible by the work of intelligence professionals, who he has relentlessly attacked. It relied on allies he has belittled, undermined, and in some cases betrayed and abandoned.  

Trump’s total disregard for our alliances and partnerships endanger any future intelligence sharing or cooperation. In fact, the first people he saw fit to thank after our brave troops were the Russians and the Iranian-backed Syrian government. All this makes us less safe and less prepared for whatever terrorist leader emerges next.
 
And make no mistake, the threat is not gone. One man does not constitute an organization, and Trump has opened a path for ISIS to reconstitute itself under new leadership by withdrawing troops from the region. In doing so, he has given up our best asset to keep the pressure on ISIS during a dangerous period of organizational chaos. His fixation on keeping troops in the region to defend the oil fields betrays his true priorities—profit seeking—and will surely serve as a tool for future terrorist recruitment. And with his decision to slash humanitarian assistance to the region, it’s more likely that ISIS will be able to insinuate itself back into areas where we had successfully rooted it out. 

There is a difference between deploying hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East indefinitely, and keeping small numbers of special operations and intelligence assets in place to maintain local partnerships and keep pressure on terrorists. That’s the smart, strong, and sustainable strategy we pioneered during the Obama-Biden Administration. That’s the effective policy we put in place, which laid the groundwork to end ISIS’s territorial caliphate. That’s the way we built the very relationships that ultimately delivered this victory.
 
Now, Trump wants to tear it all down and walk away.
 
He has no strategy for securing our nation against terrorist threats. He has no strategy for anything. Every day that Donald Trump directs American national security is a dangerous day for the United States. 

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden Details Ambitious Campaign Finance Plan to Insure Government Works for People, Not Special Interests

Former Vice President Joe Biden, seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is proposing an ambitious plan to guarantee that government works for the people and not for special interests © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Former Vice President Joe Biden, seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is proposing an ambitious campaign finance plan to guarantee that government works for the people and not for special interests. Biden has been criticized, however, for his recent announcement, in face of low campaign cash on hand, that he would accept money from Super PACs.

This is from the Biden campaign:

“Donald Trump has presided over the most corrupt administration in modern history. Trump has abused the presidency to enrich himself — spending countless tax dollars at his own properties. Members of his administration have failed to divest themselves from conflicts of interest as promised. Trump has weaponized the Executive Branch against its core mission, including using the U.S. Justice Department to protect the president and his interests, over the American people and the rule of law. And, Trump has welcomed wealthy special interests — including the National Rifle Association — into the Oval Office and to the highest levels of his administration to develop and guide policy.”

Biden will strengthen our laws to ensure that no future president can ever again abuse the office for personal gain. 

As president, Biden will:

Reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics and make it easier for candidates of all backgrounds to run for office;

Return integrity to the U.S. Department of Justice and to Executive Branch decision-making;

Restore ethics in government;

Rein in Executive Branch financial conflicts of interest; and 

Hold the lobbyists and those they lobby to a higher standard of accountability.

Highlights from Biden’s plan include:

Biden will introduce a constitutional amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections. This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United: it will return our democracy to the people, away from the corporate interests that seek to distort it. While we work toward a constitutional amendment, meaningful change can be made by legislation. Biden will propose legislation to provide public matching funds for small dollar donations to all federal candidates. Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a public financing system for House and Senate candidates in 1973.

Biden will block any future president or anyone else in the White House from interfering with decisions about who or what to investigate and prosecute. On day one, Biden will issue an Executive Order directing that no White House staff or any member of his administration may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly influence specific DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; he will commit to terminating anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact legislation giving the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any allegation of improper partisan influence on DOJ investigations and prosecutions; and requiring the IG to report in detail to Congress any time such an allegation is substantiated. 

Biden will establish the Commission on Federal Ethics (CFE), a single government agency empowered to oversee and enforce federal anti-corruption and ethics laws. CFE will have the authority to enforce its own subpoenas and to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ, as well as an obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to proceed with that referral. It will be tasked with tightening existing loopholes that let public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let lobbyists cloak influence campaigns in vague disclosures. And, CFE will be tasked with establishing ethics.gov, a new one-stop destination with all campaign finance, financial disclosure, and lobbying information all in one place.

Biden will expand and strengthen lobbying disclosure laws, requiring the office-holder in addition to the lobbyist to disclose the meeting. And, Biden will require Members of Congress to disclose any legislative language or bill text submitted by any lobbying party. Additionally, Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any regulatory text submitted by any outside entity. 

Biden will bar lobbying by foreign governments; and will require that any foreign business seeking to lobby must verify that no foreign government materially owns or controls any part of it.

Biden will enact legislation that requires all candidates for federal office disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared their candidacy for their first federal office. 

FACT SHEET:
THE BIDEN PLAN TO GUARANTEE GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR THE PEOPLE

REDUCE THE CORRUPTING INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN POLITICS
 
Biden strongly believes that we could improve our politics overnight if we flushed big money from the system and had public financing of our elections. Democracy works best when a big bank account or a large donor list are not prerequisites for office, and elected representatives come from all backgrounds, regardless of resources. But for too long, special interests and corporations have skewed the policy process in their favor with political contributions.
 
Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a public financing system for House and Senate candidates in 1973. In 1997 and many years afterward, he co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that would have limited contributions as well as corporate and private spending in elections and prevented the damage caused by the Supreme Court in Citizens United
 
Biden will reform our campaign finance system so that it amplifies the voices of the public, not the powerful — particularly the voices of working Americans. Under his leadership, our system will make sure that the principles of equality, transparency, and public — not private — interest drive all government decisions. Toward those ends, Biden will:

Introduce a constitutional amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections. Biden believes it is long past time to end the influence of private dollars in our federal elections. As president, Biden will fight for a constitutional amendment that will require candidates for federal office to solely fund their campaigns with public dollars, and prevent outside spending from distorting the election process. This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United:  it will return our democracy to the people and away from the corporate interests that seek to distort it. 

Enact legislation to provide voluntary matching public funds for federal candidates receiving small dollar donations. While we work toward a constitutional amendment, meaningful change can be made by legislation. Biden will propose legislation to provide public matching funds for small dollar donations to all federal candidates. This will especially help first-time candidates access the resources needed to compete, freeing them to focus on interacting with voters, not high-dollar donors.

Keep foreign money out of our elections. Biden will propose a law to strengthen our prohibitions on foreign nationals trying to influence federal, state, or local elections.  He will direct a new independent agency, the Commission on Federal Ethics (discussed in detail below), to assure vigorous and unified enforcement of this and other anti-corruption laws. The Commission will establish robust disclosure requirements, so that any online electioneering communication that originates abroad is identified and flagged.  

Restrict SuperPACs. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is wrong and should be overturned by a constitutional amendment – but we can’t wait to limit its pernicious effect. As president, Biden will work to enact legislation ensuring that SuperPACs are wholly independent of campaigns and political parties, from establishment, to fundraising and spending.  

Increase transparency of election spending.  Our campaign finance law is outdated, and Biden will update it to reflect the modern era. Too often, candidates and their allies now use online platforms like Facebook and Twitter to spread misleading or outright false ads that are micro-targeted to certain populations and unrecognized by the press. Biden will propose legislation codifying what should be a simple tenet of campaign finance law: any group that advocates for or against candidates for federal office in its ads or communications must disclose its contributors.  No more hiding behind “dark money” groups to spread lies. This law will require all online ads, how they’re targeted, and who paid for them to be posted by the groups to a public database on a new one-stop website, ethics.gov — so no one can target voters with misinformation without attracting media or political attention. 

End dark money groups. Federal law recognizes “social welfare” groups, also known as 501(c)(4)s, which were intended to advocate for specific causes. But after Citizens United, they’ve increasingly been used as dark money groups — spending hundreds of millions of dollars on federal and state elections without disclosing their donors. Biden will enact legislation to bar 501(c)(4)s from spending in elections – the same bar that applies to Section 501(c)(3) charitable groups. He’ll also lead reform of the Federal Election Campaign Act, to ensure that any entity of any kind that spends more than $10,000 on federal elections must register with the Commission on Federal Ethics and publicly disclose its donors. 

Require real time disclosure. Today, voters have to wait until after an election to fully learn who spent money to influence their decision. Biden will propose legislation to change that, by requiring campaigns and outside entities that run ads within 60 days of an election to disclose any new contributions within 48 hours.

Ban corporate PAC contributions to candidates, and prohibit lobbyist contributions to those who they lobby. Biden will ensure that lobbyists and corporate PACs do not play a role in our elections. Biden’s presidential campaign is refusing any funding from lobbyists and corporate PACs. As president, he’ll enact legislation to bar lobbyists from making contributions to, and fundraising or bundling for, those who they lobby. This legislation will be designed to ensure that the public knows as much as possible about the political spending of those who seek to influence officeholders and other government officials.  Any lobbyist contribution must be disclosed within 24-hours, and any lobbyist-hosted fundraising event must be disclosed before it occurs.

Reform funding for national party conventions. Biden will propose legislation establishing that any political party that receives more than 5% of the national vote should have its national convention publicly financed.  Primaries — and the conventions that certify their results — are good for democracy. Conventions should be, too. They should not be funded by corporate or monied interests. 

Close the federal contractor loophole. As president, Biden will close the loophole that currently allows officers and directors of federal contractors to contribute to federal candidates. If you make money from government contracts, you should do so on merit — not because of campaign spending.

RETURN INTEGRITY TO THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND OTHER EXECUTIVE BRANCH DECISION-MAKING
 
The Attorney General and the rest of U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) serve and protect the American people, not the private and political interests of the president. The same is true for other Executive Branch agencies. Yet time after time, President Trump has improperly sought to use DOJ to attack his political opponents and to shield him, his family, and his associates from any meaningful oversight or investigation. Trump has asked DOJ to prosecute Democrats and others who disagree with him; he has enlisted DOJ in his effort to keep his tax returns from seeing the light of day; and he has attacked the hard-working career prosecutors and agents who devote their lives to public service.
 
Trump has weaponized the DOJ against laws enacted by Congress and supported by the public — like the Affordable Care Act, which has given more than 20 million Americans access to health insurance that they lacked before.  He has similarly used his appointments and executive orders to ask Executive Branch agencies to stray from their mission — directing the Department of Health and Human Services to dismantle, rather than enforce, the Affordable Care Act and asking the Environmental Protection Agency to excuse polluters, rather than to ensure clean air and clean water for the American people, as the law requires.  It’s wrong.
 
To maintain the rule of law, and to bring integrity back to our justice system and government, Biden will take aggressive action, including:

Prevent the president or White House from improperly interfering in federal investigations and prosecutions. Biden will work to block any future president or anyone else in the White House from improperly interfering with decisions about who or what to investigate and prosecute. Those decisions must be based on the facts and the law alone, free from political or partisan influence. The president can set broad enforcement priorities, but he or she should never tell DOJ which specific people or companies to investigate or prosecute. On day one of his presidency, Biden will issue an Executive Order directing that no White House staff or any member of his administration may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly influence specific DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; and he will pledge to terminate anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact legislation giving the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any allegation of improper partisan influence on DOJ investigations and prosecutions; and requiring the IG to report in detail to Congress any time such an allegation is substantiated. And, Biden will work with Congress to strengthen our whistleblower laws, so that any federal employee who learns of an improper attempt to influence a DOJ investigation or prosecution knows how to report it and receives full protection against retaliation by anyone, including the president. Those reforms will also ensure that all such reports are transmitted directly to the Congress.

Increase transparency in DOJ decision-making. Biden will make DOJ policies and practices more transparent and accessible to the public. Too many of the Trump Administration’s worst decisions – whether claiming that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional or that DACA is illegal – were made without grounding in the law. Biden will require DOJ to report and explain in detail any change in position on a significant legal issue to Congress and the public.

Empower agency watchdogs to combat unethical behavior.  Biden will strengthen Inspectors General laws — which established watchdogs in nearly every Executive Branch agency — to give IGs the full subpoena power and independence they need to investigate and publicize any official’s actual or attempted improper conduct. Inspectors General must be given the express authority to prevent, investigate, and disclose all violations.

Prohibit improper interference in agency matters.  Biden will ensure that agency decisions on specific matters, like awarding government contracts or granting government permits, are based on merit and expertise, not on political preferences. Biden will issue an Executive Order prohibiting anyone in the White House from interfering with federal agencies on these matters, and he will require the White House to disclose to the public if any corporation, individual, or other entity tries to solicit White House help.  This information will be aggregated and made public by the Commission on Federal Ethics. 

Empower DOJ to enforce the law. Biden will ensure that DOJ has the resources and authority to enforce our laws, including those the Trump Administration has told career prosecutors and agents to ignore – laws that protect our voting rights, make discrimination illegal, and protect the environment. And, Biden will re-commit the Department’s Civil Rights and Energy and Natural Resources divisions to their missions. 

RESTORE ETHICS IN GOVERNMENT
 
For the eight years of the Obama-Biden Administration, there was not a hint of scandal. The administration established the most stringent ethics code ever adopted by any White House. Its procedures ensured that all decisions were made on the merits, without bias, favoritism, or undue influence. President Obama and Vice President Biden set clear expectations that the ethics code and existing law must be followed. 
 
The Trump Administration has shredded those standards. Trump is accepting foreign emoluments, and has disregarded his pledge not to expand his business overseas. And, Trump is using the federal government to prop up his resorts with countless tax dollars.
 
Many of our imperfect yet essential government ethics laws trace their origins to the country’s response to Watergate. As president, Biden will ensure that the country’s response to the Trump Administration’s violations is even more aggressive. Specifically, Biden will:

Establish the Commission on Federal Ethics to more effectively enforce federal ethics law. Biden will propose and enact legislation establishing a single government agency empowered to oversee and enforce federal anti-corruption and ethics laws. Today, existing law is a patchwork of subject-matter-specific mandates, overseen by agencies that often lack the authority to demand and receive compliance. And, public data tracking who is trying to influence our elected officials is equally patchworked and hard to find. This commission will make all information about how certain interests are seeking to influence our government easily accessible.

The office will have broad investigative and civil enforcement authority, expanding on powers now held by the FEC, OGE, and the Office of Special Counsel. It will have the authority to enforce its own subpoenas, ending the Trump Administration’s illegal stonewalling. It will have the power to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ, and an obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to proceed with that referral. And it will be tasked with tightening existing loopholes that let public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let lobbyists cloak influence campaigns in vague disclosures.

In addition, the Commission on Federal Ethics (CFE) will be tasked with establishing an ethics.gov, a new one-stop destination for Americans interested in learning about the elected and appointed officials who serve them, and those who seek to influence that service. It will compile campaign finance, financial disclosure, and lobbying information all in one place — and, as detailed in this plan, that information will be more comprehensive than ever. 

CFE Structure: To avoid the stalemate that afflicts some agencies today, CFE will be run by a five-member Commission, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, with no more than three commissioners from the same political party. Commissioners will hold office for staggered 10-year terms across presidential administrations, removable only for cause. Nominations to the Commission will be suggested by a blue ribbon panel of former prosecutors, judges, and state regulators. Only those with experience in prosecuting public corruption or regulating ethics and campaign finance will be eligible for appointment.

To monitor CFE effectiveness, and to ensure that it responds to all threats to ethical and transparent government, the Office will be advised by an 11-member CFE Oversight Board, comprised of bipartisan experts in ethics, campaign finance, and open government. The Board will report to CFE twice annually with recommendations on how to strengthen ethics enforcement; when the Board recommends updates, CFE will be bound to consider them publicly and to explain if any are not followed. 

Require that all candidates for federal office release tax returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared candidacy for their first federal office. Many Senate committees require nominees for Cabinet-level positions to provide their tax returns for inspection – because knowing how a person has earned their living can inform decisions on their suitability for office. If we require that of appointed officials, why do we expect less of elected-office seekers? The past 21 years of Biden’s federal tax returns have been released, open to inspection by voters and the media. As president, Biden will enact legislation requiring that every candidate for federal office disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared their candidacy for their first federal office.

Expand on and codify into law the Obama-Biden Administration ethics pledge.  On day one, Biden will issue an ethics pledge, building and improving on the Obama-Biden Administration’s pledge, to ensure that every member of his administration focuses day-in and day-out on the best outcomes for the American people, and nothing else. The pledge will address not only the improper influence of lobbyists, but also any improper or inappropriate influence from personal, financial, and other interests – ensuring an extra layer of review and scrutiny whenever policy proposals or recommendations come from a conflicted source.

REIN IN EXECUTIVE BRANCH FINANCIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
 
President Trump is using the Presidency to enrich himself. His Cabinet is full of members who’ve failed to follow through on promised divestments or recusals. Biden will renew public confidence in our democracy by ensuring that everyone in a position of public trust eliminates even the appearance that their financial holdings could influence decision-making.
 
As president, Biden will:

Prevent the president and other senior Executive Branch members from being influenced by personal financial holdings. No member of the Biden Administration will be influenced by personal financial holdings. As President, just as he did as Vice President, Biden will hold only Treasury bonds, annuities, mutual funds, and private residential real estate; likewise, any retirement plans benefiting Joe or Jill Biden will be in large-cap mutual funds. By Executive Order, Biden will demand strict compliance with ethics agreements that he will demand of each of his Cabinet and other senior administration officials. And, he will enact legislation strengthening these practices, so we’re never again exposed to self-enrichment like that seen in the Trump Administration.

Extend this standard to U.S. House and Senate members. Biden will work with Congress to enact legislation to apply similar standards to its members. 

Eliminate the trust loophole in existing financial disclosure law. The Ethics in Government Act requires candidates for federal office and senior Executive Branch officials to disclose their assets. It aims to give the public, media, and other government officials a chance to identify potential conflicts, and to demand recusal where appropriate. But candidates and public officials often transfer assets into trusts controlled by family members or close friends, and then disclose just the existence of the trust rather than the assets it holds. This loophole has allowed many senior officials — including President Trump — to avoid disclosing significant financial interests. Biden will work with Congress to close this loophole; and will meanwhile require that any member of his Administration who is a beneficiary of a discretionary trust disclose all of its holdings.

HOLD THE LOBBIED AND LOBBYISTS TO A HIGHER STANDARD OF ACCOUNTABILITY
 
Our government should operate in the public interest—making decisions on the merits, and not to meet the demands of well-heeled interests. The public has a right to know when lobbyists meet Members of Congress and Executive Branch officials; it should know with whom they speak, and about what. What’s more, lobbyists often provide draft legislative or regulatory language they hope to be enacted. That information should be made public, too. Today, our lobbyist regulations are filled with loopholes and only lobbyists and the corporate interests they represent are required to disclose far too little.. It is time that we strengthen our lobbyist rules and hold public officials accountable by making sure they meet these higher standards too.     
 
As president, Biden will:

Hold elected officials accountable for public transparency of lobbying meetings. Existing lobbying law focuses primarily on the people who are doing the lobbying. It is time the law expanded to include the public officials who are the subject of lobbying. If your Senator or Representative is meeting with a special interest group, you should know. If the Secretary of Education is making decisions about student debt after dozens of meetings with lenders, you should know that, too. Biden will expand lobbying disclosure laws, so the obligation for transparency falls on the office-holder, as well as on the lobbyist. Specifically, Biden will propose legislation to require elected officials to disclose monthly any meetings or communications with any lobbyist or special interest trying to influence the passage or defeat of a specific bill – whether seeking the officeholder’s vote, or assistance in introducing or developing legislation. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress will be required to disclose any legislative language or bill text submitted by any lobbying party. Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any regulatory text submitted by any outside entity. And, members of Congress and senior executive branch officials will be required to develop and disclose any access policy they have that governs requests for appointments. The CFE will make all of that information publicly available. If an office-holder believes that meetings with particular entities serve the public, let them explain why.

Make lobbying disclosure meaningful. Lobbying law should effectively inform the public and discourage conduct that distorts government decision-making. But current law does neither. Disclosure requirements are riddled with loopholes, so lobbyists can coordinate a PR campaign without ever disclosing their work. Detailed campaigns can be shielded by vague references to lobbying a chamber of Congress. Influencers are free to disclose only general information about the laws and regulatory activity they are trying to shape, without revealing specifics. Biden will lower the threshold for when those seeking to influence government decisions must register as “lobbyists” — to include anyone who earns more than $1,000 annually to be involved in developing or overseeing a lobbying strategy. The law will require them to disclose in detail exactly what they’re doing: with whom they’re meeting, the materials they’re sharing, any specific legislative (or regulatory) language they are proposing, and precisely what outcomes they’re seeking.

Prohibiting foreign governments’ use of lobbyists. There is no reason why a foreign government should be permitted to lobby Congress or the Executive Branch, let alone interfere in our elections. If a foreign government wants to share its views with the United States or to influence its decision-making, it should do so through regular diplomatic channels. The Biden Administration will bar lobbying by foreign governments; and it will require that any foreign business seeking to lobby must verify that no foreign government materially owns or controls any part of it. 

Ensure truly public access. In Washington, the ability to schedule a meeting with an elected official or his or her staff is a form of currency. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress and senior Executive Branch officials will be required to develop and disclose to the public any policies that their office has instituted on when to accept or prioritize appointments. In addition, Biden will return to the Obama-Biden Administration practice of disclosing White House visitor lists. 

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden Details Plan for Education Beyond High School

Vice President Joe Biden has announced a detailed plan for education beyond high school in order to build a stronger, more inclusive middle class. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. In a recent poll, Americans have indicated that education is a top issue. Vice President Joe Biden has announced a detailed plan for education beyond high school in order to build a stronger, more inclusive middle class.  This is from the Biden campaign:

For many, earning a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, or other credential after high school is unaffordable or saddles them with so much debt it prevents them from buying a home, saving for retirement. Or, it puts financial stress on their parents and grandparents. In an increasingly globalized and technology-driven economy, 12 years of education is no longer enough for American workers to remain competitive and earn a good income. While 6 in 10 jobs require some education after high school, not all require a bachelor’s degree. 

Biden is proposing a bold plan for education and training beyond high school that will give hard-working Americans the chance to join or maintain their place in the middle class, regardless of their parents’ income or the color of their skin. Four years of college shouldn’t be the only path to the middle class. Biden’s plan ensures every child in the U.S. can afford the path that makes sense for them – whether its an industry credential, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. Coupled with his proposals to make sure there are quality jobs ready for our workers, Biden is putting forward a bold plan to rebuild the backbone of our country – the middle class – and this time make sure everyone has the chance to come along.

As president, Biden will:

  • Invest in community colleges and training to improve student success and grow a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive middle class.
  • Strengthen college education as the reliable pathway to the middle class, not an investment that provides limited returns and leaves graduates with mountains of debt they can’t afford.
  • Support colleges and universities that play unique and vital roles in their communities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions.

Earlier this week, the campaign announced Women for Biden, highlighting how Trump’s administration has turned its back on women. The Trump Administration’s failure to deal with the student debt crisis is a perfect example. Women hold two thirds of the nation’s $1.5 trillion student debt. Instead of reducing the debt burden or expanding educational opportunities for women, Trump’s administration – with Secretary Betsy DeVos leading the U.S. Department of Education – has worked to cut access to education and sided with for-profit colleges and loan companies over students and graduates. 
 
Biden’s plan builds on his and Dr. Biden’s work to give hard working Americans access to two years of community college without debt. A majority of community college students are women and face unique barriers to completing their degrees. Biden will expand these students’ access to needed services like child care, and ensure that Pell Grants can be used for other costs like housing and books.   
 
This plan builds on Vice President Biden’s comprehensive plan to invest in our children’s education from birth through 12th grade. And, in the months ahead, Biden will also outline in further detail his proposals to make sure there are quality jobs ready for our workers.

FACT SHEET:
THE BIDEN PLAN FOR EDUCATION BEYOND HIGH SCHOOL 

Joe Biden is running for president to rebuild the backbone of the United States – the middle class – and this time make sure everyone has a chance to come along. In today’s increasingly globalized and technology-driven economy, 12 years of education is no longer enough for American workers to remain competitive and earn a middle class income. Roughly 6 in 10 jobs require some education beyond a high school diploma. And, because technology continues to change, American workers  – whether they have an industry-recognized credential, an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or a PhD – will need opportunities to continue to learn and grow their skills for career success and increased wages in the 21st century economy.

But for too many, earning a degree or other credential after high school is unaffordable today. For others, their education saddles them with so much debt it prevents them from buying a home or saving for retirement, or their parents or grandparents take on some of the financial burden.
 
Biden is proposing a bold plan for education and training beyond high school that will give hard-working Americans the chance to join or maintain their place in the middle class, regardless of their parents’ income or the color of their skin. President Biden will:

Invest in community colleges and training to improve student success and grow a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive middle class.

Strengthen college as the reliable pathway to the middle class, not an investment that provides limited returns and leaves graduates with mountains of debt they can’t afford.

Support colleges and universities that play unique and vital roles in their communities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions.

All of these proposals will be implemented in partnership with states as well as school faculty and staff. Educators must play a key role in decisions affecting teaching and learning.
 
Of course, increasing the quality and affordability of post-secondary education system alone is not enough to make sure our middle class succeeds. This plan builds on Vice President Biden’s comprehensive plan to invest in our children’s education from birth through 12th grade. And, in the months ahead, Biden will also outline in further detail his proposals to make sure there are quality jobs ready for our workers.
 
INVEST IN COMMUNITY COLLEGES AND TRAINING TO IMPROVE STUDENT SUCCESS AND GROW A STRONGER, MORE PROSPEROUS, AND MORE INCLUSIVE MIDDLE CLASS
 
Dr. Jill Biden, a current community college professor, refers to community colleges as America’s best kept secret. They are a proven, high-quality tool for providing hard-working Americans access to education and skills and a pathway to the middle class. In fact, today in the United States there are an estimated 30 million quality jobs, with an average salary of $55,000, that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Every year, millions of Americans attend community colleges to get the credentials they need to obtain these jobs. And, community colleges offer affordable, quality ways for students to complete the first two years of a four-year degree.
 
Part of what makes community colleges so extraordinary is that, working with limited resources, they have figured out how to provide a high-quality, cost-effective education to students often juggling additional responsibilities, such as jobs or child care. But as a country, we haven’t invested enough in making sure community colleges can reach all the Americans who could benefit from their programs, or improve their quality and completion rates.
 
The Biden Administration will build on community colleges’ success and unleash their full potential to grow a stronger, more inclusive middle class by:

Providing two years of community college or other high-quality training program without debt for any hard-working individual looking to learn and improve their skills to keep up with the changing nature of work. In 2015, President Obama and Vice President Biden proposed to make two years of community college tuition-free for hard-working students. Since then, Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden have championed progress toward this goal, and hundreds of state and local College Promise programs have expanded access to free two-year or four-year college educations. As president, Biden will build on this progress by enacting legislation to ensure that every hard-working individual, including those attending school part-time and DREAMers (young adults who came to U.S. as children), can go to community college for up to two years without having to pay tuition. Individuals will also be able to use these funds to pursue training programs that have a track record of participants completing their programs and securing good jobs. Importantly, this initiative will not just be for recent high school graduates; it will also be available to adults who never had the chance to pursue additional education beyond high school or who need to learn new skills. And, students who do want a bachelor’s degree could then transfer to a four-year school, including to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions that play vital roles in their communities. This plan will be a federal-state partnership, with the federal government covering 75% of the cost and states contributing the remaining obligation. The federal government will cover up to 95% of the cost for Indian Tribes operating community colleges serving low-income students. 

Creating a new grant program to assist community colleges in improving their students’ success. The Biden Administration will support community colleges implementing evidence-based practices and innovative solutions to increase their students’ retention and completion of credentials. Reforms could include academic and career advising services; dual enrollment; credit articulation agreements; investing in wages, benefits, and professional development to recruit and retain faculty, including teacher residencies; and improvements to remediation programs. The Biden plan will also help community colleges around the country scale successful programs to help a larger number of students.

Tackling the barriers that prevent students from completing their community college degree or training credential. There are too many Americans who don’t complete their education or training programs not because of a lack of will, but because of other responsibilities they are juggling, such as a job to pay their bills or caring for children. Often these students and their families also face housing and food insecurity. The Biden Administration’s community college initiative will be a first-dollar program, meaning that students will be able to use their Pell grants, state aid, and other aid to help them cover expenses beyond tuition and fees. In addition, the Biden plan will give states financial incentives to foster collaboration between community colleges and community-based organizations to provide wraparound support services for students, especially veterans, single parents, low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities who may face unique challenges. Wraparound support services can range from public benefits and additional financial aid to cover textbook and transportation costs that often keep students from staying enrolled, to child care and mental health services, faculty mentoring, tutoring, and peer support groups. And, Biden will establish a federal grant program to help community colleges create emergency grant programs for students who experience an unexpected financial challenge that threatens their ability to stay enrolled.

Make a $50 billion investment in workforce training, including community-college business partnerships and apprenticeships. In 2014, President Obama asked Vice President Biden to develop a national strategy for reforming our nation’s workforce training programs designed to prepare “ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.” Building on the successful models championed through that initiative, President Biden will make an investment of $50 billion in high-quality training programs. These funds will create and support partnerships between community colleges, businesses, unions, state, local, and tribal governments, universities, and high schools to identify in-demand knowledge and skills in a community and develop or modernize training programs – which could be as short as a few months or as long as two years – that lead to a relevant, high-demand industry-recognized credential. These funds will also exponentially increase the number of apprenticeships in this country through strengthening the Registered Apprenticeship Program and partnering with unions who oversee some of the best apprenticeship programs throughout our nation, not watering down the quality of the apprenticeship system like President Trump is proposing.

Invest in community college facilities and technology. Biden will invest $8 billion to help community colleges improve the health and safety of their facilities, and equip their schools with new technology that will empower their students to succeed in the 21st century.

STRENGTHEN COLLEGE AS A RELIABLE PATHWAY TO THE MIDDLE CLASS
 
We have a student debt crisis in this country, with roughly more than 44 million American individuals now holding a total of $1.5 trillion in student loans. One in five adults who hold student loans are behind on payments, disproportionate number of whom are black. Thus, student debt both exacerbates and results from racial wealth gap.
 
This challenge is also intergenerational. Almost one in ten Americans in their 40s and 50s still hold student loan debt. But, college debt has especially impacted Millennials who pursued educational opportunities during the height of the Great Recession and now struggle to pay down their student loans instead of buying a house, opening their own business, or setting money aside for retirement.
 
There are several drivers of this problem. The cost of higher education has skyrocketed, roughly doubling since the mid-1990s. States have dramatically decreased investments in higher education, leaving students and their families with the bill. And, too often individuals have been swindled into paying for credentials that don’t provide value to graduates in the job market. As president, Biden will address all of these challenges.
 
Biden’s plan to make two years of community college without debt will immediately offer individuals a way to become work-ready with a two-year degree or an industry certification. It will also halve their tuition costs for obtaining a four-year degree, by earning an associate’s degree and then transferring those credits to a four-year college or university. And, as a federal-state partnership, it will ensure states both invest in community colleges and give states some flexibility to also invest in college readiness or affordability at four-year institutions. In addition, President Biden will:

Target additional financial support to low-income and middle-class individuals by doubling the maximum value of Pell grants, significantly increasing the number of middle-class Americans who can participate in the program. Pell grants help 7 million students a year afford college, but they have not kept up with the rising cost of college. In the 1970s, Pell grants covered roughly 70 to 80 percent of the cost of a four-year degree at a public institution; today, that percentage has been cut in more than half, to roughly 30 percent. Biden will double the maximum value of the Pell grant, a level of investment experts say is necessary to close the gap between the rich and poor so that everyone has the opportunity to receive an education beyond high school, and will automatically increase the value based on inflation. Doubling the maximum value of Pell grants will increase the grant value for individuals already eligible for Pell and, given the program’s formula for determining eligibility, expand the benefits of Pell to more middle class Americans. As president, Biden will also take care of young immigrants by ensuring DREAMers are eligible for financial aid if they meet other requirements for that aid. And, he will restore formerly incarcerated individuals’ eligibility for Pell.

More than halve payments on undergraduate federal student loans by simplifying and increasing the generosity of today’s income-based repayment program. Under the Biden plan, individuals making $25,000 or less per year will not owe any payments on their undergraduate federal student loans and also won’t accrue any interest on those loans. Everyone else will pay 5% of their discretionary income (income minus taxes and essential spending like housing and food) over $25,000 toward their loans. This plan will save millions of Americans thousands of dollars a year. After 20 years, the remainder of the loans for people who have responsibly made payments through the program will be 100% forgiven. Individuals with new and existing loans will all be automatically enrolled in the income-based repayment program, with the opportunity to opt out if they wish. In addition to relieving some of the burden of student debt, this will enable graduates to pursue careers in public service and other fields without high levels of compensation. Biden will also change the tax code so that debt forgiven through the income-based repayment plan won’t be taxed. Americans shouldn’t have to take out a loan to pay their taxes when they finally are free from their student loans.

Make loan forgiveness work for public servants. Public servants do the hard work that is essential to our country’s success – protecting us, teaching our children, keeping our streets clean and our lights on, and so much more. But the program designed to help these individuals serve without having to worry about the burden of their student loans – the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program – is broken. Biden will create a new, simple program which offers $10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt relief for every year of national or community service, up to five years. Individuals working in schools, government, and other non-profit settings will be automatically enrolled in this forgiveness program; up to five years of prior national or community service will also qualify. Additionally, Biden will fix the existing Public Service Loan Forgiveness program by securing passage of the What You Can Do For Your Country Act of 2019. Biden will ensure adjunct professors are eligible for this loan forgiveness, depending on the amount of time devoted to teaching.

Create a “Title I for postsecondary education” to help students at under-resourced four-year schools complete their degrees. The Biden Administration will establish a new grant program to support under-resourced four-year schools that serve large numbers of Pell-eligible students. The funds will be used to foster collaboration between colleges and community-based organizations to provide wraparound support services for students, especially veterans, single parents, low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities who may face unique challenges. Wraparound support services can range from public benefits and additional financial aid to cover textbook and transportation costs that often keep students from staying enrolled, to child care and mental health services, faculty mentoring, tutoring, and peer support groups. And, Biden will ensure that these funds can be used to help colleges create emergency grant programs for students who experience an unexpected financial challenge that threatens their ability to stay enrolled.

Create seamless pathways between high school, job training, community college, and four-year programs to help students get their degrees and credentials faster. The Biden Administration will provide grants to states that work to accelerate students’ attainment of credentials, including bachelor’s degrees, while still ensuring quality and accountability. For example, some communities have adopted the early college model, allowing students to begin earning credits towards an associate’s degree while still in high school. And, in some areas students can be dual enrolled in the community college and the four-year program they wish to complete. Biden will challenge more communities to expand on these accelerated pathways and create a seamless transition between high school, community college, other job training, and four-year programs, enabling students to obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in less time. Approaches to accelerating degree attainment include guided pathways that provide a sequence of classes for a specific area of study; shifting toward a 12-month academic calendar; better aligning high school, community college, and four-year college courses; providing college credits for quality, degree-related on-the-job training; and offering degree-related paid internships for course credit. Read more about Joe Biden’s plan for education from birth through 12th grade here.

Prioritize the use of work-study funds for job-related and public service roles. Biden will work to reform federal work study programs to ensure that more of these funds place students in roles where they are either learning skills valuable for their intended careers, or contributing to their communities by mentoring students in K-12 classrooms and community centers.

Stop for-profit education programs from profiteering off of students. Students who started their education at for-profit colleges default on their student loans at a rate three times higher than those who start at non-profit colleges. These for-profit programs are often predatory – devoted to high-pressure and misleading recruiting practices and charging higher costs for lower quality education that leaves graduates with mountains of debt and without good job opportunities. The Biden Administration will require for-profits to first prove their value to the U.S. Department of Education before gaining eligibility for federal aid. The Biden Administration will also return to the Obama-Biden Borrower’s Defense Rule, forgiving the debt held by individuals who were deceived by the worst for-profit college or career profiteers.  Finally, President Biden will enact legislation eliminating the so-called 90/10 loophole that gives for-profit schools an incentive to enroll veterans and servicemembers in programs that aren’t delivering results.

Crack down on private lenders profiteering off of students and allow individuals holding private loans to discharge them in bankruptcy. In 2015, the Obama-Biden Administration called for Congress to pass a law permitting the discharge of private student loans in bankruptcy. As president, Biden will enact this legislation. In addition, the Biden Administration will empower the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – established during the Obama-Biden Administration – to take action against private lenders who are misleading students about their options and do not provide an affordable payment plan when individuals are experiencing acute periods of financial hardship.

Support and protect post-9/11 GI benefits for veterans and qualified family members. Veterans and their family members served our country and as a nation, we must maintain our commitment to GI benefits. The Obama-Biden Administration took groundbreaking action to ensure that veterans and their family members were empowered to make informed decisions regarding their education and, in turn, ensure that programs educating them met high quality standards. President Biden will build and convene coalitions of experts and advocates to continue this work. He’ll also strengthen the GI Bill Comparison Tool and School Feedback Tool to put an end to post-secondary institutions’ predatory practices.

SUPPORT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES THAT PLAY UNIQUE AND VITAL ROLES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES
 
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges And Universities (TCUs), Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American And Native American Pacific Islander-serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), Alaska Native-serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian-serving Institutions (ANNHs), Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), and Native American-serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTIs) serve a disproportionate number of students of color and low-income students, yet are severely under-resourced, especially when compared to other colleges and universities.
 
This makes HBCUs and MSIs’ contributions even more impressive. HBCUs, for example, disproportionately educate first-generation and low-income students. In Vice President Biden’s home state of Delaware, the HBCU Delaware State University graduates nearly half of the state’s black undergraduate students.
 
As president, Biden will take steps to rectify the funding disparities faced by HBCUs, TCUs, and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) so that the United States can benefit from their unique strengths. Students at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs will benefit from Biden’s proposals to double Pell grants, slash the income-based repayment of loans to 5% of income, and provide free tuition for students at all community colleges, including those that are MSIs. In addition, Biden will invest over $70 billion in these colleges and universities to:

Make HBCUs, TCUs, and under-resourced MSIs more affordable for their students. The Biden plan will invest $18 billion in grants to these four-year schools, equivalent to up to two years of tuition per low-income and middle class student, including DREAMers and students who transfer to a four-year HBCU, TCU, or MSI from a tuition-free community college. Schools must invest in lowering costs, improving retention and graduation rates, and closing equity gaps year over year for students of color.

Invest in the diverse talent at HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs to solve the country’s most pressing problems. The Biden Administration will invest $10 billion to create at least 200 new centers of excellence that serve as research incubators and connect students underrepresented in fields critical to our nation’s future – including fields tackling climate change, globalization, inequality, health disparities, and cancer – to learning and career opportunities. These funds will provide additional work study opportunities and incentivize state, private, and philanthropic dollars for these centers. Biden will also boost funding for agricultural research at land-grant universities, many of which are HBCUs and TCUs, as outlined in his Plan for Rural America. As president, Biden will also dedicate additional and increased priority funding streams at federal agencies for grants and contracts for HBCUs and MSIs. And, he will require any federal research grants to universities with an endowment of over $1 billion to form a meaningful partnership and enter into a 10% minimum subcontract with an HBCU, TCU, or MSI.

Build the high tech labs and facilities and digital infrastructure needed for learning, research, and innovation at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs. Biden will invest $20 billion in infrastructure for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs to build the physical research facilities and labs urgently needed to deliver on the country’s research and development, to update and modernize deteriorating facilities, including by strengthening the Historic Preservation program, and to create new space for increasing enrollments, especially at HSIs. While schools will be able to use these funds to upgrade the digital infrastructure, Biden will also support TCUs and other institutions in rural areas by investing $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure and tripling funding to expand broadband access in rural areas. Additionally, as president, Biden will ensure all HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs have access to low-cost federal capital financing programs and will work with states to ensure they can take advantage of these programs. And, he will work to incentivize further public, private, and philanthropic investments in school infrastructure.

Provide support to continuously improve the value of HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs by investing $10 billion in programs that increase enrollment, retention, completion, and employment rates. These programs may include partnerships with both high schools, other universities, and employers; evidence-based remedial courses; academic and career advising services; and investing in wages, benefits, and professional development and benefits to recruit and retain faculty, including teacher residencies. Additionally, Biden will incentivize states, private, and philanthropic dollars to invest in these programs, while ensuring schools that do not receive matches increase their competitiveness.

Expand career pathways for graduates of HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs in areas that meet national priorities, including building a diverse pipeline of public school teachers. Biden will invest $5 billion in graduate programs in teaching, health care, and STEM and will develop robust internship and career pipelines at major research agencies, including Department of Energy National Laboratories, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense.

Triple and make permanent the capacity-building and student support for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs in Title III and Title V of the Higher Education Act. These funds serve as a lifeline to under-resourced HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs year over year, ensuring that the most vulnerable students have the support they need to succeed. The Biden Administration will make permanent $750 million per year in Title III and Title V funding, which will provide a dedicated revenue stream of $7.5 billion over the first ten years.

Reduce disparities in funding for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs. Biden will require federal agencies and states to publish reports of their allocation of federal funding to colleges and universities. When inequities exist between HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs and similar non-HBCU, TCU, MSI colleges, federal agencies and states will be required to publish robust rationale and show improvements in eliminating disparities year over year. To ensure funding is more equitably distributed among HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs, the Biden Administration will require that competitive grant programs make similar universities compete against each other, for example, ensuring that HBCUs only compete against HBCUs. And, President Biden will require higher education accreditors to provide increased transparency in their processes.

Additionally, Biden recognizes the critical role low-endowment private colleges and universities play in providing educational opportunities and jobs in many rural communities. As president, he will establish an innovation competitive grant fund for these institutions, giving them additional funds to invest in increasing graduation rates; closing ethnic, racial, and income disparities; and increasing career outcomes for low-income students, students of color, first-generation students, and students with disabilities..
 
SUPPORTING LEARNERS AND WORKERS, NOT REWARDING WEALTH
 
The Biden plan for education beyond high school is a $750 billion investment over ten years targeted at growing a stronger, more inclusive middle class. It will be paid for by making sure that the super-wealthy pay their fair share. Specifically, this plan will be paid for by eliminating the stepped-up basis loophole and capping the itemized deductions the wealthiest Americans can take to 28%.

For more on Vice President Biden’s plan, see HERE. To see how Vice President Biden’s plan would impact you, click HERE.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden Outlines Plan to End America’s Gun Violence Epidemic

Vice President Joe Biden announced a detailed plan to end the epidemic of gun violence. (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the latest 2020 Democratic Candidate to come out with a detailed plan to end the epidemic of gun violence, once again proving that there is no shortage of pragmatic plans to solve the most intransient, important issues we face as a nation and a world – what has been lacking is political will. Have you seen a plan from Donald Trump? Me neither.Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

This is from the Biden 2020 campaign:

Former Vice President Joe Biden announced a detailed plan to end America’s gun violence epidemic ahead of his participation in the Giffords and March for Our Lives presidential gun safety forum in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

While Democratic leaders and the American public have reached an undeniable and broad consensus about what needs to be done to address the gun violence epidemic that has engulfed communities across America, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Congressional Republicans, and the NRA refuse to take any sensible action. As president, Biden will not let anyone hold our nation’s children, families, and communities hostage to the scourge of gun violence Americans face every day. 

Biden is introducing a bold, comprehensive plan that not only calls for common sense gun safety reform, but outlines how he is going to get it done for the American people. Biden’s plan calls for universal background checks, closing loopholes in the background check system, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, incentivizing states to establish red flag law, holding gun manufacturers accountable, and investing in public health research regarding the causes and prevention of gun violence.

As a leader who has championed common sense gun safety laws both as a United States Senator and Vice President, Biden has unmatched substantive expertise on addressing gun violence. He has been pushing the conversation on ending gun violence for at least 25 years. And he has taken on the NRA twice and won – first with the Brady Bill, which established firearms background check system, and then securing the passage of a ten-year ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines together with Senator Dianne Feinstein. 

Based on his expertise and experience on this issue, Biden’s plan also includes three standout sections that further demonstrate how he will end the gun violence epidemic:

Addressing the daily combination of guns and domestic violence;

Tackling urban gun violence with targeted, evidence-based community interventions; and

Supporting survivors of violence and their communities.

On the second anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, Vice President Biden released a statement decrying Donald Trump’s continued inaction on sensible gun reform and his capitulation to the NRA. Biden also declared, “We can beat the NRA; we can get those weapons of war off our streets; and we can make sure our children don’t grow up in constant fear. Real leadership — moral leadership — can get these reforms done.”

Today’s plan follows Biden for President’s release of “Purpose,” a video of gun safety advocate Fred Guttenberg who credits Biden for helping inspire his mission as a gun safety advocate after his 14-year-old daughter was killed in Parkland, Florida. 



FACT SHEET: 
THE BIDEN PLAN TO END OUR GUN VIOLENCE EPIDEMIC

Vice President Joe Biden presents a plan to address gun violence as a public health epidemic. (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Joe Biden knows that gun violence is a public health epidemic. Almost 40,000 people die as a result of firearm injuries every year in the United States, and many more are wounded. Some of these deaths and injuries are the result of mass shootings that make national headlines. Others are the result of daily acts of gun violence or suicides that may not make national headlines, but are just as devastating to the families and communities left behind.

Joe Biden has taken on the National Rifle Association (NRA) on the national stage and won – twice. In 1993, he shepherded through Congress the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which established the background check system that has since kept more than 3 million firearms out of dangerous hands. In 1994, Biden – along with Senator Dianne Feinstein – secured the passage of 10-year bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. As president, Joe Biden will defeat the NRA again.
 
Joe Biden also knows how to make progress on reducing gun violence using executive action. After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, President Obama tasked Vice President Biden with developing both legislative proposals and executive actions to make our communities safer. As a result of this effort, the Obama-Biden Administration took more than two dozen actions, including narrowing the so-called “gun show loophole,” increasing the number of records in the background check system, and expanding funding for mental health services.
 
It’s within our grasp to end our gun violence epidemic and respect the Second Amendment, which is limited. As president, Biden will pursue constitutional, common-sense gun safety policies. Biden will:
 
Hold gun manufacturers accountable. In 2005, then-Senator Biden voted against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, but gun manufacturers successfully lobbied Congress to secure its passage. This law protects these manufacturers from being held civilly liable for their products – a protection granted to no other industry. Biden will prioritize repealing this protection.
 
Get weapons of war off our streets. The bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that Biden, along with Senator Feinstein, secured in 1994 reduced the lethality of mass shootings. But, in order to secure the passage of the bans, they had to agree to a 10-year sunset provision and when the time came, the Bush Administration failed to extend them. As president, Biden will:
 

Ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Federal law prevents hunters from hunting migratory game birds with more than three shells in their shotgun. That means our federal law does more to protect ducks than children. It’s wrong. Joe Biden will enact legislation to once again ban assault weapons. This time, the bans will be designed based on lessons learned from the 1994 bans. For example, the ban on assault weapons will be designed to prevent manufacturers from circumventing the law by making minor changes that don’t limit the weapon’s lethality. While working to pass this legislation, Biden will also use his executive authority to ban the importation of assault weapons.

Regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act. Currently, the National Firearms Act requires individuals possessing machine-guns, silencers, and short-barreled rifles to undergo a background check and register those weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Due to these requirements, such weapons are rarely used in crimes. As president, Biden will pursue legislation to regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act.

Buy back the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines already in our communities. Biden will also institute a program to buy back weapons of war currently on our streets. This will give individuals who now possess assault weapons or high-capacity magazines two options: sell the weapons to the government, or register them under the National Firearms Act.

Reduce stockpiling of weapons. In order to reduce the stockpiling of firearms, Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one.

Keep guns out of dangerous hands. The federal background check system (the National Instant Criminal Background Check System) is one of the best tools we have to prevent gun violence, but it’s only effective when it’s used. Biden will enact universal background check legislation and close other loopholes that allow people who should be prohibited from purchasing firearms from making those purchases. Specifically, he will:

Require background checks for all gun sales. Today, an estimated 1 in 5 firearms are sold or transferred without a background check. Biden will enact universal background check legislation, requiring a background check for all gun sales with very limited exceptions, such as gifts between close family members. This will close the so-called “gun show and online sales loophole” that the Obama-Biden Administration narrowed, but which cannot be fully closed by executive action alone.

Close other loopholes in the federal background check system. In addition to closing the “boyfriend loophole” highlighted below, Biden will:

Reinstate the Obama-Biden policy to keep guns out of the hands of certain people unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons, which President Trump reversed. In 2016, the Obama-Biden Administration finalized a rule to make sure the Social Security Administration (SSA) sends to the background check system records that it holds of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms because they have been adjudicated by the SSA as unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons. But one of the first actions Donald Trump took as president was to reverse this rule. President Biden will enact legislation to codify this policy.

Close the “hate crime loophole.” Biden will enact legislation prohibiting an individual “who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime, or received an enhanced sentence for a misdemeanor because of hate or bias in its commission” from purchasing or possessing a firearm.

Close the “Charleston loophole.” The Charleston loophole allows people to complete a firearms purchase if their background check is not completed within three business days. Biden supports the proposal in the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, which extends the timeline from three to 10 business days. Biden will also direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to put on his desk within his first 100 days as president a report detailing the cases in which background checks are not completed within 10 business days and steps the federal government can take to reduce or eliminate this occurrence.

Close the “fugitive from justice” loophole created by the Trump Administration. Because of actions by the Trump Administration, records of almost 500,000 fugitives from justice who are prohibited from purchasing firearms were deleted from the background check system. The Biden Administration will restore these records, and enact legislation to make clear that people facing arrest warrants are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.

End the online sale of firearms and ammunitions. Biden will enact legislation to prohibit all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits, and gun parts.

Create an effective program to ensure individuals who become prohibited from possessing firearms relinquish their weapons. Federal law defines categories of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, and the federal background check system is an effective tool for ensuring prohibited persons cannot purchase firearms. But we lack any serious tool to ensure that when someone becomes newly prohibited – for example, because they commit a violent crime – they relinquish possession of their firearms. There are some promising models for how this could be enforced. For example, California has a mandatory process for ensuring relinquishment by any individual newly subject to a domestic violence restraining order. As president, Biden will direct the FBI and ATF to outline a model relinquishment process, enact any necessary legislation to ensure relinquishment when individuals newly fall under one of the federal prohibitions, and then provide technical and financial assistance to state and local governments to establish effective relinquishment processes on their own.

Incentivize state “extreme risk” laws. Extreme risk laws, also called “red flag” laws, enable family members or law enforcement officials to temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms when that individual is in crisis and poses a danger to themselves or others. Biden will incentivize the adoption of these laws by giving states funds to implement them. And, he’ll direct the U.S. Department of Justice to issue best practices and offer technical assistance to states interested in enacting an extreme risk law.

Give states incentives to set up gun licensing programs. Biden will enact legislation to give states and local governments grants to require individuals to obtain a license prior to purchasing a gun.

Adequately fund the background check system. President Obama and Vice President Biden expanded incentives for states to submit records of prohibited persons into the background checks system. As president, Biden will continue to prioritize that funding and ensure that the FBI is adequately funded to accurately and efficiently handle the NICS system.


ADDRESSING THE DEADLY COMBINATION OF GUNS AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

The statistics tell a devastating and overwhelming story. The likelihood that a woman in a domestic violence situation will be killed increases by a factor of five if a gun is nearby. Half of mass shootings involve an individual shooting a family member or former intimate partner. This deadly connection tragically impacts children as well: 86% of children killed in shootings with four or more victims were involved in domestic or family violence.
 
Biden recognizes that the gun violence and domestic violence epidemics are linked and cannot be solved in isolation. Addressing the interconnectedness of these challenges will be a core focus of Biden’s anti-violence work as president.
 
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, which Leader McConnell refuses to bring to the floor for a vote, includes a number of reforms to keep firearms out of the hands of abusers. Senator McConnell should ensure this legislation gets passed long before President Biden would take the oath of office. But if McConnell refuses to act, Biden will enact legislation to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” and “stalking loophole” by prohibiting all individuals convicted of assault, battery, or stalking from purchasing or possessing firearms, regardless of their connection to the victim. This proposal is modeled after existing laws in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, and Pennsylvania. Biden also supports enacting the proposal to prohibit anyone under a temporary restraining order from purchasing or possessing a firearm before their hearing.
 
In addition, President Biden will:

Establish a new Task Force on Online Harassment and Abuse to focus on the connection between mass shootings, online harassment, extremism, and violence against women. As President, Joe Biden will convene a national Task Force with federal agencies, state leaders, advocates, law enforcement, and technology experts to study rampant online sexual harassment, stalking, and threats, including revenge porn and deepfakes — and the connection between this harassment, mass shootings, extremism and violence against women. The Task Force will be charged with developing cutting-edge strategies and recommendations for how federal and state governments, social media companies, schools, and other public and private entities can tackle this unique challenge. The Task Force will consider platform accountability, transparent reporting requirements for incidents of harassment and response, and best practices.

Expand the use of evidence-based lethality assessments by law enforcement in cases of domestic violence. Lethality assessments, sometimes called “risk” or “danger” assessments, are a proven strategy to help law enforcement officers identify domestic violence survivors who are at high risk of being killed by their abusers. These survivors are then connected with social service programs that can offer services and safety planning. An evaluation of the Lethality Assessment Program (LEP) created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence showed promising results. Increased federal funding will incentivize jurisdictions to take advantage of implementing these programs more widely.



Make sure firearm owners take on the responsibility of ensuring their weapons are used safely.

Put America on the path to ensuring that 100% of firearms sold in America are smart guns. Today, we have the technology to allow only authorized users to fire a gun. For example, existing smart gun technology requires a fingerprint match before use. Biden believes we should work to eventually require that 100% of firearms sold in the U.S. are smart guns. But, right now the NRA and gun manufacturers are bullying firearms dealers who try to sell these guns. Biden will stand up against these bullying tactics and issue a call to action for gun manufacturers, dealers, and other public and private entities to take steps to accelerate our transition to smart guns.

Hold adults accountable for giving minors access to firearms. Biden supports legislation holding adults criminally and civilly liable for directly or negligently giving a minor access to a firearm, regardless of whether the minor actually gains possession of the firearm.

Require gun owners to safely store their weapons. Biden will pass legislation requiring firearm owners to store weapons safely in their homes.

Empower law enforcement to effectively enforce our gun laws.

Prioritize prosecution of straw purchasers. “Straw purchasers” buy a firearm on behalf of an individual who cannot pass a background check. Biden will end those loopholes by enacting a law to make all straw purchases a serious federal crime and ensure the U.S. Justice Department has sufficient resources to prioritize their prosecution.

Notify law enforcement when a potential firearms purchaser fails a background check. Too often, when prohibited persons attempting to buy a firearm fail a background check, state and local law enforcement is never informed of the attempt. As president, Biden will direct the FBI to set up a process to ensure timely notification of denials to state and local law enforcement, and he’ll support legislation to codify this process. This empowers law enforcement to follow up and ensure prohibited persons do not attempt to acquire firearms through other means.

Require firearms owners to report if their weapon is lost or stolen. Responsible gun owners have a responsibility to inform law enforcement if their weapon is lost or stolen. Biden will enact legislation to make this the law of the land.

Stop “ghost guns.” One way people who cannot legally obtain a gun may gain access to a weapon is by assembling a one on their own, either by buying a kit of disassembled gun parts or 3D printing a working firearm. Biden will stop the proliferation of these so-called “ghost guns” by passing legislation requiring that purchasers of gun kits or 3D printing code pass a federal background check. Additionally, Biden will ensure that the authority for firearms exports stays with the State Department, and if needed reverse a proposed rule by President Trump. This will ensure the State Department continues to block the code used to 3D print firearms from being made available on the Internet.

Reform, fund, and empower the U.S. Justice Department to enforce our gun laws. Biden will direct his Attorney General to deliver to him within his first 100 days a set of recommendations for restructuring the ATF and related Justice Department agencies to most effectively enforce our gun laws. Biden will then work to secure sufficient funds for the Justice Department to effectively enforce our existing gun laws, increase the frequency of inspections of firearms dealers, and repeal riders that get in the way of that work.

Direct the ATF to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking. This report will provide officials with critical information to better identify strategies for curbing firearms trafficking.


TACKLE URBAN GUN VIOLENCE WITH TARGETED, EVIDENCE-BASED COMMUNITY INTERVENTIONS

Daily acts of gun violence in our communities may not make national headlines, but are just as devastating to survivors and victims’ families as gun violence that does make the front page. And, these daily acts of gun violence disproportionately impact communities of color. But there is reason to be optimistic. There are proven strategies for reducing gun violence in urban communities without turning to incarceration. For example, Group Violence Intervention organizes community leaders to work with individuals most likely to commit acts of gun violence, express the community’s demand that the gun violence stop, and connect individuals who may be likely perpetrators with social and economic support services that may deter violent behavior. These types of interventions have reduced homicides by as much as 60%Hospital-Based Violence Intervention engages young people who have been injured by gun violence while they are still in the hospital, connecting them to social and economic services that may decrease the likelihood they engage in or are victims of gun violence in the future. Biden will create a $900 million, eight-year initiative to fund these and other types of evidence-based interventions in 40 cities across the country – the 20 cities with the highest number of homicides, and 20 cities with the highest number of homicides per capita. This proposal is estimated to save more than 12,000 lives over the eight-year program.



Dedicate the brightest scientific minds to solving the gun violence public health epidemic. In 2013, President Obama issued a memorandum clarifying that a longstanding appropriations rider that prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal scientific agencies from using federal dollars to “advocate or promote gun control” does not prohibit those agencies from researching the causes and prevention of gun violence. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) subsequently embarked on funding some of this research, though Republican leadership in Congress refused to appropriate any funds to the CDC for this work. Biden will call for Congress to appropriate $50 million to accelerate this research at the CDC and NIH.
 
Prohibit the use of federal funds to arm or train educators to discharge firearms. We should be passing rational gun laws, not requiring educators who already have too much on their plates to also protect the safety of their students. Biden supports barring states from using federal dollars to arm or train educators to discharge firearms.
 
Address the epidemic of suicides by firearms. Biden believes any plan to address the gun violence epidemic must address suicides by firearms, which account for 6 in 10 gun-related deaths but are often left out of the conversation. Many of the policies noted above – including safe storage requirements and extreme risk protection orders – will have a serious impact on efforts to reduce gun violence. But there’s so much more we need to do to support people experiencing suicidal ideation. In the months ahead, Biden will put forward a comprehensive plan to improve access to mental health services.
 


SUPPORTING SURVIVORS OF VIOLENCE AND THEIR COMMUNITIES
 
Violence causes ripples of trauma throughout our communities, impacting not just the victims of violence but also their communities and first responders. Fear of school shootings is having a noticeable impact on the mental health of Gen Z. Intimate partner violence is linked to depression, post-traumatic stress, and other mental health challenges among survivors. And, this trauma can be intergenerational. Science now shows that young children who witness violence – including in their home – literally alters the parts of their brains that affect “reasoning, planning, and behavioral control.”
 
We need to reduce violence to prevent trauma from happening in the first place. But we also must treat the resulting trauma as a serious crisis in its own right.
 
As president, Biden will:

Make federal programs more trauma-informed. During his first 100 days, Biden will direct his Cabinet to conduct a review of all federal programs that directly serve communities likely to experience violence and identify reforms to make sure those programs effectively address resulting trauma. Biden will then invest significant federal funds in expanding and improving the federal government’s support for trauma-informed and culturally responsive care.

Create a network of trauma care centers. Biden will bring together offices within the federal government to establish specialized trauma care centers for survivors of violence, with a special focus on survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Domestic violence services are focused on meeting the emergency needs of survivors, including safety planning and crisis intervention. As a result, frontline providers lack the resources they need to offer therapeutic services to help survivors heal from trauma. These trauma care centers will be flexible in meeting the needs of communities, and could be housed at rape crisis centers, domestic violence programs, universities, and existing mental health centers.

Train health care and other service providers in trauma-centered care. To prevent revictimization and secondary trauma, Biden will align training efforts throughout relevant federal programs to include a focus on understanding the traumatic effects of violence, providing appropriate care to avoid furthering the trauma, linking survivors with evidence-based trauma therapies, and reducing myths about domestic and sexual violence. This will be accomplished through agency directives, policy guidance, and special conditions for grantees and contractors.

For more on Vice President Biden’s plan, see HERE.

Biden attacks Trump as G7 Opens: ‘Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure’

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, stated Trump’s “incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Donald Trump departed the White House to attend the G7 after a day in which he attacked Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell as a “worse enemy” than China’s Chairman Xi and ordered US companies to leave China, a day in which the Dow plummeted 600 points, a day after he referred to himself as the “Chosen One” as he looked to the heavens and demanded that Russia be invited back into the G8, Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, issued this statement:

“This week, in the lead-up to the G7 in France, President Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure and less respected in the world.  He has insulted our closest partners and denigrated one of our most capable allies, Denmark—a country that has repeatedly fought and sacrificed alongside our troops. He issued yet another attack on NATO, reiterating his belief that NATO is an American-run protection racket where our allies better pay up, or else. And he advocated for Russia’s return to the G7, despite Vladimir Putin’s long and growing record of aggressive behavior and provocations against the United States and our allies in Europe. 

“Trump’s actions and words are not just embarrassing—they are making the American people less safe. Every incident further isolates us on the global stage, reinforcing that his version of “America First” means America alone. For the first time in its history, the G7 will not even issue a joint communique, because President Trump refuses to cooperate with our partners on the pressing issues of our time, including climate change, China’s predatory trade practices, Russian attacks on western democracies, and nuclear proliferation. No country, even one as powerful as ours, can go it alone against 21st century challenges that respect no borders and cannot be contained by walls.

“NATO, the most powerful alliance in history, is the bulwark of America’s national security and the free world’s first line of defense. It’s how we amplify our own strength, maintain our presence around the globe, and magnify our impact – while sharing the burden among willing partners. NATO is an alliance built first and foremost on shared democratic values, which makes it more durable and more reliable than partnerships built on coercion or cash. But it is not indestructible, and Trump has taken a battering ram to our most important strategic alliance.

“More than two-and-a-half years into his presidency, the pattern of Trump’s conduct and character is clear. He never misses a chance to lavish praise on dictators like Putin and Kim Jong Un, and takes every opportunity to bash our closest democratic allies. Instead of leading alongside fellow democracies, he seems to be on the other team. His incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president. We will restore the soul of this nation. And we will once again lead the international community in a way that is consistent with our most cherished values, standing with—not against—the rest of the free world.”

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden’s Plan for Rural America

Vice President Joe Biden, running for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, presented his plan for Rural America © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Vice President Joe Biden has presented his plan for Rural America. This summary is provided by the Biden campaign:

Rural America is home to roughly 20% of Americans, but we are all connected to rural communities in many ways. Rural Americans fuel us and feed us. Rural lands provide us with places to spend time outdoors with friends and family and relax.

A healthy, vibrant rural America is essential to the success of our country. Yet in small town after small town, parents watch their kids and grandkids leave rural communities because there just is not enough opportunity for them at home. For too many rural Americans, a pathway to the middle class is out of reach if they stay in their rural communities.
 
The moral obligation of our time is rebuilding the middle class, so that this time everyone comes along regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or zip code.  It should not be dependent on whether they live in a city center, a small town, or a remote area. Everyone means everyone.
 
As president, Biden will build a pathway to the middle class for rural Americans, in rural America. He will pursue a rural economic development strategy that partners with rural communities to invest in their unique assets, with the goal of giving young people more options to live, work, and raise the next generation in rural America. It’s not just good for those in rural America, it’s good for everyone across our country.

I. FUNDAMENTALLY REVITALIZE RURAL ECONOMIES

Rural America is asset-rich. It feeds and fuels the rest of the country, gives us places to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with friends and family, and is home to creative, hard-working Americans. Yet rural America’s economy is traditionally based on extraction, taking the resources out of rural communities and never returning the profits.
 
The Biden strategy for rural economic development will be to partner with rural communities, invest in their unique assets, and make sure the wealth created in rural America stays in rural America.
 
Under this strategy, Biden will:

Strengthen our agricultural sector by:

Pursuing a trade policy that works for American farmers. More than 20% of all crops grown and products raised in the United States are exported, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs and helping to stabilize farm income. But America’s farmers and rural communities have paid a heavy price for President Trump’s tariffs. While Trump is pursuing a damaging and erratic trade war without any real strategy, President Biden will stand up to China by working with our allies to negotiate from the strongest possible position. And, he’ll make sure our trade policy works for American farmers.

Supporting beginning farmers. America tries to make it easy to start a business, but unless you inherit the land, it’s much more difficult to start a farm. The Biden Administration will expand the Obama-Biden Administration’s microloan program for new and beginning farmers, doubling the maximum loan amount to $100,000. And, it will increase funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farm ownership and operating loans that typically serve beginning farmers who grew up on a family farm but need low-cost capital to add to their family’s operation to support another household.

Fostering the development of regional food systems. The Biden Administration will partner with small and mid-sized farmers to help them collectively create supply chains to deliver fresh produce and other products to schools, hospitals, and other major state and federal institutions, including the Defense Department. This will allow these farmers to negotiate their own prices. And, it will help farmers identify markets for specialty crops and secondary products, like ice cream produced by dairy farmers to bring in additional revenue.

Re-investing in land grant universities’ agricultural research so the public, not private companies, owns patents to agricultural advances. The Biden Administration will reinvest in agricultural research by bolstering funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Our farmers need new technologies to compete in world markets while protecting our soil and water. These new technologies – and the next new seeds – should be developed and owned by the American people, not private companies who can use patents to expand profits.

Partnering with farmers to make American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, giving farmers new sources of income in the process. Many farmers are some of the best stewards of our land, air, and water. The government needs to partner with them to accelerate progress toward net-zero emissions. As president, Biden will ensure our agricultural sector is the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, and that our farmers earn income as we meet this milestone. Toward this end, the Biden Administration will dramatically expand and fortify the pioneering Conservation Stewardship Program, created by former Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin, to support farm income through payments based on farmers’ practices to protect the environment, including carbon sequestration. In addition to seeking full federal funding for the program, the Biden Administration will ensure the program can participate in carbon markets. Corporations, individuals, and foundations interested in promoting greenhouse gas reductions could offset their emissions by contributing to Conservation Stewardship Program payments to farmers for those sequestering carbon — for example, through cover crops. This will not only help combat climate change, which Vice President Biden has called an existential threat, but also create additional revenue sources for farmers at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet. And, this approach will create a whole series of new businesses that survey, measure, certify, and quantify conservation results. In addition, the Biden Plan will make a significant investment in research to refine practices to build soil carbon while maximizing farm and ranch productivity. Soil is the next frontier for storing carbon.

Strengthening antitrust enforcement. From the inputs they depend on – such as seeds – to the markets where they sell their products, American farmers and ranchers are being hurt by increasing market concentration. The Biden Administration will protect small and medium-sized farmers and producers by strengthening enforcement of the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts and the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Expand bio-based manufacturing to bring cutting-edge manufacturing jobs back to rural America. The Biden Administration will create a low-carbon manufacturing sector in every state in the country, but not just in cities. As president, Biden will grow the bioeconomy and bio-based manufacturing to bring cutting-edge manufacturing jobs back to rural America. This means taking every aspect of agricultural production – from corn stock to manure – to create chemicals, materials, fabrics, and fibers in a process that is good for the environment and creates new sources of revenue for farmers. Key to this strategy will be connecting research universities, community colleges, incubators and accelerators, manufacturing institutes, employers, unions, and state and local governments – alone or as part of a regional pact. The federal government will provide them with significant funding for deployment of a place-based plan to help their state or region build a competitive and low-carbon future in manufacturing that reflects climate impacts in their local communities.

Promote ethanol and the next generation of biofuels. Joe Biden believes renewable fuels are vital to the future of rural America – and the climate. The Biden Plan will invest $400 billion in clean energy research, innovation, and deployment – more than twice what America spent to put a man on the moon. And, as part of this effort, developing the next generation of biofuels will be a top priority. The Biden Plan will invest in research to develop cellulosic biofuels in a manner that protects our soil and water and addresses the challenge of climate change, while turning grass, crop residues, and other biomass into fuel. Doubling down on these liquid fuels of the future will not only make value-added agriculture a key part of the solution to climate change – reducing emissions in planes, ships, and other forms of transportation – but will also create quality jobs across rural America. From day one, President Biden will use every tool at his disposal, including the federal fleet and the federal government’s purchasing power, to promote and advance renewable energy, ethanol, and other biofuels.

Invest in wind and solar energy. President Obama put Vice President Biden in charge of the Recovery Act, which invested more than $90 billion in clean energy technology. Those investments contributed to a doubling of the share of domestically produced wind turbine components and produced a dramatic decrease in solar costs, making wind and solar power cost-competitive. Biden will build on the Recovery Act by setting an ambitious but essential goal for America to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. His clean energy plan will accelerate the already dramatic growth of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources.

Invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure, and triple funding to expand broadband access in rural areas. High-speed broadband is essential in the 21st Century economy. Yet far too many rural communities still don’t have access to it. Rural Americans are over 10 times more likely than urban residents to lack quality broadband access. At a time when so many jobs and businesses could be located anywhere, high-speed internet access should be a great economic equalizer for rural America, not another economic disadvantage. Investing $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure has the potential to create more than a quarter million new jobs. The Biden Plan will triple Community Connect broadband grants and partner with municipal utilities to bring cutting-edge broadband connections to communities across rural America.

Invest in green infrastructure nationwide. As president, Biden will make smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can meet America’s economic needs and withstand the impacts of climate change. The Biden Administration will use this infrastructure funding to ensure that rural communities across the country have access to clean, safe drinking water. It will modernize the lock and dam system vital to getting rural products to markets, leveraging the federal resources to the maximum extent possible with the private sector. And, it will build the roads to give farms and small town businesses access to markets and an efficient means to participate in the world economy. 

Expand access to credit for new and small businesses. Entrepreneurs in small towns and rural areas should have access to the capital they need to realize their dreams. The Biden Administration will dramatically expand funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program to help rural entrepreneurs. Biden will expand the number of Rural Business Investment Companies to help rural companies obtain capital.

II. PARTNER WITH RURAL COMMUNITIES TO HELP THEM FULLY ACCESS FEDERAL RESOURCES

A contributing factor to place-based inequality across the U.S. is the simple fact that some communities are more successful at accessing federal dollars and technical assistance than others. The federal government’s programs are too often too challenging to navigate for cities and towns that do not have the ability to hire highly qualified professionals to engage with the system.
 
The Biden Administration wants to fundamentally change how the federal government interacts with rural communities that so often do not have access to federal programs. The Biden Administration will partner with these communities to help them fully access federal resources to create jobs, build wealth, and give rural Americans who live in poverty the chance to join the middle class.
 
The Biden Administration will do this in two ways:

Create a White House “StrikeForce” to partner with rural communities to help them access federal funds. The Biden Administration will create a White House StrikeForce consisting of agency leaders who will partner with community-building organizations in persistent poverty rural communities and help them unlock federal resources. This approach is modeled on the StrikeForce Secretary Tom Vilsack successfully established in the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama-Biden Administration.

Prioritize persistent poverty rural communities. Approximately 85% of roughly 350 persistent poverty counties in the United States fall outside of a metropolitan area. To tackle persistent poverty in all communities, but especially rural America, Vice President Biden supports applying Congressman James Clyburn’s 10-20-30 formula, which will allocate 10 percent of funding to areas “where 20 percent or more of the population has been living below the poverty line for the last 30 years,” to all federal programs.

III. PROTECT AND BUILD ON THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE IN RURAL COMMUNITIES

The Affordable Care Act was a big deal in rural America, and it should be protected and built upon. As president, Biden will protect and build on Obamacare – not get rid of it and start over with something new. He will not support any policy that means getting rid of Obamacare, whether proposed by a Democrat or Republican.
 
Vice President Biden believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have health insurance and access to affordable, quality health care. He believes that it’s a right, not a privilege. It should not be dependent on whether they live in a city center, a small town, or a remote community.
 
Rural America faces unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to access to quality health care. In many rural communities, the local hospital is one of the largest – if not the largest  – employers. Keeping our rural hospitals open is critical not only for saving lives, but also for supporting local economies in rural America. Yet, since 2010, more than 100 rural hospitals across the United States have closed. Combined, these closures represent the loss of over 10,000 jobs. And, they could mean life or death for patients in rural communities. Already, someone injured in a rural area has to travel, on average, nearly twice as far to get to the closest hospital as someone injured in an urban area. These critical moments lost in travel time are one reason an estimated 60% of all trauma fatalities occur in rural communities.
 
This problem is at risk of getting even worse. Roughly 1 out of 3 rural hospitals are at risk of shutting down. And that’s only part of the story. Rural clinics and rural nursing homes are closing as well.
 
You can read Vice President Biden’s full health care plan here. To specifically help rural Americans, his plan will also:

Keep our rural hospitals open by:

Defending the Affordable Care Act. The first step to save our rural hospitals is to defend the Affordable Care Act. In fact, one proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have caused $1.7 billion in cuts to rural hospitals, 181 additional rural hospitals “forced into the red,” and nearly 38,000 lost jobs.  President Biden isn’t going to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, he’s going to build on it.

Finishing the job of expanding coverage to low-income adults. Research found that, in states that took up the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, the expansion was a critical tool in keeping rural hospitals open. Yet, 14 states have still not expanded Medicaid eligibility, and an estimated 4.9 million individuals would be eligible for coverage but for their state’s inaction. Vice President Biden’s plan will enroll all of these individuals in a new public option, without a premium and with benefits like those offered in Medicaid. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it will help rural hospitals remain solvent. And, under the Biden Plan, which preserves individuals ability to choose private insurance, these hospitals won’t be threatened by having to get by on low Medicare reimbursement rates for all.

Giving rural hospitals the flexibility they need to keep their doors open and care for their patients. The Biden Administration will provide rural health care providers with funding and flexibility necessary to identify, test, and deploy innovative approaches to keeping their doors open and providing care for the unique needs of rural communities. The Affordable Care Act supports this type of innovation, for example through demonstration projects like the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model, which is giving rural hospitals in the state more flexibility to decide how best to spend dollars to improve the health of the population they serve. The Biden Plan will expand funding for these types of demonstration projects, and then accelerate efforts to replicate proven models to other rural hospitals across the country. And, the Biden Plan will identify and eliminate federal rules making it harder for rural hospitals to serve their communities. For example, many rural hospitals serving small populations do not have enough patients to maintain inpatient care, but those communities still need a 24/7 emergency department. One approach to ensure they can keep their doors open is to create a new designation, the Community Outpatient Hospital, as proposed in the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act. The Biden Administration will make sure the federal government is helping rural hospitals meet community needs, not serving as a roadblock.

Adequately funding our rural hospitals. To help hospitals keep their doors open, President Biden supports the elimination of payment cuts and additional payments for rural hospitals as detailed in the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act.

Expand primary care and innovative health care delivery models in rural communities by:

Doubling funding for community health centers. Community health centers  provide primary, prenatal, and other important care to underserved populations. The Biden Plan will double the federal investment in these centers, expanding access to high quality health care for the populations that need it most. More than half of community health centers are in rural areas.

Equipping rural community health centers to be hubs for healthy communities. As president, Biden will establish a grant program to help community health centers hire social workers or other professionals to coordinate resources necessary for community health, such as transportation to get patients to health centers and connections to housing and nutrition services.

Expanding the pipeline of rural health care providers. The Biden Administration will use a comprehensive approach to increase the number of rural individuals going to medical school or other training programs and returning or staying in rural communities to provide care, with a focus on primary care physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and other in-demand providers. This initiative will include additional funding for residency programs in rural areas, expanding theNational Health Service Corps, and developing high school-community-college-health-center partnerships to inspire rural youth to pursue jobs in health care and pursue the advanced credits or industry credentials that will put them on the path to success in the field.

Building new health clinics and deploying telehealth in rural America. The Obama-Biden Administration successfully used the USDA Community Facility Direct Loan & Grant Program to build rural hospitals and mental health clinics across rural America and equip them with the best technology. As president, Biden will expand this grant funding, with a focus on accelerating the deployment of telehealth for mental health and specialty care. Telehealth – the use of videoconferencing and other technology to provide remote care – can be a vital resource for rural communities with limited access to providers.

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Previously Released Biden Plans & Rural America  

To Protect & Build on the Affordable Care Act, including a public option, which will give rural Americans a new health insurance choice, and other policies to lower health care costs.
 
For Educators, Students, and Our Future, which will triple funding for Title I schools, including those in rural communities, and expand high school-community college-business partnerships to prepare students for good jobs.
 
For a Clean Energy Revolution and Climate Justice, which commits our country to fulfilling our obligation to all workers impacted by the energy transition, like coal miners and power plant workers and their communities.
 
In the months ahead, Biden will release a higher education proposal which will include a policy to support small, low-endowment private colleges that are often anchor institutions in rural communities.