Former Vice President Joe Biden is among the leading Democratic candidates for president nationwide. In Texas, a recent poll found that Biden has strong support among likely Democratic voters, though that poll also showed that a mix of registered and unregistered voters believe Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the candidate who could actually defeat President Donald Trump in November.
Biden is campaigning in Iowa this week, ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3. That’s one month before Texas Democratic voters cast their primary ballots on Super Tuesday – March 3.
In an interview with Texas Standard host David Brown, Biden says he aims to tackle issues that Texas Democrats care about most, from guns to immigration to health care.
Biden calls gun violence in the United States “a public health epidemic.” He supports gun buyback programs that would get AR-15s, like those used by a number of mass shooters, off the streets. He also wants to stop the manufacturing of such weapons, and to limit the size of ammunition clips.
“I would ban the production of any new AR-15s,” Biden says. “Who the devil needs to have a clip that can hold 200 or 50 or 70 bullets in a clip?”
Biden, who says he took on the National Rifle Association, or NRA, to get an assault weapons ban passed in the 1990s when he served in the Senate, says companies that sell guns could do more to make them safer.
“We’re in a situation now where it’s not just the NRA; it’s the gun manufacturers,” Biden says. “They, in fact, have the ability right now to make guns [where] the trigger can only be pulled by someone who has a biometric marker on their hands to do it. But they won’t do it because it’s gonna reduce the number of sales of guns.”
Most Democratic presidential candidates have criticized Trump’s immigration policies. Biden says he would reverse many Trump initiatives, returning to some of the practices of the Obama administration.
“It would track closer to the last year of our administration,” he says. “For me, it’s all about families, about keeping families together, not separating families. And it’s past time to fix the system. We’re ripping babies from mothers’ arms, putting them in cages.”
But some immigration advocates criticized the Obama administration for its own deportation policies.
Biden also criticized the Trump administration’s so-called Remain in Mexico policy that forces asylum-seekers who enter Mexico on the way to the U.S. to stay there until their asylum cases are heard.
A streamlined asylum system, more immigration judges and technological solutions would address security problems at the border, Biden says.
Also, addressing economic hardship and crime in Central America would stem the tide of immigration to the U.S., Biden says. He says he’s done that before.
“You may remember that I was able to put together a bipartisan initiative of almost $750 million to tackle the migration crisis at its root, to invest in the security and prosperity of Central America. I spent hundreds of hours over time meeting with all those heads of state, saying, ‘Look, we’re gonna make sure that we help you with lighting your streets, dealing with criminal gangs, making sure schools are better, etc. But we’re not going to give the money to you because we don’t trust you. We’re gonna go right down there and build them ourselves with the local officials.’”
Biden says he intends to propose a $1 billion-per-year plan to aid Central American countries.
Democratic presidential candidates have been arguing on the campaign trail over Medicare for All, a proposal supported by Sanders and other progressives that would provide government health insurance to everyone, and eliminate private health insurance according to some versions of the proposal. Biden opposes Medicare for All, and, instead, wants to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, which became law when he was vice president.
“My proposal, in detail, is to take the Affordable Care Act, restore all the cuts, add what we call a ‘public option’ – a Medicare-like option – and further subsidize it so that it’s not so expensive to be able to buy in. That would cost a lot of money; it would cost about $700 billion more over 10 years,” Biden says.
He claims a full-scale Medicare for All plan would cost $35 trillion or more.
Biden would also increase health insurance options for those who are eligible for Medicaid.
“So, anyone, for example, who’s uninsured but eligible for Medicaid would automatically be insured in the Medicare program,” he says.
To win Texas in November, Biden will have to convince some Republican-leaning voters to cast a ballot for him. He says his policy ideas should be appealing to them.
“I don’t know any Republicans out there in Texas, many, who, in fact think drug prices are fair,” Biden says. “I don’t know many Republicans out there who think that we’re in a situation where we’re doing what we need to be doing with regard to highways and infrastructure. … I could go on.”
Long a believer in bipartisan dealmaking, Biden says he can work with Republicans in Congress if he were president.
“My whole career, I’ve been able to work with Republicans to get major things done,” he says.
He cites a health research initiative that was passed by the majority-Republican House and Senate after Trump was elected but before the January 2017 inauguration. It included a $1.9 billion cancer research program named for Biden’s son, Beau, who died of cancer in 2015.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.