The Candidates: Sen. Joe Biden
Friday, October 19, 2007; 4:00 PM
The Concord Monitor, Cedar Rapids Gazette and washingtonpost.com will host a series of live discussions with Republicans and Democrats running for president to give readers the opportunity to share thoughts and questions directly with the candidates.
Sen. Joe Biden was online Friday, Oct. 19 at 4 p.m. ET to take your questions on the campaign and his vision for the United States.
The transcript follows.
Biden is a six-term Democratic U.S. Senator from Delaware. This is his second race for the presidency, following a try in 1988.
Sen. Joe Biden: Hey folks, this is Joe Biden signing in from the campaign trail in Iowa. Thank you to The Washington Post and all the readers for participating in this forum. I look forward to answering your questions.
Hobe Sound, Fla.: Dear Sen. Biden: I have always enjoyed your comments and opinions on current events, and I am sorry to see that you are running behind in the money race, which, unfortunately ultimately determines the outcome. Please clear up one question for me: Does the newly enacted law dealing with an Iranian paramilitary group authorizes the President to use military action? I understand that you voted against this move.
Sen. Joe Biden: First of all, this is why we need public financing for presidential elections. But to get to the heart of the question about Iran, no, the amendment does not authorize the president to go to war with Iran, but I voted against it for one simple reason: This administration can't be trusted not to twist its words into a justification for war. That's what they did with the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, with the 2002 authorization to use force in Iraq, and what they do every day in claiming that the executive branch has more power than the Constitution gives it.
Ames, Iowa: Hey Joe. First of all I am behind you 100 percent, but could clarify your stance on voting for the war, and when you say you need 67 votes to override the President's veto? Go Joe!
Sen. Joe Biden: I did not vote for the war. I voted to protect American troops who find themselves in the midst of a civil war without adequate protection, and the Mine Resistant Vehicles that will reduce the casualty rate by 80 percent. As long as this president has a single American troop in Iraq, I will vote to protect that troop. With regard to the need to have 67 votes to end the war, I mean that that is what it takes to override a presidential veto.
This Spring we passed the Biden-Levin Amendment, which called for the withdrawal of American combat troops, starting within 120 days of its passage, and getting the bulk of all combat troops out of Iraq by March of 2008. The president vetoed that bill; in order to impose this mandate for troop withdrawal -- under the the Constitution -- we needed 67 votes to override his veto and to begin to bring American troops home. We did not have 67 votes -- there are only 51 Democrats, therefore we needed 16 Republicans senators to join us to force the president, under the Constitution, to bring the troops home.
Tulsa, Okla.: Sen. Biden, The United States has signed, but not ratified many international treaties, including the International Criminal Court treaty, the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of a Child, the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Kyoto Protocol and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty. Which international treaties, if any, would you support and urge the Senate to ratify?
Sen. Joe Biden: I strongly support the Convention on the Rights of a Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
At one time or another, as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I pushed for their ratification. As a matter of fact, it is my expectation that by the end of this month, we finally will have the votes to report out the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
With regard to the Kyoto Treaty, it is critical we re-engage the world and reclaim America's position as a leader in our climate change talks. As a matter of fact, I -- along with Sen. Lugar -- have been pushing the president to re-institute these negotiations. The very survival of the planet depends upon it.
And by the way, it's shameful that we have been unable to ratify, as more than 60 other nations have, the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. In the meantime, as the author of the Violence Against Women Act, I have introduced an International Violence Against Women Act to combat and discourage any abuse against women in the world.
Marion, Iowa: Around 2040 Social Security will run into problems if kept the way it is. I am not concerned for myself but for my children who are in their 40s. I will be supporting you in January whenever we caucus.
Sen. Joe Biden: You are right -- after 2040, more will have to be paid out than is brought in through the Social Security System. That means we either must cut benefits or find an additional source of revenue.
Right now only the first $97,500 of income is subject to social security tax -- the so-called CAP. I would raise the CAP to keep the Social Security system solid.
Ithaca, N.Y.: Sen. Biden, while you have widespread recognition for your long service among your colleagues and among the politically savvy, the fact remains that as a senator you have been relatively unknown to the general public outside of Delaware. Among no group is this more true than the young, who seem to be establishing themselves as a key demographic in the upcoming election's coverage. My question to you, sir, is how important do you see the 30-and-under crowd as a demographic to your candidacy, and how do you plan to better-enlist their support?
Sen. Joe Biden: The under-30 group is essential. I always have gotten, from the time I was elected to the U.S. Senate at the age of 29, the vast majority of that vote. I am absolutely confident that as my record and my aspirations for this country become known, I will get the majority of that vote. But, up until now, the only senators who are known have been those who have been able to raise 10s of millions of dollars, and I doubt very much whether the young voters of America think that is the way we should choose a president. I will provide future presidential candidates with public financing so that all will be known equally well, and the only thing that really will matter is their ideas -- not their bank accounts.
Manchester, N.H.: Sen. Biden, we agree on just about everything except Universal Health Care. I think it will be a disaster for this country. Can I vote for you anyway?
Sen. Joe Biden: Yes -- you still vote for me. Because I am sure you agree, no one in America should be denied quality health care because they are poor or unable to afford health insurance.
I believe every American should be able to join the same health care program that federal employees have -- based on a sliding scale as to what they can afford.
We don't have to reinvent the wheel to give every American decent and adequate health care.
Wilmington, Del.: Sen. Biden, as a long-term supporter of yours, I will not support any additional re-election efforts by you. Why? Because of your continuing use of misinformation. "We need 60 votes in the Senate to end the war" ... no, you do not! If the Democrats (and any so-called "moderate" Republicans) had any real courage, you guys (and gals) in Washington could end the war with just 51 votes, by cutting off funding for a war based on lies about weapons of mass destruction that never existed. The more dollars you give to this war, the more young Americans will die fighting for a lost cause.
Sen. Joe Biden: It is true, we could refuse to bring up a budget, not even have a vote. But that also would mean there would be 166,000 troops in Iraq -- requiring at least one year to withdraw them all -- being left without adequate protection, including those Mine Resistant Vehicles, which I led the fight to fund and which only now are getting to the troops in Iraq.
I want to get the troops out of Iraq just as much as you do, but I don't want to leave them high-and-dry as they leave.
73 percent of the more than 3,800 deaths and 73 percent of the 28,000 wounded have been a consequence of roadside bombs. The Mine Resistant Vehicles that are being sent to our troops will decrease by 80 percent these deaths and injuries. How can we in good conscience not provide them with these vehicles? Do we think the Iraqis are going to be waving American flags at our troops as they leave, not attempting to kill them?
San Francisco: Will you join Sen. Chris Dodd's hold and proposed filibuster on any FISA bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecoms? Thanks for joining us for this chat today, Sen. Biden, and thanks for the leadership you provide the Democratic Party and America.
Sen. Joe Biden: Yes.
Concord, N.H.: Sen. Biden, I consider you to be the most qualified of any candidate, Republican or Democratic, and am frustrated by the lack of coverage your campaign seems to receive. How can someone possibly win an election in this country without an indecently excessive bankroll?
I have a question that no one seems to ask of the candidates. What are your thoughts on the expansion of the executive branch that has happened in the past six years? Would you pull back from that expansion, or do you consider the current administration's position to be an accurate and lawful one? Would you be willing to inject more transparency into the way the executive conducts business? It seems like any request for disclosure falls under the blanket cloak of executive privilege these days.
Also, do you feel that the credit card industry requires more congressional oversight? I have had my rates raised from 11 percent to 19.99 percent without any changes in my payment history or debt-to-credit-line ratio that would justify such a hike. Why are they allowed a usurious license to print money?
Sen. Joe Biden: In my view this administration has abused the Constitution more than any administration in modern history, and I predict that in the next several years, we are going to learn just how much they have trampled on our Constitutional rights and distorted our treaty obligations.
This administration redefined torture as existing only if "organ failure or death" results from the treatment of the prisoner. I pledge to you and every American that I will not attempt to maintain this bogus constitutional argument of a unitary executive.
That is why I voted against Gonzales's confirmation in the first place. That's why I was the first to call for his resignation, as well as for that of Rumsfeld. And that is why I called for accountability of officers and generals for Abu Ghraib, and for the immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay.
You can rest assured I will reverse the erosion of our Constitutional rights and adherence to the international treaties we sign.
Marion, Iowa: In 2011 the estate tax will have an exclusion amount of $1 million dollars. This exclusion amount may cause some family farms to sell half of their land just to pay the estate tax. In your opinion, what is a realistic exclusion amount for the estate tax?
Sen. Joe Biden: There is absolutely no evidence to that effect.
As a matter of fact, I asked the Internal Revenue Service to provide me with a single example of a farm that has had to be sold because of inheritance taxes would not under existing law -- and they could not provide me one.
I would appreciate if you could provide me with any specific examples. Thank you.
Davenport, Iowa: Good Day, Sen. Biden. I intend to support you in the Iowa caucuses and I hope the chump change I can afford to send to the campaign helps. How are you going to deal with the budget deficit? How can we achieve a budget surplus and apply it toward paying down the national debt? Thanks.
Sen. Joe Biden: Ending the war in Iraq and not extending the hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts that only benefit the very wealthy, and are not needed in order for our economy to continue to grow.
Sen. Joe Biden: Thanks to all for joining this conversation. I hope we can do this again -- either through my own Web site or through The Washington Post.
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