What Happened to Biden’s 2020 Campaign Promises? - The World News

What Happened to Biden’s 2020 Campaign Promises?

As President Biden campaigns for re-election, Democrats have heralded a series of accomplishments under his tenure. At times, Mr. Biden has called attention to promises by his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, that fell short.

But like all politicians, Mr. Biden has had to confront the reality that campaigning and governing are vastly different, especially under a divided government. Even as Mr. Biden has fulfilled some of the pledges he made in 2020, not all of those have come to fruition three years after his election.

On the one hand, Mr. Biden has recommitted the United States to the Paris climate agreement, an international accord intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; canceled the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have carried petroleum from Canada to Nebraska; and increased federal subsidies for people buying plans under the Affordable Care Act. On the other hand, he has been unable to push voting rights legislation or an assault weapons ban through Congress, and his ambitious plan to forgive student debt was roundly rejected by the Supreme Court.

Here’s a sampling of some of Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign commitments and where they stand.


“There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration.”
— in a 2020 interview on NPR

In running for the presidency, Mr. Biden made Mr. Trump’s border wall a central part of his campaign. On his first day in office, he issued a proclamation ending the national emergency declaration that had been used to direct resources to building the wall.

But in recent weeks, the Biden administration has eased a variety of laws to allow for the construction of new barriers in Texas along the southwestern border. The move comes as the number of immigrants crossing the border without authorization surges, drastically altering the political pressures on Mr. Biden.

Mr. Biden has maintained his view that a border wall is ineffective. But he said that the funding was appropriated for the border wall in 2019 and that Congress would not re-appropriate it — despite public calls by the administration to do so — meaning the funding had to be used for that purpose. A 1974 law requires the president to spend money as Congress directs, and White House officials have said the only way to potentially get around it was to file a lawsuit, which the administration chose not to do.

Before the recent announcement, the administration authorized the completion of some small wall gaps.


“End Trump’s detrimental asylum policies.”
— 2020 campaign website

During his 2020 campaign, Mr. Biden publicly criticized the Trump administration’s immigration approach and argued that it had defied American tradition by trying to “drastically restrict access to asylum in the U.S.” But the Biden administration has similarly tried to limit the asylum process to deter unauthorized migration.

In May, the administration enacted a rule that presumes most migrants who illegally cross the border from Mexico between ports of entry are ineligible for asylum. The rule disqualifies most asylum seekers if they entered the United States without an appointment at an official entry point or cannot prove they sought legal protection in another country they crossed.

There are exceptions: It does not apply to unaccompanied children or migrants who can show there was an imminent threat to life, for example, but critics say the approach is similar to Mr. Trump’s.

On the issue of immigration more broadly, Mr. Biden’s allies in Congress did propose a bill in 2021 that would have overhauled the immigration system, but it ultimately faltered. Until earlier this year, he also kept in place Title 42, a pandemic-era health rule enacted by the Trump administration to quickly expel immigrants who crossed into the country illegally.


“I guarantee you, my word as a Biden, no one making less than $400,000 will pay a single penny more in taxes. Not a penny.”
— during a campaign rally in October 2020

Mr. Biden has not raised taxes for taxpayers under this threshold, as he had promised. He has instead focused on increasing taxes for corporations and those making more than $400,000. His budget proposal for fiscal year 2024, for example, proposed increasing the Medicare tax rate from 3.8 percent to 5 percent for income above $400,000.

But that is “not the complete story,” said William McBride, the vice president of federal tax policy at the Tax Foundation, a right-leaning think tank.

Some analyses estimate that tax increases on corporations could have an indirect effect on people throughout the income scale, Mr. McBride said, because the burden is often passed along, at least in part, to consumers and workers through, say, lower wages or stock values. While estimates differ, a 2022 Tax Foundation analysis found that, in the long run, the Inflation Reduction Act may reduce after-tax income by about 0.2 percent for most income groups — including those earning less than $400,000.


“The Biden plan will repeal the existing law explicitly barring Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug corporations.”
— 2020 campaign website

As president, Mr. Biden did sign legislation authorizing the federal government to negotiate lower prices of some medications for Medicare recipients — not by repealing the existing law, but by adding an exception.

That measure was part of the Inflation Reduction Act approved in 2022. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the program could save the government about $100 billion over a decade. Drugmakers have filed multiple lawsuits in an effort to halt the drug-pricing program.


“What I’m going to do is pass Obamacare with a public option — become Bidencare.”
— during an October 2020 debate

Since assuming office, Mr. Biden has not taken formal action to try to make this proposal a reality. In fact, ever since, he has rarely mentioned his vow for a public option, which would give Americans a choice to sign up for a government-run health plan.

“It’s fair to say that President Biden has not strongly pushed the idea of a public option since coming into office,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at K.F.F., a nonprofit group focused on health policy.

Mr. Biden’s first budget proposal, for fiscal year 2022, addressed his desire for a public option, albeit with few details. Getting a public option through Congress would, like some other campaign proposals, be a major challenge.


“Invest in our schools to eliminate the funding gap between white and nonwhite districts, and rich and poor districts.”
— 2020 campaign website

To achieve this goal, Mr. Biden proposed tripling Title I funding, which provides assistance to local schools to benefit low-income students. Under Mr. Biden, Title I grant funding has increased but more modestly: by about 11 percent, though advocates say the boost is tempered by inflation and increased enrollment. The administration’s proposals for much larger increases have failed in Congress.

Given the size of the Title I program — $18.4 billion in fiscal year 2023 — tripling the funding in three years through the appropriations process is “not realistic,” said Sarah Abernathy, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding.

In promising to address such gaps, Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign cited a now-defunct education group, which had assessed the discrepancies at the time. Experts were not aware of a current analysis that provides a direct comparison.

But Title I funding alone cannot solve such funding gaps because school districts are overwhelmingly funded at the state and local level, said Noelle Ellerson Ng, the associate executive director of advocacy and governance at AASA, The School Superintendents Association.


“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.”

“Make public colleges and universities tuition-free for all families with incomes below $125,000.”
— 2020 campaign website

The Biden administration has not successfully turned these promises into reality, though it has proposed dedicating funding to them.

In its budget proposal for fiscal year 2024, for example, the administration requested $90 billion over 10 years to make two years of community college free.

Additionally, the administration asked for two years of “subsidized tuition” for students of families earning less than $125,000, and specifically for students attending historically Black colleges and universities or other colleges dedicated to minority students.


“No more drilling on federal lands, period.”
— during a February 2020 town hall event

Contrary to Mr. Biden’s commitment on the campaign trail, his administration in March formally approved an oil drilling project in Alaska known as Willow. The administration emphasized that it constrained the project by denying two of the five drill sites proposed and having the company behind it return about 68,000 acres of existing leases to the government.

Mr. Biden has since announced a prohibition on drilling in 13 million acres of wilderness in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska and canceled all drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In terms of other actions related to climate change, the Inflation Reduction Act was a vast investment in clean energy, including through lucrative tax incentives that some data suggests have helped spur private investment. And the administration has proposed regulations to limit greenhouse pollution from existing power plants.


“As president, Biden will work with our nation’s governors and mayors to support the deployment of more than 500,000 new public charging outlets by the end of 2030.”
— 2020 campaign website

Mr. Biden has aggressively pushed to help accelerate the country’s shift to electric vehicles, including through proposed environmental rules. And he has signed legislation investing in charging stations: The 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law included $7.5 billion to build such stations.

The White House has said the United States is on track to achieve 500,000 chargers by 2030, though it has not specified if that estimate is total public chargers, or new public chargers, as the campaign’s goal stated.

Some experts said that even reaching a goal of 500,000 total public chargers would be challenging, though not impossible. “It is technically feasible that the target can be met, but it will not be trivial,” said Kenneth Gillingham, a professor of environmental and energy economics at Yale.

Still, by some estimates, attaining 500,000 public chargers by 2030 falls short of what is needed. A recent report by the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group, said that more than 530,000 chargers are needed today — before expected increases in electric vehicle adoption.


“Because we can’t ensure that we get these cases right every time, we must eliminate the death penalty.”
— on X, formerly Twitter, in July 2019

Mr. Biden has not eliminated the death penalty, which would require legislation. His administration has taken some steps toward curtailing the use of capital punishment, but some who oppose it have said Mr. Biden has not acted aggressively enough.

In 2021, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland imposed a moratorium on federal executions after the Trump administration resumed the practice after a hiatus of nearly two decades. The Justice Department has not pursued the death penalty in new cases under Mr. Garland.

Mr. Biden followed through with this commitment, withdrawing the United States from Afghanistan in August 2021 and concluding the longest war in American history — though the end was chaotic and deadly. The withdrawal was in the works under the Trump administration.


“If Tehran returns to compliance with the deal, President Biden would re-enter the agreement, using hard-nosed diplomacy and support from our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities.”
— 2020 campaign website

Mr. Biden was referring to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, an agreement aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. The Trump administration withdrew from the agreement in 2018. Despite more than a year of negotiations after Mr. Biden’s election, the United States and Iran did not reach an agreement on re-entering the deal.

The Biden administration recently announced new sanctions on Iran. The move came as a United Nations measure associated with the nuclear deal expired — and also followed the surprise Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, which gets support from Iran.

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