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Joe Biden on Tax Reform

Vice President; previously Democratic Senator (DE)


Millionaires pay more; middle class pays less

Q: If your ticket is elected, who will pay more in taxes? Who will pay less?

BIDEN: The middle class will pay less, and people making a million dollars or more will begin to contribute slightly more. Let me give you one concrete example: the continuation of the Bush tax cuts. We're arguing that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be allowed to expire. $800 billion of that goes to people making a minimum of a million dollars. They're patriotic Americans; they're not asking for this continued tax cut; they're not suggesting it; but [the Republicans] are insisting on it. 120,000 families, by continuing that tax cut, will get an additional $500 billion in tax relief in the next 10 years, and their income is an average of $8 million. We want to extend permanently the middle-class tax cut. These guys won't allow us to. They're holding hostage the middle-class tax cut to the super wealthy.

RYAN: Our entire premise of these tax reform plans is to grow the economy and create jobs.

Source: 2012 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 11, 2012

Not mathematically possible to cut $5T in loopholes

RYAN: We raise about $1.2 trillion through income taxes; we forgo about $1.1 trillion in loopholes and deductions. Deny those loopholes and deductions to higher-income taxpayers, so we can lower tax rates across the board.

BIDEN: You think these guys are going to go out there and cut those loopholes? The biggest loophole they take advantage of is the carried interest loophole and capital gains loophole. They exempt that. The only way you can find $5 trillion in loopholes is cut the mortgage deduction for middle-class people, cut the health care deduction for middle-class people, take away their ability to get a tax break to send their kids to college. That's why they [won't provide specifics].

Q: Is he wrong about that?

RYAN: He is wrong about that. You can cut tax rates by 20% and still preserve these important preferences for middle-class taxpayers.

BIDEN: Not mathematically possible.

RYAN: It is mathematically possible. It's been done before.

BIDEN: It has never been done before.

Source: 2012 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 11, 2012

Tax revenue increases must be part of budget deal

Throughout the talks [on the debt ceiling], 4 documents sat alongside the 7 men: the Ryan budget proposal, Obama's budget framework, the report by the White House debt commission known as Bowles-Simpson, and the bipartisan task force plan known as Rivlin-Domenici. Obama's framework proposed to reduce the deficit by $2.5 trillion over the next decade; Bowles-Simpson by $3.8 trillion; Rivlin-Domenici by $6 trillion; and Ryan's plan by $6.2 trillion. 3 of the 4 proposals included revenue increases as part of the package. Only the Republican plan authored by Paul Ryan did not.

During the very first meeting, Biden made clear that Obama would only sign on to a deal that included revenue increases. Cantor did not object. Biden repeated publicly the stipulation that "revenues are gonna have to be in the deal," while Cantor publicly said the opposite: "Tax increases are not going to be something we're going to support in the House."

Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.230-232 , Apr 24, 2012

Surtax on earnings over $1 million seems fair to us

We think everybody should pay their fair share, so that's why we put a small surtax on the first dollar after a person has already made $1 million. That seems fair to us, and it pays for the bill. It's a small price to pay to put hundreds of thousands of people back to work.
Source: Weekly Address: "We Have to Increase the Pace" , Nov 5, 2011

Economic inequity worsened by tax cuts for the wealthy

Think back to the last time the nation's economy was poised for expansion in the early 2000s. Consider the choices that we made then and their ultimate consequences. Tough economic inequity already was highly elevated, yet we made it a lot worse by massive, unpaid-for tax cuts primarily for the wealthy.
Source: Remarks at Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project Forum , Apr 20, 2010

Middle class is U.S. economic engine and needs tax cuts

BIDEN: No one making less than $250,000 under Obama’s plan will see one penny of their tax raised. And 95% percent of the people making less than $150,000 will get a tax break. John wants to add new tax cuts for corporate America and the very wealthy while giving nothing to the middle class. We have a different value set. The middle class is the economic engine. They deserve the tax breaks, not the wealthy who are doing well.

PALIN: When you talk about Barack’s plan to tax increase affecting only those making $250,000 a year or more, you’re forgetting millions of small businesses that are going to fit into that category. So they’re going to be the ones paying higher taxes thus resulting in fewer jobs being created and less productivity. Patriotic is saying, government, you’re not always the solution. In fact, too often you’re the problem so, government, lessen the tax burden and get out of the way and let the private sector and our families grow.

Source: 2008 Vice Presidential debate against Sarah Palin , Oct 2, 2008

FactCheck: McCain did not vote with Obama on tax increase

Biden denied that Obama supported increasing taxes for families making $42,000 a year--but then falsely claimed that McCain had cast an identical vote. Biden said, “Barack Obama did not vote to raise taxes. The vote she’s referring to, John McCain voted the exact same way. It was a budget procedural vote. John McCain voted the same way. It did not raise taxes. ”

Biden was correct only to the extent that the resolution Obama supported would not by itself have increased taxes; it was a vote on a budget resolution that set revenue and spending targets. But he’s wrong to say McCain voted the same way. The Obama campaign attempted to justify Biden’s remark by pointing to a different vote, on a Senate amendment, that took place March 13. That vote would have preserved some of Bush’s tax cuts for lower-income people. The vote on the budget resolution in question, however, came in the wee hours of March 14 and was a mostly party-line tally, 51-44, with Obama in favor and McCain not voting.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 2, 2008

Save $150 billion in tax cuts for people who don’t need them

You can put more into the government by close to $150 Billion in tax cuts going to people who don’t need them, will not affect the economy, and they didn’t ask for them. So you can pay for every one of these initiatives, but as my dad used to say, it’s all about priorities. What are your priorities? I would change the republican priorities of rewarding only the wealthy government programs as well as dealing with a more rational policy to promote jobs.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic Debate , Dec 13, 2007

Take away $85B in annual tax cuts for 1% of top earners

We are giving people tax breaks who don’t need it. The top 1% got an $85 billion a year tax break. It is not needed. My dad used to have an expression--don’t tell me what you value; show me your budget. We need more revenue to be able to pay for the things the governor and everybody else talks about. And there’s only one way to do it. You either raise taxes or take tax cuts away from people who don’t need them. I’d take them away from people who don’t need them.
Source: 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate, Charleston SC , Jul 23, 2007

FactCheck: Top 1% only got $67B in 2007 tax cuts, not $85B

Biden got just a little ahead of the facts when describing how much the rich benefit from Bush’s tax cuts. Biden said, “The top 1% got an $85 billion a year tax break. It is not needed.”

Actually, the most affluent 1% of taxpayers will get about a $67 billion tax break this year, compared with what they would have paid without the Bush tax cuts. But the total is getting bigger each year as incomes grow. The estimated breaks for the top 1% will reach $76 billion in 2008 and $95 billion in 2010.

Source: FactCheck on 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate , Jul 23, 2007

Eliminate the tax cut just for those people in the top 1%

Imagine what we could do if we had a president who had the nerve and the wisdom to understand that rich folks are just as patriotic as poor folks--you just have to ask them. I spoke to a group of millionaires about taking away their tax cut, and when I explained how I’d use it, they gave me a standing ovation.

Imagine if we eliminate the tax cut just for those people in the top 1%. The average income in that group is $1,485,000 a year. You’ve got to make $435,000 minimum to get into that bracket. You know what their tax cuts are gonna cost over the next 10 years? $600 billion.

Imagine you put that tax cut into homeland security and healthcare. For $26 billion, we could provide healthcare for every one of the 9 million uninsured children in the US. For $14 billion we could fund No-Child-Left-Behind. For $10 billion we could implement every one of the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

Source: 2007 IAFF Presidential Forum in Washington DC , Mar 14, 2007

Voted YES on increasing tax rate for people earning over $1 million.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To put children ahead of millionaires and billionaires by restoring the pre-2001 top income tax rate for people earning over $1 million, and use this revenue to invest in LIHEAP; IDEA; Head Start; Child Care; nutrition; school construction and deficit reduction.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. SANDERS: The wealthiest people in the country have not had it so good since the 1920s. Their incomes are soaring, while at the same time the middle class is shrinking, and we have by far the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. The time is now to begin changing our national priorities and moving this country in a different direction.

This amendment restores the top income tax bracket for households earning more than $1 million a year, it raises $32.5 billion over 3 years, and invests that in our kids, including $10 billion for special education. OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. KYL: The problem is we are spending the same dollar 3 or 4 times, it appears. The Sanders amendment is paid for by raising taxes another $32.5 billion, ostensibly from the rich; that is to say, by raising taxes on people who make over $1 million a year. Here is the problem with that. The budget on the floor already assumes the expiration of the current tax rates; that is to say, the rates on the highest level go from 35% to 39.6%, and that money is spent. If you took all the top-rate income, you would come up with $25 billion a year, not even enough to meet what is here, and that money has already been spent. The reality is somewhere or other, somehow, more taxes would have to be raised. I don't think the American people want to do that, particularly in the current environment. LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 43-55

Reference: Bill S.Amdt.4218 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S064 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted NO on allowing AMT reduction without budget offset.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY:To exempt from pay-as-you-go enforcement modifications to the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) that prevent millions of additional taxpayers from having to pay the AMT.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. GRASSLEY: The Senate voted to make sure that middle-class America didn't pay the AMT, and we did it without an offset, by a vote of [about 95%]. So here we are again with an opportunity to say to middle-class America that we are not going to tax the people who were not supposed to be hit by the AMT. This amendment gives us an opportunity to get over that hurdle that is in this budget resolution that, under pay-go, you would have to have an offset for the AMT. Unless my amendment is adopted, the 25 million families who will be hit by the AMT increase will get a tax increase of over $2,000 apiece. They deserve a guarantee of relief.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. CONRAD: If you want to blow a hole in the budget as big as all outdoors, here is your opportunity--a trillion dollars not paid for, a trillion dollars that we are going to go out and borrow from the Chinese and Japanese. That makes absolutely no sense. I urge my colleagues to vote no.LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 47-51

Reference: Bill S.Amdt.4276 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S078 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted NO on raising the Death Tax exemption to $5M from $1M.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY:To protect small businesses, family ranches and farms from the Death Tax by providing a $5 million exemption, a low rate for smaller estates and a maximum rate no higher than 35%.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. KYL: This amendment is a reprise of what we did last year in offering to reform the estate tax, sometimes referred to as the death tax. Now, in the budget itself, there is a provision to allow the death tax to be changed from the current law to a top rate of 45% and an exempted amount of $3.5 million, and there are some other features. My amendment would reduce that top rate to no higher than 35% so that if you had more than one rate, at least the top rate could not exceed 35%, and both of the two spouses would have a $5 million exempted amount before the estate tax would kick in. Now, the reason for my amendment is: current law [is] getting up to a high rate of 55% and an exempted amount of either $2 million or $1 million, probably $1 million--a continued unfair burden on primarily America's small businesses and farms.

OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. CONRAD: This amendment would virtually eliminate the estate tax. Let me say why. Let me first say there is no death tax in the country. Of course, if you poll people and you ask them: Do you want to eliminate the death tax? they will say sure. But you are not going to pay any tax when you die unless you have $2 million. There is no death tax in America. There is a tax on estates. At today's level of $2 million, that affects only 0.5% of estates. When the exemption reaches $3.5 million in 2009, 0.2% of estates will be taxed. If the amendment is agreed to, we would be borrowing money in the name of 99.8% of the American people, borrowing primarily from China & Japan, to give it to the Warren Buffets, the Paris Hiltons, & others of enormous wealth in this country.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 50-50

Reference: Kyl Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.4191 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S050 on Feb 13, 2008

Voted NO on repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Amendment would accommodate the full repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax, preventing 23 million families and individuals from being subject to the AMT in 2007, and millions of families and individuals in subsequent years.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

This amendment repeals the AMT. Except for the telephone tax, the alternative minimum tax is the phoniest tax we have ever passed. The AMT, in 1969, was meant to hit 155 taxpayers who used legal means to avoid taxation, under the theory that everybody ought to pay some income tax.

This very year, more than 2,000 people who are very wealthy are not paying any income tax or alternative minimum income tax. So it is not even working and hitting the people it is supposed to hit. Right now, this year, 2007, the year we are in, there are 23 million families that are going to be hit by this tax. It is a phony revenue machine, over 5 years, $467 billion dollars. We are going to have to have a point of order this year to keep these 23 million taxpayers from paying this tax. We might as well do away with it right now, once and for all, and be honest about it.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

The reality of the budget resolution is this may not have anything to do with eliminating the alternative minimum tax. The one thing it will do is reduce the revenue of the Government over the next 5 years by $533 billion, plunging us right back into deficit. Look, we can deal with the AMT. We have dealt with it in the underlying budget resolution for the next 2 years. There will be no increase in the number of people affected by the AMT for the next 2 years under the budget resolution, and that is paid for. Unfortunately, this amendment is not paid for. It would plunge us back into deficit. I urge my colleagues to vote no.

Reference: Grassley Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.471 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-108 on Mar 23, 2007

Voted NO on raising estate tax exemption to $5 million.

An amendment to raise the death tax exemption to $5 million; reducing the maximum death tax rate to 35%; and to promote economic growth by extending the lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

It is disappointing to many family businesses and farm owners to set the death tax rate at what I believe is a confiscatory 45% and set the exemption at only $3.5 million, which most of us believe is too low. This leaves more than 22,000 families subject to the estate tax each year.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

You can extend all the tax breaks that have been described in this amendment if you pay for them. The problem with the amendment is that over $70 billion is not paid for. It goes on the deficit, which will drive the budget right out of balance. We will be going right back into the deficit ditch. Let us resist this amendment. People could support it if it was paid for, but it is not. However well intended the amendment is, it spends $72.5 billion with no offset. This amendment blows the budget. This amendment takes us from a balance in 2012 right back into deficit. My colleagues can extend those tax cuts if they pay for them, if they offset them. This amendment does not pay for them; it does not offset them; it takes us back into deficit. It ought to be defeated.

Reference: Kyl Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.507 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-083 on Mar 21, 2007

Voted NO on supporting permanence of estate tax cuts.

Increases the estate tax exclusion to $5,000,000, effective 2015, and repeals the sunset provision for the estate and generation-skipping taxes. Lowers the estate tax rate to equal the current long-term capital gains tax rate (i.e., 15% through 2010) for taxable estates up to $25 million. Repeals after 2009 the estate tax deduction paid to states.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

The permanent solution to the death tax challenge that we have today is a compromise. It is a compromise that prevents the death rate from escalating to 55% and the exclusion dropping to $1 million in 2011. It also includes a minimum wage increase, 40% over the next 3 years. Voting YES is a vote for that permanent death tax relief. Voting YES is for that extension of tax relief. Voting YES is for that 40% minimum wage increase. This gives us the opportunity to address an issue that will affect the typical American family, farmers, & small business owners.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Family businesses and family farms should not be broken up to pay taxes. With the booming economy of the 1990s, many more Americans joined the ranks of those who could face estate taxes. Raising the exemption level and lowering the rate in past legislation made sense. Under current law, in my State of Delaware, fewer than 50 families will face any estate tax in 2009. I oppose this legislation's complete repeal of the estate tax because it will cost us $750 billion. Given the world we live in today, with clear domestic needs unmet, full repeal is a luxury that we cannot afford.

To add insult to this injury, the first pay raise for minimum wage workers in 10 years is now hostage to this estate tax cut. We are told that to get those folks on minimum wage a raise, we have to go into debt, so that the sons and daughters of the 7,000 most fortunate families among us will be spared the estate tax. We must say no to this transparent gimmick.

Reference: Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act; Bill H.R. 5970 ; vote number 2006-229 on Aug 3, 2006

Voted NO on permanently repealing the `death tax`.

A cloture motion ends debate and forces a vote on the issue. In this case, voting YES implies support for permanently repealing the death tax. Voting against cloture would allow further amendments. A cloture motion requires a 3/5th majority to pass. This cloture motion failed, and there was therefore no vote on repealing the death tax.
Reference: Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act; Bill HR 8 ; vote number 2006-164 on Jun 8, 2006

Voted YES on $47B for military by repealing capital gains tax cut.

To strengthen America's military, to repeal the extension of tax rates for capital gains and dividends, to reduce the deficit, and for other purposes. Specifically, a YES vote would appropriate $47 billion to the military and would pay for it by repealing the extension of tax cuts for capital gains and dividends to 2010 back to 2008. The funds wuold be used as follows:
Reference: Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act; Bill S Amdt 2737 to HR 4297 ; vote number 2006-008 on Feb 2, 2006

Voted NO on retaining reduced taxes on capital gains & dividends.

Vote to reduce federal spending by $56.1 billion over five years by retaining a reduced tax rate on capital gains and dividends, as well as.
Status: Bill passed Bill passed, 66-31
Reference: Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act; Bill HR 4297 ; vote number 2006-010 on Feb 2, 2006

Voted NO on extending the tax cuts on capital gains and dividends.

This large piece of legislation (418 pages) includes numerous provisions, generally related to extending the tax cuts initiated by President Bush. This vote was on final passage of the bill. The specific provisions include:
  1. Extension Of Expiring Provisions: for business expenses, retirement savings contributions, higher education expenses, new markets tax credit, and deducting state and local sales taxes.
  2. Provisions Relating To Charitable Donations, and Reforming Charitable Organizations
  3. Improved Accountability of Donor Advised Funds
  4. Improvements in Efficiency and Safeguards in IRS Collection
Reference: Tax Relief Act of 2005; Bill S. 2020 ; vote number 2005-347 on Nov 18, 2005

Voted NO on $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years.

H.R. 2 Conference Report; Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. Vote to adopt the conference report on the bill that would make available $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years. It would provide $20 billion in state aid that consists of $10 billion for Medicaid and $10 billion to be used at states' judgment. The agreement contains a new top tax rate of 15 percent on capital gains and dividends through 2007 (5 percent for lower-income taxpayers in 2007 and no tax in 2008). Income tax cuts enacted in 2001 and planned to take effect in 2006 would be accelerated. The child tax credit would be raised to $1,000 through 2004. The standard deduction for married couples would be double that for a single filer through 2004. Tax breaks for businesses would include expanding the deduction that small businesses could take on investments to $100,000 through 2005.
Reference: Bill HR.2 ; vote number 2003-196 on May 23, 2003

Voted YES on reducing marriage penalty instead of cutting top tax rates.

Vote to expand the standard deduction and 15% income tax bracket for couples. The elimination of the "marriage penalty" tax would be offset by reducing the marginal tax rate reductions for the top two rate bracket
Reference: Bill HR 1836 ; vote number 2001-112 on May 17, 2001

Voted YES on increasing tax deductions for college tuition.

Vote to increase the tax deduction for college tuition costs from $5,000 to $12,000 and increase the tax credit on student loan interest from $500 to $1,000. The expense would be offset by limiting the cut in the top estate tax rate to 53%.
Reference: Bill HR 1836 ; vote number 2001-114 on May 17, 2001

Voted YES on eliminating the 'marriage penalty'.

Vote on a bill that would reduce taxes on married couples by increasing their standard deduction to twice that of single taxpayers and raise the income limits on both the 15 percent and 28 percent tax brackets for married couples to twice that of singles
Reference: Bill HR.4810 ; vote number 2000-215 on Jul 18, 2000

Voted NO on across-the-board spending cut.

The Nickles (R-OK) Amdendment would express the sense of the Senate that Congress should adopt an across-the-board cut in all discretionary funding, to prevent the plundering of the Social Security Trust Fund
Status: Amdt. Agreed to Y)54; N)46
Reference: Nickles Amdt #1889; Bill S. 1650 ; vote number 1999-313 on Oct 6, 1999

Voted NO on requiring super-majority for raising taxes.

Senator Kyl (R-AZ) offered an amendment to the 1999 budget resolution to express the sense of the Senate on support for a Constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority to pass tax increases.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)50; N)48; NV)2
Reference: Kyl Amdt #2221; Bill S Con Res 86 ; vote number 1998-71 on Apr 2, 1998

Rated 15% by NTU, indicating a "Big Spender" on tax votes.

Biden scores 15% by NTU on tax-lowering policies

Every year National Taxpayers Union (NTU) rates U.S. Representatives and Senators on their actual votes—every vote that significantly affects taxes, spending, debt, and regulatory burdens on consumers and taxpayers. NTU assigned weights to the votes, reflecting the importance of each vote’s effect. NTU has no partisan axe to grind. All Members of Congress are treated the same regardless of political affiliation. Our only constituency is the overburdened American taxpayer. Grades are given impartially, based on the Taxpayer Score. The Taxpayer Score measures the strength of support for reducing spending and regulation and opposing higher taxes. In general, a higher score is better because it means a Member of Congress voted to lessen or limit the burden on taxpayers. The Taxpayer Score can range between zero and 100. We do not expect anyone to score a 100, nor has any legislator ever scored a perfect 100 in the multi-year history of the comprehensive NTU scoring system. A high score does not mean that the Member of Congress was opposed to all spending or all programs. High-scoring Members have indicated that they would vote for many programs if the amount of spending were lower. A Member who wants to increase spending on some programs can achieve a high score if he or she votes for offsetting cuts in other programs. A zero score would indicate that the Member of Congress approved every spending proposal and opposed every pro-taxpayer reform.

Source: NTU website 03n-NTU on Dec 31, 2003

Rated 100% by the CTJ, indicating support of progressive taxation.

Biden scores 100% by the CTJ on taxationissues

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 CTJ scores as follows:

About CTJ (from their website, www.ctj.org):

Citizens for Tax Justice, founded in 1979, is not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organization focusing on federal, state and local tax policies and their impact upon our nation. CTJ's mission is to give ordinary people a greater voice in the development of tax laws. Against the armies of special interest lobbyists for corporations and the wealthy, CTJ fights for:

Source: CTJ website 06n-CTJ on Dec 31, 2006

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