Where Biden and AOC's Policies on Climate Change, Immigration and Health Care Differ

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez plans to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in November, and while Biden's moved closer to her position on key issues, such as climate change and health care, the two aren't in total alignment.

Ocasio-Cortez will make a 60-second speech at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, two days before Biden is expected to formally accept the nomination. Although a freshman representative, Ocasio-Cortez has become one of the most high-profile members of Congress, and her presence at the convention is an effort to boost votes for Biden, especially among the younger generations, and possibly among those who supported Senator Bernie Sanders.

Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Sanders in the primary. In the wake of his own presidential campaign, the Vermont senator endorsed Biden and advocated for people to cast their ballots for him, but the New York representative has yet to formally endorse the presumptive Democratic nominee. However, she said in April that she will vote for Biden and played a role in helping to influence some of the former vice president's policies.

Climate Change

Ocasio-Cortez drafted the Green New Deal Resolution in 2019, the most ambitious climate policy to date, and criticized politicians for taking a middle-ground approach to climate change. In May, she joined the Biden-Sanders unity task force and among the recommendations the group made were to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, boost clean energy jobs and hold polluters accountable.

In announcing the task force's recommendations, the representative posted on Twitter that as is the case with "any collaborative effort," there were "areas of negotiation and compromise."

"But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully & substantively improved Biden's positions," she tweeted.

In the primaries, Biden's environmental policy fell short of some of his challengers' proposals, but he has since updated his stance, largely to align with the recommendations of the task force. The $2 trillion plan hopes to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, about 20 years after the initial goal of the Green New Deal, and make the electricity sector free of carbon pollution by 2035.

aoc biden policy health care climate change
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks to the press after receiving a briefing on COVID-19 in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 13. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pauses while speaking during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 15 in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez will speak at the Democratic convention and pledged to vote for Biden in November, although their policy stances aren't in total alignment. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Alex Wroblewski/Getty

Both Ocasio-Cortez and Biden support rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, reducing emissions from public transportation and upgrading buildings to make them more energy-efficient.

Biden's policy doesn't include a ban on oil fracking or natural gas, a move that Ocasio-Cortez supported alongside Sanders in February. In a statement at the time, she said fracking is "destroying" America's land and water and "wreaking havoc on our communities."

Health Care

One of the most notable differences between Ocasio-Cortez and Biden is their stance on health care. A self-described "unapologetic advocate" for Medicare for All, Ocasio-Cortez told Politico in April that Biden's support for lowering the eligibility age for Medicare was not "going to be enough for us" and that Democrats had to pursue a "much more ambitious health care policy."

Biden told MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell in a March interview that if a bill appeared on his desk for Medicare for All, his next step would be to analyze the cost and determine if it will significantly raise taxes on the middle class. He also said he would veto anything that "delays providing security and the certainty of health care being available now."

He still hasn't embraced a single-payer, Medicare for All program, but as president, Biden would give Americans the choice to purchase a public health insurance option such as Medicare. During a December debate, Sanders criticized Biden's plan for essentially retaining the status quo, but he's since thrown his weight behind electing Biden, citing it as the first of a two-pronged approach to achieving progressive policies.

"Now, the day after Biden is elected, we have got to mobilize and organize all over this country to make sure that Biden becomes as progressive a president as is possible, that Democrats control the Senate and the House, and that we can put sufficient pressure on Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to carry out a progressive agenda," Biden told The New York Times.


Ocasio-Cortez and Biden both support giving recipients of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program a pathway to citizenship. Ocasio-Cortez voted in favor of the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 and Biden advocated for legislative reforms to enact the measure. While legislators iron it out, Biden said as president he would reinstate DACA and ensure Dreamers are eligible for federal student loans.

Ocasio-Cortez supports the movement to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. While Biden acknowledged reforms need to be made and will increase resources for training and demand transparency, he would keep the agency in place.


Ocasio-Cortez and Biden support student debt relief and free college, although they're not in total alignment on the issues. Ocasio-Cortez co-sponsored the Student Debt Cancellation Act of 2019, which would forgive all private and federal student loans. She also supports the College for All Act, which would eliminate tuition and fees for students attending public colleges and universities for families with incomes below $125,000. Community colleges, trade schools and apprenticeship programs would also be covered.

It's a program Biden also supports. As president, he would also revamp student loans so those with incomes under $25,000 won't owe payments or accrue interest. Everyone else will pay 5 percent of their discretionary income over $25,000 with complete forgiveness for those who responsibly made payments for 20 years.