Fact Checking the Vice Presidential Debate

ABC's fact check team assesses the debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan

ByABC News
October 11, 2012, 11:56 PM

Oct. 12, 2012 -- quicklist: 1title: Obama Administration Unaware of Requests for More Benghazi Consulate Security?text: Vice President Joe Biden: We Weren't Told They Wanted More Security Again. We Did Not Know They Wanted More Security Again." Raddatz: "And they wanted more security there."

Biden: "Well, we weren't told they wanted more security again. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly -- we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment."

ABC's Dana Hughes has the facts:

It is incorrect for Biden to say the entire Obama administration was not told that security officials in Libya wanted more security. State dept officials were aware security officials on the ground had concerns. Two officials dramatically testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday that they had made their reservations about the security situation in Libya known within the State Department.

One of the security officials, Eric Nordstrom, compared bureaucrats in Washington to the Taliban in describing his frustration.

Read more about that testimony here.

The State Department continues to maintain that these requests weren't "rejected," instead saying that there was an on-going dialogue between Washington and Libya security officials.

Here is how Undersecretary Pat Kennedy, who testified on behalf of the state department, told reporters Wednesday:"This is not a matter of rejecting requests. This is a matter of a dialogue that goes back and forth between our professionals in the field and our professionals in Washington looking for the right solution. We make sure that they do that, and they do it all the time. And one of the ways that happens, because this is a dialogue, someone says, "I need A, B, and C." The professionals in Washington, with all the experience they have, say, "I see your point. Functionally, isn't this what you're asking for? What about if we send you B, C, and D instead?" We arrive at a solution. We arrived at solutions for Benghazi."

Just to clarify, if Biden had said "We didn't reject any security requests," he would have been parsing words but not technically wrong. It is also not clear that the requests for security made it past the State Department and into the White House.

Also Paul Ryan misstated some facts in criticizing Biden on this issue. He said there are Marines protecting the ambassador in Paris and so there should have been Marines protecting Amb. Chris Stevens in Libya. A Marine Security Guard Detachment is stationed in Paris, but like most of Marine units at embassies, they are there to protect classified documents, and not to protect the ambassador.

quicklist: 1title: The President's Relationship with Israeli Prime Ministertext: Biden: Now, with regard to Bibi, who's been my friend 39 years, the president has met with Bibi a dozen times. He's spoken to Bibi Netanyahu as much as he's spoken to anybody.

Sunlen Miller has the facts:

Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu only met nine times face-to-face since Obama took the White House. But the two leaders have had over 20 phone calls in addition to these meetings. It's not clear if by "anyone" Biden is referring to heads of state, but that's the way we'll take it.

But by comparison, Obama has had a similar number of total meetings (phone calls and face-to-face meetings) with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao as well.

The White House's take -they say Obama has had more one-on-one meetings with Netanyahu than any other foreign leader since being in office and say the Biden claim of "as much" is correct if you define it by face-to-face meetings. They also argue that it's not just the number of meetings that Biden is talking about but the number of hours spent with those foreign leaders on the phone and in meetings, and those times are not always made public (for example, the White House does not divulge how long all the phone calls last.

quicklist: 2title: Does Obamacare Pay for Abortions?text: Rep. Paul Ryan: With respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they want it to be safe legal and rare, now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding. Tax payer funding in Obamacare, tax payer funding with foreign aid, the vice president himself went to China and said he sympathized or wouldn't second guess their one child policy of forced abortions and sterilizations. That to me is pretty extreme.

Serena Marshall has the facts:

Per a White House Executive 2010 order "the Act specifically prohibits the use of tax credits and cost-sharing reduction payments to pay for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) in the health insurance exchanges that will be operational in 2014." Additionally, "the Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges." The Hyde Amendment, introduced in 1976 in response to Roe v. Wade, states that federal funds may not be used to pay for abortions.

But there was controversy when Obamacare was passed. Some of the plans that receive government funding will cover abortion services, but separate accounts must be maintained so that an individual's premiums and not the government funds pay for the services.

In an April, 2012 interview with the Huffington Post, Erin Shields, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said the following regarding ACA and abortion:

"Under the new health care law, federal funds continue not to be used for abortion services, except those in cases of rape or incest or where the life of the woman is endangered," she said. "No one will be required to choose a plan that covers these services and no taxpayer dollars will be spent on them. Before choosing a health plan, consumers will know whether the plan covers these services. And if it does, payments will be made into a separate account to ensure no federal dollars fund these services."

As for Biden going to China and "sympathizing" with their one-child policy, Ryan was referring to the vice president's August trip to China. That's true. The comment was made in response to a question concerning U.S. response to fiscal problems. Biden said the one child policy was not going to be sustainable long-term.

"But as I was talking to some of your leaders, you share a similar concern here in China. You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I'm not second-guessing -- of one child per family. The result being that you're in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable."

quicklist: 3title: Obamacare Panel Would Deny Care to Seniorstext: Ryan: And then they put this new Obamacare board in charge of cutting Medicare each and every year, in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors. This board by the way, it is 15 people, the president is supposed to appoint them next year, and not one of them has to have medical training.

Chris Good has the facts:

The Medicare board, known as IPAB, is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The health care law lays out a set of qualifications for members of the board, including health-care training and expertise.

The law specifically states that the appointed membership of the Board "shall include (but not be limited to) physicians and other health professionals." That suggests the lawmakers wanted health care professionals on the board. But the president has the authority.

If Medicare spending exceeds its target growth rate, IPAB is charged with making suggestions---for Congress's approval on fast-track status---to lower costs. However, according to the independent Kaiser Family Foundation, the law bars the board from suggesting cuts to benefits.

"The law is really explicit in this particular area, that says the IPAB cannot ration care, cut benefits, raise premiums, or change eligibility," Kaiser health expert Tricia Neuman told ABC News. IPAB is "limited in what it can recommend."

Indeed, the actual language includes: "The proposal shall not include any recommendation to ration health care... the proposal shall not include any recommendation that would reduce payment rates for items and services furnished."

quicklist: 4title: Iran has Enough Material for Five Bombstext:Ryan: When Barack Obama was elected they had enough fissile material - nuclear material to make one bomb. Now they have enough for five. They are racing toward a nuclear weapon. They're 4 years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability.

Iran did not restart its civilian nuclear program again until February 2007, a year before Obama took office. As for Ryan's claim Iran has enough material for five bombs, it's complicated, but an ISIS report in March, shows that Iran could conceivably achieve that. However, the conservative estimate is that there's enough material for one to three. And the "fissile material" Ryan refers to has not been enriched to the levels needed to become a nuclear weapon. ISIS concludes that the likelihood of Iran attempting to enrich the material to the levels needed now is low because it would be detected and ensure a military strike, and that current sanctions are working.

From the ISIS report:

"Without past negotiated outcomes, international pressure, sanctions, and intelligence operations, Iran would likely have nuclear weapons by now. Iran has proven vulnerable to international pressure. It now faces several inhibitions against building nuclear weapons, not least of which is fear of a military strike by Israel and perhaps others if it ?breaks out? by egregiously violating its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and moves to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear weapons."

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quicklist: 5title: Romney and Ryan Would Cut Tax Revenues by $5 Trillion

text: Ryan: You can cut tax rates by 20 percent and still preserve these important preferences for middle class tax payers.

Amy Bingham has the facts:

Biden claimed at the debate that the Romney-Ryan tax plan cuts $5 trillion in revenues. That is true.

The GOP nominee's plan calls for a 20-percent across-the-board reduction in tax rates, eliminate the estate tax, eliminate taxes on investment income for people earning less than $200,000 and cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. His plan would add up to a $456 billion reduction in federal revenue by 2015, or $5 trillion over ten years, according to a study by the Tax Policy Center.

Biden said it was "not mathematically possible" to make up for those tax cuts through closing loopholes, as Romney has suggested he would do to make his plan revenue-neutral, unless Romney ends widely-popular loopholes such as deductions for mortgage interest, health insurance and tax breaks for attending college.

According to an analysis from the Tax Policy Center, Ryan is incorrect based on the current version of Romney's tax plan. The center's analysis estimates Romney would have to eliminate 65 percent of all the loopholes in the tax system to make up for Romney's tax cuts.

The ten largest tax loopholes -- which include widely popular deductions like those for the working poor, mortgage income, having children and employer contributions to health care -- added up to $650 billion in lost revenue and accounted for 68 percent of all tax loopholes in 2010, according to data from the Congressional Research Service.

Therefore in order to cut 65 percent of tax loopholes necessary to make up for Romney's proposed $500 billion tax cuts in one year, Romney would have to dip into the large, popular loopholes that currently benefit millions of middle and low-income Americans.

quicklist: 6title: Ryan's Medicare Plan Would Cost Seniors $6,400text: Biden: Folks. Use your common sense. Who do you trust on this? A man who introduced a bill that would raise it - forty -- $6400 a year, knowing it and passing it and Romney saying he'd sign it or me and the President. (14) Ryan: That statistic was completely misleading but more importantly -Biden: So those are the facts. Ryan -this is what politicians do when they don't have a record to run on.

Chris Good has the facts:


This figure is based on an outdated analysis of Ryan's Medicare-reform plan -- a plan Ryan did introduce, as Biden said. Romney now says he does not support that plan, but something closer to the Ryan/Wyden plan introduced later with some significant changes.Looking at Ryan's 2011 plan, the Congressional Budget Office estimated seniors would pay more for their health care under Ryan's plan by 2022. The $6,400 figure comes from a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study. based on the CBO's projections. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities projected that seniors' out-of-pocket costs would rise from $6,150 to $12,500 per year on average under Ryan's plan.

Since then, Ryan has made some changes to his plan, removing a cap on "premium-support payments" and including a traditional-Medicare, government-paid health plan as an alternative to private plans, from which seniors would choose on an exchange.

So, while the $6,000 estimate applies to a previous iteration of Ryan's plan, the number is old.


The Romney campaign points to the elimination of premium caps as a major difference between the two plans, and a major reason why the 2011 analysis is no longer fair to cite. However, Ryan maintained a cap on overall Medicare spending, and independent experts see this as a de facto limit on the government's contributions toward seniors' coverage.

The CBO has not conducted comparable analysis of Ryan's 2012 plan, so there is no comparable estimate of how seniors' out-of-pocket costs would change under the latest version. Ryan's 2012 plan did not include enough details for such analysis to be conducted.

Independent experts disagree on whether out-of-pocket costs would still rise, on average, under Ryan's 2012 plan. Paul Van de Water of the independent Center for Budget and Policy Priorities maintains that out-of-pocket costs would likely rise by some amount. Tricia Neuman of the Kaiser Family Foundation says it's impossible to calculate the average, while noting that in cities and counties where health care costs more, Medicare recipients will be faced with a choice between paying more for Medicare or buying a cheaper private plan that could offer different benefits than Ryan's traditional-Medicare coverage plan.

One more thing to add: Biden claimed Mitt Romney said he would sign Ryan's budget that would raise costs by $6,400---the 2011 version passed March 29 of that year.

From ABC's Emily Friedman on June 2, 2011:On health care, Romney responded "yes" when asked if he would sign the plan written by Rep. Paul Ryan that would restructure Medicare if it reached his desk as President, but quickly added that he would be offering his own plan.

"His plan is not the plan I'll put forward, I have my own plan," said Romney. "I'll be putting that out before I debate President Obama."

quicklist: 1title: Climbing Unemployment in Scranton and UStext: Ryan: You know what the unemployment rate in Scranton is today? Biden: Sure do. Ryan: It's 10 percent. Biden: Yeah. Ryan: You know what it was the day you guys came in? 8.5 percent. Biden: Yeah. Ryan: That's how it's going all around America.

He's almost right about the unemployment rate in Scranton ... but he's wrong that it is higher nationally.

Serena Marshall has the facts: The current unemployment rate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is 9.6 percent and it was 8.4 percent in January of 2008, , according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But that does not tell the unemployment situation in the rest of the country or even in Pennsylvania. The national rate has fallen from a high of more than 10 percent to 7.8 percent in September. The most recently available unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, down from a high of 10 percent in October of 2009.

quicklist: 2title: Is Obama Taking from Medicare to Pay for the Affordable Care Act?text: Ryan: "They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, turning Medicare into a piggy bank for Obamacare."

Greg Krieg has the facts:

The now-famous $716 billion is not a "cut" to Medicare, in the sense that it does not take from the "trust fund" or reduce the amount of money available to beneficiaries. Rather, the Obama plan, like Paul Ryan's, puts caps on the amount the government will pay to health-care providers. And while some of those savings, which were codified in the Affordable Care Act, have been counted by the White House against the new costs incurred by health-care overhaul, there is no real connection; there are no dollar bills once marked "Medicare" that have been scrubbed clean and shifted to cover expenses under the Obama health care law.

Jon Karl's rating:

Not quite factual ... a $716 billion reduction in future Medicare spending is part of the financing for Obamacare. But these are reductions in future increases (not cuts), and they explicitly do not cut benefits. Finally - Ryan included the same reductions in his own budget.

Serena Marshall has this to add:

But first, what is Medicare Part A? It is Hospital Insurance and helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (following a hospital stay), some home health care and hospice care.

The 1 in 6 statement is from a 2010 memorandum from the Chief Actuary:

?Simulations by the Office of the Actuary suggest that roughly 15 percent of Part A providers would become unprofitable within the 10-year projection period as a result of the productivity adjustments.8 Although this policy could be monitored over time to avoid such an outcome, changes would likely result in smaller actual savings than shown here for these provisions."

However, as Factcheck.org pointed out, a 2012 report finds that the cuts who benefit Medicare over the long term. In that report from April of 2012, the [Obama's] Affordable Care Act makes important changes to the Medicare program and substantially improves its financial outlook:

?The Board of Trustees believes that solutions can and must be found to ensure the financial integrity of HI in the short and long term and to reduce the rate of growth in Medicare costs through viable means, building on the measures enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act...Moreover, the early introduction of reforms increases the time available for affected individuals and organizations---including health care providers, beneficiaries, and taxpayers---to adjust their expectations."

quicklist: 3title: Ryan Cut Millions for Embassy Securitytext: Biden: "The Congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by