Joe Biden

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Joe Biden
Joe Biden February 2020 crop.jpg
Biden in 2020
47th Vice President of the United States
In office
January 20, 2009 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byDick Cheney
Succeeded byMike Pence
United States Senator
from Delaware
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 15, 2009
Preceded byJ. Caleb Boggs
Succeeded byTed Kaufman
Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2009
Preceded byRichard Lugar
Succeeded byJohn Kerry
In office
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
Preceded byJesse Helms
Succeeded byRichard Lugar
In office
January 3, 2001 – January 20, 2001
Preceded byJesse Helms
Succeeded byJesse Helms
Chair of the International Narcotics Control Caucus
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2009
Preceded byChuck Grassley
Succeeded byDianne Feinstein
Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee
In office
January 3, 1987 – January 3, 1995
Preceded byStrom Thurmond
Succeeded byOrrin Hatch
Member of the New Castle County Council
from the 4th district
In office
November 4, 1970 – November 8, 1972
Preceded byHenry Folsom
Succeeded byFrancis Swift
Personal details
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.

(1942-11-20) November 20, 1942 (age 77)
Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic (1969–present)
Other political
Independent (1968–1969)
Neilia Hunter
(m. 1966; died 1972)

Jill Jacobs (m. 1977)
EducationUniversity of Delaware (BA)
Syracuse University (JD)
AwardsPresidential Medal of Freedom with distinction (2017)
WebsiteCampaign website

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. (/ˌrɒbɪˈnɛt ˈbdən/;[1] born November 20, 1942) is an American politician who served as the 47th vice president of the United States from 2009 to 2017 and represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 2009. A member of the Democratic Party, Biden is a candidate for president in the 2020 election. He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and in 2008.

Biden was raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and New Castle County, Delaware. He studied at the University of Delaware before receiving his law degree from Syracuse University.[2] He became a lawyer in 1969 and was elected to the New Castle County Council in 1970. He was elected to the U.S. Senate from Delaware in 1972, when he became the sixth-youngest senator in American history. Biden was reelected six times and was the fourth-most senior senator when he resigned to assume the vice presidency in 2009.

As a senator, Biden was a longtime member and eventually chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He opposed the Gulf War in 1991 but advocated for U.S. and NATO intervention in the Bosnian War in 1994 and 1995, expanding NATO in the 1990s, and the 1999 bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo War. He argued and voted for the resolution authorizing the Iraq War in 2002 but opposed the surge of U.S. troops in 2007. He has also served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, dealing with issues related to drug policy, crime prevention, and civil liberties, as well as the contentious U.S. Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. Biden led the efforts to pass the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

In 2008, Biden was the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. He was the first Roman Catholic to serve as vice president of the United States.[3] As vice president, Biden oversaw infrastructure spending to counteract the Great Recession and helped formulate U.S. policy toward Iraq through the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. His negotiations with congressional Republicans helped the Obama administration pass legislation including the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, which resolved a taxation deadlock; the Budget Control Act of 2011, which resolved that year's debt ceiling crisis; and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which addressed the impending fiscal cliff. Obama and Biden were reelected in 2012.

In October 2015, after months of speculation, Biden announced he would not seek the presidency in the 2016 election. In January 2017, Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction.[4] After completing his second term as vice president, Biden joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was named the Benjamin Franklin Professor of Presidential Practice.[5] He announced his 2020 candidacy for president on April 25, 2019.[6]

Early life (1942–1965)

Biden was born on November 20, 1942, at St. Mary's Hospital in Scranton, Pennsylvania,[7]:5 to Catherine Eugenia Biden (née Finnegan; July 7, 1917 – January 8, 2010)[8] and Joseph Robinette Biden Sr. (November 13, 1915 – September 2, 2002).[9] The first of four siblings in a Catholic family, he had a sister and two brothers.[7]:9 His mother was of Irish descent, with roots variously attributed to County Louth[10] and County Londonderry.[11][7]:8 His paternal grandparents, Mary Elizabeth (née Robinette) and Joseph H. Biden, an oil businessman from Baltimore, Maryland, were of English, French, and Irish descent.[12][7]:8 His paternal third great-grandfather, William Biden, was born in Sussex, England, and immigrated to the United States. His maternal great-grandfather, Edward Francis Blewitt,[13] was a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate.[14]

Biden's father was wealthy but had suffered several financial setbacks by the time his son was born. For several years, the family had to live with Biden's maternal grandparents, the Finnegans.[15] When the Scranton area fell into economic decline during the 1950s, Biden's father could not find sustained work.[16] In 1953, the Bidens moved into an apartment in Claymont, Delaware, where they lived for several years before again moving to a house in Wilmington, Delaware.[15] Joe Biden Sr. later became a successful used car salesman, maintaining the family's middle-class lifestyle.[15][16][17]

Biden (second from left) while a student at Archmere Academy in the 1950s

Biden attended the Archmere Academy in Claymont,[7]:27, 32 where he was a standout halfback and wide receiver on the high school football team; he helped lead a perennially losing team to an undefeated season in his senior year.[15][18] He played on the baseball team as well.[15] During these years, he participated in an anti-segregation sit-in at a Wilmington theater.[19] Academically, he was a poor student but was considered a natural leader among the students and elected class president during his junior and senior years.[7]:40–41[20]:99 He graduated in 1961.[7]:40–41

He earned his bachelor's degree in 1965 from the University of Delaware, with a double major in history and political science,[21] graduating with a class rank of 506 out of 688.[20]:98 His classmates were impressed by his cramming abilities,[19] and he played halfback with the Blue Hens freshman football team.[18] In 1964, while on spring break in the Bahamas,[22] he met and began dating Neilia Hunter, who was from an affluent background in Skaneateles, New York, and attended Syracuse University.[15][23] He told her he aimed to become a senator by the age of 30 and then president.[24] He dropped a junior-year plan to play for the varsity football team as a defensive back, enabling him to spend more time visiting her.[18][25]

He then entered Syracuse University College of Law, later saying that he found law school "the biggest bore in the world" and that he pulled many all-nighters to get by.[26][19][27] During his first year there, Biden was accused of having plagiarized five of 15 pages of a law review article. He said that it was inadvertent, because he did not know the proper rules of citation. He was given an F grade and required to retake a course. This incident was cited in 1987, when plagiarism accusations arose during his first run for president.[27][28] Biden received his Juris Doctor in 1968,[29] graduating 76th of 85 in his class.[26] He was admitted to the Delaware bar in 1969.[29]

Biden received student draft deferments during this period,[30] and after completion of his studies was classified by the Selective Service System as unavailable for service due to a history of asthma.[30][31]

He has had a problem with stuttering throughout his life, especially in his childhood and his early twenties,[32] and says he has helped reduce the problem by spending many hours reciting poetry in front of a mirror.[20]:99 But he continues to have problems with stuttering, and it has been suggested that this has affected his performance in Democratic debates during his 2020 campaign for the presidency.[33]

Negative impressions of drinking alcohol in the Biden and Finnegan families and in the neighborhood led Biden to be a non-drinker.[15][34]

Early political career and family life (1966–1972)

On August 27, 1966, while still a law student, Biden married Neilia Hunter.[21] They overcame her parents' initial reluctance for her to wed a Roman Catholic, and the ceremony was held in a Catholic church in Skaneateles, New York.[35] They had three children, Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III in 1969, Robert Hunter in 1970, and Naomi Christina in 1971.[21]

In 1968, Biden clerked for six months at a Wilmington law firm headed by prominent local Republican William Prickett and, as he later said, "thought of myself as a Republican".[24][36] He disliked incumbent Democratic Delaware Governor Charles L. Terry's conservative racial politics and supported a more liberal Republican, Russell W. Peterson, who defeated Terry in 1968.[24] The local Republicans tried to recruit him, but he resisted due to his distaste for Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon, and registered as an Independent instead.[24]

In 1969, Biden resumed practicing law in Wilmington, first as a public defender and then at a firm headed by Sid Balick, a locally active Democrat.[19][24] Balick named him to the Democratic Forum, a group trying to reform and revitalize the state party,[7]:86 and Biden registered as a Democrat.[24] He also started his own firm, Biden and Walsh.[19] Corporate law, however, did not appeal to him and criminal law did not pay well.[15] He supplemented his income by managing properties.[37]

Later in 1969, Biden ran to represent the 4th district on the New Castle County Council with a liberal platform that included support for public housing in the suburban area.[19][38] He won by 2,000 votes in the usually Republican district and a bad year for Democrats in the state.[19][7]:59 Even before taking his seat, he was already talking about running for the U.S. Senate in a couple of years.[7]:59 He served on the County Council from 1970 to 1972[29] while continuing his private law practice.[39] Among issues he addressed on the council was his opposition to large highway projects that might disrupt Wilmington neighborhoods, including those related to Interstate 95.[7]:62

1972 U.S. Senate campaign

Results of the 1972 U.S. Senate election in Delaware, Biden's first successful election to the Senate

Biden's candidacy in the 1972 U.S. Senate election in Delaware presented an unusual circumstance—longtime Delaware political figure and Republican incumbent senator J. Caleb Boggs was considering retirement, which would likely have left U.S. Representative Pete du Pont and Wilmington Mayor Harry G. Haskell Jr. in a divisive primary fight. To avoid that, President Nixon helped convince Boggs to run again with full party support. No other Democrat wanted to run against Boggs.[19] Biden's campaign had almost no money and was given no chance of winning.[15] His sister Valerie Biden Owens managed his campaign (as she would his future campaigns) and other family members staffed it. The campaign relied upon handed-out newsprint position papers and meeting voters face-to-face;[40] the state's smallness and lack of a major media market made that approach feasible.[37] He did receive some help from the AFL–CIO and Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell.[19] His campaign focused on withdrawal from Vietnam; the environment; civil rights; mass transit; more equitable taxation; health care; the public's dissatisfaction with politics as usual,; and "change".[19][40] During the summer, he trailed by almost 30 percentage points,[19] but his energy level, his attractive young family, and his ability to connect with voters' emotions gave him an advantage over the ready-to-retire Boggs.[17] Biden won the November 7 election by 3,162 votes.[40]

Family deaths

On December 18, 1972, a few weeks after the election, Biden's wife and one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping in Hockessin, Delaware.[21] Neilia Biden's station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailer truck as she pulled out from an intersection. Biden's sons Beau and Hunter survived the accident and were taken to the hospital in fair condition, Beau with a broken leg and other wounds, and Hunter with a minor skull fracture and other head injuries.[7]:93, 98 Doctors soon said both would make full recoveries.[7]:96 Biden considered resigning to care for them,[17] but Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield persuaded him not to.[41] In later years, Biden often said that the truck driver had drunk alcohol before the collision, but the driver's family has denied that and it was never substantiated by the police.[42][43][44][45]

United States Senate (1973–2009)

Recovery and remarriage

Biden in 1973.

Biden was sworn into office on January 5, 1973, by secretary of the Senate Francis R. Valeo in a small chapel at the Delaware Division of the Wilmington Medical Center.[46][7]:93, 98 Beau was wheeled in with his leg still in traction; Hunter, who had already been released, was also there, as were other members of the extended family.[46][7]:93, 98 Witnesses and television cameras were also present and the event received national attention.[46][7]:93, 98

At age 30 (the minimum age required to hold the office), Biden became the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history, and one of only 18 who took office before turning 31.[47][48] But the accident that killed his wife and daughter left him filled with both anger and religious doubt: "I liked to [walk around seedy neighborhoods] at night when I thought there was a better chance of finding a fight ... I had not known I was capable of such rage ... I felt God had played a horrible trick on me."[49] To be at home every day for his young sons,[50] Biden began commuting every day by Amtrak train 90 minutes each way from his home in the Wilmington suburbs to Washington, D.C., which he continued to do throughout his Senate career.[17] In the accident's aftermath, he had trouble focusing on work and appeared to just go through the motions of being a senator. In his memoirs, Biden notes that staffers were taking bets on how long he would last.[23][51] A single father for five years, he left standing orders that he be interrupted in the Senate at any time if his sons called.[41] In remembrance of his wife and daughter, Biden does not work on December 18, the anniversary of the accident.[52]

Biden met his second wife, Jill, in 1975, and they married in 1977.

In 1975, Biden met Jill Tracy Jacobs, who had grown up in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and would become a teacher in Delaware.[53] They met on a blind date arranged by Biden's brother, although Biden had already noticed a photograph of her in an advertisement for a park in Wilmington.[53] Biden credits her with renewing his interest in both politics and life.[54] On June 17, 1977, Biden and Jacobs were married by a Catholic priest at the Chapel at the United Nations in New York.[22][55] Jill Biden has a bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware; two master's degrees, one from West Chester University and the other from Villanova University; and a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware.[53] They have one daughter together, Ashley Blazer (born 1981),[21] who became a social worker and staffer at the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families.[56] Biden and his wife are Roman Catholics and regularly attend Mass at St. Joseph's on the Brandywine in Greenville, Delaware.[57]

Biden's elder son Beau became Delaware Attorney General and an Army Judge Advocate who served in Iraq;[58] he died at age 46 after a two-year battle with brain cancer on May 30, 2015.[59][60] His younger son, Hunter, became a Washington attorney and lobbyist.[61]

Early Senate activities

Biden with President Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office
Biden (left), U.S. senator Frank Church (middle), and president of Egypt Anwar el-Sadat after signing the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty, 1979
Biden greeting President Ronald Reagan in 1984

During his first years in the Senate, Biden focused on consumer protection and environmental issues and called for greater government accountability.[62] In mid-1974, Time magazine named him one of the 200 Faces for the Future in a profile that mentioned what had happened to his family, calling him "self-confident" and "compulsively ambitious".[62] In a June 1, 1974, interview with the Washingtonian, Biden described himself as liberal on civil rights and liberties, senior citizens' concerns and healthcare, but conservative on other issues, including abortion and the draft:

When it comes to civil rights and civil liberties, I’m a liberal but that’s it. I’m really quite conservative on most other issues. My wife said I was the most socially conservative man she had ever known. I’m a screaming liberal when it comes to senior citizens because I really think they are getting screwed. I’m a liberal on health care because I believe it is a birthright of every human being—not just some damn privilege to be meted out to a few people. But when it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I’m about as liberal as your grandmother. I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body. I support a limited amnesty, and I don’t think marijuana should be legalized. Now, if you still think I’m a liberal, let me tell you that I support the draft. I’m scared to death of a professional army. I vote my own way and it is not always with the Democrats. I did vote for George McGovern, of course, but I would have voted for Mickey Mouse against Richard Nixon. I despise that man.[63]

Biden became ranking minority member of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary in 1981. In 1984, he was Democratic floor manager for the successful passage of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. Over time, the law's tough-on-crime provisions became controversial on the left and among criminal justice reform proponents, and in 2019 Biden called his role in passing the legislation a "big mistake".[64][65] His supporters praised him for modifying some of the law's worst provisions, and it was his most important legislative accomplishment at that time.[66] He first considered running for president that year, after gaining notice for speeches he gave to party audiences that simultaneously scolded and encouraged Democrats.[67]:216

Regarding foreign policy, during his first decade in the Senate, Biden focused on arms control issues.[68][69] In response to Congress's refusal to ratify the SALT II Treaty signed in 1979 by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and President Jimmy Carter, Biden took the initiative to meet with Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko, educate him about American concerns and interests, and secure several changes to address the Foreign Relations Committee's objections.[70] When the Reagan administration wanted to interpret the 1972 SALT I Treaty loosely to allow the Strategic Defense Initiative to proceed, Biden argued for strict adherence to the treaty's terms.[68] He clashed again with the Reagan administration in 1986 over economic sanctions against South Africa,[69] receiving considerable attention when he excoriated Secretary of State George P. Shultz at a Senate hearing because of the administration's support of that country, which continued to practice apartheid.[24]

Opposition to desegregation busing

In the mid-1970s, Biden was one of the Senate's leading opponents of desegregation busing. His white Delaware constituents strongly opposed it, and such opposition nationwide later led his party to mostly abandon school desegregation policies.[71]

In his first Senate campaign, Biden expressed support for the Supreme Court's 1971 Swann decision, which supported busing programs to integrate school districts to remedy de jure segregation, but opposed it to remedy de facto segregation, as in Delaware. He said Republicans were using busing as a scare tactic to court Southern white votes, and along with Boggs voiced opposition to a House of Representatives constitutional amendment banning busing.[72] In 1974, Biden voted to table an amendment to an omnibus education bill promoted by Edward Gurney (R-FL) that contained anti-busing measures and anti-school desegregation clauses. In May, Senator Robert Griffin (R-MI) attempted to revive an amended version of the amendment. Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R-PA) and Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) offered to leave the text of Griffin's amendment intact but add the qualifier that such legislation was not intended to weaken the judiciary's power to enforce the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Biden voted for this compromise, angering his local voters.[73]

Following this, some Delaware residents met at the Krebs School in Newport to protest integration. Biden spoke to the auditorium and said his position on school busing was evolving, emphasizing that busing in Delaware was in his opinion beyond court restrictions. The crowd was unconvinced, and heckled him until he yielded the microphone.[74] This, along with the prospect of a busing plan in Wilmington, led Biden to align himself with civil rights opponent Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) in opposing busing. Biden and anti-busing senators wanted to limit the scope of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with respect to the federal government's power to enforce school integration policies.[71] After 1975, Biden took a harsher line on further legislative action to limit busing.[66] That year, Helms proposed an anti-integration amendment to an education bill that would stop the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) from collecting data about students' or teachers' races and thereby prevent it from defunding districts that refused to integrate. Biden supported this amendment, saying: "I am sure it comes as a surprise to some of my colleagues ... that a senator with a voting record such as mine stands up and supports" it.[75] He said busing was a "bankrupt idea [that violated] the cardinal rule of common sense", and that his opposition would make it easier for other liberals to follow suit.[66] But he had also supported integrationist Senator Edward Brooke's (R-MA) initiatives on housing, job opportunities and voting rights.[73] Civil rights lawyer and NAACP Legal Defense Fund director Jack Greenberg criticized Biden's support for the bill, saying it "heave[d] a brick through the window of school integration", with Biden's hand on the brick.[76]

Biden supported a measure Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) sponsored that forbade the use of federal funds to transport students beyond their closest school. This was adopted as part of the Labor-HEW Appropriations Act of 1976. In 1977, Biden co-sponsored an amendment with Thomas Eagleton (D-MO) to close loopholes in Byrd's amendment. A 1977 status report on school desegregation by the federal Civil Rights Commission in Washington, D.C., said, "the enactment of Eagleton-Biden would be an actual violation, on the part of the Federal Government, of the fifth amendment and Title VI" of the Civil Rights Act.[77] President Carter signed the amendment into law in 1978.[78] Biden repeatedly asked for, and received, the support of Senator James Eastland (D-MS) on anti-busing measures.[79]

1988 presidential campaign

Biden in 1987

Biden ran for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, formally declaring his candidacy at the Wilmington train station on June 9, 1987.[80] He was attempting to become the youngest president since John F. Kennedy.[24] When the campaign began, he was considered a potentially strong candidate because of his moderate image, his speaking ability on the stump, his appeal to Baby Boomers, his high-profile position as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the upcoming Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination hearings, and his fundraising appeal.[81][20]:83 He raised $1.7 million in the first quarter of 1987, more than any other candidate.[81][20]:83

By August 1987, Biden's campaign, whose messaging was confused due to staff rivalries,[20]:108–109 had begun to lag behind those of Michael Dukakis and Dick Gephardt,[81] though he had still raised more funds than any candidate but Dukakis, and was seeing an upturn in Iowa polls.[82][20]:83 In September 1987, the campaign ran into trouble when he was accused of plagiarizing a speech that had been made earlier that year by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.[83] Kinnock's speech included the lines:

Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? [Then pointing to his wife in the audience] Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?

While Biden's speech included the lines:

I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? [Then pointing to his wife in the audience] Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I'm the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?

Biden had in fact cited Kinnock as the source for the formulation on previous occasions.[84][85] But he made no reference to the original source at the August 23 Democratic debate at the Iowa State Fair being reported on,[67]:230–232 or in an August 26 interview with the National Education Association.[85] Moreover, while political speeches often appropriate ideas and language from each other, Biden's use came under more scrutiny because he changed aspects of his own family's background to match Kinnock's.[17][86] Biden was soon found to have lifted passages from a 1967 speech by Robert F. Kennedy earlier that year (for which his aides took the blame), and a short phrase from the 1961 inaugural address of John F. Kennedy; and to have done the same with a 1976 passage from Hubert H. Humphrey two years earlier.[87]

A few days later, Biden's plagiarism incident in law school came to public light.[27] Video was also released showing that when earlier questioned by a New Hampshire resident about his grades in law school, he had said he graduated in the "top half" of his class, that he had attended law school on a full scholarship, and that he had received three degrees in college,[26][88] each of which was untrue or an exaggeration.[26] Advisers and reporters pointed out that he falsely claimed to have marched in the civil rights movement.[89]

The limited amount of other news about the race amplified these revelations,[90] when most of the public was not yet paying attention to the campaigns; Biden thus fell into what The Washington Post writer Paul Taylor called that year's trend, a "trial by media ordeal".[20]:86, 88 Lacking a strong group of supporters to help him survive the crisis,[82][20]:88–89 he withdrew from the race on September 23, 1987, saying his candidacy had been overrun by "the exaggerated shadow" of his past mistakes.[91]

After Biden withdrew, it was revealed that the Dukakis campaign had secretly made a video highlighting the Biden–Kinnock comparison and distributed it to news outlets.[92] Later in 1987, the Delaware Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility cleared Biden of the law school plagiarism charges regarding his standing as a lawyer, saying Biden had "not violated any rules".[93]

Brain surgeries

In 1988, Biden suffered two brain aneurysms, one on the right side and one the left. Each required surgery with high risk of long-term impact on brain functionality. In February 1988, after suffering from several episodes of increasingly severe neck pain, Biden was taken by long-distance ambulance to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and given lifesaving surgery to correct an intracranial berry aneurysm that had begun leaking.[94][95] While recuperating, he suffered a pulmonary embolism, a major complication.[95]

Another operation to repair a second aneurysm, which had caused no symptoms but was at risk of bursting, was performed in May 1988.[95][96] The hospitalization and recovery kept Biden from his duties in the Senate for seven months.[52] Biden has had no recurrences or effects from the aneurysms since then.[95]

In retrospect, Biden's family came to believe the early end to his presidential campaign had been a blessing in disguise, for had he still been campaigning in 1988, he might well not have stopped to seek medical attention and the condition might have become unsurvivable.[97][98] In 2013, Biden said, "they take a saw and they cut your head off" and "they literally had to take the top of my head off." He also said he was told he would have less than a 50% chance of full recovery.[99]

In 2019, the neurosurgeon who operated on Biden in 1988 said he felt that Biden was fit to run for president, and joked, "he's the only politician in Washington I'm sure has a brain, because I've seen it."[100][101]

Senate Judiciary Committee

Biden, U.S. Senate photo

Biden was a longtime member of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He chaired it from 1987 to 1995 and served as ranking minority member from 1981 to 1987 and from 1995 to 1997.

While chairman, Biden presided over two of the most contentious U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings in history, Robert Bork's in 1987 and Clarence Thomas's in 1991.[17] In the Bork hearings, he stated his opposition to Bork soon after the nomination, reversing his approval in an interview of a hypothetical Bork nomination he had made the previous year and angering conservatives who thought he could not conduct the hearings fairly.[102] At the close, he won praise for conducting the proceedings fairly and with good humor and courage, despite his presidential campaign's collapse in the middle of them.[102][103] Rejecting some of the less intellectually honest arguments that other Bork opponents were making,[17] Biden framed his discussion around the belief that the U.S. Constitution provides rights to liberty and privacy that extend beyond those explicitly enumerated in the text, and that Bork's strong originalism was ideologically incompatible with that view.[103] Bork's nomination was rejected in the committee by a 9–5 vote,[103] and then rejected in the full Senate, 58–42.[104]

In the Thomas hearings, Biden's questions on constitutional issues were often long and convoluted, to the point that Thomas sometimes forgot the question being asked.[105] Biden's style annoyed many viewers.[106] Thomas later wrote that despite Biden's earlier private assurances, his questions had been akin to beanballs.[107] The nomination came out of the committee without a recommendation, with Biden opposed.[17] In part due to his own bad experiences with his presidential campaign, Biden was reluctant to let personal matters into the hearings.[105] He initially shared with the committee, but not the public, Anita Hill's sexual harassment charges, on the grounds she was not yet willing to testify.[17] After she did, Biden did not permit other witnesses to testify further on her behalf, such as Angela Wright (who was present, waiting to testify, and who had made a similar charge) and experts on harassment.[108] Biden said he was striving to preserve Thomas's right to privacy and the hearings' decency.[105][108] Thomas was confirmed by a 52–48 vote in the full Senate, with Biden again opposed.[17] During and afterward, liberal legal groups and women's groups strongly criticized Biden for mishandling the hearings and not doing enough to support Hill.[108] Biden later sought out women to serve on the Judiciary Committee and emphasized women's issues in the committee's legislative agenda.[17] In April 2019, he called Hill to express regret over how he treated her; after the conversation, Hill said she remained deeply unsatisfied.[109]

Biden speaking at the signing of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994.

Biden was involved in crafting many federal crime laws. He spearheaded the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, also known as the Biden Crime Law, which included the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004 after its ten-year sunset period and was not renewed.[110][111] It also included the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which contains a broad array of measures to combat domestic violence.[112] In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Morrison that the VAWA section allowing a federal civil remedy for victims of gender-motivated violence exceeded Congress's authority and was therefore unconstitutional.[113] Congress reauthorized VAWA in 2000 and 2005.[114] Biden has said, "I consider the Violence Against Women Act the single most significant legislation that I've crafted during my 35-year tenure in the Senate."[115] In 2004 and 2005, he enlisted major American technology companies in diagnosing the problems of the Austin, Texas-based National Domestic Violence Hotline, and to donate equipment and expertise to it in a successful effort to improve its services.[116][117]

Biden was critical of the actions of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr during the 1990s Whitewater controversy and Lewinsky scandal investigations, and said, "it's going to be a cold day in hell" before another Independent Counsel would be granted the same powers.[118] He voted to acquit on both charges during the impeachment of President Clinton.[119]

As chairman of the International Narcotics Control Caucus, Biden wrote the laws that created the U.S. "Drug Czar", who oversees and coordinates national drug control policy. In April 2003, he introduced the Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy (RAVE) Act. He continued to work to stop the spread of "date rape drugs" such as flunitrazepam, and party drugs such as ecstasy and ketamine. In 2004, he worked to pass a bill outlawing steroids like androstenedione, the drug many baseball players used.[17]

Biden's "Kids 2000" legislation established a public-private partnership to provide computer centers, teachers, Internet access, and technical training to young people, particularly low-income and at-risk youth.[120]

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Senator Biden traveling with President Clinton and other officials to Bosnia in 1997

Biden was a longtime member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. In 1997, he became the ranking minority member and chaired the committee in January 2001 and from June 2001 to 2003. When Democrats retook control of the Senate after the 2006 elections, Biden again assumed the top spot on the committee.[121] He was generally a liberal internationalist in foreign policy.[68][122] He collaborated effectively with important Republican senators such as Richard Lugar and Jesse Helms and sometimes went against elements of his own party.[121][122] Biden was also co-chairman of the NATO Observer Group in the Senate.[123] A partial list covering this time showed Biden meeting with 150 leaders from nearly 60 countries and international organizations.[124] He held frequent hearings as chairman of the committee, as well as many subcommittee hearings during the three times he chaired the Subcommittee on European Affairs.[68]

Biden gives an opening statement and questions at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iraq in 2007

Biden voted against authorization for the Gulf War in 1991,[122] siding with 45 of the 55 Democratic senators; he said the U.S. was bearing almost all the burden in the anti-Iraq coalition.[125]

Biden became interested in the Yugoslav Wars after hearing about Serbian abuses during the Croatian War of Independence in 1991.[68] Once the Bosnian War broke out, Biden was among the first to call for the "lift and strike" policy of lifting the arms embargo, training Bosnian Muslims and supporting them with NATO air strikes, and investigating war crimes.[68][121] The George H. W. Bush administration and Clinton administration were both reluctant to implement the policy, fearing Balkan entanglement.[68][122] In April 1993, Biden spent a week in the Balkans and held a tense three-hour meeting with Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević.[126] Biden related that he told Milošević, "I think you're a damn war criminal and you should be tried as one."[126] Biden wrote an amendment in 1992 to compel the Bush administration to arm the Bosnians, but deferred in 1994 to a somewhat softer stance the Clinton administration preferred, before signing on the following year to a stronger measure sponsored by Bob Dole and Joe Lieberman.[126] The engagement led to a successful NATO peacekeeping effort.[68] Biden has called his role in affecting Balkans policy in the mid-1990s his "proudest moment in public life" related to foreign policy.[122]

In 1998, Congressional Quarterly named Biden one of "Twelve Who Made a Difference" for playing a lead role in several foreign policy matters, including NATO enlargement and the successful passage of bills to streamline foreign affairs agencies and punish religious persecution overseas.[127]

In 1999, during the Kosovo War, Biden supported the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia and Montenegro,[68] and co-sponsored with John McCain the McCain-Biden Kosovo Resolution, which called on President Clinton to use all necessary force, including ground troops, to confront Milošević over Serbian actions in Kosovo.[122][128]

Biden was a strong supporter of the 2001 war in Afghanistan, saying, "Whatever it takes, we should do it."[129]

As head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden said in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was a threat to national security and that there was no option but to "eliminate" that threat.[130] In October 2002, he voted in favor of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, approving the U.S. invasion of Iraq.[122] More significantly, as chair of the committee, he assembled a series of witnesses to testify in favor of the authorization. They gave testimony grossly misrepresenting the intent, history of and status of Saddam and his Sunni government, which was an openly avowed enemy of al-Qaida, and touting Iraq's fictional possession of weapons of mass destruction.[131]

While he eventually became a critic of the war and viewed his vote and role as a "mistake", he did not push for U.S. withdrawal.[122][126] He supported the appropriations to pay for the occupation, but argued repeatedly that the war should be internationalized, that more soldiers were needed, and that the Bush administration should "level with the American people" about the cost and length of the conflict.[121][128] By late 2006, Biden's stance had shifted considerably, and he opposed the troop surge of 2007,[122][126] saying General David Petraeus was "dead, flat wrong" in believing the surge could work.[132] Biden instead advocated dividing Iraq into a loose federation of three ethnic states.[133] In November 2006, Biden and Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, released a comprehensive strategy to end sectarian violence in Iraq.[134] Rather than continuing the present approach or withdrawing, the plan called for "a third way": federalizing Iraq and giving Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis "breathing room" in their own regions.[7]:572–573 In September 2007, a non-binding resolution endorsing such a scheme passed the Senate,[134] but the idea was unfamiliar, had no political constituency, and failed to gain traction.[132] Iraq's political leadership denounced the resolution as de facto partitioning of the country, and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement distancing itself from it.[134]

In March 2004, Biden secured the brief release of Libyan democracy activist and political prisoner Fathi Eljahmi, after meeting with leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli.[135][136] In May 2008, Biden sharply criticized President George W. Bush for his speech to Israel's Knesset, where he suggested that some Democrats were acting the way some Western leaders did when they appeased Hitler in the run-up to World War II. Biden said, "This is bullshit. This is malarkey. This is outrageous. Outrageous for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, sit in the Knesset ... and make this kind of ridiculous statement ... Since when does this administration think that if you sit down, you have to eliminate the word 'no' from your vocabulary?" He later apologized for using the expletive.[137]

Delaware matters

Biden receiving a 1997 tour of a new facility at Delaware's Dover Air Force Base

Biden was a familiar figure to his Delaware constituency, by virtue of his daily train commute from there,[17] and generally sought to attend to state needs.[138] He strongly supported increased Amtrak funding and rail security;[138] he hosted barbecues and an annual Christmas dinner for the Amtrak crews, who sometimes held the last train of the night a few minutes so he could catch it.[37][138] He earned the nickname "Amtrak Joe" as a result (and in 2011, Amtrak's Wilmington Station was named the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station, in honor of the over 7,000 trips he made from there).[139][140] He was an advocate for Delaware military installations, including Dover Air Force Base and New Castle Air National Guard Base.[141]

In 1978, when Biden was seeking reelection to the Senate, Wilmington's federally mandated cross-district busing plan generated much turmoil. Biden's compromise solution between his white constituents and African-American leaders was to introduce legislation to outlaw the court's power to enforce certain types of busing, while allowing it to end segregation school districts had deliberately imposed. White anti-integrationists seized on a comment Biden made that he would support the use of federal helicopters if Wilmington's schools could not be voluntarily integrated, and Delaware NAACP head Littleton P. Mitchell later said Biden "adequately represented our community for many years, but he quivered that one time on busing." The compromise nearly alienated him from both working-class whites and African-Americans, but tensions ended after the end of a teachers' strike that began over pay issues raised by the busing plan.[142]

Beginning in 1991, Biden served as an adjunct professor at the Widener University School of Law, Delaware's only law school, teaching a seminar on constitutional law.[143][144] The seminar was one of Widener's most popular, often with a waiting list for enrollment.[144] Biden typically co-taught the course with another professor, taking on at least half the course minutes and sometimes flying back from overseas to make one of the classes.[145][146]

During the 2000s, Biden sponsored bankruptcy legislation that was sought by MBNA, one of Delaware's largest companies, and other credit card issuers.[17] He allowed an amendment to the bill to increase the homestead exemption for homeowners declaring bankruptcy and fought for an amendment to forbid anti-abortion felons from using bankruptcy to discharge fines; President Clinton vetoed the bill in 2000 but it finally passed in 2005 as the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, with Biden supporting it.[17] A vociferous supporter, Biden was one of only 18 Democratic senators to vote with the Republicans in favor of the legislation, while leading Democrats and consumer rights organizations came out in opposition.[147]

Biden held up trade agreements with Russia when that country stopped importing U.S. chickens. The downstate Sussex County region is the nation's top chicken-producing area.[138]

In 2007, Biden requested and gained $67 million worth of projects for his constituents through congressional earmarks.[148]


Biden's official Senate photo (2005)

Following his first election in 1972, Biden was reelected to six more Senate terms, in 1978, 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008, usually getting about 60% of the vote.[138] He did not face strong opposition; Pete du Pont, then governor, chose not to run against him in 1984.[66] Biden spent 28 years as a junior senator due to the two-year seniority of his Republican colleague William Roth. After Tom Carper defeated Roth in 2000, Biden became Delaware's senior senator. He then became the longest-serving senator in Delaware history[149] and, as of 2018, was the 18th-longest-serving senator in U.S. history.[150] In May 1999, Biden became the youngest senator to cast 10,000 votes.[127]

With a net worth between $59,000 and $366,000, and almost no outside income or investment income, Biden was consistently ranked one of the least wealthy members of the Senate.[151][152][153] Biden said he was listed as the second-poorest member in Congress; he was not proud of the distinction, but attributed it to having been elected early in his career.[154] He has said he realized early in his senatorial career how vulnerable poorer public officials are to offers of financial contributions in exchange for policy support, and pushed campaign finance reform measures during his first term.[66] Biden earned $15.6 million in 2017–18.[155] By 2019, Biden called his middle-class status a "state of mind".[156] His assets increased to between $2.2 million and $8 million.[157]

The political writer Howard Fineman has said, "Biden is not an academic, he's not a theoretical thinker, he's a great street pol. He comes from a long line of working people in Scranton—auto salesmen, car dealers, people who know how to make a sale. He has that great Irish gift."[37] Political columnist David S. Broder has viewed Biden as having grown since he came to Washington and since his failed 1988 presidential bid: "He responds to real people—that's been consistent throughout. And his ability to understand himself and deal with other politicians has gotten much much better."[37] Traub concludes that "Biden is the kind of fundamentally happy person who can be as generous toward others as he is to himself."[132]


During his years as a senator, Biden acquired a reputation for loquaciousness[158] and "putting his foot in his mouth".[159][160][161][162] He has been a strong speaker and debater and a frequent and effective guest on Sunday morning talk shows.[162] In public appearances, he is known to deviate from prepared remarks.[163] The New York Times wrote that Biden's "weak filters make him capable of blurting out pretty much anything".[160]

2008 presidential campaign

Biden's 2008 campaign logo

Biden thought about running for president again ever since his failed 1988 bid.[nb 1] He declared his candidacy for president on January 31, 2007, after having discussed running for months.[166] Biden made a formal announcement to Tim Russert on Meet the Press, saying he would "be the best Biden I can be."[167] In January 2006, Delaware newspaper columnist Harry F. Themal wrote that Biden "occupies the sensible center of the Democratic Party".[168] Themal concluded that that was the position Biden desired, and that in a campaign "he plans to stress the dangers to the security of the average American, not just from the terrorist threat, but from the lack of health assistance, crime, and energy dependence on unstable parts of the world."[168]

Biden campaigning at a house party in Creston, Iowa, July 2007

During his campaign, Biden focused on the war in Iraq and his support for implementing the Biden-Gelb plan to achieve political success. He touted his record in the Senate as the head of major congressional committees and his experience in foreign policy. Despite speculation to the contrary,[169] Biden rejected the notion of becoming Secretary of State, focusing on only the presidency. At a 2007 campaign event, Biden said, "I know a lot of my opponents out there say I'd be a great secretary of state. Seriously, every one of them. Do you watch any of the debates? 'Joe's right, Joe's right, Joe's right.'"[170] Other candidates' comments that "Joe is right" in the Democratic debates were converted into a Biden campaign theme and ad.[171] In mid-2007, Biden stressed his foreign policy expertise compared to Obama's, saying of the latter, "I think he can be ready, but right now I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."[172] Biden also said Obama was copying some of his foreign policy ideas.[132] Biden was noted for his one-liners on the campaign trail, saying of Republican then-frontrunner Rudy Giuliani at the debate on October 30, 2007, in Philadelphia, "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, and a verb and 9/11."[173] Overall, Biden's debate performances were an effective mixture of humor, and sharp and surprisingly disciplined comments.[174]:336

Biden made remarks during the campaign that attracted controversy. On the day of his January 2007 announcement, he spoke of fellow Democratic candidate and Senator Barack Obama: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy—I mean, that's a storybook, man."[175][nb 2] This comment undermined his campaign as soon as it began and significantly damaged his fund-raising capabilities;[174]:336 it later took second place on Time magazine's list of Top 10 Campaign Gaffes for 2007.[177] Biden had also been criticized in July 2006 for a remark he made about his support among Indian Americans: "I've had a great relationship. In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."[178] Biden later said the remark was not intended to be derogatory.[178][nb 3]

In an unusual move, Biden shared campaign planes with one of his rivals for the nomination, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Dodd and Biden were friends and seeking to save funds during somewhat long-shot efforts at the nomination.[180]

Overall, Biden had difficulty raising funds, struggled to draw people to his rallies, and failed to gain traction against the high-profile candidacies of Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton;[181] he never rose above single digits in national polls of the Democratic candidates. In the first contest on January 3, 2008, Biden placed fifth in the Iowa caucuses, garnering slightly less than one percent of the state delegates.[182] He withdrew from the race that evening, saying, "There is nothing sad about tonight. ... I feel no regret."[183]

Despite its lack of success, Biden's stature in the political world rose as the result of his 2008 campaign.[174]:336 In particular, it changed the relationship between Biden and Obama. Although the two had served together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, they had not been close, with Biden resenting Obama's quick rise to political stardom[132][184] and Obama viewing Biden as garrulous and patronizing.[174]:28, 337–338 Having gotten to know each other during 2007, Obama appreciated Biden's campaigning style and appeal to working-class voters, and Biden said he became convinced that Obama was "the real deal".[184][174]:28, 337–338

2008 vice-presidential campaign

Biden speaks at the August 23, 2008, vice presidential announcement in Springfield, Illinois

Shortly following Biden's withdrawal from the presidential race, Obama privately told him that he was interested in finding an important place for Biden in his administration.[185] Biden declined Obama's first request to vet him for the vice-presidential slot, fearing the vice presidency would represent a loss in status and voice from his Senate position, but later changed his mind.[132][186] In a June 22, 2008, interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Biden confirmed that, although he was not actively seeking a spot on the ticket, he would accept the offer if it came.[187] In early August, Obama and Biden met in secret to discuss the possibility,[185] and developed a strong personal rapport.[184] On August 22, 2008, Obama announced that Biden would be his running mate.[188] The New York Times reported that the strategy behind the choice reflected a desire to fill out the ticket with someone with foreign policy and national security experience—and not to help the ticket win a swing state or to emphasize Obama's "change" message.[189] Others pointed out Biden's appeal to middle-class and blue-collar voters, as well as his willingness to aggressively challenge Republican nominee John McCain in a way that Obama seemed uncomfortable doing at times.[190][191] In accepting Obama's offer, Biden ruled out running for president again in 2016,[185] but his comments in later years seemed to back off that stance, as he did not want to diminish his political power by appearing uninterested in advancement.[192][193][194] Biden was officially nominated for vice president on August 27 by voice vote at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.[195]

After his selection as the vice-presidential candidate, Biden's Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington confirmed that even if elected vice president, he would not be allowed to speak at Catholic schools.[196] The bishop of his original hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, soon barred Biden from receiving Holy Communion because of his support for abortion rights,[197] but Biden continued to receive Communion at his local Delaware parish.[196] Scranton became a flashpoint in the competition for swing-state Catholic voters between the Democratic campaign and liberal Catholic groups, who stressed that other social issues should be considered as much as or more than abortion, and many bishops and conservative Catholics, who maintained abortion was paramount.[198] Biden said he believed that life begins at conception but would not impose his religious views on others.[199] Bishop Saltarelli had previously said of stances like Biden's, "No one today would accept this statement from any public servant: 'I am personally opposed to human slavery and racism but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.' Likewise, none of us should accept this statement from any public servant: 'I am personally opposed to abortion but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.'"[196]

Biden is nominated as the Democratic vice presidential candidate during the third night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado

Biden's vice-presidential campaigning gained little media visibility, as far greater press attention was focused on the Republican running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.[160][200] During one week in September 2008, for instance, the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that Biden was included in only 5% of coverage of the race, far less than the other three candidates on the tickets received.[201] Biden nevertheless focused on campaigning in economically challenged areas of swing states and trying to win over blue-collar Democrats, especially those who had supported Hillary Clinton.[132][160] Biden attacked McCain heavily despite a long-standing personal friendship;[nb 4] he said, "That guy I used to know, he's gone. It literally saddens me."[160] As the financial crisis of 2007–2010 reached a peak with the liquidity crisis of September 2008 and the proposed bailout of the United States financial system became a major factor in the campaign, Biden voted in favor of the $700-billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, that went on to pass in the Senate, 74–25.[203]

On October 2, 2008, Biden participated in the vice-presidential debate with Palin at Washington University in St. Louis. Post-debate polls found that while Palin exceeded many voters' expectations, Biden had won the debate overall.[7]:655–661 On October 5, Biden suspended campaign events for a few days after the death of his mother-in-law.[204] During the campaign's final days, he focused on less populated, older, less well-off areas of battleground states, especially Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where polling indicated he was popular and where Obama had not campaigned or performed well in the Democratic primaries.[205][206][207] He also campaigned in some normally Republican states, as well as in areas with large Catholic populations.[207]

Under instructions from the Obama campaign, Biden kept his speeches succinct and tried to avoid offhand remarks, such as one about Obama's being tested by a foreign power soon after taking office, which had attracted negative attention.[205][206] Privately, Obama was frustrated by Biden's remarks, saying, "How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?"[174]:411–414, 419 Obama campaign staffers referred to Biden blunders as "Joe bombs" and kept Biden uninformed about strategy discussions, which in turn irked Biden.[194] Relations between the two campaigns became strained for a month, until Biden apologized on a call to Obama and the two built a stronger partnership.[174]:411–414 Publicly, Obama strategist David Axelrod said that any unexpected comments had been outweighed by Biden's high popularity ratings.[208] Nationally, Biden had a 60% favorability rating in a Pew Research Center poll, compared to Palin's 44%.[205]

On November 4, 2008, Obama was elected president and Biden was elected vice president.[209] The Obama–Biden ticket won 365 Electoral College votes to McCain–Palin's 173,[210] and won 53% of the popular vote.[211]

Biden had continued to run for his Senate seat as well as for vice president,[212] as permitted by Delaware law.[138][nb 5] On November 4 he was also reelected to the Senate, defeating Republican Christine O'Donnell.[213] Having won both races, Biden made a point of holding off his resignation from the Senate so he could be sworn in for his seventh term on January 6, 2009.[214] He became the youngest senator ever to start a seventh full term, and said, "In all my life, the greatest honor bestowed upon me has been serving the people of Delaware as their United States senator."[214] Biden cast his last Senate vote on January 15, supporting the release of the second $350 billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.[215] Biden resigned from the Senate later that day;[nb 6] in emotional farewell remarks on the Senate floor, where he had spent most of his adult life, Biden said, "Every good thing I have seen happen here, every bold step taken in the 36-plus years I have been here, came not from the application of pressure by interest groups, but through the maturation of personal relationships."[219]

Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner appointed longtime Biden adviser Ted Kaufman to complete his term. Kaufman chose not to run for a full term, allowing Democrat Chris Coons to succeed him after a special election in 2010.

Vice presidency (2009–2017)

Post-election transition

Vice President-elect Biden meets with Vice President Dick Cheney at Number One Observatory Circle on November 13, 2008

On November 4, 2008, Biden was elected Vice President of the United States as Obama's running mate.

Soon after the election, he was appointed chairman of president-elect Obama's transition team. During the transition phase of the Obama administration, Biden said he was in daily meetings with Obama and that McCain was still his friend.[220] The U.S. Secret Service gave Biden the code name "Celtic", referencing his Irish roots.[221]

Biden chose veteran Democratic lawyer and aide Ron Klain as his chief of staff,[222] and Time Washington bureau chief Jay Carney as his director of communications.[223] He intended to eliminate some of the explicit roles assumed by his predecessor, Dick Cheney,[224] who had established himself as an autonomous power center.[132] Otherwise, Biden said he would not emulate any previous vice presidency, but would instead seek to provide advice and counsel on every critical decision Obama would make.[225] He said he was closely involved in all the cabinet appointments made during the transition.[225] Biden was also named to head the new White House Task Force on Working Families, an initiative to improve the middle class's economic well-being.[226] In his last act as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Biden went on a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan during the second week of January 2009, meeting with the leadership of those countries.[227]

First term (2009–2013)

Biden sworn into office by Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, January 20, 2009

At noon on January 20, 2009, Biden became the 47th vice president of the United States, sworn into the office by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.[228] He is the first U.S. vice president from Delaware[229] and the first Roman Catholic to attain that office.[3][230]

President Obama with Vice President Biden at the White House, February 2009

In the early months of the Obama administration, Biden assumed the role of a behind-the-scenes counselor,[231] often adjudicating disputes among Obama's "team of rivals".[132] Obama compared Biden's efforts to a basketball player "who does a bunch of things that don't show up in the stat sheet."[231] Biden played a key role in gaining Senate support for several major pieces of legislation, and was a main factor in convincing Senator Arlen Specter to switch from a Republican to a Democrat.[232] Biden lost an internal debate to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding his opposition to sending 21,000 new troops to the war in Afghanistan,[233][234] but his skepticism was still considered valuable in the administration,[186] and in 2009 Biden's views gained more influence as Obama reconsidered his Afghanistan strategy.[235]

Biden visited Iraq about every two months,[132] becoming the administration's point man in delivering messages to Iraqi leadership about expected progress in the country.[186] More generally, overseeing Iraq policy became Biden's responsibility: Obama was said to have said, "Joe, you do Iraq."[236] Biden said Iraq "could be one of the great achievements of this administration".[237] His January 2010 visit to Iraq in the midst of turmoil over banned candidates from the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary election resulted in 59 of the several hundred candidates being reinstated by the Iraqi government two days later.[238] By 2012, Biden had made eight trips there, but his oversight of U.S. policy in Iraq receded with the exit of U.S. troops in 2011.[239][240]

Biden was also in charge of the oversight role for infrastructure spending from the Obama stimulus package intended to help counteract the ongoing recession, and stressed that only worthy projects should get funding.[241] He talked with hundreds of governors, mayors, and other local officials in this role.[239] During this period, Biden was satisfied that no major instances of waste or corruption had occurred,[186] and when he completed that role in February 2011, he said that the number of fraud incidents with stimulus monies had been less than one percent.[242]

Biden speaks to Navy SEAL trainees at NAB Coronado, California, May 2009
President Obama congratulates Biden for his role in shaping the debt ceiling deal that led to the Budget Control Act of 2011
Biden, Obama and the national security team gathered in the White House Situation Room to monitor the progress of the May 2011 mission to kill Osama bin Laden

It took some time for the cautious Obama and the blunt, rambling Biden to work out ways of dealing with each other.[194] In late April 2009, Biden's off-message response to a question during the beginning of the swine flu outbreak, that he would advise family members against traveling on airplanes or subways, led to a swift retraction by the White House.[243] The remark revived Biden's reputation for gaffes,[244] and led to a spate of late-night television jokes based on his being a loose-talking buffoon.[235][245] In the face of persistently rising unemployment through July 2009, Biden acknowledged that the administration had "misread how bad the economy was" but maintained confidence that the stimulus package would create many more jobs once the pace of expenditures picked up.[246] The same month, Secretary of State Clinton quickly disavowed Biden's remarks disparaging Russia as a power, but despite any missteps, Biden still retained Obama's confidence and was increasingly influential within the administration.[247] On March 23, 2010, a microphone picked up Biden telling the president that his signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was "a big fucking deal" during live national news telecasts. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs replied via Twitter "And yes Mr. Vice President, you're right ..."[248] Despite their different personalities, Obama and Biden formed a friendship, partly based around Obama's daughter Sasha and Biden's granddaughter Maisy, who attended Sidwell Friends School together.[194]

Biden's most important role in the administration was as a contrarian who questioned assumptions.[132][235] Obama said, "The best thing about Joe is that when we get everybody together, he really forces people to think and defend their positions, to look at things from every angle, and that is very valuable for me."[186] Another senior Obama advisor said Biden "is always prepared to be the skunk at the family picnic to make sure we are as intellectually honest as possible."[186] On June 11, 2010, Biden represented the United States at the opening ceremony of the World Cup, attended the England v. U.S. game, and visited Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa.[249] The Bidens maintained a relaxed atmosphere at their official residence in Washington, often entertaining some of their grandchildren, and regularly returned to their home in Delaware.[250]

Biden campaigned heavily for Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections, maintaining an attitude of optimism in the face of predictions of large-scale losses for the party.[251] Following big Republican gains in the elections and the departure of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Biden's past relationships with Republicans in Congress became more important.[252][253] He led the successful administration effort to gain Senate approval for the New START treaty.[252][253] In December 2010, Biden's advocacy for a middle ground, followed by his negotiations with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, were instrumental in producing the administration's compromise tax package that revolved around a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts.[253][254] Biden then took the lead in trying to sell the agreement to a reluctant Democratic caucus in Congress.[253][255] The package passed as the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.

In foreign policy, Biden supported the NATO-led military intervention in Libya in 2011.[256] He has supported closer economic ties with Russia.[257]

In March 2011, Obama delegated Biden to lead negotiations between Congress and the White House in resolving federal spending levels for the rest of the year, and avoiding a government shutdown.[258] By May 2011, a "Biden panel" with six congressional members was trying to reach a bipartisan deal on raising the U.S. debt ceiling as part of an overall deficit reduction plan.[259][260] The U.S. debt ceiling crisis developed over the next couple of months, but it was again Biden's relationship with McConnell that proved a key factor in breaking a deadlock and finally bringing about a deal to resolve it, in the form of the Budget Control Act of 2011, signed on August 2, 2011, the same day an unprecedented U.S. default had loomed.[261][262][263] Biden had spent the most time bargaining with Congress on the debt question of anyone in the administration,[262] and one Republican staffer said, "Biden's the only guy with real negotiating authority, and [McConnell] knows that his word is good. He was a key to the deal."[261]

It has been reported that Biden was opposed to going forward with the May 2011 U.S. mission to kill Osama bin Laden,[239][264] lest failure adversely affect Obama's chances for a second term.[265][266] He took the lead in notifying Congressional leaders of the successful outcome.[267]

2012 reelection campaign

In October 2010, Biden said Obama had asked him to remain as his running mate for the 2012 presidential election.[251] But with Obama's popularity on the decline, White House chief of staff William M. Daley conducted some secret polling and focus group research in late 2011 on the idea of replacing Biden on the ticket with Hillary Clinton.[268] The notion was dropped when the results showed no appreciable improvement for Obama,[268] and White House officials later said Obama had never entertained the idea.[269]

Biden's May 2012 statement that he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage gained considerable public attention in comparison to Obama's position, which had been described as "evolving".[270] Biden made his statement without administration consent, and Obama and his aides were quite irked, since Obama had planned to shift position several months later, in the build-up to the party convention, and since Biden had previously counseled the president to avoid the issue lest key Catholic voters be offended.[194][271][272][273] Gay rights advocates seized upon Biden's statement,[271] and within days, Obama announced that he too supported same-sex marriage, an action in part forced by Biden's unexpected remarks.[274] Biden apologized to Obama in private for having spoken out,[272][275] while Obama acknowledged publicly it had been done from the heart.[271] The incident showed that Biden still struggled at times with message discipline;[194] as Time wrote, "everyone knows [that] Biden's greatest strength is also his greatest weakness."[239] Relations were also strained between the campaigns when Biden appeared to use his position to bolster fundraising contacts for a possible run for president in 2016, and he ended up being excluded from Obama campaign strategy meetings.[268]

Biden with President Barack Obama, July 2012

The Obama campaign nevertheless still valued Biden as a retail-level politician who could connect with disaffected, blue-collar workers and rural residents, and he had a heavy schedule of appearances in swing states as the Obama reelection campaign began in earnest in spring 2012.[106][239] An August 2012 remark before a mixed-race audience that Republican proposals to relax Wall Street regulations would "put y'all back in chains" led to a similar analysis of Biden's face-to-face campaigning abilities versus his tendency to go off track.[106][276][277] The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Most candidates give the same stump speech over and over, putting reporters if not the audience to sleep. But during any Biden speech, there might be a dozen moments to make press handlers cringe, and prompt reporters to turn to each other with amusement and confusion."[276] Time magazine wrote that Biden often went too far and that "Along with the familiar Washington mix of neediness and overconfidence, Biden's brain is wired for more than the usual amount of goofiness."[106]

Biden was officially nominated for a second term as vice president on September 6 by voice vote at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.[278] He faced his Republican counterpart, Representative Paul Ryan, in the vice-presidential debate on October 11 in Danville, Kentucky. There he made a feisty, emotional defense of the Obama administration's record and energetically attacked the Republican ticket, in an effort to regain campaign momentum lost by Obama's unfocused debate performance against Republican nominee Mitt Romney the week before.[279][280]

On November 6, 2012, Obama and Biden were elected to second terms.[281] The ticket won 332 Electoral College votes to Romney–Ryan's 206 and 51% of the popular vote.[282]


In December 2012, Obama named Biden to head the Gun Violence Task Force, created to address the causes of gun violence in the United States in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.[283] Later that month, during the final days before the United States fell off the "fiscal cliff", Biden's relationship with McConnell once more proved important as the two negotiated a deal that led to the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 being passed at the start of 2013.[284][285] It made many of the Bush tax cuts permanent but raised rates on upper income levels.[285]

Second term (2013–2017)

Biden visits Brazilian vice president Michel Temer, October 11, 2013.

Biden was inaugurated to a second term on January 20, 2013, at a small ceremony in his official residence with Justice Sonia Sotomayor presiding (a public ceremony took place on January 21).[286] He continued to be in the forefront as, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Obama administration put forth executive orders and proposed new gun control measures[111] (they failed to pass).[287]

Biden played little part in the discussions that led to the October 2013 passage of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014, which resolved the federal government shutdown of 2013 and the debt-ceiling crisis of 2013. This was becaues Senate majority leader Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders cut him out of any direct talks with Congress, feeling that Biden had given too much away during previous negotiations.[288][289][290]

Biden meeting Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, December 31, 2014. Biden said the Kurdish PKK is a "terrorist group."[291]

Biden's Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized again in 2013. The act led to related developments, such as the White House Council on Women and Girls, begun in the first term, as well as the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, begun in January 2014 with Biden and Valerie Jarrett as co-chairs.[292][293] Biden discussed federal guidelines on sexual assault on university campuses while giving a speech at the University of New Hampshire. He said, "No means no, if you're drunk or you're sober. No means no if you're in bed, in a dorm or on the street. No means no even if you said yes at first and you changed your mind. No means no."[294][295][296]

Biden favored arming Syria's rebel fighters.[297] As Iraq fell apart during 2014, renewed attention was paid to the Biden-Gelb Iraqi federalization plan of 2006, with some observers suggesting that Biden had been right all along.[298][299] Biden himself said the U.S. would follow ISIL "to the gates of hell."[300] In October 2014, he said Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had "poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Al-Assad, except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra, and al Qaeda, and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world."[301]

By 2015, a series of swearings-in and other events where Biden had placed his hands on women and girls and talked closely to them attracted attention both in the press and on social media.[302][303][304] In one case, a senator issued a statement afterward saying of his daughter, "No, she doesn't think the vice president is creepy."[305] On January 17, 2015, Secret Service agents heard shots fired as a vehicle drove near Biden's Delaware residence at 8:28 p.m. outside the security perimeter, but the Bidens were not home. An agent observed a vehicle speeding away.[306]

On December 8, 2015, Biden spoke in Ukraine's parliament in Kiev[307][308] in one of his many visits to set U.S. aid and policy stance on Ukraine.[309][310] On February 28, 2016, he gave a speech on sexual assault awareness at the 88th Academy Awards; he also introduced Lady Gaga.

In 2015, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell invited Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress without notifying the Obama administration. This defiance of protocol led Biden and more than 50 congressional Democrats to skip Netanyahu's speech.[311] But in March 2016, Biden spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., saying, "We're all united by our unyielding—I mean literally unyielding—commitment to the survival, the security, and the success of the Jewish State of Israel."[312]

On December 8, 2016, Biden went to Ottawa to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.[313]

Biden never cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, making him the longest-serving vice president with this distinction.[314]

Death of Beau Biden

On May 30, 2015, Biden's son Beau Biden died at age 46 after having battled brain cancer for several years. In a statement, the Vice President's office said, "The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words."[315] The nature and seriousness of the illness had not been previously disclosed to the public, and Biden had quietly reduced his public schedule to spend more time with Beau. Before his death, Beau had been widely seen as the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination for governor of Delaware.[316][317]

Role in the 2016 presidential campaign

During much of his second term, Biden was said to be preparing for a possible bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.[318] At age 74 on Inauguration Day in January 2017, he would have been the oldest president on inauguration in history.[319] With his family, many friends, and donors encouraging him in mid-2015 to enter the race, and with Hillary Clinton's favorability ratings in decline at that time, Biden was reported to again be seriously considering the prospect and a "Draft Biden 2016" PAC was established.[318][320][321]

As of September 11, 2015, Biden was still uncertain whether to run. He cited his son's recent death as a large drain on his emotional energy, and said, "nobody has a right ... to seek that office unless they're willing to give it 110% of who they are."[322]

On October 21, speaking from a podium in the Rose Garden with his wife and Obama by his side, Biden announced his decision not to run for president in 2016.[323][324][325] In January 2016, Biden affirmed that it was the right decision, but admitted to regretting not running for president "every day".[326]

As of the end of January 2016, neither Biden nor Obama had endorsed anyone in the 2016 presidential election. Biden missed his annual Thanksgiving tradition of going to Nantucket, opting instead to travel abroad and meet with several European leaders. He took time to meet with Martin O'Malley, having previously met with Bernie Sanders, both 2016 candidates. Neither of these meetings was considered an endorsement, as Biden had said he would meet with any candidate who asked.[327]

Biden with Vice President-elect Mike Pence on November 10, 2016

After Obama endorsed Clinton on June 9, 2016, Biden endorsed her later the same day.[328] Though Biden and Clinton were scheduled to campaign together in Scranton on July 8, Clinton canceled the appearance in light of the shooting of Dallas police officers the previous day.[329]

During the campaign season, Biden publicly displayed his disagreements with the policies of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. On June 20, Biden critiqued Trump's proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States as well as his stated intent to build a wall along the border with Mexico, adding that Trump's suggestion to either torture and or kill family members of terrorists was damaging both to American values and "to our security".[330] During an interview with George Stephanopoulos at the 2016 Democratic National Convention on July 26, Biden asserted that "moral and centered" voters would not vote for Trump.[331] On October 21, the anniversary of his decision not to run, Biden said he wished he was still in high school so he could take Trump "behind the gym".[332] On October 24, Biden clarified he would have fought Trump only if he was still in high school,[333] and the following day, October 25, Trump responded that he would "love that".[334]

Post-vice presidency (2017–present)

Biden with Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, January 2017
Biden campaigning for U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones, October 2017

In 2017, Biden was named the Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he intended to focus on foreign policy, diplomacy, and national security while leading the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.[5] He also wanted to pursue his "cancer moonshot" agenda,[335] calling the fight against cancer "the only bipartisan thing left in America" in March 2017.[336]

Biden had been close friends with Senator John McCain for over 30 years. In 2018, McCain died at the age of 81 of the same kind of cancer that Beau Biden died of. Biden gave the eulogy at McCain's funeral service in Phoenix, Arizona. He opened with "My name's Joe Biden. I'm a Democrat. And I loved John McCain."[337] He also called him a "brother."[337] Biden also served as a pallbearer at McCain's memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral alongside Warren Beatty and Michael Bloomberg.[338]

Comments on President Trump

While attending the launch of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement on March 30, 2017, a student asked Biden what "piece of advice" he would give Trump. Biden responded that Trump should grow up and cease his tweeting so he could focus on the office.[339] During a speech at a May 29 gathering of Phil Murphy supporters at a community center gymnasium, Biden said, "There are a lot of people out there who are frightened. Trump played on their fears. What we haven't done, in my view—and this is a criticism of all us—we haven't spoken enough to the fears and aspirations of the people we come from."[340] On June 17, 2017, Biden predicted the "state the nation is today will not be sustained by the American people" while speaking at a Florida Democratic Party fundraiser in Hollywood.[341] Biden told CBS This Morning that Trump's administration "seems to feel the need to coddle autocrats and dictators" like Saudi Arabian leaders, Russian president Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte.[342] In October 2018, Biden said if Democrats retook the House of Representatives, "I hope they don't [impeach Trump]. I don't think there's a basis for doing that right now."[343] On June 11, 2019, Biden criticized Trump's "damaging" trade war with China.[344] He also criticized Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, which critics say gave Turkey the green light to launch the military offensive against Syrian Kurds.[345]

Climate change

During an appearance at the Brainstorm Health Conference in San Diego, California on May 2, 2017, Biden said the public "has moved ahead of the administration [on science]".[346] On May 31, Biden tweeted that climate change was an "existential threat to our future" and remaining in the Paris Agreement was the "best way to protect our children and global leadership".[347] The next day, after Trump announced U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, Biden tweeted that the choice "imperils U.S. security and our ability to own the clean energy future".[348] While appearing at the Concordia Europe Summit in Athens, Greece on June 7, Biden said, referring to the withdrawal, "The vast majority of the American people do not agree with the decision the president made."[349]


On March 22, 2017, during his first appearance on Capitol Hill since Trump's inauguration, Biden called the Republican healthcare bill a "tax bill" meant to transfer nearly $1 trillion used for health benefits for the lower classes to wealthy Americans.[350] On May 4, after the House of Representatives narrowly voted for the American Health Care Act, Biden tweeted that it was a "Day of shame for Congress", lamenting the loss of preexisting condition protections.[351] On June 24, in response to Senate Republicans' revealing an American Health Care Act draft the previous day, Biden tweeted that the bill "isn't about health care at all—it's a wealth transfer: slashes care to fund tax cuts for the wealthy & corporations."[352] On July 28, in response to the Republican Senate healthcare bill failing, Biden tweeted, "Thank you to everyone who tirelessly worked to protect the healthcare of millions."[353]


On September 5, 2017, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump Administration would rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Biden tweeted, "Brought by parents, these children had no choice in coming here. Now they'll be sent to countries they've never known. Cruel. Not America."[354]

LGBTQ rights

On April 14, 2017, Biden released a statement denouncing Chechen authorities for rounding up, torturing, and murdering "individuals who are believed to be gay", and stating his hope that the Trump administration would honor a prior pledge to advance human rights by confronting Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Russian leaders over "these egregious violations of human rights".[355] On June 21, during a speech at a Democratic National Committee LGBT gala in New York City, Biden said, "Hold President Trump accountable for his pledge to be your friend."[356]

On July 26, 2017, after Trump announced a ban of transgender people serving in the military, Biden tweeted, "Every patriotic American who is qualified to serve in our military should be able to serve. Full stop."[357]

In March 2019, Biden condemned Brunei's new LGBT death penalty law, tweeting: "Stoning people to death for homosexuality or adultery is appalling and immoral. There is no excuse—not culture, not tradition—for this kind of hate and inhumanity."[358] He suggested that the Trump administration's hostility to LGBT rights was a poor example for countries like Brunei.[359]

Allegations of inappropriate physical contact and sexual assault

Photographs and videos exist that show Biden in what some consider inappropriate proximity to women and children, including kissing and touching.[360][361][362][363] Biden has described himself as a "tactile politician" and admitted that this behavior has caused trouble for him in the past.[364]

On March 29, 2019, former Nevada assemblywoman Lucy Flores alleged that Biden touched her without her consent at a 2014 campaign rally in Las Vegas. In a New York magazine op-ed for The Cut, Flores wrote that Biden had walked up behind her, put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her hair, and kissed the back of her head, adding that the way he touched her was "an intimate way reserved for close friends, family, or romantic partners—and I felt powerless to do anything about it."[365] Biden's spokesman said Biden did not recall the behavior described.[366]

Two days later, Amy Lappos, a former congressional aide to Jim Himes, said Biden touched her in a non-sexual but inappropriate way by holding her head to rub noses with her at a political fundraiser in Greenwich in 2009.[367] The next day, two more women came forward with allegations of inappropriate conduct. Caitlin Caruso said Biden placed his hand on her thigh, and D.J. Hill said he ran his hand from her shoulder down her back.[368][369] Ally Coll, Sofie Karasek and Vail Kohnert-Yount in early April told the Washington Post that Biden had touched them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable.[370]

In April 2019, Biden apologized for not understanding how people would react to his actions, but said that his intentions were honorable; he went on to say that he was not sorry for anything he had ever done, which led critics to accuse him of sending a mixed message.[371]

In March 2019, Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer to Biden, said he had inappropriately touched her multiple times during her nine months in his employ,[372] tweeting in March 2019, "Part of my story, the rest is silenced, ask me".[373] On March 25, 2020, Reade alleged that Biden had sexually assaulted her in 1993.[374][375] Biden's campaign released a statement denying the allegations.[376]

2020 presidential campaign

Biden at his presidential kickoff rally in Philadelphia, May 2019

Speculation and subsequent announcement

Between 2016 and 2019, media outlets often mentioned Biden as a likely candidate for president in 2020.[377] When asked if he would run, he gave varied and ambivalent answers, saying "never say never."[378] At one point he suggested he did not see a scenario where he would run again,[379][380] but a few days later, he said, "I’ll run if I can walk."[381] A political action committee known as Time for Biden was formed in January 2018, seeking Biden's entry into the race.[382]

Biden said he would decide whether to run or not by January 2019,[383] but made no announcement at that time. Friends said he was "very close to saying yes" but that he was concerned about the effect another presidential run could have on his family and reputation, as well as fundraising struggles and perceptions about his age and relative centrism.[384] On the other hand, he was prompted to run by his "sense of duty", offense at the Trump presidency, the lack of foreign policy experience among other Democratic hopefuls, and his desire to foster "bridge-building progressivism" in the party.[384] He launched his campaign on April 25, 2019.[385] He chose Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as his campaign headquarters.[386]


Biden in Henderson, Nevada in February 2020.

On July 15, 2019, the nonprofit Biden Cancer Initiative announced it would cease operations for the foreseeable future. Biden and his wife left the initiative's board in April as an ethics precaution before starting his presidential campaign.[387]

In September 2019, it was reported that President Trump had pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate alleged wrongdoing by Biden and his son Hunter Biden.[388] Despite the allegations, as of September 2019, no evidence has been produced of any wrongdoing by the Bidens.[389] This pressure to investigate the Bidens was widely interpreted by the media to be an attempt to hurt Biden's chances of winning the presidency, resulting in a political scandal[390][391] and Trump's impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Beginning in 2019, Trump and his allies falsely accused Biden of getting the Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin fired because he was ostensibly pursuing an investigation into Burisma Holdings, which employed Hunter Biden. Biden was accused of withholding $1 billion in aid from Ukraine in this effort. In 2015, then-vice president Biden pressured the Ukrainian parliament to remove Shokin because the United States, the European Union and other international organizations considered him corrupt and ineffective, and in particular was not assertively investigating Burisma. The withholding of the $1 billion in aid was part of this official policy.[392][393][394][395]

Throughout 2019, Biden led his Democratic rivals in the national polls and was widely considered the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primaries.[396][397] But after disappointing showings in the Iowa and New Hampshire primary contests in early 2020, he fell to second place behind Bernie Sanders in mid-February.[398][399] After winning the popular vote in the South Carolina primary,[400] and the withdrawal and subsequent endorsements of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, Biden made large gains in the March 3 Super Tuesday primary elections and regained the front-runner position.[401] Biden expanded his lead with strong victories in four states (Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, and Missouri) on March 10.[398][402]

Political positions

Joe Biden's ratings from advocacy organizations
Group Advocacy issue(s) Ratings
Lifetime Recent[403]
Rating Date
AFL–CIO labor unions 85%[404] 85% 2007
APHA public health 100% 2003
CTJ progressive taxation 100% 2006
NAACP minorities & affirmative action 100% 2006
LCV environmental protection 83%[405] 64%[405] 2008
NEA public education 91% 2003
ARA senior citizens 89% 2003
CAF energy security 83% 2006
PA peace and disarmament 80% 2003
HRC gay and lesbian rights 78% 2006
NARAL abortion rights ~72%[406] 75%[407] 2007
CURE criminal rehabilitation 71% 2000
ACLU civil and political rights 80%[408] 91%[409] 2007
Cato free trade and libertarianism 42% 2002
US CoC corporate interests 32% 2003
CCA Christian family values 16% 2003
NTU lowering taxes 2%[410] 2008
NRLC restrictions on abortion 0% 2006
NRA gun ownership F 2003

Biden has been characterized as a moderate Democrat.[411] He supported the fiscal stimulus in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009;[412][413] the increased infrastructure spending proposed by the Obama administration;[413] mass transit, including Amtrak, bus, and subway subsidies;[414] same-sex marriage;[415] and the reduced military spending in the Obama administration's fiscal year 2014 budget.[416][417]

Some political scientists gauge ideology by comparing the annual ratings by the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) with the ratings by the American Conservative Union (ACU).[418] Biden has a lifetime liberal 72% score from the ADA through 2004, while the ACU awarded Biden a lifetime conservative rating of 13% through 2008.[419] Using another metric, Biden has a lifetime average liberal score of 77.5%, according to a National Journal analysis that places him ideologically among the center of Senate Democrats as of 2008.[420] The Almanac of American Politics rates congressional votes as liberal or conservative on the political spectrum, in three policy areas: economic, social, and foreign. For 2005–06, Biden's average ratings were as follows: the economic rating was 80% liberal and 13% conservative, the social rating was 78% liberal and 18% conservative, and the foreign rating was 71% liberal and 25% conservative.[421] This has not changed much over time; his liberal ratings in the mid-1980s were also in the 70%–80% range.[66]

Various advocacy groups have given Biden scores or grades for how well his votes align with their positions. The American Civil Liberties Union gives him an 80% lifetime score,[408] with a 91% score for the 110th Congress.[409] Biden opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and supports governmental funding to find new energy sources.[422] He believes action must be taken on global warming. He co-sponsored the Sense of the Senate resolution calling on the United States to be a part of the United Nations climate negotiations and the Boxer–Sanders Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, the most stringent climate bill in the United States Senate.[423] The AFL–CIO gave Biden an 85% lifetime approval rating,[404] and he voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).[424]


Biden has received honorary degrees from the University of Scranton (1976),[425] Saint Joseph's University (LL.D 1981),[426] Widener University School of Law (2000),[144] Emerson College (2003),[427] his alma mater the University of Delaware (2004),[428] Suffolk University Law School (2005),[429] his other alma mater Syracuse University (LL.D 2009),[430] the University of Pennsylvania (LL.D 2013),[431] Miami Dade College (2014),[432] Trinity College, Dublin (LL.D 2016),[433] Colby College (LL.D 2017),[434] Morgan State University,(DPS 2017),[435] and the University of South Carolina (DPA 2017).[436]

President Obama presents Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, January 12, 2017

Biden also received the Chancellor Medal (1980) and the George Arents Pioneer Medal (2005) from Syracuse University.[437][437][438]

In 2008, Biden received Working Mother magazine's Best of Congress Award for "improving the American quality of life through family-friendly work policies".[439] Also in 2008, he shared with fellow senator Richard Lugar the Government of Pakistan's Hilal-i-Pakistan award "in recognition of their consistent support for Pakistan".[440] In 2009, Kosovo gave Biden the Golden Medal of Freedom, the region's highest award, for his vocal support for its independence in the late 1990s.[441]

Biden is an inductee of the Delaware Volunteer Firemen's Association Hall of Fame.[442] He was named to the Little League Hall of Excellence in 2009.[443]

On June 25, 2016, Biden received the freedom of County Louth in the Republic of Ireland.[444]

On January 12, 2017, Obama surprised Biden by awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction during a farewell press conference at the White House honoring Biden and his wife. Obama said he was awarding Biden the Medal of Freedom for "faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and a lifetime of service that will endure through the generations".[445][446] It was the first and only time Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom with the additional honor of distinction, an honor his three predecessors had reserved for only President Ronald Reagan, Colin Powell and Pope John Paul II, respectively.[447]

On December 11, 2018, the University of Delaware renamed its School of Public Policy and Administration the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration. The Biden Institute is housed there.[448]

Electoral history

Election results
Year Office Election Votes for Biden % Opponent Party Votes %
1970 County councilman General 10,573 55% Lawrence T. Messick Republican 8,192 43%
1972 U.S. senator General 116,006 50% J. Caleb Boggs Republican 112,844 49%
1978 General 93,930 58% James H. Baxter Jr. Republican 66,479 41%
1984 General 147,831 60% John M. Burris Republican 98,101 40%
1990 General 112,918 63% M. Jane Brady Republican 64,554 36%
1996 General 165,465 60% Raymond J. Clatworthy Republican 105,088 38%
2002 General 135,253 58% Raymond J. Clatworthy Republican 94,793 41%
2008 General 257,484 65% Christine O'Donnell Republican 140,584 35%
2008 Vice President General 69,498,516
365 electoral votes (270 needed)
53% Sarah Palin Republican 59,948,323
173 electoral votes
2012 General 65,915,796
332 electoral votes (270 needed)
51% Paul Ryan Republican 60,933,500
206 electoral votes

Writings by Biden

See also


  1. ^ Biden chose not to run for president in 1992 in part because he had voted against the resolution authorizing the Gulf War.[138] He considered joining the Democratic field of candidates for the 2004 presidential race but in August 2003 decided otherwise, saying he did not have enough time and any attempt would be too much of a long shot.[164] Around 2004, Biden was also widely discussed as a possible Secretary of State in a Democratic administration.[165]
  2. ^ Several linguists and political analysts said the correct transcription includes a comma after the word "African-American", which one said "would significantly change the meaning (and the degree of offensiveness) of Biden's comment".[176]
  3. ^ The Indian-American activist who was on the receiving end of Biden's comment stated that he was "100 percent behind [Biden] because he did nothing wrong."[179]
  4. ^ Biden admired McCain politically as well as personally; in May 2004, he had urged McCain to run as vice president with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, saying the cross-party ticket would help heal the "vicious rift" in U.S. politics.[202]
  5. ^ Biden was the fourth person to run for Vice President and reelection to the Senate simultaneously after Lyndon Johnson, Lloyd Bentsen, and Joe Lieberman, and the second to have won both elections after Johnson.
  6. ^ Delaware's Democratic governor, Ruth Ann Minner, announced on November 24, 2008, that she would appoint Biden's longtime senior adviser Ted Kaufman to succeed Biden in the Senate.[216] Kaufman said he would serve only two years, until Delaware's special Senate election in 2010.[216] Biden's son Beau ruled himself out of the 2008 selection process due to his impending tour in Iraq with the Delaware Army National Guard.[217] He was a possible candidate for the 2010 special election, but in early 2010 said he would not run for the seat.[218]



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  3. ^ a b "The First Catholic Vice President?". NPR. January 9, 2009. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  4. ^ Shear, Michael D. (January 12, 2017). "Obama Surprises Joe Biden With Presidential Medal of Freedom". The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Berke, Jeremy (February 7, 2017). "Here's what Joe Biden will do after 8 years as vice president". Business Insider. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  6. ^ Martin, Jonathan; Burns, Alexander (March 7, 2019). "Joe Biden's 2020 Plan Is Almost Complete. Democrats Are Impatient" – via
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Witcover, Jules (2010). Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption. New York City: William Morrow. ISBN 978-0-06-179198-7.
  8. ^ Chase, Randall (January 9, 2010). "Vice President Biden's mother, Jean, dies at 92". WITN-TV. Associated Press.
  9. ^ "Joseph Biden Sr., 86, father of the senator". The Baltimore Sun. September 3, 2002.
  10. ^ Smolenyak, Megan (July 2, 2012). "Joe Biden's Irish Roots". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
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  13. ^ Gehman, Geoff (May 3, 2012). "Vice President Joe Biden Discusses American Innovation". Lafayette College.
  14. ^ Krawczeniuk, Borys (August 24, 2008). "Remembering his roots". The Times-Tribune. Archived from the original on April 6, 2009. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
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  24. ^ a b c d e f g h Leubsdorf, Carl P. (September 6, 1987). "Biden Keeps Sights Set On White House". The Dallas Morning News. Reprinted in "Lifelong ambition led Joe Biden to Senate, White House aspirations". The Dallas Morning News. August 23, 2008. Archived from the original on September 19, 2008.
  25. ^ Biden, Promises to Keep, pp. 27, 32–33.
  26. ^ a b c d Dionne, E. J., Jr. (September 22, 1987). "Biden Admits Errors and Criticizes Latest Report". The New York Times.
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  30. ^ a b Chase, Randall (September 1, 2008). "Biden got 5 draft deferments during Nam, as did Cheney". Newsday. Associated Press.
  31. ^ Romano, Lois (June 9, 1987). "Joe Biden & the Politics of Belief". The Washington Post.
  32. ^ Biden, Joseph R., Jr. (July 9, 2009). "Letter to National Stuttering Association chairman" (PDF). National Stuttering Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 28, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  33. ^ Hendrickson, John (January–February 2020). "What Joe Biden Can't Bring Himself to Say". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 24, 2019.
  34. ^ Leibovich, Mark (September 16, 2008). "Riding the Rails With Amtrak Joe". The New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2008.
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  36. ^ Barrett, Laurence I. (June 22, 1987). "Campaign Portrait, Joe Biden: Orator for the Next Generation". Time.
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  42. ^ Kipp, Rachel (September 4, 2008). "No DUI in crash that killed Biden's 1st wife, but he's implied otherwise". The News Journal. p. A.1. Archived from the original on June 1, 2013.
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  44. ^ Orr, Bob (March 24, 2009). "Driver In Biden Crash Wanted Name Cleared". CBS News. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  45. ^ Hamilton, Carl (October 30, 2008). "Daughter of man in '72 Biden crash seeks apology from widowed Senator". Newark Post. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
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