Joseph Robinette "Joe" Biden, Jr.(born November 20, 1942), is the senior United States Senator from Delaware. He is both the Democratic vice presidential candidate for the November 2008 election and is a candidate for re-election in the U.S. Senate.
|Assumed office |
January 3, 1973
Serving with Tom Carper
|Preceded by||J. Caleb Boggs|
Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
|In office |
January 4, 1987 – January 3, 1995
|Preceded by||Strom Thurmond|
|Succeeded by||Orrin Hatch|
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
|In office |
January 3 – January 20, 2001
|Preceded by||Jesse Helms|
|Succeeded by||Jesse Helms|
|In office |
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
|Preceded by||Jesse Helms|
|Succeeded by||Dick Lugar|
|Assumed office |
January 4, 2007
|Preceded by||Dick Lugar|
|Born||November 20, 1942 (1942-11-20) |
|Spouse||Neilia Hunter (deceased) |
Jill Tracy Jacobs
|Alma mater||University of Delaware |
|Net Worth||between $59,000 and $366,000|
Born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania for ten years prior to moving to Delaware, Biden trained as a lawyer and became a senator in 1973 at age 30, the fifth-youngest senator in U.S. history. He has served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, dealing with issues related to drug policy, crime prevention, and civil liberties. He is a long-time member and current chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and has worked on resolutions concerning the Yugoslav wars and Iraq War.
On August 23, 2008, Barack Obama's presidential campaign announced that Biden would be Obama's running mate for the 2008 US Presidential election. Biden officially accepted the nomination on August 27, 2008 at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.
Early life and family
Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the son of Joseph Robinette Biden, Sr. (1915–2002), and wife Catherine Eugenia "Jean" Finnegan (1918 –). He was the first of four siblings and is of English heritage on his father's side and Irish heritage on his mother's side. He has two brothers, James Brian Biden and Francis W. Biden, and a sister, Valerie (Biden) Owens. The Biden family moved to Claymont, Delaware, when Biden was 10 years old, and he grew up in suburban New Castle County, Delaware, where his father was a car salesman. In 1961, Biden graduated from Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware and, in 1965, from the University of Delaware in Newark, where he double-majored in history and political science. He went on to receive his J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law in 1968, and was admitted to the Delaware Bar in 1969.
In 1966, while in law school, Biden married Neilia Hunter. They had three children, Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, Robert Hunter, and Naomi Christina ("Amy"). His wife and infant daughter died in a car accident shortly after he was first elected to the Senate in 1972. His two sons, Beau and Hunter, were seriously injured in the accident, but both eventually made full recoveries. Biden was sworn into office from their bedside. Persuaded not to resign in order to care for them, Biden began the practice of commuting an hour and a half each day on the train from his home in the Wilmington suburbs to Washington, D.C., which he continues to do.
In 1977, Biden married Jill Tracy Jacobs. They have one daughter, Ashley, and are members of the Roman Catholic Church. In February 1988, after suffering from neck pains, Biden was hospitalized and underwent lifesaving surgery to correct two brain aneurysms, one of which began leaking. The hospitalization and recovery kept him from his duties in the U.S. Senate for seven months.
Biden's elder son, Beau, had been a partner in the Wilmington law firm of Bifferato, Gentilotti, Biden & Balick, LLC until he was elected Delaware Attorney General in 2006. Beau is a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard, where he serves in the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps. He is set to be deployed to Iraq in October 2008. Biden's younger son, Hunter, works as a lawyer in Washington, D.C., serves on the board of directors of Amtrak, and previously worked in the Commerce Department.
In 1981, Biden received an honorary degree from Saint Joseph's University. Since 1991, Biden has also served as an adjunct professor at the Widener University School of Law. He teaches a seminar on constitutional law.
United States Senator
The 1972 U.S. Senate election presented Biden with a unique opportunity. Popular 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, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon was invited to a meeting to convince Boggs to run again with full Republican support. Boggs ran, but Biden eventually won in an upset.
Biden took office on January 3, 1973, at age 30, the minimum age to become a U.S. Senator; he became the fifth-youngest senator in U.S. history. In 1974, then-freshman Senator Biden was named one of the 200 Faces for the Future by Time magazine.
Biden has since won additional terms easily, defeating James H. Baxter, Jr. in 1978, John M. Burris in 1984, M. Jane Brady in 1990, and Raymond J. Clatworthy in 1996 and 2002, usually with about 60 percent of the vote. He is now the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Delaware history. He is running for re-election as senator in 2008. In 2007, Biden reported that he "garnered $67 million worth of projects" for his constituents through congressional earmarks. With a net worth between $59,000 and $366,000, he is considered one of the least wealthy members of the Senate.
Now the longest-serving Senator in Delaware's history, Biden spent 28 years as a junior Senator due to the two-year seniority of his Republican colleague William V. Roth. After Roth was defeated for re-election by Thomas R. Carper in 2000 Biden became Delaware's senior Senator.
Biden serves on the following committees in the 110th U.S. Congress:
- Committee on Foreign Relations (chairman)
- As chairman of the full committee Biden is an ex officio member of each subcommittee.
- Committee on the Judiciary
- Caucus on International Narcotics Control (co-chairman)
Biden is a long-time member of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which he chaired from 1987 until 1995 and on which he served as ranking minority member from 1981 until 1987 and again from 1995 until 1997. In this capacity, he dealt with issues related to drug policy, crime prevention, and civil liberties. While chairman, Biden presided over two notably contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings: Robert Bork in 1987 and Clarence Thomas in 1991.
Biden has been involved in crafting many federal crime laws over the last decade, including the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, also known as the Biden Crime Law, and the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA), which contains a broad array of measures to combat domestic violence and provides billions of dollars in federal funds to address gender-based crimes. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the section of VAWA allowing a federal civil remedy for victims of gender-motivated violence exceeded Congress' authority and therefore was unconstitutional. Congress reauthorized VAWA in 2000 and 2005. In March 2004, Biden 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.
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 controversial Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act, also known as the RAVE Act. He continues to work to stop the spread of "date rape drugs" such as Rohypnol, and drugs such as Ecstasy and Ketamine. In 2004 he worked to pass a bill outlawing steroids like androstenedione, the drug used by many baseball players.
Biden's legislation to promote college aid and loan programs allows families to deduct on their annual income tax returns up to $10,000 per year in higher education expenses. His "Kids 2000" legislation established a public/private partnership to provide computer centers, teachers, Internet access, and technical training to young people, particularly to low-income and at-risk youth.
Foreign Relations Committee
Biden is also a long-time member and current chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. In 1997, he became the ranking minority member and chaired the committee from June 2001 through 2003. When Democrats re-took control of the Senate following the 2006 elections, Biden again assumed the top spot on the committee in 2007. His efforts to combat hostilities in the Balkans in the 1990s brought national attention and influenced presidential policy: traveling repeatedly to the region, he made one meeting famous by calling Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic a "war criminal." He consistently argued for lifting the arms embargo, training Bosnian Muslims, investigating war crimes and administering NATO air strikes. Biden's subsequent "lift and strike" resolution was instrumental in convincing President Bill Clinton to use military force in the face of systematic human rights violations. Biden has also called on Libya to release political prisoner Fathi Eljahmi.
Biden stated in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was a threat to national security, and that there was no option but to eliminate that threat. The Bush administration rejected an effort Biden undertook with Senator Richard Lugar to pass a resolution authorizing military action only after the exhaustion of diplomatic efforts. In October 2002, Biden voted in favor of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, justifying the Iraq War. He has long supported the appropriations to pay for the occupation, but has argued repeatedly that the war should be internationalized, that more soldiers are needed, and that the Bush administration should "level with the American people" about the cost and length of the conflict.
Biden is a leading advocate for dividing Iraq into a loose federation of three ethnic states. In November 2006, Biden and Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, released a comprehensive strategy to end sectarian violence in Iraq. Rather than continuing the present approach or withdrawing, the plan calls for "a third way": federalizing Iraq and giving Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis "breathing room" in their own regions. Iraq’s political leadership united in denouncing the resolution, and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement distancing itself. Senior military planners cautioned that a partition policy would require American military presence of 75,000 to 100,000 troops for years to come.
Biden has twice run for the Democratic nomination for President, first in 1988, and again in 2008. Both times he was unsuccessful. He also considered joining the Democratic field of candidates for the 2004 presidential race but decided otherwise, saying he did not have enough time to cultivate a sufficient fundraising base. Biden had urged Republican Senator John McCain to run with Kerry, saying the cross-party ticket would help heal the “vicious rift” in U.S. politics. Biden had also been widely discussed as a possible Secretary of State in a Democratic administration.
In 1987, Biden ran as a Democratic presidential candidate, formally declaring his candidacy at the Wilmington train station on June 9, 1987. When the campaign began, Biden was considered a potentially strong candidate because of his moderate image, his appeal to Baby Boomers, his high profile position as chair of the Senate Judiciary committee during the Robert Bork confirmation hearings, and his fundraising appeal—$1.7 million raised in the first quarter of 1987 was more than any other candidate. Biden received considerable attention in the summer of 1986 when he excoriated Secretary of State George Shultz at a Senate hearing because of the Reagan administration's support of South Africa, which continued to support a system of apartheid.
By August 1987, Biden's campaign had begun to lag behind those of Michael Dukakis and Richard Gephardt. In September 1987, the campaign ran into trouble when he plagiarized a speech by Neil Kinnock, then-leader of the British Labour Party. 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, he continued: "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: "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?" Though Biden had previously cited Kinnock as the source for the formulation many times before, he made no reference to the original source at the August 23 debate in question.
It was also discovered that, during his time as a law student at Syracuse, Biden had plagiarized a law review article. Though the then-dean of the law school, as well as Biden's former professor, downplayed the incident, they did find that Biden drew "chunks of heavy legal prose directly from" the article in question. Biden said it was inadvertent due to his not knowing the proper rules of citation, and Biden was permitted to retake the course after receiving a grade of F, which was subsequently dropped from his record. Biden also released his undergraduate grades, which were unexceptional. When questioned by a New Hampshire resident about his grades in law school, Biden had inaccurately recollected graduating in the "top half" of his class when he actually graduated 76th from 85, that he had attended on a full scholarship, and had received three degrees. He had received two majors, History and Political Science, and a single B.A., as well as a half scholarship based on financial need. Faced with these revelations, Biden withdrew from the nomination race on September 23, 1987, saying his candidacy had been overrun by "the exaggerated shadow" of his past mistakes. After Biden withdrew from the race, it was revealed that the Dukakis campaign had secretly made a video showcasing the Biden/Kinnock comparison and distributed it to news outlets.
Biden declared his candidacy for president on January 31, 2007, although he had discussed running for months prior, and first made a formal announcement to Tim Russert on Meet the Press on January 7, stating he would "be the best Biden I can be." In January 2006, Delaware newspaper columnist Harry F. Themal wrote that Biden "occupies the sensible center of the Democratic Party." Themal concludes that this is the position Biden desires, 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."
Themal goes on to quote Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen as saying that Biden's candidacy might be endangered by his "manic-obsessive running of the mouth." This foreshadowed Biden's January 31 remark on fellow Democratic candidate and Senator Barack Obama, frequently transcribed as, "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." However, several linguists and political analysts stated that the correct transcription includes a comma after the word "African-American", which "would significantly change the meaning (and the degree of offensiveness) of Biden's comment". Still, his comments took second place on Time magazine's list of Top 10 Campaign Gaffes for 2007. Biden had earlier been criticized in July 2006 for a remark he made in an edition of C-SPAN's Road to the White House 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." Biden later said the remark was not intended to be derogatory: "It was meant as a compliment." and 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."
Despite speculation to the contrary, Biden has rejected the notion of accepting the position of United States Secretary of State, focusing only on 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.'" Other candidates commenting that "Joe is right" in the Democratic debates was converted into a Biden campaign theme and ad.
Biden was noted for his one-liners on the campaign trail, saying of Republican then-frontrunner Rudy Giuliani at the October 30, 2007, debate in Philadelphia, "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, and a verb and 9/11."
On January 3, 2008, during the Iowa caucuses, Biden announced that he would be dropping out of the presidential race when over half of the precincts were tallied in which he only captured one percent of Iowa's delegates behind Obama, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Richardson.
2008 Vice-presidential candidacy
Main articles: Joe Biden presidential campaign, 2008, Barack Obama presidential campaign, 2008, and Democratic Party (United States) vice presidential candidates, 2008
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 vice presidential nomination if offered. On August 22, 2008, Barack Obama announced that Biden would be his running mate. The New York Times reported that the strategy behind the choice reflected a desire to fill out the ticket with someone who has foreign policy and national security experience—and not to help the ticket win a swing state or to emphasize Obama's "change" message. Other observers pointed out Biden's appeal to middle-class and blue-collar voters, as well as his willingness to aggressively challenge McCain in a way that Obama seemed uncomfortable doing at times.
Polling in the days leading up to the announcement indicated Biden's presence on the ticket was unlikely to affect whether voters would support Obama. If elected, Biden would be the first Roman Catholic vice president and the first vice president from Delaware.
Biden is up for re-election to the Senate in 2008 and would presumably run in both races. If he won both, he could resign from the Senate and Delaware's Democratic governor, Ruth Ann Minner, would appoint someone else to serve the first two years of his term, possibly his son, Beau Biden; however, Beau Biden's impending deployment to Iraq as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard makes a Senate appointment problematic. Another solution that has been suggested is that Minner might pick the losing candidate in the 2008 Democratic primary for governor of Delaware—Lieutenant Governor John C. Carney, Jr. or State Treasurer Jack A. Markell—as the appointed senator.
Various interest groups have given Biden scores or grades as to how well his votes align with the positions of each group. Biden has a lifetime 72 percent score from Americans for Democratic Action through 2004, while the American Conservative Union awarded Biden a lifetime rating of 13 percent through 2007. Biden has a lifetime average "liberal" score of 77.5 percent, according to a National Journal analysis that places him ideologically among the center of Senate Democrats. The ACLU gives him an 86 percent lifetime score, with a 91 percent score for the current session of Congress.
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 2005–2006, Biden's average ratings were as follows: the economic rating was 80 percent liberal and 13 percent conservative, the social rating was 78 percent liberal and 18 percent conservative, and the foreign rating was 71 percent liberal and 25 percent conservative.
|Office||Type||Location||Elected||Term began||Term ends||notes|
|County Council||Legislature||Wilmington||1970||January 4, 1971||January 3, 1973||4th District|
|U.S. Senator||Legislature||Washington, DC||1972||January 3, 1973||January 3, 1979|
|U.S. Senator||Legislature||Washington, DC||1978||January 3, 1979||January 3, 1985|
|U.S. Senator||Legislature||Washington, DC||1984||January 3, 1985||January 3, 1991|
|U.S. Senator||Legislature||Washington, DC||1990||January 3, 1991||January 3, 1997|
|U.S. Senator||Legislature||Washington, DC||1996||January 3, 1997||January 3, 2003|
|U.S. Senator||Legislature||Washington, DC||2002||January 3, 2003||January 3, 2009|
- Biden Jr., Joseph R. (2007). Promises to Keep. Random House. ISBN 9781400065363.
- Biden Jr., Joseph R. (2001-07-24). Administration’s Missile Defense Program and the ABM Treaty: Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate. U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Biden Jr., Joseph R. (2002-02-12). Examining The Theft Of American Intellectual Property At Home And Abroad: Hearing before the Committee On Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate. U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Biden Jr., Joseph R. (2002-08-01). Hearings to Examine Threats, Responses, and Regional Considerations Surrounding Iraq: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate. U.S. Government Printing Office. ISBN 0756728231.
- Biden Jr., Joseph R. (September 2003). Strategies for Homeland Defense: A Compilation by the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate. Diane Publishing. ISBN 0756726239.
- Biden Jr., Joseph R. (2001-07-08). Putin Administration's Policies toward Non-Russian Regions of the Russian Federation: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate. U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Biden Jr., Joseph R. (2001-09-05). Threat of Bioterrorism and the Spread of Infectious Diseases: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate. U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Biden Jr., Joseph R. (2002-02-27). How Do We Promote Democratization, Poverty Alleviation, and Human Rights to Build a More Secure Future: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate. U.S. Government Printing Office. ISBN 0756724783.
- Biden Jr., Joseph R. (January 2003). Political Future of Afghanistan: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate. Diane Publishing. ISBN 0756730392.
- Biden Jr., Joseph R. (January 2003). International Campaign Against Terrorism: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate. Diane Publishing. ISBN 0756730414.
- Biden Jr., Joseph R. (2002). Halting the Spread of HIV/AIDS: Future Efforts in the U.S. Bilateral & Multilateral Response: Hearings before the Comm. on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate. Diane Publishing. ISBN 0756734541.
- Biden Jr., Joseph R.; Jesse Helms (April 2000). Hague Convention On International Child Abduction: Applicable Law And Institutional Framework Within Certain Convention Countries Report To The Senate. Diane Publishing. ISBN 0756722500.
- Nicholson, William C. (ed.) (2005). Homeland Security Law and Policy, with a foreword by Joseph Biden, C. C Thomas. ISBN 0398075832.
|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||U.S. Senator||General||93,930||58%||James H. Baxter, Jr.||Republican||66,479||41%|
|1984||U.S. Senator||General||147,831||60%||John M. Burris||Republican||98,101||40%|
|1990||U.S. Senator||General||112,918||63%||M. Jane Brady||Republican||64,554||36%|
|1996||U.S. Senator||General||165,465||60%||Raymond J. Clatworthy||Republican||105,088||38%|
|2002||U.S. Senator||General||135,253||58%||Raymond J. Clatworthy||Republican||94,793||41%|