Joseph Robinette "Joe" Biden, Jr. (born November 20, 1942) is the 47th and current Vice President of the United States, serving under President Barack Obama. A Democrat, he was a United States Senator from Delaware from January 3, 1973 until his resignation on January 15, 2009, following his election to the Vice Presidency. Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and lived there for ten years before moving to Delaware. He became an attorney in 1969, and was elected to a county council in 1970. Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972 and became the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history. He was re-elected to the Senate six times, was the fourth most senior senator at the time of his resignation, and is the 14th-longest serving Senator in history. Biden was a long-time member and former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. His strong advocacy helped bring about U.S. military assistance and intervention during the Bosnian War. He opposed the Gulf War in 1991. He voted in favor of the Iraq War Resolution in 2002, but later proposed resolutions to alter U.S. strategy there. He has also served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, dealing with issues related to drug policy, crime prevention, and civil liberties, and led creation of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and Violence Against Women Act. He chaired the Judiciary Committee during the contentious U.S. Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. Biden unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008, both times dropping out early in the race. Barack Obama selected Biden to be the Democratic Party nominee for Vice President in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Biden is the first Roman Catholic and the first Delawarean to become Vice President of the United States. As Vice President, Biden has been heavily involved in Obama's decision-making process and held the oversight role for infrastructure spending from the Obama stimulus package aimed at counteracting the late-2000s recession. His ability to negotiate with Congressional Republicans played a key role in bringing about the bipartisan deals that resulted in the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 that resolved a taxation deadlock and the Budget Control Act of 2011 that resolved the United States debt ceiling crisis.
Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the son of Joseph Robinette Biden Sr. (1915–2002) and Catherine Eugenia "Jean" Finnegan (1917–2010).
He was the first of four siblings in a Catholic family, of Irish and English descent (with roots in County Londonderry). He has two brothers, James Brian Biden and Francis W. Biden, and a sister, Valerie (Biden) Owens. His great-grandfather, Edward F. Blewitt, was a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate. Biden attended the University of Delaware in Newark, where he was more interested in sports and socializing than in studying, although his classmates were impressed by his cramming abilities. He played halfback with the Blue Hens freshman football team, but he dropped a junior year plan to play for the varsity team as a defensive back, enabling him to spend more time with his out-of-state girlfriend. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in history and political science in 1965, ranked 506th of 688 in his class. He went on to receive his Juris Doctor from Syracuse University's College of Law in 1968, where by his own description he found it to be "the biggest bore in the world" and pulled many all-nighters to get by.
On August 27, 1966, Biden, then a law student, married Neilia Hunter, who was from an affluent background in Skaneateles, New York and had attended Syracuse University. They had met in 1964 while on spring break in the Bahamas, and he had overcome her parents' initial reluctance for her to be dating a Roman Catholic. They had three children, Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III (born 1969), Robert Hunter (born 1970), and Naomi Christina (born 1971). On December 18, 1972, a few weeks after the election, Biden's wife and one-year-old daughter were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping in Hockessin, Delaware. In 1975, Biden met Jill Tracy Jacobs, who grew up in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and would become a teacher in Delaware. They had met on a blind date with the help of Biden's brother, although it turned out that Biden had already noticed her in a local advertisement. Biden would credit her with renewing his interest in both politics and life. On June 17, 1977, Biden and Jacobs married. They have one daughter, Ashley Blazer (born 1981), who later became a social worker. The Bidens are Roman Catholics and regularly attend Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine in Greenville, Delaware.
United States Senator
When Biden took office on January 3, 1973, at age 30 (the minimum age to become a U.S. Senator), he became the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history. In 1974, freshman Senator Biden was named one of the 200 Faces for the Future by Time magazine. He served as U.S. Senator from Delaware from 1973 ubtil 2009.
Biden was 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.
Foreign Relations Committee
Biden was also a long-time 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 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. Biden was generally a liberal internationalist in foreign policy. He collaborated effectively with important Republican Senate figures such as Richard Lugar and Jesse Helms and sometimes went against elements of his own party. Biden was also co-chair of the NATO Observer Group in the Senate. A partial list covering this time showed Biden meeting with some 150 leaders from nearly 60 countries and international organizations. Biden held frequent hearings as chair of the committee, as well as holding many subcommittee hearings during the three times he chaired the Subcommittee on European Affairs.
Biden has twice run for the Democratic nomination for President, first in 1988, and again in 2008. He first considered running in 1984, after he gained notice for giving speeches to party audiences that simultaneously scolded and encouraged Democrats. He chose not to run in 1992 in part because he had voted against the resolution authorizing the Gulf War. 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. In May 2004, Biden urged Republican Senator John 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. During this time, Biden was also widely discussed as a possible Secretary of State in a Democratic administration.
Biden became the 47th Vice President of the United States on January 20, 2009, when he was inaugurated alongside President Barack Obama. He succeeded Dick Cheney. Biden is the first United States Vice President from Delaware and the first Roman Catholic to attain that office. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens administered the oath of office to Biden.
Biden campaigned heavily for Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections, maintaining an attitude of optimism in the face of general predictions of large-scale losses for the party. In October 2010, Biden stated that Obama had asked him to remain as his running mate for the 2012 presidential election. Following large-scale 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. He led the successful administration effort to gain Senate approval for the New START treaty. In December 2010, Biden's advocacy within the White House for a middle ground, followed by his direct 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. Biden then took the lead in trying to sell the agreement to a reluctant Democratic caucus in Congress, which was passed as the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.
In March 2011, Obama detailed Biden to lead negotiations between both houses of Congress and the White House in resolving federal spending levels for the rest of the year and avoid a government shutdown. 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. The U.S. debt ceiling crisis developed over the next couple of months, but it was again Biden's relationship with McConnell that proved to be a key factor in breaking a deadlock and finally bringing about a bipartisan deal to resolve it, in the form of the Budget Control Act of 2011, signed on August 2, 2011, the same day that an unprecedented U.S. default had loomed. Biden had spent the most time bargaining with Congress on the debt question of anyone in the administration, 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."