Joe Biden

Joe Biden served as the 47th Vice President of the United States during the President Barack Obama administration. He is currently running for the Democratic nomination for president for the 2020 primary election. Biden has run for president two previous times in 2008 and 1988. Prior to his time as Vice President, Biden was a U.S. Senator from the State of Delaware.

Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The former Vice President has long been known for his gaffes. Regarding his legislative work, Biden was the lead author of the 1994 crime bill and was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Anita Hill hearings.

Personal Life

Joe Biden was born on November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania to Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan and Joseph Biden, Sr.

Biden attended St. Paul’s Elementary School in Scranton. In 1955, the Biden family moved to Delaware. Biden attended the St. Helena School in Pennsylvania until he was accepted to Archmere Academy.

Biden graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965, where he studied history and political science. He then attended Syracuse University Law School where he graduated in 1968.

In 1968, Biden married Neilia Hunter. The couple had three children, Joseph III (Beau), Hunter, and Naomi.

After graduating, Biden moved to Delaware to begin practicing law. In 1970, he was elected to the New Castle County Council.

In 1972, Biden upset Republican incumbent J. Caleb Boggs in the U.S. Senate race.

In December 1972, Biden’s wife and three children were involved in a car accident killing his wife and daughter and injuring both his sons.

Biden married his second wife, Jill Jacobs in 1977. The couple has one daughter, Ashley.

Biden served in the U.S. Senate from 1973 until 2009, when he was elected Vice President. He served as Vice President under President Barack Obama from 2009 until 2017.

Political and Professional Background

As a Senator, Biden authored the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Biden played a “central role in passing the 1994 crime bill that codified the first Federal Assault Weapons Ban.” At the time, the crime bill was considered “a career-defining victory” for Biden. In 2015, Biden still continued to take credit for the crime bill, calling it the “1994 Biden Crime Bill.” As recently as 2016, “Biden defended his role in crafting the 1994 crime bill, saying that the controversial legislation signed by President Bill Clinton ‘restored American cities.’”  “Asked if he was ashamed of the bill, he responded, ‘Not at all.’” Biden has received criticism for his role that the bill included “dangerous reforms that have made the criminal justice system more lethal and just bigger.”

In 2019, Biden said he “got stuck” writing the crime bill because he was chair of the Judiciary Committee.

Early in his Senate career, Biden opposed Roe v. Wade and supported tougher restrictions on abortion. Biden later switched his position in support of Roe v. Wade and during a 2007 primary debate, Biden said “I strongly support Roe v. Wade.”

During his senate career, Biden voted more than once in favor of bankruptcy legislation that benefitted a campaign donor. According to the Washington Post, “[S]en. Biden led a successful, high-profile battle in the Senate for a bankruptcy bill That ultimately benefited credit card companies.” He “was one of the first Democratic leaders to support the bankruptcy bill, and he voted for it four times.” The financial services industry was seeing a spike in bankruptcies during the mid-1990s which was “cutting into its profits” and wanted relief from Congress.  Biden was known to have “a pretty cozy relationship” with MBNA Bank, resulting from an executive’s purchase of his home and extensive campaign donations. MBNA hired Biden’s son, Hunter, to consult for MBNA while Biden was working on the bankruptcy legislation.

Biden has previously been in support of entitlement reforms. In an interview with Meet the Press in 2007, Biden said that “everything” was “on the table.” In 2011, President Obama put Biden in charge of a group to negotiate a solution to the debt ceiling. According to Bob Woodward’s book, The Price of Politics, Biden signaled the administration’s willingness for “$250 billion from mandatory programs such as food stamps, and another $250 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts.” Biden said they were open to increasing the entitlement eligibility age, limiting access to entitlements, and changing the way the Consumer Price Index was calculated.(pp. 124-125, 138)

Biden has also been gaffe prone throughout his career. In January 2012, he “appeared to slip” into an Indian accent when talking about call center jobs. In March 2012, Biden made a joke about “staying oiled and lubricated” during a reception for Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. At an August 2012 campaign event in Virginia, he told a crowd that was half African American that Republicans would “put you all back in chains.” During a February 2014 event In Philadelphia, Biden compared New York’s LaGuardia Airport to a “third world country.”

Biden was the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee which oversaw the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. Biden was criticized for mismanaging the sexual harassment charges against Thomas, which were filed by a former aide, Anita Hill. According to the Washington Post:

“Interviews with a dozen people with firsthand knowledge and a review of the written record and interviews published with participants over the past three decades reinforce that Biden failed to use the powers afforded to Senate committee chairmen to conduct a judicious and thorough inquiry into Hill’s allegations. He did not give full consideration to witnesses whose allegations seemed to corroborate her testimony or curb the attacks and innuendo leveled at her during the hearing.”

Over the years, Biden has defended his role in the hearings. In 2008, Biden noted that polling indicated a majority of the country felt he had been “fair.” In 2018, Biden stated that he has never contacted Anita Hill, despite saying he owed her an apology for how he treated her. In March 2019, speaking at the Biden Courage Awards, he stated that he wished he could have given her the “hearing she deserved.” Biden called Hill in April of 2019 “to express regrets over her experience, but Hill was unsatisfied with the conversation and did not characterize his comments as an apology.”

Biden has long touted his blue- collar upbringing throughout his political career. One of his go-to comments being that he regularly rides the Amtrak train between Washington, D.C. and his home in Delaware. During the 2018 campaign, Biden went on a “Working Class Whisperer Tour.” However according to The Washington Post’s James Hohmann, “nobody inside the Beltway refers to Joe Biden as ‘Middle-Class Joe,’ despite the former vice president’s insistence in his stump speech that everyone does.” According to the New York Times, “Biden maintains a lifestyle that is more comfortable than the impression he may have given on the campaign trail.”

In January of 2019, The New York Times reported that after his time as vice president, Biden has made significant sums of money through paid speeches. Biden was making upwards of $200,000 per speech. His “reduced” fee for colleges and universities was still six figures. 

In April of 2019, Nevada State Assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, detailed her encounter when then-Vice President Biden awkwardly and inappropriately touched her. After Flores’ publicized her encounter, several other women came forward with similar experiences with Biden. Biden vowed to “be more mindful,” but stated “I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done.

Must Reads

New York Times: Joe Biden’s Paid Speech Buoyed the G.O.P. in Midwest Battleground

The Hill: Biden is frontrunner, but many Dems doubt he can win

Politico: ‘Middle-Class Joe’ rakes in millions

Washington Free Beacon: Flashback: Biden Accused Warren of ‘Punishing the Rich’

CNN: Biden in 1993 speech pushing crime bill warned of ‘predators on our streets’ who were ‘beyond the pale’

Washington Examiner: Joe Biden on Anita Hill: ‘She was abused…I wish I could have done something’

Intelligencer: Biden and Beto Boosted GOP Candidates in 2018. That’s Disqualifying.

Washington Examiner: Biden’s pricey $200,000 speeches, politics questioned

The Daily Beast: Biden Could Beat Trump. But He’s Defeating Himself Instead.

Splinter: Joe Biden Crossed the Aisle and Never Came Back

Updated on April 29, 2019

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