Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Scranton, Lackawanna County
Born in Scranton, longtime Delaware Senator Joseph Biden was elected Vice President in 2008.
Joseph Biden was born on November 20, 1942, as the son of Joe and Jean Biden. In his early life, Biden was raised by his parents in Scranton, Pennsylvania, until his family moved to Wilmington, Delaware, when he was ten-years-old, where he has resided ever since. Elected to the United States Senate in 1972, he went from an unknown servant of America's second smallest state to becoming a recognized voice on matters of foreign and domestic policy. On November 4, 2008, Biden was elected Vice President of the United States.
Senator Joseph Biden was born on November 20, 1942, as the son of Joe and Jean Biden. In his early life, Biden was raised by his parents in Scranton, Pennsylvania until his family moved to Wilmington, Delaware when he was ten-years-old, where he has resided ever since. "I am so proud of representing my state, and it is my state and I love it," he said of Delaware during a breakfast speech to Pennsylvania convention delegates this past August. "But, you know, Scranton never leaves you. And Pennsylvania never leaves you." "Joe actually was born there, lived there ten years, and would come back a lot of summers, and then as a public official came back a lot," said Robert Casey Jr., a current Pennsylvania senator and fellow Scranton native. Biden is often referred to by fellow politicians and most recently by MSNBC's Chris Matthews as the "third senator from Pennsylvania." Since Delaware carries only three electoral votes in a general election and arguably does not yield a major economic resource puts Delaware's concerns at the bottom of the legislative barrel.
Biden is a 1965 graduate of the University of Delaware with a double degree in History and Political Science. He received an additional law degree from Syracuse University in 1968. During that time, he met and married Neilia Hunter. They had three children together: Joe "Beau" Biden III, Hunter, and Naomi Christina. Biden worked as a public defender in Wilmington and served on the New Castle County Council from 1969-1972 until he ran for the United States Senate. Catherine Mancini remembers the first time she decided to back Biden. It was 1970, and Biden had expressed interest in running for a seat on the New Castle County Council. He was a young Wilmington lawyer, and he impressed Mancini, president of the Women's Democratic Club of Delaware. "We talked to Joe, and we looked at him as though God had sent us a gift," Mancini said. "He's special."
Biden was 29 years old on Election Day but luckily his birth date on November 20 granted him the right to seek the seat under Article I of the Constitution, which requires a member of the Senate to be thirty years of age when the oath of office is administered. Biden told Politico.com recently that his ascension into politics began at a very young age debating with his grandfather in Scranton. One month after being elected, Biden experienced a personal tragedy. On December 18, 1972, while Christmas shopping, his first wife, Neilia, along with their three children were involved in a horrific automobile accident. Biden's two sons suffered severe injuries while his wife and daughter Naomi were killed. Biden had only weeks to decide whether to retain his lawfully elected position. At Beau and Hunter's bedside at a Wilmington hospital, Biden took the oath of office in January 1973. Biden remarried in 1977 to Jill Tracy Jacobs, a school teacher. The two are still married. Four years later Joe and Jill would be the proud parents of a daughter, Ashley. Ashley is a social worker. His firstborn Beau current serves as Delaware's Attorney General. Hunter is also a lawyer.
Throughout the 1980s, Senator Biden went from an unknown servant of America's second smallest state to becoming a recognized voice on matters of foreign and domestic policy as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and member of the Foreign Relations Committee. In 1988, Biden ran for the White House. Three events during his campaign kept him from obtaining the presidency. First, he gained a reputation as a bit of a hot head when he hosted confirmation hearings for a federal judge, Robert Bork, a moderate conservative, who had been nominated for the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan. "In the midst of the controversy surrounding nominee Robert Bork, Senator Biden maintained a level of intellectual rigor that raised the bar for committee consideration of all future nominations," said retired Senator Tom Daschle.
Biden audaciously declared from the start that he would not vote to confirm Bork. Biden was a candidate for the presidency at the time and Republicans viewed his aggressive tactics as a political stunt. Chief Justice Warren Burger told Time Magazine during the hearings that "no judge up for nomination under any circumstances should ever be asked to commit himself on how he's going to vote on a case that's coming before the court at some future date." Democrats, in general, were concerned that Bork was going to overturn Roe v. Wade, the abortion precedent, as well as other past rulings on the separation of church and state and civil rights. Biden's led hearings revealed inconsistencies surrounding Bork's conservative legal opinions throughout his career, thus leading to his denial to the Supreme Court by a 9-5 vote in committee and 58-42 in the full Senate. Clarence Thomas replaced Bork after the vote of no confidence and was confirmed.
Biden has also been accused of plagiarizing both orally and in written format throughout his career, but what ultimately ended Biden's first campaign was a sudden health problem. In late 1988, he was diagnosed with two separate cerebral aneurysms, a life threatening condition. A cerebral aneurysm is defined by WebMD as a "bulging, weak area in the wall of an artery that supplies blood to the brain." Symptoms, the article said, in most cases go unnoticed and a stroke is the end result. Biden had surgery to repair them but was forced to concede the race to the eventual nominee Michael Dukakis. After the defeat, Biden went back to his days of practicing law, passing on his knowledge to students of Widener University in Chester, PA where he taught Constitutional Law in 1991 while serving in the Senate.
Biden's resume, however, is not limited to foreign affairs. He has also taken on domestic issues such as law enforcement. "I particularly commend his leadership over the past quarter century on the many law enforcement challenges facing the nation," said Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. An example would be the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, nicknamed the "Biden Crime Bill" under the Clinton administration. Biden made history during his fifth term by casting his 10,000th vote on the Senate Floor on May 11, 1999. During a round of commemorating addresses, Senator Patrick Leahy remarked on his alliance with Biden: "I jumped over the cliff with him on more than a few of those votes." Other landmark legislation Biden has made law include the Violence Against Women Act, a follow-up to his Adam Walsh Act of 1992 that addressed the protection of children from predators. Some more recent legislation Biden authored is the Second Chance Act, which passed in April 2008, which says federal, state and local governments should provide parolees and ex-convicts "the tools they need to successfully reintegrate into the community upon their release."
Most important of all, Biden has been the principal Democratic voice on the war in Iraq. He is the author of the only bill passed by a body of Congress, in 2007, that calls for the withdrawal of American forces from that county upon designating three separate providences based on the tribes of their signature religion of Islam, much like East and West Germany post-World War II. Specifically, it called for one zone to be set aside for the Sunni Arabs, the Shia and the Kurds in Northern Iraq. The non-binding resolution passed the Senate 75-23.
The plan was offered as a compromise between Iraqi factions in an effort to curtail the sectarian violence that had been evident during that time. President George W. Bush's "surge" strategy implemented that same year has, at least militarily, stopped the fighting. On the floor of the Senate after the surge plan was put into effect, Biden said this: "It's what history teaches us. When there's a self sustaining sectarian violence, only four possibilities. It either expires and they kill one another off. Two, you impose a dictator. Three, you have an empire or four — you have a federal system." One of the provisions of Biden's bill read: "The United States should actively support a political settlement among Iraq's major factions based upon the provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions."
On the strength of his Iraq plan and foreign policy credentials, Biden sought the presidency again in 2007. "No one on the Democratic side knows more about foreign policy than Sen. Biden," said Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican who serves on the Judiciary Committee with Biden and often rides Amtrak with him to Washington. Before Biden dropped out of the 2008 race for the White House, Florida Democrat Bill Nelson said that of all the candidates, Biden is "the most prepared to be president of the United States."
Until he appeared with fellow Senator Barack Obama in August 2008 to accept his invitation to be his running mate, Biden had been active as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "He has a deep concern for America's role in the world and is a true leader of our foreign policy establishment," said former Senator Trent Lott, a Republican from Mississippi. Biden was the only member of the Congress to be invited to the nation of Georgia to council its leaders on their relations with Russia. The Russian Army had invaded two of its providences during the summer under the pretext that it was reclaiming territory held by the former Soviet Union.
Biden had initially said Obama was not prepared to be president back when he was running for the second time. When asked about it at a debate in Philadelphia by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos he said: "I think he (Obama) can be ready but now I don't think he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on the job training." Later, after he was asked to run with Obama, he changed his mind. "Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy," Biden said. "Remember I said this as much as anything else I said. Watch. We're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis to test the mettle of this guy." The comparison, of course, likens the economic turmoil facing the United States in the Fall of 2008 to the Cuban Missile Crisis that President Kennedy faced in 1962.
On November 4, 2008, Biden was elected Vice President of the United States. He, along with President Barack Obama, took the oath of office on January 20, 2009, on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics. New York: Random House, 2007.
Richter, Paul and Noam N. Levey. "Deal on Iraq policy explored; The White House may seek a compromise with Congress that would satisfy war foes without sacrificing Bush's goals." Los Angeles Times 25 Jun 2007: A.1.
Rosen, Jeffrey. "Constitutional Biden." The New Republic 24 Sep. 2008: 18.
Tolchin, Martin. "Senate Panel Faults Aide on Role in Bork Hearings." New York Times 7 Oct. 1988: A.18.
United States of America. "Senator Joe Biden Casts His 10,000th Vote." Congressional Record. Vol. 145. 6 May 1999. 30 Oct. 2008.