US Senate career of Joe Biden

Joe Biden
Senator Biden during the 109th Congress
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

The United States Senate career of Joe Biden began on January 3, 1973, and ended on January 15, 2009. A member of the Democratic Party from the state of Delaware, Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972, and was sworn into office at the age of 30; he was later reelected five times and is Delaware's longest-serving U.S. senator. As a senator, Biden drafted and led the effort to pass the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and the Violence Against Women Act. He also oversaw six U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings, including the contentious hearings for Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

As a county councilor, Biden ran against incumbent Republican J. Caleb Boggs, after facing no Democratic rivals. With a small-scale family-run campaign, his young energy and voter connectivity prevailed. After Biden was elected, his wife and infant daughter died in a car accident. Biden was persuaded not to resign and commuted to Delaware throughout his Senate career to care for his two sons, Beau and Hunter, both of whom had survived the crash. He married Jill Tracy Jacobs in 1977; their daughter Ashley was born in 1981.

During his early years in the Senate, Biden focused on consumer protection and the environment. He played a key role in passing the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which was controversial for several "tough-on-crime" provisions. He later expressed regret over this. Biden voted to ban homosexuals from serving in the military and to bar the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. He championed arms control concerning the SALT treaties. He clashed with the Reagan Administration over its support for Apartheid-era South Africa. He was a leading opponent of mandatory desegregation busing. In 1987, Biden ran for president, but withdrew due to incidents of plagiarism coming to light. The following year, Biden received brain surgery after suffering aneurysms.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden presided over the contentious Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. Biden voiced opposition to Bork's originalism. During the Thomas hearings, Biden's style was criticized and Thomas felt his questions were meant to damage him. Biden disclosed Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment to the rest of the committee, but not the public. Later he refused other witnesses to be heard. Biden also opposed his confirmation. Later he expressed regret to Hill. He spearheaded the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Biden was critical of the actions of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr during the 1990s Whitewater controversy and Lewinsky scandal investigations and voted to acquit on both charges during the impeachment of President Clinton.

Concerning foreign policy Biden was generally a liberal internationalist, collaborating with Republicans and sometimes opposing fellow Democrats. He voted against authorizing the First Gulf War, saying the US was bearing almost all the burden in the anti-Iraq coalition. He was strongly involved with policy towards the Yugoslav Wars. He supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he assembled witnesses who grossly misrepresented Saddam Hussein, his government and claimed possession of WMDs. Later he regretted his support for the Iraq War. Biden supported military installations in Delaware and Amtrak, which he used to commute. He supported bankruptcy legislation sought by a Delaware company, in opposition to leading Democrats and consumer rights organisations. He was one of the least wealthy members of the Senate, and was known for his gaffes.

In 2007–2008, Biden ran for president again. His campaign was damaged by allegedly racially charged gaffes. He never reached double digits in the polls and dropped out after the Iowa caucus. While Biden and his fellow Senator Barack Obama (who also ran) had initially disliked each other, Obama came to appreciate Biden and picked him to be his running mate. They went on to defeat Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin. In 2009, Biden resigned from the Senate to become Vice President under President Obama.

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