Joe Biden on Government Reform

Democratic Sr Senator (DE); nominee for Vice President

Led fight against Bork based on ideology

Q: Can you think of a single policy issue, in which you were forced to change a long-held view in order to accommodate changed circumstances?

BIDEN: Yes, I can. When I got to the US Senate and went on the Judiciary Committee as a young lawyer, I had been trained in the view that the only thing that mattered was whether or not a nominee suggested by the president had a judicial temperament, and had not committed a crime of moral turpitude. It was hard to change, but it took about five years for me to realize that the ideology of that judge makes a big difference. That's why I led the fight against Judge Bork. Had he been on the court, I suspect there would be a lot of changes that I don't like and the American people wouldn't like, including everything from Roe v. Wade to issues relating to civil liberties. I was the first chairman of the Judiciary Committee to forthrightly state that it matters what your judicial philosophy is. The American people have a right to know it.

Source: 2008 Vice Presidential debate against Gov. Sarah Palin Oct 2, 2008

Countries without state-church separation are in turmoil

Q: Thomas Jefferson wrote about the First Amendment, building a wall of separation between church and state. Why do you think that's so important?

A: The best way to look at it is look the every state where the wall's not built. Look at every country in the world where religion is able to impact governance. Almost every one of those countries are in real turmoil. Look, the founders were pretty smart. They had gone through, you know, several hundred years of wars--religious wars. And they were in the midst of religious wars in Europe. And they figured it out: The best way to do this is to keep the government out of religion. They took religion out of government. But they didn't mean religion couldn't be in a public place, in the public square.

Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric Oct 1, 2008

Radical change to preserve family farmers

How do you preserve family farmers? And if you continue the system the way it is, it's breaking the system. It's going to just flat break the system. And the cost of an acreage has gone up with these excessive payments, the fact that we're not focusing on the things the farm program started out focusing on, helping farmers that are distressed. It's gotten all out of whack, and so it seems to me that we need a radical change. I voted today to lower the caps on the subsidies for big agribusiness
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic Debate Dec 13, 2007

As Judiciary Chair, rejected Bork and supported Thomas

Biden became a nationally-recognized face while chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995, when presiding over televised hearings on controversial Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork--a lone triumphant moment from liberal Democrats--and Clarence Thomas. Many women's groups complained about what they felt was Biden's harsh treatment of Anita Hill, and many progressives have never forgiven him for his vote to confirm Thomas.
Source: The Contenders, by Laura Flanders, p.178-179 Nov 11, 2007

Would consider a Republican for head of DHS or Pentagon

Q: Would you go bipartisan if you were president? Would you appoint a Republican to run either the Department of Homeland Security or the Pentagon?

A: The answer is I would consider that. The fact of the matter is the next president is going to have to bring this country together. We are not blue and red. We cannot be sustained that way. We cannot get health care, we cannot get a foreign policy, we cannot do anything with a 51% solution. Every one of the things we've talked about here requires a consensus, and if you don't have the experience that I have and the success I've had reaching across the aisle, what makes you think you're going to get a national health care plan? What makes you think you're going to have an education plan? What makes you think you're going to have a rational foreign policy? The answer is, I would consider the most competent people I could, and I would try my best to reach across the aisle to reasonable people to unite this country. It needs to be united.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 8, 2007

Pledges to stop no-bid contracts

Q: Would you pledge to stop no-bid contracts?

A: Yes. (Laughter, cheers, applause.)

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 8, 2007

1988: led fight against nomination of Robert Bork

[In 1988, Pres. Reagan nominated Robert Bork for Supreme Court Justice. As Judiciary Committee chair, Biden ran the confirmation hearings.] I had serious doubts about Bork. If there was an argument to be made against him, it would have to be made to Republicans and Democrats in the political center. If we tried to make this a referendum on abortion rights, for example, we'd lose.

At a meeting, I said, "If I lead this fight, it will not be a single issue campaign." The NY Times called my staff to confirm that I'd promised to "lead the fight" against Bork. The president's spokesman said his boss found it "regrettable" that I had "chosen to politicize the hearings in this kind of partisan fashion."

Bork was a bona fide scholar. He had been solicitor general, acting attorney general, professor of law at Yale, and a judge. The way to stop Bork was on a question of his outside-the-mainstream judicial ideology. I thought it was time to avoid personal attacks. [Bork was defeated.]

Source: Promises to Keep, by Joe Biden, p.170-173 Jul 31, 2007

The greatest sin is abuse of power

I was asked to give a talk about how my faith and religion informed my public policy views. It was a topic I had always shied away from because it makes me a little uncomfortable to carry religion into the arena of politics, but writing that speech turned out to be one of the most enlightening exercises of my life.

The central lesson I received from the Catholic Church and my parents had been the governing force in my political career. To wit, the greatest sins on this earth are committed by people of standing and means who abuse their power.

With power and privilege, I was taught, comes a responsibility to treat others with respect and fairness. When we see people abusing power, it is our duty to intercede on behalf of their victims.

As I looked back on my career, it was obvious that what had animated me was the belief that we should stand up to those who abused power, whether it was political, economic, or physical.

Source: Promises to Keep, by Joe Biden, p.237-238 Jul 31, 2007

Roberts & Alito have turned Supreme Court upside down

The next president is likely to name at least one, if not three new Supreme Court justices. We should start this national debate by recognizing the truth. The truth is that Roberts and Alito have turned the court upside down. The truth is that although I got criticized for being too tough on both of them, the Democratic Party wasn't tough enough on both of them. And the truth is, as your president, I guarantee you that will change.
Source: 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum Jul 12, 2007

History of racism was keeping black Americans from voting

Q: What would you do to ensure that all Americans are able to cast a free and unfettered vote and that that vote be counted?

A: The history of racism has been punctuated with an effort on the part of the powerful to keep black Americans from voting. It used to be originally slavery, then all the laws relating to poll taxes and now we have not enough polling machines in black neighborhoods, not enough poll workers, old machines, deceptive practices, saying you can and cannot vote, intimidation. It all comes down to a basic thing. It comes down to the effort to deny you, because of the racist attitudes of so many people, the right to be able to determine your own future. I've been deeply involved in the Voting Rights Act, the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, but we've got to move beyond that now. There should be a federal standard and I'm glad to be able to agree with Mike Gravel on something.

Source: 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum Jul 12, 2007

Voted YES on granting the District of Columbia a seat in Congress.

Cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act:[Washington DC currently has a "delegate" to the US House, whose vote does not count. Utah had complained that the 2000 census did not count many Utahns on Mormon missions abroad].

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BYRD: In 1978, I voted for H.J. Res. 554, that proposed amending the Constitution to provide for representation of D.C. [That amendment passed the Senate but was not ratified by the States]. While I recognize that others believe that the Constitution authorizes the Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation" over D.C., the historical intent of the Founders on this point is unclear. I oppose S.1257, because I doubt that our Nation's Founding Fathers ever intended that the Congress should be able to change the text of the Constitution by passing a simple bill.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HATCH. There are conservative and liberal advocates on both sides of this issue,and think most people know Utah was not treated fairly after the last census. For those who are so sure this is unconstitutional, [we include an] expedited provision that will get us to the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision. It will never pass as a constitutional amendment. There are 600,000 people in D.C., never contemplated by the Founders of this country to be without the right to vote. They are the only people in this country who do not have a right to vote for their own representative in the House. This bill would remedy that situation.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S. 1257 ; vote number 2007-339 on Sep 18, 2007

Voted NO on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections.

Vote on Dole Amdt. S.2350, amending SP2350 (via the College Cost Reduction Act): To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. DOLE. I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. FEINSTEIN. If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote for this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election]. I urge a "no" vote.

Reference: Dole Amendment to the Help America Vote Act; Bill S.2350, amending SP2350 ; vote number 2007-269 on Jul 19, 2007

Voted NO on allowing some lobbyist gifts to Congress.

A motion to table (kill) an amendment to clarify the application of the gift rule to lobbyists. Voting NAY would define employees of lobbying companies as registered lobbyists and therefore subject to the gift ban. Voting YEA would apply the gift ban only to specific people who registered as lobbyists.
Reference: Feingold Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.2962 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-080 on Mar 29, 2006

Voted YES on establishing the Senate Office of Public Integrity.

An amendment to establish the Senate Office of Public Integrity. Voting YEA would establish the new office, and voting NAY would keep ethics investigations within the existing Senate Ethics Committee.
Reference: Collins Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.3176 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-077 on Mar 28, 2006

Voted YES on banning "soft money" contributions and restricting issue ads.

Vote on passage of H.R. 2356; Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (Shays-Meehan bill, House equivalent of McCain-Feingoldf bill). Vote to ban “soft money” contributions to national political parties but permit up to $10,000 in soft money contributions to state and local parties to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. The bill would stop issue ads from targeting specific candidates within 30 days of the primary or 60 days of the general election. Additionally, the bill would raise the individual contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000 per election for House and Senate candidates, both of which would be indexed for inflation.
Reference: Bill HR.2356 ; vote number 2002-54 on Mar 20, 2002

Voted NO on require photo ID (not just signature) for voter registration.

Motion to Table Schumer Amdt. No. 2937; To permit the use of a signature or personal mark for the purpose of verifying the identity of voters who register by mail, and for other purposes. Voting Yes would kill the amendment. The amendment would allow a signature to identify voters who register by mail, instead of requiring showing photo identification or other proof of residence before being allowed to vote.
Reference: Bill S.565 ; vote number 2002-38 on Feb 27, 2002

Voted YES on banning campaign donations from unions & corporations.

Vote to ban soft money donations to political parties and forbid corporate general funds and union general funds from being spent on issue ads. The bill would increase the individual contribution limit to candidates from $1,000 to $2,000.
Reference: Bill S.27 ; vote number 2001-64 on Apr 2, 2001

Voted YES on funding for National Endowment for the Arts.

This table motion would end debate on an amendment aimed at funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Support for the motion to table is a vote for NEA funding. [YES to table means supporting the NEA; NO means defunding the NEA].
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)80; N)16; NV)4
Reference: Motion to table Smith Amdt #1569; Bill H.R. 2466 ; vote number 1999-260 on Aug 5, 1999

Voted YES on favoring 1997 McCain-Feingold overhaul of campaign finance.

Support of the campaign finance bill proposed by Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Feingold (D-WI).
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)53; N)47
Reference: Campaign Finance Reform Bill; Bill S. 25 ; vote number 1997-267 on Oct 7, 1997

Voted YES on Approving the presidential line-item veto.

Approval of the presidential line-item veto authority.
Status: Conf Rpt Agreed to Y)69; N)31
Reference: Conference Report on S. 4; Bill S. 4 ; vote number 1996-56 on Mar 27, 1996

Voted NO on banning more types of Congressional gifts.

To exclude certain items from the Congressional Gift Ban.
Status: Amdt Failed Y)39; N)60; NV)1
Reference: Murkowski Amdt to S. 1061; Bill S. 1061 ; vote number 1995-339 on Jul 28, 1995

Establish the United States Public Service Academy.

Biden co-sponsored establishing the United States Public Service Academy

Introductory statement by Sponsor:

Sen. CLINTON: I rise today to introduce legislation that will create an undergraduate institution designed to cultivate a generation of young leaders dedicated to public service. The US Public Service Academy Act (The PSA Act) will form a national academy to serve as an extraordinary example of effective, national public education.

The tragic events of September 11 and the devastation of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita underscore how much our Nation depends on strong public institutions and competent civilian leadership at all levels of society. Congress must take a step forward to ensure competent civilian leadership and improve our Nation's ability to respond to future emergencies and to confront daily challenges.

This legislation will create the US Public Service Academy to groom future public servants and build a corps of capable civilian leaders. Modeled after the military service academies, this academy will provide a four-year, federally-subsidized college education for more than 5,000 students a year in exchange for a five year commitment to public service.

The PSA Act will meet critical national needs as the baby-boomer generation approaches retirement. Already, studies show looming shortages in the Federal civil service, public education, law enforcement, the non-profit sector and other essential areas.

Unfortunately our young people are priced out of public service careers all too often. By providing a service-oriented education at no cost to the student, the PSA Act will tap into the strong desire to serve that already exists among college students while erasing the burden of enormous college debt.

The establishment of a United States Public Service Academy is an innovative way to strengthen and protect America by creating a corps of well-trained, highly-qualified civilian leaders. I am hopeful that my Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle will join me today.

Source: United States Public Service Academy Act (S.960 & HR.1671) 07-HR1671 on Mar 23, 2007

Other candidates on Government Reform: Joe Biden on other issues:
DE Gubernatorial:
Jack Markell
Ruth Ann Minner
DE Senatorial:
Christine O`Donnell
Ted Kaufman
Tom Carper

2008 Senate retirements:

Wayne Allard(R,CO)
Larry Craig(R,ID)
Pete Domenici(R,NM)
Chuck Hagel(R,NE)
Trent Lott(R,MS)
Craig Thomas(R,WY)
John Warner(R,VA)

Incoming Obama Administration:

Pres.Barack Obama
V.P.Joe Biden
State:Hillary Clinton
HHS:Tom Daschle
Staff:Rahm Emanuel
DHS:Janet Napolitano
DOC:Bill Richardson
DoD:Robert Gates
A.G.:Eric Holder
Treas.:Tim Geithner
Winners of 2008 Senate Races:
( * if new to the Senate)
AK:*Begich over Stevens
DE:Biden and Kaufman
GA:Chambliss v.Martin (Dec. 2 runoff)
MN:Coleman v.Franken (recounting as of Dec.1)
NC:*Hagan over Dole
NH:*Shaheen over Sununu
OR:*Merkley over Smith
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Other Senators
House of Representatives
SenateMatch (matching quiz)
Senate Votes (analysis)
House Votes
Bill Sponsorships
Policy Reports
Group Ratings

Page last updated: Dec 02, 2008