Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. (/ˈbaɪdən/ BY-dən; born November 20, 1942) is an American politician and president-elect of the United States. Having defeated incumbent Donald Trump in the 2020 United States presidential election, he will be inaugurated as the 46th president on January 20, 2021. A member of the Democratic Party, Biden served as the 47th vice president from 2009 to 2017 and United States senator for Delaware from 1973 to 2009.
Raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and New Castle County, Delaware, Biden studied at the University of Delaware before earning his law degree from Syracuse University in 1968. He was elected a New Castle County Councillor in 1970, and became the sixth-youngest senator in American history when he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Delaware in 1972, at the age of 29. Biden was a longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and eventually its chairman. He opposed the Gulf War in 1991, but supported expanding the NATO alliance into Eastern Europe and its intervention in the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. He supported the resolution authorizing the Iraq War in 2002, but opposed the surge of U.S. troops in 2007. He also chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995, dealing with drug policy, crime prevention, and civil liberties issues; led the effort to pass the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and the Violence Against Women Act; and oversaw six U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings, including the contentious hearings for Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and again in 2008.
Biden was reelected to the Senate six times, and was the fourth-most senior senator when he resigned to serve as Barack Obama’s vice president after they won the 2008 presidential election; Obama and Biden were reelected in 2012. As vice president, Biden oversaw infrastructure spending in 2009 to counteract the Great Recession. His negotiations with congressional Republicans helped pass legislation including the 2010 Tax Relief Act, which resolved a taxation deadlock; the Budget Control Act of 2011, which resolved a debt ceiling crisis; and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which addressed the impending “fiscal cliff”. He also led efforts to pass the United States–Russia New START treaty, supported military intervention in Libya, and helped formulate U.S. policy toward Iraq through the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, he led the Gun Violence Task Force. In January 2017, Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction.
In April 2019, Biden announced his candidacy in the 2020 presidential election, and he reached the delegate threshold needed to secure the Democratic nomination in June 2020. On August 11, he announced U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate. Biden defeated Trump in the November 3 election. He is the second non-incumbent vice president to be elected president, after Richard Nixon in 1968. He is also the first challenger to deny a sitting president a second term since Bill Clinton defeated George H. W. Bush in 1992, and only the fourth to do so in 88 years.
Early life (1942–1965)
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born November 20, 1942, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Biden (née Finnegan) (1917–2010) and Joseph Robinette Biden Sr. (1915–2002). The oldest child in a Catholic family, he has a sister, Valerie, and two brothers, Francis and James. Jean was of Irish descent, and Joseph Sr.’s parents, Mary Elizabeth (née Robinette) and Joseph H. Biden (an oil businessman from Baltimore, Maryland) were of English, French, and Irish descent.
Biden’s father was initially wealthy but had suffered several financial setbacks by the time Biden was born; for several years the family lived with Biden’s maternal grandparents. Scranton fell into economic decline during the 1950s and Biden’s father could not find steady work. Beginning in 1953, the family lived for several years in an apartment in Claymont, Delaware, then moved to a house in Wilmington, Delaware. Joe Biden Sr. later became a successful used car salesman, maintaining the family a middle-class lifestyle.
At the Archmere Academy in Claymont, Biden was a standout halfback and wide receiver on the high school football team; he also played baseball. A poor student but a natural leader, he was class president in his junior and senior years. He graduated in 1961.
At the University of Delaware in Newark, Biden briefly played freshman football and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965 with a double major in history and political science, and a minor in English. He had a C average and was ranked 506th in his class of 688.
Biden has a stutter, which has improved since his early twenties. He says he has reduced it by reciting poetry before a mirror, but it has been suggested that it affected his performance in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential debates.
Elected to the Senate in 1972, Biden was reelected in 1978, 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008, usually getting about 60% of the vote. He was junior senator to William Roth, who was first elected in 1970, until Roth was defeated in 2000. As of 2018 he was the 18th-longest-serving senator in U.S. history.
Biden was consistently ranked one of the least wealthy members of the Senate, which he attributed to his having been elected young. Feeling that less-wealthy public officials may be tempted to accept contributions in exchange for political favors, he proposed campaign finance reform measures during his first term. Biden earned $15.6 million in 2017–18. In 2019, Biden and his wife reported that their assets had increased to between $2.2 million and $8 million, thanks to speaking engagements and a contract to write a set of books.
The political writer Howard Fineman has written, “Biden is not an academic, he’s not a theoretical thinker, he’s a great street pol. He comes from a long line of working people in Scranton auto salesmen, car dealers, people who know how to make a sale. He has that great Irish gift.” Political columnist David S. Broder wrote that Biden has grown over time: “He responds to real people that’s been consistent throughout. And his ability to understand himself and deal with other politicians has gotten much much better.” James Traub has written, “Biden is the kind of fundamentally happy person who can be as generous toward others as he is to himself.” In 2006, Delaware newspaper columnist Harry F. Themal wrote that Biden “occupies the sensible center of the Democratic Party”.
Biden has a reputation for loquacity; he is a strong speaker and debater and an effective guest on Sunday morning talk shows. He often deviates from prepared remarks and sometimes “puts his foot in his mouth”. The New York Times wrote that Biden’s “weak filters make him capable of blurting out pretty much anything”.
Biden has been characterized as a moderate Democrat. He supported the fiscal stimulus in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; the increased infrastructure spending proposed by the Obama administration; mass transit, including Amtrak, bus, and subway subsidies; reproductive rights; same-sex marriage; and the reduced military spending in the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2014 budget. Biden supports the Roe v. Wade decision and since 2019 has been in favor of repealing the Hyde Amendment. Biden has proposed partially reversing the corporate tax cuts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, saying that doing so would not hurt businesses’ ability to hire.
Some political scientists gauge ideology by comparing the annual ratings by the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) with the ratings by the American Conservative Union (ACU).Biden has a lifetime liberal 72% score from the ADA through 2004, while the ACU awarded Biden a lifetime conservative rating of 13% through 2008. Using another metric, Biden has a lifetime average liberal score of 77.5%, according to a National Journal analysis that places him ideologically among the center of Senate Democrats as of 2008. The Almanac of American Politics rates congressional votes as liberal or conservative on the political spectrum in three policy areas: economic, social, and foreign. For 2005–06, Biden’s average economic rating was 80% liberal and 13% conservative, his social rating was 78% liberal and 18% conservative, and his foreign rating was 71% liberal and 25% conservative. This has not changed significantly over time; his liberal ratings in the mid-1980s were also in the 70%–80% range.
The American Civil Liberties Union gives him an 80% lifetime score, with a 91% score for the 110th Congress. The AFL–CIO gave Biden an 85% lifetime approval rating.
Biden opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and supports governmental funding to find new energy sources. He believes action must be taken on global warming. He co-sponsored the Sense of the Senate resolution calling on the United States to take part in the United Nations climate negotiations and the Boxer–Sanders Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, the most stringent climate bill in the United States Senate. He wants to achieve a carbon-free power sector in the U.S. by 2035 and stop emissions completely by 2050. His program includes reentering Paris Agreement, nature conservation, and green building. Biden wants to pressure China and other countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions, by carbon tariffs if necessary. He voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Biden pledged, if elected, to sanction and commercially restrict Chinese government officials and entities who carry out repression.
As a senator, Biden forged deep relationships with police groups and was a chief proponent of a Police Officer’s Bill of Rights measure that police unions supported but police chiefs opposed. As vice president, he served as a White House liaison to police.
President-elect of the United States
Biden was elected the 46th president of the United States in November 2020, defeating the incumbent, Donald Trump, the first sitting president to lose reelection since George H. W. Bush in 1992. He is the second non-incumbent vice president to be elected president, and the first Democrat to do so. He is also expected to become the oldest president, as well as the first president from Delaware. Biden is expected to be inaugurated at noon on January 20, 2021.