Joe Biden becomes the 47th Vice President of the United States
Biden became the 47th Vice President of the United States on January 20, 2009, when he was inaugurated alongside President Barack Obama.
He succeeded Dick Cheney. Biden is the first United States Vice President from Delaware and the first Roman Catholic to attain that office. Biden's oath of office was administered by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
As Biden headed to Delaware's Return Day tradition following the November 2008 election, and the transition process to an Obama administration began, Biden said he was in daily meetings with Obama and that McCain was still his friend. The U.S. Secret Service codename given to Biden is "Celtic", referencing his Irish roots.
Biden chose veteran Democratic lawyer and aide Ron Klain to be his vice-presidential chief of staff, and Time Washington bureau chief Jay Carney to be his director of communications. Biden intended to eliminate some of the explicit roles assumed by the vice presidency of Cheney. But otherwise, Biden said he would not model his vice presidency on any of the ones before him, but instead would seek to provide advice and counsel on every critical decision Obama would make. Biden said he had been closely involved in all the cabinet appointments that were made during the transition. Biden was also named to head the new White House Task Force on Working Families, an initiative aimed at improving the economic well-being of the middle class. As his last act as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Biden went on a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan during the second week of January 2009, meeting with the leadership of those countries.
In the early months of the Obama administration, Biden assumed the role of an important behind-the-scenes counselor. The president compared Biden's efforts to a basketball player “who does a bunch of things that don’t show up in the stat sheet.” Biden played a key role in gaining Senate support for several major pieces of Obama legislation, and also was a main factor in convincing Senator Arlen Specter to switch from the Republican to Democratic party. Biden lost an internal debate to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton regarding his opposition to sending 21,000 new troops to the war in Afghanistan. His skeptical voice was still considered valuable within the administration, however, and later in 2009 Biden's views achieved more prominence within the White House as Obama reconsidered his Afghanistan strategy. Biden made visits to Baghdad in August and September 2009 to listen to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and reiterate U.S. stances on Iraq's future; by this time he had become the administration's point man in delivering messages to Iraqi leadership about expected progress in the country. Biden was in charge of the oversight role for infrastructure spending from the Obama stimulus package intended to help counteract the ongoing recession, and stressed that only worthy projects should get funding. By September 2009, Biden was satisfied that no major instances of waste or corruption had occurred.
WASHINGTON — Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., a career senator whose foreign policy expertise, Washington savvy and sharp-witted style won Barack Obama’s supreme trust, became the 47th vice president of the United States on Tuesday.
The 66-year-old Delaware man, often long on words and never short of opinions, became the nation’s second-in-command on a day of profound change. He is now a heartbeat from the presidency, an influential counselor to President Obama, and one of the government’s main ambassadors to other global powers.
Joe Biden’s swearing-in moment was, fittingly, second billing to Obama’s. But the significance was not lost, and will soon be felt; Biden’s ascendancy ends the contentious and consequential eight-year run of perhaps the most powerful vice president ever, Dick Cheney, who saw the job differently than Biden does.
With the world watching, Biden raised his right hand and took his oath of office from Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens. In traditional form, Biden swore to defend the Constitution against all enemies and to faithfully discharge the duties of the office.
“So help me God,” Biden said to an outpouring of cheers from the Capitol platform and crowds below.
Biden shared a few thankful moments with his wife, Jill, and other members of his immediate family. He shared a handshake with Obama shortly before the nation’s new president was sworn in himself.
Both at the White House and at the Capitol, cameras captured gracious moments between Biden and Cheney, who put aside their well-known political differences in favor of grand American tradition.
At a ceremonial lunch in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, Biden told a gathering of officials from all three branches of government: “Together, there’s not a single, solitary thing we cannot achieve.”
At night, the Bidens were to hopscotch the city, attending inaugural balls into the wee hours.
The vice president’s prescribed role is to assume the presidency in the event of death, resignation or incapacity by Obama. Biden is also president of the Senate, but can vote only to break ties.
Beyond that, his duties can be limited or expansive based on the wishes of his boss, the president.
Expect Biden, who is almost 20 years senior to Obama, to have a vibrant role.
He is a familiar face in Congress, knows world leaders personally, and is not shy in front of a TV camera. For Obama, Biden is a voice of experience, particularly on foreign affairs and national security.
He also lets loose his share of verbal gaffes, sometimes getting himself into trouble.
Obama picked Biden as his No. 2 over several other potential running mates, none more prominent than former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, eventually picked as Obama’s nominee for secretary of state.
“This is a partnership,” Biden said the day before the inauguration about working with Obama. “He’s president of the United States, but as I said to him when he asked me, I said, ‘Barack, don’t ask me unless the reason you’re asking me is you’re asking me for my judgment. I get to be the last guy in the room when you make every important decision. You’re president. Any decision you make, I will back.”’
Yet Biden is interested in reining in the vice president’s role as he succeeds Cheney, whom he bluntly called “the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history.”
In accepting the vice presidential nomination last summer, Biden said: “For all those people in government who are honoring their pledge to uphold the law and respect our Constitution, no longer will the eight most dreaded words in the English language be: ‘The vice president’s office is on the phone.”’
Cheney was a major voice on war and harsh interrogation techniques of suspected terrorists, and insists the Bush administration’s moves kept the nation safe.
Biden says he won’t blur the executive and legislative lines as he claims Cheney did. “If he wants to diminish the office of vice president, that’s obviously his call,” Cheney shot back last month.
The vice presidency would seem to cap a career in which Biden has become a Democratic Party elder and a veteran of judicial nomination struggles, world crises and legislative dealmaking. He ran for the presidency twice, first in 1988, and then in 2008, when he competed against Obama. He never came close.
Born in working-class Scranton, Pa., Biden often speaks of a blue-collar work ethic.
A lawyer by trade, Biden won election to the Senate at a young age and has spent most of his life working there, but has still made a daily train commute home to Wilmington, Del.
His life was shaped by tragedy. Shortly after his election to the Senate in 1972, his wife, Neilia, and infant daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident and his two young sons, Beau and Hunter, were critically injured. Both boys recovered fully, growing up to become lawyers.
In 1977, Biden married Jill Tracy Jacobs. They have a grown daughter, Ashley.
Mr Biden took the oath in front of an estimated crowd of two million people and watched by Mr Obama.
The President-Elect, dressed in a dark suit, overcoat and red tie, looked relaxed as he waited to take his oath.
Obama supporters from across the United States braved icy temperatures as they poured into Washington to pack the National Mall, stretching from Capitol Hill to the Lincoln Memorial.
In the biggest security operation the city has ever seen bridges were sealed off and thousands of armed police, soldiers and Secret Service agents patrolled the streets. Snipers were positioned on roof tops near the Capitol.
The 35-word presidential oath will be administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and has been uttered by every president since George Washington.
Mr Obama's inauguration as the first black US president represents a milestone once unthinkable in a nation that has struggled with racial issues since its founding, and where segregation was practised in many Southern states just decades ago.
He will take the oath on the same Bible used at the 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, whose Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery.
It has been a remarkable ascent for the 47-year-old Democrat who moves into the Oval Office as the nation's fourth youngest president, having persuaded Americans that he can turn around the economy and end the Iraq war.
He has raised the hopes of millions seeking a new course for the United States and promised to emphasise diplomacy, seek global solutions to climate change, reject torture and shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison.
The inauguration will be witnessed on television by a massive global audience and will usher in a new era of American politics.
In his much-anticipated inaugural speech Mr Obama is expected to urge American individuals and businesses to take responsibility for their actions.
He will say that a "me first" mentality has hurt the US and contributed to the economic crisis the country faces. His aides said the address would stress twin themes of "responsibility and accountability".
Among those gathering early to catch a glimpse of Mr Obama was Elizabeth Brooks, a black Washington resident of 30 years, who cried and said she was thinking about the new president's two daughters Malia and Sasha, and a 1963 attack by white racists in which four young black girls died.
She said: "I am remembering the four little girls that were bombed in the 16th Street Baptist church in Alabama – we have two little girls going into the White House tomorrow in their place."
Another supporter Donald Butler, 20, a University of Washington student, said: "I didn't think I would see a black president in my generation. I just had to be here."
The build-up to the inauguration began in earnest on Saturday when the "Obama Express" train rolled into the capital following a whistle-stop tour from Philadelphia.
A high-profile concert – with performances from Bono, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder on Sunday gave way to a lower key series of community events yesterday, coinciding with Martin Luther King Day.
Despite the weight of expectation on his shoulders Mr Obama appeared unfazed as he helped renovate a housing project for homeless and runaway youths in the capital.
With paint roller in hand he said: This is good practice because I'm moving to a new house."