Two More Weeks of Senator Biden — But Why?

By Theresa Cook

Jan 5, 2009 12:18pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein and Z. Byron Wolf Report: Among those who will take the oath of office Tuesday, when the 111th Congress convenes, is a man who has no intention of further service as a member of Congress: Sen. Joe Biden. Biden, D-Del., was reelected to the Senate on the same day that he and Barack Obama won the presidential election. He plans to be sworn in Tuesday for the seventh time as a senator, even though he’ll resign his seat shortly before taking the oath of office as vice president Jan. 20. We’ve asked Biden’s office why he thinks it’s appropriate to take an oath for a term he won’t come close to filling out. We will update this posting when we get a response. Obama, by contrast, resigned his Senate seat shortly after Election Day — creating the vacancy that is has caused so much controversy in Illinois and beyond. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Biden last month on “This Week” why he hadn’t resigned from the Senate — and part of the answer Biden gave was, at best, misleading. “Two reasons,” Biden said. “One is that, from my perspective, I shouldn’t acknowledge it, but being sworn in for the seventh time as a United States senator from Delaware, the greatest honor I’ve ever had is the people of Delaware electing me. And, and it will in no way effect the seniority of the person who will follow me, number one. “Number two, there was a period there when it was thought that it may be useful for me to be in the Senate, in terms of some of the votes that were going to be cast in the Senate that may have been very close, that would have been consistent with our incoming administration’s position that I could have been voting on those. It turned out that did not occur.” Biden’s swearing-in for the seventh time will extend a state record that may never be broken. And he could have voted — but didn’t — during this post-election period that he’s still been a senator. But his claim about his decision not affecting seniority isn’t true. If Biden were to resign before Tuesday, his replacement could be sworn in before the other freshman senators. The new senator from Delaware would get seniority over all other newly elected senators — giving him a better shot at top committee assignments and choice office space. As it is, Biden’s replacement will move to the back of the line — at best No. 98 in seniority when he finally gets the job Jan. 20, and lower still assuming the Minnesota recount and the Illinois debacle are still unresolved. It probably won’t matter much in the long run: Delaware’s governor has said she will name former Biden aide Ted Kaufman to the job, and Kaufman has said he won’t seek a full Senate term on his own. But in the meantime, keeping the job has allowed Biden — one of the Senate’s least-wealthy members — to continue to collect a salary during the transition period. At his annual Senate salary of $169,300, that’s meant another $28,000 so far. Biden also remains chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But he told Stephanopoulos that he would immediately yield committee leadership responsibilities to his successor in that post, Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass. UPDATE: Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander issued this statement to ABC News by way of explanation: "Senator Biden will be sworn-in for a historic 7th term tomorrow. As a sitting Senator, he will be leading a congressional delegation on a fact-finding trip to Southwest Asia — a trip he is undertaking as the outgoing Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He will resign from the Senate when the trip returns. Regarding seniority, Senator Biden was referencing Senator-designate Kaufman’s pledge to not serve more than two years; since there is little consequence to seniority among freshmen Senators, and Sen. Kaufman will not be accumulating seniority for future sessions of Congress, his seniority is irrelevant." "The timing on his resignation had multiple aspects," Biden’s spokespereson continued.  "First, after 36 years in the Senate, he had a good amount of wind down and transition to do in his Senate office. Second, he very much wanted to take the oath of office as Delaware’s first seven term Senator, as the person chosen by the people of Delaware — just as Vice President Elect Johnson took the oath of office after he was reelected to the Senate in 1960. And third, he wanted to finish his work as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which includes this trip."

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus