Nobody Messes with 'Sheriff Joe' Biden

VP's wide policy portfolio makes him a key player in Obama's decisions.

ByABC News
June 22, 2009, 6:30 PM

June 23, 2009 -- Early in the Obama administration, Vice President Joe Biden described his role as "the president's confidant" and said he would be someone who would help shape policy and be in the room for every major decision.

Democrats and even most Republicans agree that so far, Biden has kept that pledge and has made a relatively smooth transition from his senior position in the Senate to a supporting role at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The vice president's portfolio is expansive and diverse and his fingerprints are on domestic and foreign policy issues.

Biden is the enforcer, deemed "Sheriff Joe" by the president, overseeing the billions in stimulus funding given out by the federal government to local and state governments.

That has not gone without a hitch as Biden has often been on the receiving end of conservative revolt over the stimulus program led by Republican Governor's Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Sarah Palin of Alaska, among others.

But his years building relationships in Washington while not forgetting his working class background have, for the most part, paid off.

He is still the average Joe, leading the White House effort to boost the middle class. Biden is also well known around the world, and will travel to Georgia and Ukraine in July, his fifth foreign trip in just six months, a milestone his office believes he reached before any predecessor.

"Joe Biden as vice president has been involved in all the major issues confronted by this administration and has the confidence of the president," said Democratic strategist Tad Devine.

At a meeting of the middle class task force in Ohio today, Biden will announce the creation of a White House Council focused on auto workers and communities affected by the struggling industry. Obama will sign the executive order, but it is Biden who will be the public face for the administration's message.

Two key moments stick out when examining the impact that Biden has had in the early days of the Obama administration -- Sen. Arlen Specter's decision to switch to the Democratic Party and the selection of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.

By all accounts, Biden played a key role in the decision of Sen. Arlen Specter to change his party affiliation to Democrat this spring.

The vice president had been heavily lobbying Specter and his fellow moderate Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, to get on board the president's stimulus legislation. In the end the trio were the only Republicans to break rank and support the bill and they came under fire from conservatives for their vote.