On November 4, 2008, Senator Joe Biden was elected 47th Vice President of the United States as Barack Obama's running mate.
In the early months of the Obama administration, Biden assumed the role of a behind-the-scenes counselor, often adjudicating disputes among Obama's "team of rivals"
Obama 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 legislation, and was a main factor in convincing Senator Arlen Specter to switch from a Republican to a Democrat. Biden lost an internal debate to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding his opposition to sending 21,000 new troops to the war in Afghanistan, but his skepticism was still considered valuable in the administration, and in 2009 Biden's views gained more influence as Obama reconsidered his Afghanistan strategy.
Biden visited Iraq about every two months, becoming the administration's point man in delivering messages to Iraqi leadership about expected progress in the country. More generally, overseeing Iraq policy became Biden's responsibility: Obama was said to have said, "Joe, you do Iraq." Biden said Iraq "could be one of the great achievements of this administration". His January 2010 visit to Iraq in the midst of turmoil over banned candidates from the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary election resulted in 59 of the several hundred candidates being reinstated by the Iraqi government two days later.
By 2012, Biden had made eight trips there, but his oversight of U.S. policy in Iraq receded with the exit of U.S. troops in 2011
Biden was also 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. He talked with hundreds of governors, mayors, and other local officials in this role. During this period, Biden was satisfied that no major instances of waste or corruption had occurred, and when he completed that role in February 2011, he said the number of fraud incidents with stimulus monies had been less than one percent.
In late April 2009, Biden's off-message response to a question during the beginning of the swine flu outbreak, that he would advise family members against traveling on airplanes or subways, led to a swift retraction by the White House. The remark revived Biden's reputation for gaffes. Confronted with rising unemployment through July 2009, Biden acknowledged that the administration had "misread how bad the economy was" but maintained confidence the stimulus package would create many more jobs once the pace of expenditures picked up. On March 23, 2010, a microphone picked up Biden telling the president that his signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was "a big fucking deal" during live national news telecasts. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs replied via Twitter "And yes Mr. Vice President, you're right ..." Despite their different personalities, Obama and Biden formed a friendship, partly based around Obama's daughter Sasha and Biden's granddaughter Maisy, who attended Sidwell Friends School together.
Members of the Obama administration said Biden's role in the White House was to be a contrarian and force others to defend their positions. Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff, said that Biden typically countered groupthink in the administration. Jay Carney, Biden's former communications director appointed White House press secretary, said Biden played the role of "the bad guy in the Situation Room". Another senior Obama advisor said Biden "is always prepared to be the skunk at the family picnic to make sure we are as intellectually honest as possible." Obama said, "The best thing about Joe is that when we get everybody together, he really forces people to think and defend their positions, to look at things from every angle, and that is very valuable for me." On June 11, 2010, Biden represented the United States at the opening ceremony of the World Cup, attended the England v. U.S. game, and visited Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa. The Bidens maintained a relaxed atmosphere at their official residence in Washington, often entertaining some of their grandchildren, and regularly returned to their home in Delaware.
Biden campaigned heavily for Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections, maintaining an attitude of optimism in the face of predictions of large-scale losses for the party. Following big Republican gains in the elections and the departure of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Biden's past relationships with Republicans in Congress became more important. He led the successful administration effort to gain Senate approval for the New START treaty. In December 2010, Biden's advocacy for a middle ground, followed by his negotiations with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, were instrumental in producing the administration's compromise tax package that revolved around a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts. Biden then took the lead in trying to sell the agreement to a reluctant Democratic caucus in Congress. The package passed as the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.
In foreign policy, Biden supported the NATO-led military intervention in Libya in 2011. He has supported closer economic ties with Russia.
In March 2011, Obama delegated Biden to lead negotiations between Congress and the White House in resolving federal spending levels for the rest of the year, and avoiding a government shutdown. By May 2011, a "Biden panel" with six congressional members was trying to reach a bipartisan deal on raising the U.S. debt ceiling as part of an overall deficit reduction plan. The U.S. debt ceiling crisis developed over the next couple months, but it was again Biden's relationship with McConnell that proved a key factor in breaking a deadlock and finally bringing about a deal to resolve it, in the form of the Budget Control Act of 2011, signed on August 2, 2011, the same day an unprecedented U.S. default had loomed. Biden had spent the most time bargaining with Congress on the debt question of anyone in the administration, and one Republican staffer said, "Biden's the only guy with real negotiating authority, and [McConnell] knows that his word is good. He was a key to the deal."
Some reports suggest that Biden opposed to going forward with the May 2011 U.S. mission to kill Osama bin Laden, lest failure adversely affect Obama's chances for a second term. He took the lead in notifying Congressional leaders of the successful outcome.
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