The Senate, in an affectionate, bipartisan mood, said goodbye to Joe Biden Wednesday, their friend and colleague for so many decades.
The vice president will leave office Jan. 20, the first time since early 1973 that he hasn’t held a federal office. He was elected to the U.S. Senate from Delaware in 1972 and served there until being inaugurated as vice president nearly eight years ago.
Senators paused to remember Biden, who serves as the Senate president, in a series of heartfelt floor tributes.
“It’s good news for everyone when he’s in that chair,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “Good news for him, because the rest of us have to call him Mr. President. Good news for the rest of us, because he has to let someone else talk.”
Biden sought the presidency twice, in the 1988 and 2008 campaigns, and fell short. He mulled a run this year but opted not to, and suggested earlier this week he shouldn’t be counted out in 2020, even though he’d be 78 when inaugurated.
Wednesday, though, wasn’t a time to look ahead. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, recalled Biden’s life and career. Biden’s Senate colleagues remembered his days shepherding domestic violence or criminal justice legislation.
“Thank you for your heart and passion,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who next year will become Senate Democratic Leader. “Thank you for bringing every ounce of yourself to public service.”
The praise was bipartisan. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who noted Biden treated people “with dignity equal to his own.” And, he noted, “neither of us is the retiring type,” who made points “emphatically rather than elliptically.”
“While Joe Biden changed Washington, Washington never changed him,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Reid summed up the feeling: “Stephen Spielberg, Hollywood, you should be listening. Joe Biden’s life is the stuff of which movies are made.”