Biden ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008. Barack Obama chose Biden as his running mate in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. During his two terms as Obama's vice president, Biden frequently represented the administration in negotiations with congressional Republicans and was a close counselor to Obama.
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born on November 20, 1942, at St. Mary's Hospital in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Catherine Eugenia "Jean" Biden (née Finnegan) and Joseph Robinette Biden Sr. The oldest child in a Catholic family, he has a sister, Valerie, and two brothers, Francis and James. Jean was of Irish descent, while Joseph Sr. had English, Irish, and French Huguenot ancestry. Biden's paternal line has been traced to stonemason William Biden, who was born in 1789 in Westbourne, England, and emigrated to Maryland in the United States by 1820.
Biden's father had been wealthy and the family purchased a home in the affluent Long Island suburb of Garden City in the fall of 1946, but he suffered business setbacks around the time Biden was seven years old, and for several years the family lived with Biden's maternal grandparents in Scranton. Scranton fell into economic decline during the 1950s and Biden's father could not find steady work. Beginning in 1953 when Biden was ten, the family lived in an apartment in Claymont, Delaware, before moving to a house in nearby Mayfield. Biden Sr. later became a successful used-car salesman, maintaining the family in a middle-class lifestyle.
Biden had not openly supported or opposed the Vietnam War until he ran for Senate and opposed Nixon's conduct of the war. While studying at the University of Delaware and Syracuse University, Biden obtained five student draft deferments, at a time when most draftees were sent to the Vietnam War. In 1968, based on a physical examination, he was given a conditional medical deferment; in 2008, a spokesperson for Biden said his having had "asthma as a teenager" was the reason for the deferment.
In 1968, Biden clerked at a Wilmington law firm headed by prominent local Republican William Prickett and, he later said, "thought of myself as a Republican". He disliked incumbent Democratic Delaware governor Charles L. Terry's conservative racial politics and supported a more liberal Republican, Russell W. Peterson, who defeated Terry in 1968. Biden was recruited by local Republicans but registered as an Independent because of his distaste for Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon.
In 1969, Biden practiced law, first as a public defender and then at a firm headed by a locally active Democrat who named him to the Democratic Forum, a group trying to reform and revitalize the state party; Biden subsequently reregistered as a Democrat. He and another attorney also formed a law firm.Corporate law, however, did not appeal to him, and criminal law did not pay well. He supplemented his income by managing properties.
In 1970, Biden ran for the 4th district seat on the New Castle County Council on a liberal platform that included support for public housing in the suburbs. The seat had been held by Republican Henry R. Folsom, who was running in the 5th District following a reapportionment of council districts. Biden won the general election by defeating Republican Lawrence T. Messick, and took office on January 5, 1971. He served until January 1, 1973, and was succeeded by Democrat Francis R. Swift. During his time on the county council, Biden opposed large highway projects, which he argued might disrupt Wilmington neighborhoods.
Results of the 1972 U.S. Senate election in Delaware
In 1972, Biden defeated Republican incumbent J. Caleb Boggs to become the junior U.S. senator from Delaware. He was the only Democrat willing to challenge Boggs, and with minimal campaign funds, he was given no chance of winning. Family members managed and staffed the campaign, which relied on meeting voters face-to-face and hand-distributing position papers, an approach made feasible by Delaware's small size. He received help from the AFL–CIO and Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell. His platform focused on the environment, withdrawal from Vietnam, civil rights, mass transit, equitable taxation, health care, and public dissatisfaction with "politics as usual". A few months before the election, Biden trailed Boggs by almost thirty percentage points, but his energy, attractive young family, and ability to connect with voters' emotions worked to his advantage and he won with 50.5 percent of the vote.
Death of wife and daughter
On December 18, 1972, a few weeks after Biden was elected senator, his wife Neilia and one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping in Hockessin, Delaware. Neilia's station wagon was hit by a semi-trailer truck as she pulled out from an intersection. Their sons Beau (aged3) and Hunter (aged2) were taken to the hospital in fair condition, Beau with a broken leg and other wounds and Hunter with a minor skull fracture and other head injuries. Biden considered resigning to care for them, but Senate Majority LeaderMike Mansfield persuaded him not to. The accident filled Biden with anger and religious doubt. He wrote that he "felt God had played a horrible trick" on him, and he had trouble focusing on work.
After the truck driver passed away in 1999, Biden in 2001 and 2007 accused the truck driver of drinking before the crash, even though the truck driver was never charged, and the chief prosecutor investigating the case stated that there was no evidence of drunk driving. In 2008, Biden's spokesman said that Biden "fully accepts" that allegations of drunk driving were "false". The truck driver's daughter said that Biden called her after a 2009 media report to apologize "for hurting my family in any way".
Biden and his second wife, Jill, met in 1975 and married in 1977.
During his early years in the Senate, Biden focused on consumer protection and environmental issues and called for greater government accountability. In a 1974 interview, he described himself as liberal on civil rights and liberties, senior citizens' concerns and healthcare but conservative on other issues, including abortion and military conscription. Biden also worked on arms control. After Congress failed to ratify the SALT II Treaty signed in 1979 by Soviet General SecretaryLeonid Brezhnev and President Jimmy Carter, Biden met with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko to communicate American concerns and secured changes that addressed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's objections. He received considerable attention when he excoriated Secretary of State George Shultz at a Senate hearing for the Reagan administration's support of South Africa despite its continued policy of apartheid.
In the mid-1970s, Biden was one of the Senate's strongest opponents of race-integration busing. His Delaware constituents strongly opposed it, and such opposition nationwide later led his party to mostly abandon school integration policies. In his first Senate campaign, Biden had expressed support for busing to remedy de juresegregation, as in the South, but opposed its use to remedy de facto segregation arising from racial patterns of neighborhood residency, as in Delaware; he opposed a proposed constitutional amendment banning busing entirely. Biden supported a measure[when?] forbidding the use of federal funds for transporting students beyond the school closest to them. In 1977, he co-sponsored an amendment closing loopholes in that measure, which President Carter signed into law in 1978.
In 1993, Biden voted for a provision that deemed homosexuality incompatible with military life, thereby banning gays from serving in the armed forces. In 1996, he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, thereby barring individuals in such marriages from equal protection under federal law and allowing states to do the same. In 2015, the act was ruled unconstitutional in Obergefell v. Hodges.
As chair, Biden presided over two highly contentious U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings. When Robert Bork was nominated in 1988, Biden reversed his approval—given in an interview the previous year—of a hypothetical Bork nomination. Conservatives were angered, but at the hearings' close Biden was praised for his fairness, humor, and courage. Rejecting the arguments of some Bork opponents, Biden framed his objections to Bork in terms of the conflict between Bork's strong originalism and the view that the U.S. Constitution provides rights to liberty and privacy beyond those explicitly enumerated in its text. Bork's nomination was rejected in the committee by a 9–5 vote and then in the full Senate, 58–42.
During Clarence Thomas's nomination hearings in 1991, Biden's questions on constitutional issues were often convoluted to the point that Thomas sometimes lost track of them, and Thomas later wrote that Biden's questions were akin to "beanballs". After the committee hearing closed, the public learned that Anita Hill, a University of Oklahoma law school professor, had accused Thomas of making unwelcome sexual comments when they had worked together. Biden had known of some of these charges, but initially shared them only with the committee because Hill was then unwilling to testify. The committee hearing was reopened and Hill testified, but Biden did not permit testimony from other witnesses, such as a woman who had made similar charges and experts on harassment. The full Senate confirmed Thomas by a 52–48 vote, with Biden opposed. Liberal legal advocates and women's groups felt strongly that Biden had mishandled the hearings and not done enough to support Hill. In 2019, he told Hill he regretted his treatment of her, but Hill said afterward she remained unsatisfied.
Biden was a longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He became its ranking minority member in 1997 and chaired it from June 2001 to 2003 and 2007 to 2009. His positions were generally liberal internationalist. He collaborated effectively with Republicans and sometimes went against elements of his own party. During this time he met with at least 150 leaders from 60 countries and international organizations, becoming a well-known Democratic voice on foreign policy.
Biden voted against authorization for the Gulf War in 1991, siding with 45 of the 55 Democratic senators; he said the U.S. was bearing almost all the burden in the anti-Iraq coalition.
Biden addresses the press after meeting with Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in Baghdad in 2004.
Biden was a strong supporter of the War in Afghanistan, saying, "Whatever it takes, we should do it." As head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he said in 2002 that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was a threat to national security and there was no other option than to "eliminate" that threat. In October 2002, he voted in favor of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, approving the U.S. Invasion of Iraq. As chair of the committee, he assembled a series of witnesses to testify in favor of the authorization. They gave testimony grossly misrepresenting the intent, history, and status of Saddam and his secular government, which was an avowed enemy of al-Qaeda, and touted Iraq's fictional possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Biden eventually became a critic of the war and viewed his vote and role as a "mistake", but did not push for withdrawal. He supported the appropriations for the occupation, but argued that the war should be internationalized, that more soldiers were needed, and that the Bush administration should "level with the American people" about its cost and length.
By August his campaign's messaging had become confused due to staff rivalries, and in September, he was accused of plagiarizing a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. Biden's speech had similar lines about being the first person in his family to attend university. Biden had credited Kinnock with the formulation on previous occasions, but did not on two occasions in late August.: 230–232  Kinnock himself was more forgiving; the two men met in 1988, forming an enduring friendship.
Earlier that year he had also used passages from a 1967 speech by Robert F. Kennedy (for which his aides took blame) and a short phrase from John F. Kennedy's inaugural address; two years earlier he had used a 1976 passage by Hubert Humphrey. Biden responded that politicians often borrow from one another without giving credit, and that one of his rivals for the nomination, Jesse Jackson, had called him to point out that he (Jackson) had used the same material by Humphrey that Biden had used.
A few days later, an incident in law school in which Biden drew text from a Fordham Law Review article with inadequate citations was publicized. He was required to repeat the course and passed with high marks. At Biden's request the Delaware Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility reviewed the incident and concluded that he had violated no rules.
Biden has made several false or exaggerated claims about his early life: that he had earned three degrees in college, that he attended law school on a full scholarship, that he had graduated in the top half of his class, and that he had marched in the civil rights movement. The limited amount of other news about the presidential race amplified these disclosures and on September 23, 1987, Biden withdrew his candidacy, saying it had been overrun by "the exaggerated shadow" of his past mistakes.
After exploring the possibility of a run in several previous cycles, in January 2007, Biden declared his candidacy in the 2008 elections. During his campaign, Biden focused on the Iraq War, his record as chairman of major Senate committees, and his foreign-policy experience. In mid-2007, Biden stressed his foreign policy expertise compared to Obama's. Biden was noted for his one-liners during the campaign; in one debate he said of Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani: "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, and a verb and 9/11."
Biden had difficulty raising funds, struggled to draw people to his rallies, and failed to gain traction against the high-profile candidacies of Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. He never rose above single digits in national polls of the Democratic candidates. In the first contest on January 3, 2008, Biden placed fifth in the Iowa caucuses, garnering slightly less than one percent of the state delegates. He withdrew from the race that evening.
Despite its lack of success, Biden's 2008 campaign raised his stature in the political world.: 336 In particular, it changed the relationship between Biden and Obama. Although they had served together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, they had not been close: Biden resented Obama's quick rise to political stardom, while Obama viewed Biden as garrulous and patronizing.: 28, 337–338 Having gotten to know each other during 2007, Obama appreciated Biden's campaign style and appeal to working-class voters, and Biden said he became convinced Obama was "the real deal".: 28, 337–338
Shortly after Biden withdrew from the presidential race, Obama privately told him he was interested in finding an important place for Biden in his administration. In early August, Obama and Biden met in secret to discuss the possibility, and developed a strong personal rapport. On August 22, 2008, Obama announced that Biden would be his running mate.The New York Times reported that the strategy behind the choice reflected a desire to fill out the ticket with someone with foreign policy and national security experience. Others pointed out Biden's appeal to middle-class and blue-collar voters. Biden was officially nominated for vice president on August 27 by voice vote at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Biden's vice-presidential campaigning gained little media attention, as the press devoted far more coverage to the Republican nominee, Alaska GovernorSarah Palin. Under instructions from the campaign, Biden kept his speeches succinct and tried to avoid offhand remarks, such as one he made about Obama's being tested by a foreign power soon after taking office, which had attracted negative attention. Privately, Biden's remarks frustrated Obama. "How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?" he asked.: 411–414, 419 Obama campaign staffers called Biden's blunders "Joe bombs" and kept Biden uninformed about strategy discussions, which in turn irked Biden. Relations between the two campaigns became strained for a month, until Biden apologized on a call to Obama and the two built a stronger partnership.: 411–414 Publicly, Obama strategist David Axelrod said Biden's high popularity ratings had outweighed any unexpected comments.
At the same time Biden was running for vice president, he was also running for reelection to the Senate, as permitted by Delaware law. On November4, he was reelected to the Senate, defeating Republican Christine O'Donnell. Having won both races, Biden made a point of waiting to resign from the Senate until he was sworn in for his seventh term on January 6, 2009. Biden cast his last Senate vote on January 15, supporting the release of the second $350billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and resigned from the Senate later that day.[n 2]
First official portrait of Joe Biden as Vice President of the United States, 2009
Biden said he intended to eliminate some explicit roles assumed by George W. Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney, and did not intend to emulate any previous vice presidency. He chaired Obama's transition team and headed an initiative to improve middle-class economic well-being. In early January 2009, in his last act as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he visited the leaders of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and on January 20 he was sworn in as the 47th vice president of the United States—the first vice president from Delaware and the first Roman Catholic vice president.
Obama was soon comparing Biden to a basketball player "who does a bunch of things that don't show up in the stat sheet". In May, Biden visited Kosovo and affirmed the U.S. position that its "independence is irreversible". Biden lost an internal debate to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about sending 21,000 new troops to Afghanistan, but his skepticism was valued, 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 there. More generally, overseeing Iraq policy became Biden's responsibility: Obama was said to have said, "Joe, you do Iraq." 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.
In late April 2009, Biden's off-message response to a question during the beginning of the swine flu outbreak 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. 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 helped counter groupthink. 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." The Bidens maintained a relaxed atmosphere at their official residence in Washington, often entertaining their grandchildren, and regularly returned to their home in Delaware.
In October 2010, Biden said Obama had asked him to remain as his running mate for the 2012 presidential election, but with Obama's popularity on the decline, White House Chief of StaffWilliam M. Daley conducted some secret polling and focus group research in late 2011 on the idea of replacing Biden on the ticket with Hillary Clinton. The notion was dropped when the results showed no appreciable improvement for Obama, and White House officials later said Obama himself had never entertained the idea.
Biden and Obama, July 2012
Biden's May 2012 statement that he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage gained considerable public attention in comparison to Obama's position, which had been described as "evolving". Biden made his statement without administration consent, and Obama and his aides were quite irked, since Obama had planned to shift position several months later, in the build-up to the party convention. Gay rights advocates seized upon Biden's statement, and within days, Obama announced that he too supported same-sex marriage, an action in part forced by Biden's remarks. Biden apologized to Obama in private for having spoken out, while Obama acknowledged publicly it had been done from the heart.
The Obama campaign valued Biden as a retail-level politician, and he had a heavy schedule of appearances in swing states as the reelection campaign began in earnest in spring 2012. An August 2012 remark before a mixed-race audience that Republican proposals to relax Wall Street regulations would "put y'all back in chains" once again drew attention to Biden's propensity for colorful remarks. In the vice-presidential debate on October 11 with Republican nominee Paul Ryan, Biden defended the Obama administration's record. On November 6, Obama and Biden won reelection over Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan with 332 of 538 Electoral College votes and 51% of the popular vote.
Biden favored arming Syria's rebel fighters. As Iraq fell apart during 2014, renewed attention was paid to the Biden-Gelb Iraqi federalization plan of 2006, with some observers suggesting Biden had been right all along. Biden himself said the U.S. would follow ISIL "to the gates of hell". Biden had close relationships with several Latin American leaders and was assigned a focus on the region during the administration; he visited the region 16 times during his vice presidency, the most of any president or vice president. In August 2016, Biden visited Serbia, where he met with Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić and expressed his condolences for civilian victims of the bombing campaign during the Kosovo War.
Biden with Vice President-elect Mike Pence on November 10, 2016
Role in the 2016 presidential campaign
During his second term, Biden was often said to be preparing for a possible bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. With his family, many friends, and donors encouraging him in mid-2015 to enter the race, and with Hillary Clinton's favorability ratings in decline at that time, Biden was reported to again be seriously considering the prospect and a "Draft Biden 2016" PAC was established. By late 2015, Biden was still uncertain about running. He felt his son's recent death had largely drained his emotional energy, and said, "nobody has a right... to seek that office unless they're willing to give it 110% of who they are." On October 21, speaking from a podium in the Rose Garden with his wife and Obama by his side, Biden announced his decision not to run for president in 2016. In January 2016, Biden affirmed that it was the right decision, but said he regretted not running for president "every day".
Biden remained in the public eye, endorsing candidates while continuing to comment on politics, climate change, and the presidency of Donald Trump. He also continued to speak out in favor of LGBT rights, continuing advocacy on an issue he had become more closely associated with during his vice presidency. By 2019, Biden and his wife reported that their assets had increased to[clarification needed] between $2.2 million and $8 million from speaking engagements and a contract to write a set of books.
Biden at his presidential kickoff rally in Philadelphia, May 2019
Between 2016 and 2019, media outlets often mentioned Biden as a likely candidate for president in 2020. When asked if he would run, he gave varied and ambivalent answers, saying "never say never". A political action committee known as Time for Biden was formed in January 2018, seeking Biden's entry into the race. He finally launched his campaign on April 25, 2019, saying he was prompted to run, among other reasons, by his "sense of duty."
In March 2019 and April 2019, eight women accused Biden of previous instances of inappropriate physical contact, such as embracing, touching or kissing. Biden had previously called himself a "tactile politician" and admitted this behavior has caused trouble for him. In April 2019, Biden pledged to be more "respectful of people's personal space".
Biden at a rally on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, February 2020
In late March 2020, Tara Reade, one of the eight women who in 2019 had accused Biden of inappropriate physical contact, accused Biden of having sexually assaulted her in 1993. There were inconsistencies between Reade's 2019 and 2020 allegations. Biden and his campaign denied the sexual assault allegation.
Biden was elected the 46th president of the United States in November 2020. He defeated the incumbent, Donald Trump, becoming the first candidate to defeat a sitting president since Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in 1992. Trump refused to concede, insisting the election had been "stolen" from him through "voter fraud", challenging the results in court and promoting numerous conspiracy theories about the voting and vote-counting processes, in an attempt to overturn the election results. Biden's transition was delayed by several weeks as the White House ordered federal agencies not to cooperate. On November23, General Services AdministratorEmily W. Murphy formally recognized Biden as the apparent winner of the 2020 election and authorized the start of a transition process to the Biden administration.
On January 6, 2021, during Congress' electoral vote count, Trump told supporters gathered in front of the White House to march to the Capitol, saying, "We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn't happen. You don't concede when there's theft involved." Soon after, they attacked the Capitol. During the insurrection at the Capitol, Biden addressed the nation, calling the events "an unprecedented assault unlike anything we've seen in modern times." After the Capitol was cleared, Congress resumed its joint session and officially certified the election results with Vice President Mike Pence, in his capacity as President of the Senate, declaring Biden and Harris the winners.
Biden's inauguration was "a muted affair unlike any previous inauguration" due to COVID-19 precautions as well as massively increased security measures because of the January 6 United States Capitol attack. Trump did not attend, becoming the first outgoing president since 1869 to not attend his successor's inauguration.
Also in March, amid a rise in migrants entering the U.S. from Mexico, Biden told migrants, "Don't come over." In the meantime, migrant adults "are being sent back", Biden said, in reference to the continuation of the Trump administration's Title 42 policy for quick deportations. Biden earlier announced that his administration would not deport unaccompanied migrant children; the rise in arrivals of such children exceeded the capacity of facilities meant to shelter them (before they were sent to sponsors), leading the Biden administration in March to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help.
By the end of 2021, 40 of Biden's appointed judges to the federal judiciary had been confirmed, more than any president in their first year in office since Ronald Reagan. Biden has prioritized diversity in his judicial appointments more than any president in U.S. history, with the majority of appointments being women and people of color. Most of his appointments have been in blue states, making a limited impact since the courts in these states already traditionally lean liberal.
In the first eight months of his presidency, Biden's approval rating, according to Morning Consult polling, remained above 50%. In August, it began to decline and lowered into the low forties by December. The decline in his approval is attributed to the Afghanistan withdrawal, increasing hospitalizations from the Delta variant, high inflation and gas prices, disarray within the Democratic Party, and a general decline in popularity customary in politics.
Biden entered office nine months into a recovery from the COVID-19 recession and his first year in office was characterized by robust growth in real GDP, employment, wages and stock market returns, amid significantly elevated inflation. Real GDP grew 5.9%, the fastest rate in 37 years. Amid record job creation, the unemployment rate fell at the fastest pace on record during the year. By the end of 2021, inflation reached a nearly 40-year high of 7.1%, which was partially offset by the highest nominal wage and salary growth in at least 20 years.
American forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2020, under the provisions of a February 2020 US-Taliban agreement that set a May 1, 2021, deadline. The Taliban began an offensive on May 1. By early July, most American troops in Afghanistan had withdrawn. Biden addressed the withdrawal in July, saying, "The likelihood there's going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely."
On August 15, the Afghan government collapsed under the Taliban offensive, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Biden reacted by ordering 6,000 American troops to assist in the evacuation of American personnel and Afghan allies. He faced bipartisan criticism for the manner of the withdrawal, with the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies described as chaotic and botched. On August 16, Biden addressed the "messy" situation, taking responsibility for it, and admitting that the situation "unfolded more quickly than we had anticipated". He defended his decision to withdraw, saying that Americans should not be "dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves".
On August 26, a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport killed 13 U.S. service members and 169 Afghans. On August 27, an American drone strike killed two ISIS-K targets, who were "planners and facilitators", according to a U.S. Army general. On August 29, another American drone strike killed 10 civilians, including seven children; the Defense Department initially claimed the strike was conducted on an Islamic State suicide bomber threatening Kabul Airport, but admitted the mistake on September 17 and apologized.
The U.S. military completed withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30, with Biden saying that the evacuation effort was an "extraordinary success", by extracting over 120,000 Americans, Afghans and other allies. He acknowledged that between "100 to 200" Americans who wanted to leave were left in Afghanistan, despite his August 18 pledge to stay in Afghanistan until all Americans who wanted to leave had left.
As part of Biden's Build Back Better agenda, in late March 2021, he proposed the American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion package addressing issues including transport infrastructure, utilities infrastructure, broadband infrastructure, housing, schools, manufacturing, research and workforce development. After months of negotiations among Biden and lawmakers, in August 2021 the Senate passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, while the House, also in a bipartisan manner, approved that bill in early November 2021, covering infrastructure related to transport, utilities, and broadband. Biden signed the bill into law in mid-November 2021.
After 5.9% growth in 2021, real GDP growth cooled dramatically in Biden's second year, to 2.1%, after slightly negative growth in the first half spurred recession concerns. Job creation and consumer spending remained strong through the year, as the unemployment rate fell to match a 53-year low of 3.5% in December. Inflation peaked at 9.1% in June but began easing in the second half of the year, to 6.5% in December. Stocks had their worst performance since 2008.
In January, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, a moderate liberal nominated by Bill Clinton, announced his intention to retire from the Supreme Court. During his 2020 campaign, Biden vowed to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court if a vacancy occurred, a promise he reiterated after the announcement of Breyer's retirement. On February 25, Biden nominated federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 7 and sworn in on June 30.
China's assertiveness, particularly in the Pacific, remained a challenge for Biden. The Solomon Islands-China security pact caused alarm, as China could build military bases across the South Pacific. Biden sought to strengthen ties with Australia and New Zealand in the wake of the deal, as Anthony Albanesesucceeded to the premiership of Australia and Jacinda Ardern's government took a firmer line on Chinese influence. In a September interview with 60 Minutes, Biden stated that U.S. forces would defend Taiwan in the event of an "unprecedented attack" by the Chinese, which is in contrast to the long-standing U.S. policy of "strategic ambiguity" toward China and Taiwan. The September comments came after three previous comments by Biden that the U.S. would defend Taiwan if a Chinese invasion were to occur. Amid increasing tension with China, Biden's administration has repetitively walked back his statements and asserted that U.S. policy toward Taiwan has not changed. In late 2022, Biden issued several executive orders and federal rules designed to slow Chinese technological growth, and maintain U.S. leadership over computing, biotech, and clean energy.
Biden with Arab leaders at the GCC+3 summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 16, 2022
On July 21, 2022, Biden tested positive for COVID-19 with reportedly mild symptoms. According to the White House, he was treated with Paxlovid. He worked in isolation in the White House for five days and returned to isolation when he tested positive again on July 30.
On July 28, 2022, the Biden administration announced it would fill four wide gaps on the Mexico–United States border in Arizona near Yuma, an area with some of the busiest corridors for illegal crossings. During his presidential campaign, Biden had pledged to cease all future border wall construction. This occurred after both allies and critics of Biden criticized his administration's management of the southern border.
The Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 was introduced in 2021, and signed into law by Biden on August 10, 2022. The act intends to significantly improve healthcare access and funding for veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service, including burn pits. The bill gained significant media coverage due to the activism of comedian Jon Stewart.
It was the first midterm election since 1986 in which the party of the incumbent president achieved a net gain in governorships, and the first since 1934 in which the president's party lost no state legislative chambers. Democrats credited Biden for their unexpectedly favorable performance, and he celebrated the results as a strong day for democracy.
On November 2, 2022, while packing files at the Penn Biden Center, Biden's attorneys found classified documents dating to his vice presidency in a "locked closet". According to the White House, the documents were reported that day to the U.S. National Archives, which recovered the documents the next day. On December 20, a second batch of classified documents was discovered in the garage of Biden's Wilmington, Delaware residence. In January 2023, these findings were made public, and on January 12, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Robert K. Hur as special counsel to investigate "possible unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or other records". On January 20, after a 13-hour consensual search by FBI investigators, six more items with classified markings were recovered from Biden's Wilmington residence.
Mikhail Gorbachev (right) being introduced to President Obama by Joe Biden, March 2009. U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, is pictured in the background.
Biden is considered a moderate Democrat and a centrist. Throughout his long career, his positions have been aligned with the center of the Democratic Party. In 2022, journalist Sasha Issenberg wrote that Biden's "most valuable political skill" was "an innate compass for the ever-shifting mainstream of the Democratic party."
Biden has said the U.S. needs to "get tough" on China, calling China the "most serious competitor" that poses challenges to the United States' "prosperity, security, and democratic values". Biden has spoken about human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region to the Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, pledging to sanction and commercially restrict Chinese government officials and entities who carry out repression.
Biden was consistently ranked one of the least wealthy members of the Senate, which he attributed to his having been elected young. Feeling that less-wealthy public officials may be tempted to accept contributions in exchange for political favors, he proposed campaign finance reform measures during his first term. As of November 2009[update], Biden's net worth was $27,012. By November 2020[update], the Bidens were worth $9 million, largely due to sales of Biden's books and speaking fees after his vice presidency.
The political writer Howard Fineman has written, "Biden is not an academic, he's not a theoretical thinker, he's a great street pol. He comes from a long line of working people in Scranton—auto salesmen, car dealers, people who know how to make a sale. He has that great Irish gift." Political columnist David S. Broder wrote that Biden has grown over time: "He responds to real people—that's been consistent throughout. And his ability to understand himself and deal with other politicians has gotten much much better." Journalist James Traub has written that "Biden is the kind of fundamentally happy person who can be as generous toward others as he is to himself."
In recent years, especially after the 2015 death of his elder son Beau, Biden has been noted for his empathetic nature and ability to communicate about grief. In 2020, CNN wrote that his presidential campaign aimed to make him "healer-in-chief", while The New York Times described his extensive history of being called upon to give eulogies.
Journalist and TV anchor Wolf Blitzer has called Biden loquacious. He often deviates from prepared remarks and sometimes "puts his foot in his mouth." Biden has a reputation for being prone to gaffes and in 2018 called himself "a gaffe machine".The New York Times wrote that Biden's "weak filters make him capable of blurting out pretty much anything."
According to The New York Times, Biden often embellishes elements of his life or exaggerates, a trait also noted by The New Yorker in 2014. For instance, Biden has claimed to have been more active in the civil rights movement than he actually was, and has falsely recalled being an excellent student who earned three college degrees. The Times wrote, "Mr. Biden's folksiness can veer into folklore, with dates that don't quite add up and details that are exaggerated or wrong, the factual edges shaved off to make them more powerful for audiences."
^Kyrsten Sinema, whose seat was not up for election in 2022, left the Democratic Party and became an independent politician in December 2022, after the election but before the swearing in of the next Congress. As a result, 48 Democrats (rather than 49), plus Angus King and Bernie Sanders, independents who caucus with Democrats, were in the Senate upon commencement of the 118th United States Congress, on January 3, 2023. Sinema has ruled out caucusing with Republicans, and she has said she intends to align mostly with Democrats and keep her committee assignments.
^Crowley, Michael (September 24, 2009). "Hawk Down". The New Republic. Archived from the original on October 16, 2015. Retrieved January 24, 2021. Even before Obama announced his run for president, Biden was warning that Afghanistan, not Iraq, was the 'central front' in the war against Al Qaeda, requiring a major U.S. commitment. 'Whatever it takes, we should do it,' Biden said in February 2002.