The Corner

Wasn’t Joe in the Senate or Something?


Amy Holmes, who is now anchor of GBTV’s Real News at The e-mails me with an excellent question: “Where is Joe Biden?” She e-mails: 

As noted by many news outlets, White House chief of staff, Jack Lew, “misspoke” when he claimed on Sunday’s Meet the Press that Senate rules require 60 votes to pass a budget. It only takes 51. The former budget director further argued that, given the need to reach 60 votes, Republican recalcitrance was responsible for the failure of the Senate, and by extension the White House, to deliver a budget to the American people. The Washington Post gives Lew four out of four Pinocchios for his, er, “misleading claim.”

One point, though, that seems to have been overlooked by the Beltway media is that the position of president of the Senate is held by the Vice President of the United States. And currently that man happens to be former Senator Joe Biden, a man who up until 2009 served in the greatest deliberative body for almost the entirety of his adult life.

While occupants of the vice presidency have typically only alighted on their Constitutionally prescribed Senate perch to cast tie breaking votes, as notes the position of vice president (itself created only as a vague notion) has one explicit duty: to serve as of president of the Senate: “The framers also devoted scant attention to the vice president’s duties, providing only that he ‘shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be evenly divided’ (Article I, section 3).”

Moreover, “[E]ven though the nature of the job has changed, it is still greatly affected by the personality and skills of the individual incumbent.”

So, Joe, what are you waiting for? You loved the Senate! Get up there!

It would seem that if the White House was sincere in its effort to pass a budget, it need only deploy one of the Senate’s proudest retired members, previously the chamber’s fourth most senior member having served six terms, an unparalleled master of Senate rules and customs, a close political ally and colleague of the current majority leader, the pride of Delaware: Joseph R. Biden.

Tucked away just off of the Senate floor is an elegant office suite for the use of the vice president to plot strategy, conduct negotiations, hold forth, take naps. Joe Biden would seem perfectly suited to the task. One imagines he would relish it.

So, why has the White House declined to dispatch such an able lieutenant to corral the troops and deliver the 51 votes needed for legislative victory? The answer certainly can’t be lack of “access.”


The Latest