Senator-in-Waiting Doesn’t Mind Delay

Posted January 6, 2009 at 6:41pm

Amid all the excitement and pageantry surrounding the swearing in of new and re-elected Members on Tuesday, Ted Kaufman, Delaware’s Senator-in-waiting, said he didn’t mind waiting just little bit longer so that Vice President-elect Joseph Biden could have a victory lap in a place he’s come to love so much.

“Being the Senator from Delaware has been an incredible experience for [Biden] … Anyone that knows him would know he wanted to be sworn in” one more time, Kaufman said in an interview.

Along with being elected vice president in November, Biden won a seventh term to the Senate and was sworn in to that job on Tuesday by the man he’ll soon replace: Vice President Dick Cheney. Biden will resign his Senate seat sometime in the next two weeks ahead of being sworn in to his new executive branch job on Jan. 20.

On Tuesday, Kaufman, who was tapped by outgoing Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D) in November to replace Biden on Capitol Hill, watched his close friend’s seventh swearing-in on a television set in Biden’s Capitol Hill office. It was an appropriate place for Kaufman to watch from, seeing as how he served on Biden’s Senate staff for 21 years, 19 as chief of staff.

“We had a conversation after the reception about how much I’m going to like being in the Senate, how great an experience it was for him … and how bittersweet it is” for him, Kaufman said Tuesday afternoon. “Being vice president is going to be a wonderful, wonderful experience, but he is a Senate person after spending all those years there. He thinks the world of the place. … He’s said several times [to me], ‘this is going to be a great experience, you are going to love it here.’”

Kaufman, 69, has made it clear that he doesn’t plan on staying in the Senate long. He has no plans to run in the 2010 special election that will take place to fill the remaining four years of Biden’s term. Which means, of course, that he would be getting ready to leave office just in time for state Attorney General Beau Biden (D) to come home from an overseas military deployment and throw his hat in the ring for his dad’s old seat.

It also means that Kaufman doesn’t have to worry too much about little things that other Senators fret over, like seniority. But it’s not like that subject hasn’t crossed his mind. He said he’s “soaring” in seniority now that that Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) announced they won’t resign until they are confirmed to their posts in Obama’s Cabinet.

“I could move up even more depending on what happens in Illinois and Minnesota. I could be 96,” he said.

Kaufman said no exact time frame has been set for when he’ll officially take over Biden’s Senate seat. “It’ll be sometime mid- to end of next week,” he said. “I’m not in any hurry. When it happens it happens.”

And when it does happen, Kaufman said he’s ready for the enormous jump of moving from staffer to Member.

“Today made it less daunting. The familiarity of watching this unfold and you’ve been there [seven] times before and seen a lot of the same people, Senators and staff and folks that I’ve known for years. … I feel very very comfortable with it.”

But for the incoming Senator, Tuesday wasn’t about the future and it wasn’t even about Ted Kaufman.

“Today was much more about Joe Biden,” Kaufman said. “The contrast between 1972 when he was just 30 when he got sworn in [for the first time] and the idea that back then there was any chance you’d be thinking about seven swearing- ins. … It was a great day.”