Biden Bids Emotional Farewell to Senate

Posted January 15, 2009 at 10:45am

In a speech laced with stories from his 36-year Senate career, Vice President-elect Joseph Biden on Thursday bid his colleagues farewell and yielded the floor one last time as a Democratic Senator from Delaware.

Listing the names of his Senate heroes, like former Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) and Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash.), Biden called on Senators to become “giants” of the chamber and to inspire the electorate.

“Carve your name in these drawers, [and] 40 years from now, when someone opens these desks, will they think of you as I think of these names?” Biden asked, holding up the drawer from his desk in the back row of the Senate floor. “That’s a test you’re all going to have to face.”

Biden, who will be sworn in as Obama’s vice president on Jan. 20, will officially resign his Senate seat at 5 p.m. today. The notoriously verbose Member was first elected in 1972 and won re-election to his seventh term last year. Only 19 Senators have served seven terms, a statistic that Biden pointed out in his farewell address.

“Except for the title of father, there’s no title I am more proud of than the title of United States Senator. Even more than that of vice president of the United States,” Biden told his colleagues, as his wife, Jill, and son, Hunter, watched from the gallery above. “I may not be a Member anymore, [but] I’m still awestruck by this chamber.”

Biden, who said his 1972 Senate bid was spurred by a passion for civil rights, expressed special pride in leaving the body to join Obama administration.

“The arch of history is long, but it does indeed bend toward justice,” an emotional Biden said.