WASHINGTON ― Senators threw something of an Irish wake for Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday, hailing their longtime colleague for his successes and his sense of humor and acknowledging the highly public tragedies that have shaped his life.
Biden was elected to the Senate in November 1972 at just 29 years old. It was only a few weeks later, shortly before Christmas, when his wife and 13-month-old daughter were killed in a car crash. That loss, and the recent death of his son Beau from cancer, figured heavily in the tributes Biden’s fellow lawmakers offered him.
Some of the senators have known Biden for decades. They had tales ― and many jokes ― to tell.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said it’s been “an honor” to serve with Biden, joked that it was nice to see the vice president acting as the presiding officer again.
“Good news for him, because as Senator [Chris] Coons pointed out, the rest of us have to call him Mr. President,” McConnell said. “Good news for the rest of us, because he has to let everyone else talk.”
Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said “Biden’s life has been the material of which movies are made,” and assured his colleagues Biden would continue to serve his country after President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20.
“If I haven’t made clear to you over these many years how much I appreciated your friendship and have admired you, I beg your forgiveness,” McCain said to Biden. “We both have been privileged to know members of this body who were legends in their own time and are remembered as important, historical figures. But I haven’t known one who was a better man than you.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) posted a photo of her Senate swearing-in with Biden, praising him for his “tireless fight.”
Sens. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) were among those who paid tribute to Biden on the Senate floor.
Biden joked Monday that he was considering running for president in 2020.
“What the hell, man, anyway,” Biden said.
“I’m going to stay involved in this effort as long as I’m alive,” Biden said in September.