Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech: Vice President Biden

Posted on December 7, 2016

Knowing there is a reception coming up, I will try to set a good example. 

My late friend Alex Haley, the author of Roots, once told me after hearing a speech, he said, "May I make a suggestion?" I said, “Well, yes.” He said, “If when you make a speech you would say, instead of making a speech, let me tell you a story, someone might actually listen to what you have to say.”

I've always remembered that. Let me tell one short story about a Vice President who knows how to get things done.

Nearly two years ago you and President Obama invited Senator Corker and me to go Knoxville with you when the president announced his community college program. And before that we had lunch privately. And we talked about many things. But the president talked about his interest in precision medicine. So I said, Mr. President, “We're working on something we call 21st Century Cures. Why don't we fold that into your precision medicine interest and we'll do it together.”

A year later at the State of the Union Address, the president talked about the Cancer Moonshot and announced that Joe Biden would be in charge of that. So I talked to you and said, “We'll just fold that in as well.” Well, it wasn't moving along as fast as I liked because as you know, and as most people here know, it's full of difficult issues: FDA, safety, drug company incentives and then the funding issues on both sides of the aisle. 

So I called you and I said, “Joe, we're not moving like we should.” And you said, “Well, let me see what I can do.” And you held a meeting of the Democrats and Republicans in the House, Senator Murray and me, and you moved us along pretty well and off we would go. You didn't take credit for that. Nobody knew much about it. You were the key to that.

Then it got stuck again. I called you again. “Joe,” I said, “I've got the precision medicine, the Cancer Moonshot, we've got the BRAIN Initiative, we’ve got the opioids money, but I can't get a response. I feel like the butler standing with the silver platter outside the Oval Office and no one will take the order.”

And you said, “If you want to feel like a butler, try being vice president.”

Well, the fact was, you went to work again, the president called, he went to work, Speaker Ryan went to work, Senator McConnell went to work, and today that legislation on which you worked so hard passed the Senate with 94 votes.

That's an example of a man who understands the issues, who knows how to get things done, and who has the respect of everybody in this body. 

This is Pearl Harbor day. Pearl Harbor day reminds us of the greatest generation, men and women who cared about the country, didn't care about the credit and resolved their differences and realized that diversity is important but turning that diversity into one America is even more important. 

You're not of that generation. But you show the same spirit as that generation did and your work on 21st Century Cures and the fact that the Cancer Moonshot section is not only something that is your initiative, and was named for your son, it is important, not just to you but for all of us. You’re our friend, every single one of us. We honor you today. We're delighted that you came down to let us tell a few stories about your effectiveness as Vice President of the United States.