Joe Biden Steals the Spotlight

The vice president is making deals and grabbing headlines.

By SHARE
FE_130102_bidenmcconnell.jpg
Vice President Joe Biden, right, shakes hands with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, before speaking at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky., Friday, Feb. 11, 2011.

These are heady times for Vice President Joe Biden. He is at the epicenter of two of the nation's most pressing issues, and gives every indication of relishing his role as the consummate Washington insider.

This may not be a role that most Americans appreciate because Washington insiders have developed such a reputation for gamesmanship and brinksmanship in recent years. But in the insular world of the capital, Biden is at the right place at the right time. He is using his many Washington connections and his talents as a political bargainer to push the system toward action on gun control.

[READ: Gun Rights Groups to Meet With Joe Biden Thursday]

And he helped to arrange a last-minute compromise, although an imperfect and temporary one, on the budget's fiscal cliff to start off the year.

Today, Biden is in the headlines as chairman of President Obama's task force on gun control in reaction to the elementary-school massacre in Connecticut last month.

He is scheduled to meet with members of pro-gun groups Thursday, including a representative of the National Rifle Association. It will be the latest of many discussions that Biden has held with all sides on the issue.

Seizing the moment, he says he will present the president with wide-ranging recommendations including ideas for legislation and for executive action that wouldn't require congressional approval.

"The president is going to act," Biden told reporters Wednesday before a meeting with gun-control advocates and victims of gun violence. "There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven't decided what that is yet, but we're compiling it all … as well as legislative action we believe is required."

[BROWSE: Political Cartoons on Gun Control and Gun Violence]

Biden became vice president in 2009 after a long career in the Senate from Delaware. He knows most of the senior players in Congress, where he is widely respected.

Biden hasn't made clear whether he will run for president again in 2016 when Obama leaves the White House. (Obama is prohibited by the Constitution from serving a third term.)

But Biden's track record in running for president hasn't been good. He tried twice and failed badly each time. And he has developed a reputation for gaffes such as when he was at a Missouri event in 2008 and urged state Senator Chuck Graham to "Stand up, Chuck, let 'em see ya." Graham was in a wheelchair.

Also in 2008, Biden said in Ohio that the Republican economic plan failed to tackle the main problem of the middle class: "And it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: Jobs. J-O-B-S. Jobs." Last August, he said, "Folks, I can tell you I've known eight presidents, three of them intimately."

Democratic strategists point out that Americans in recent years have mostly elected Washington outsiders or fresh faces to the presidency, such as Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Being a Washington insider such as Biden no longer has much appeal in either major party.

[READ: Will Joe Biden's Gun Policy Task Force Be Effective?]

But for now, Biden is making the most of his job as a trouble shooter and deal maker.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.