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Former Vice President Joe Biden said the next president has to unite the country, and having a solid plan for big problems isn’t enough.
"We need someone with proven ability to bring people together and do the hard work of getting legislation passed," Biden said at a Dec. 13 rally in San Antonio, Texas. "I have done that before — finding the Republican votes for the Recovery Act, Obamacare, helping us from falling into a Great Depression."
Given Biden’s emphasis on uniting the country, a reasonable interpretation is that he was talking about bringing together Democrats and Republicans. Biden’s staff told us he was talking broadly about his track record of passing key legislation, not necessarily to have won support from Republicans.
To the extent this was about bipartisanship, the two bills he picked don’t prove his point.
When the Democrats took the White House and both houses of Congress in 2009, they inherited a nation on a steep slide into the Great Recession. Their first major act was to pass a bill to kickstart the economy, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The bill passed 60 to 38, the number needed to avoid a filibuster, with just three Republican senators voting in favor: Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania. Not a single Republican in the House backed the bill. Biden pushed for passage; so did President Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic leadership.
Republicans said a stimulus was needed. They also said the Democratic package cost twice what was needed.
"This is one of the most expensive pieces of legislation Congress has ever approved," said then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Feb. 13, 2009. "This isn't Monopoly money. It is real. It adds up. It has to be paid back by our children and their children."
The bill needed to pass in the Senate with a 60-vote veto-proof majority, which it got. Biden lobbied fellow Democrats to back the measure, but again, so did other Democratic leaders.
Biden said cited the 2009 economic recovery bill and the 2010 Affordable Care Act as proof that he can "bring the country together." At most, those legislative wins show Biden can bring Democrats together.
The vote totals showed minimal to no bipartisanship. The recovery bill was opposed by every Republican except for three in the Senate. There was no Republican support in either chamber for Obamacare.
We rate this claim Mostly False.
Joe Biden, San Antonio rally, Dec. 13, 2019
U.S. Congress, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Feb. 17, 2009
U.S. Congress, Congressional Record - ARRA Conference Report, Feb. 13, 2009
U.S. Congress, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, March 23, 2010
Interview, Michael Gwin, rapid response deputy director, Biden for President, Dec. 17, 2019
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