Senate pays tribute to Biden

Biden leaves door open for 2020 run
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Story highlights

  • He served in the Senate for 36 years
  • He's had an emotional week

Washington (CNN)Senators from both sides of the aisle spent part of Wednesday honoring the legacy of Vice President Joe Biden on the chamber floor.

Biden served in the Senate for 36 years representing Delaware before spending eight years as vice president.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, was among those who took to the the podium to share Biden stories that both praised his character and included some of his trademark humor.
    "The amazing thing is the man we honor today wasn't always a talker," McConnell said. "He suffered from a debilitating stutter for most of his childhood. He was teased for it. But he was determined to overcome it and so he did. With hard work. With determination. With the support of his family, is classic Joe Biden, he's never stopped talking since."
    Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid took the floor to tell an anecdote about Biden's late wife, Neilia Hunter, who died in a car crash in 1972.
    "I'm sure just like Jill, she must have been a knockout to look at," Reid said during his story. "Without being too personal ... (meeting her) came a time when her father came to her and said, 'You know, he's not that much. He comes from a family that's not like ours.' And she said, 'Dad stop. Because if you make me choose between you and Joe, I'm going to choose Joe.'"
    Reid continued to talk about Biden's life story about how he was elected to the United States Senate.
    "Every aspect of Joe's life has been unique. It's been special," Reid said.
    Sen. Chris Coons, who replaced Biden in the Senate when he became vice president, led the effort to honor him.
    "Joe Biden has spent his entire adult life working across the aisle in Washington to get things done for the American people and representing our country proudly on the world stage, but he's also cherished by his colleagues past and present as a good man, a loyal friend, and a true patriot," said Coons told Delaware Online. "I look forward to seeing what Joe and his family accomplish in their next chapter in public service."
    Former Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine also honored Biden with what he called a "quintessential" story from election day 2008 when Biden took time to meet with an 18 year old who was voting for the first time and suffered from sickle cell anemia.
    "The fact that you took your time on that day of importance to you, to shed some light and offer some joy to someone who was struggling -- that's the Joe Biden that has us here for two hours offering these tributes," Kaine said while fighting back tears on the Senate floor.
    Biden could be seen wiping away a tear following Kaine's remarks. Biden campaigned heavily for Kaine and former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.
    Biden has had an emotional week. Senators voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to approve a $6.3 billion bill to boost spending for medical research on cancer and other diseases as well as address the mental health crisis and opioid epidemic in the country. The bill, 21st Century Cures Act, was named in honor of Biden's late son Beau Biden, and has been sent to President Barack Obama's desk.
    And earlier this week, Biden was emotional on the chamber floor when the Senators motioned to rename the bill after his late son.
    Biden has also been stoking speculation that he might run for president in 2020. He told Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show" Tuesday night that he's learned to "never say never."
    "I'm a great respecter of fate. I don't plan on running again. But to say you know what's going to happen in four years, I just think is -- is not rational," Biden said.