During last week’s vice presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden claimed he was sitting “in the room” where the 1983 negotiations over Social Security took place. There’s only one problem — it doesn’t appear to be true.
ABC’s Jake Tapper first reported that Biden seems to have “significantly” overstated his role in the negotiations.
“Look, I was there when we did that with Social Security in 1983. I was one of eight people sitting in the room that included Tip O’Neill negotiating with President Reagan,” Biden said during the VP debate. “We all got together and everybody said, as long as everybody’s in the deal, everybody’s in the deal, and everybody is making some sacrifice, we can find a way.”
Biden reportedly made a similar claim on “Meet the Press” in 2007, saying he was “one of five people — I was the junior guy — in the meeting with Bob Dole and George Mitchell when we put Social Security on the right path for 60 years.”
However, Tapper did a little digging and found out that, according to the historical record, not only was Biden not in “the room,” he wasn’t even a significant figure in the 1983 Social Security negotiations.
Biden’s office released a statement after the debate that argued that the vice president was merely saying he was part of the negotiations not that he played a significant role in the reform process:
“In 1983, then-Sen. Biden was one of many senators who weighed in on budget-related issues with the party leadership, including on Social Security reform,” the statement from the vice president’s office said. “In particular, he was part of a group of members who met with Tip O’Neill while the Speaker was negotiating with President Reagan on reform specifics. In those meetings, the Vice President and other members gave their thoughts on the negotiations to the Speaker and Senate Minority Leader Robert Byrd. The consensus of that group was that as long as everyone is in on the deal, and everyone is making sacrifices, they should be able to find a way. O’Neill and Reagan worked it out.”
That certainly sounds a little different than what Biden said at the debate.
But according to the historical record, Biden’s inclusion in the “working group” did not translate into any important role in the reform talks.
ABC’s Tapper has more details:
Dole told ABC News, when asked about the vice president playing any sort of role in Social Security Reform: “Biden’s a good friend of mine, and I’ve been really racking my brain here, but I don’t remember that.”
Alan Greenspan, who declined to comment on the record, wrote about the commission in his book, “The Age of Turbulence,” and didn’t mention Biden’s name at all in his version of events.
Most of the others who were indeed in the room have passed away. George Mitchell was traveling and could not be reached for comment.
Former Social Security Commissioner Robert Ball, who was on the commission, wrote about the importance of other key players in the reforms who were not on the commission, including Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. J.J. Pickle, chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. He did not mention Biden.
Tapper also points out that Biden does not mention his Social Security accomplishments in his memoir, “Promises to Keep.” Nor does a March 1983 Washington Post editorial that names the “many heroes of the fight to rescue Social Security.”
Biden’s Social Security stretch is the fourth debate statement that the White House has had to walk back or clarify. Remember, Biden said “we” didn’t know the U.S. Consulate in Libya had requested more security. He also said that U.S. troops would be brought home from Afghanistan in 2014 “period” when in reality the State Department is currently in negotiations to keep troops there past 2014. Finally, Biden claimed President Obama’s tax plan would only raise taxes on individuals earning more than $1 million, a claim that the White House quickly shot down.
To read Tapper’s entire report, click here.
Watch Biden’s comments from 2007 here:
Featured image from AFP/Getty Images.