Former vice president Joe Biden tried to parry an attack on his record on racial issues by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) at the Democratic debate on Thursday evening, saying that he had not opposed “busing” except in limited cases.
Harris argued that she, like other black Americans, had benefited from controversial desegregation policies that sought to bring minority students to predominantly white schools (and vice versa).
She told Biden: “It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two U.S. senators who built their reputations and careers on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you worked with them to oppose busing.”
Biden said that Harris had mischaracterized his record, both in terms of his remarks about former segregationists, and his position on busing.
“I did not oppose busing in America,” he said. “What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed.”
However, Biden opposed busing in the mid-1970s. The Department of Education was not created until 1979.
Moreover, as Politico recently noted, Biden opposed busing broadly, not in a narrow sense:
Buckling to political pressure from his white constituents who wanted to keep things the way they were, Biden established himself as a leading Democratic opponent of busing in the Senate.
Biden supported a measure sponsored by Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), a former Klansman who had held the floor for more than 14 hours in a filibuster against the 1964 civil rights bill, that prohibited the use of federal funds to transport students beyond the school closest to their homes and that passed into law in 1976. And in 1977, Biden co-sponsored a measure that further restricted the federal government from desegregating city and suburban schools with redistricting measures like school clustering and pairing. This measure won the approval of a majority of his Senate colleagues, and President Jimmy Carter later signed the provision into law, significantly narrowing legislative avenues for reform.
Biden also cited his record on other civil rights issues. However, his position on busing is a matter of record.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.