Biden charms in Senate ceremonies


He kissed mothers. He called grandmothers. He even took selfies.

Yes, Vice President Biden was back in the Old Senate Chamber on Tuesday, ceremonially swearing in a new crop of senators in his usual glad-handing style — many handshakes, hugs and lots of one-liners.

“Big-time Charlie!” Biden said early on in the proceedings, pointing to Sen. Pat Roberts’s (R-Kan.) 4-year-old grandson.

After Charlie saluted at Biden, the vice president sought a picture with just the two of them. “He’s my saluting guy,” Biden said. "Charlie, now remember me when you're president, O.K.?"

Later he jokingly told Roberts’s daughter, “Thank God you look like your mother.”

In all, the vice president took about two hours to press the flesh with roughly three dozen senators and their families, almost all of whom had been newly elected or were reelected for another six-year term.

Biden often talked with them at length after ticking off the oath of office and taking the ceremonial picture — much to the consternation of the Senate aides trying to move the show along. 

And as usual, Biden directed most of his charm at the senators’ mothers and their children and grandchildren, touching the cheeks of more than one mother and at one point exclaiming, “I like kids better than people!” 

“He said Grandpa: ‘Can I talk to a Democrat?’ ” Biden insisted when 10-month-old Charlie reached toward new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Biden even took the charm offensive long-distance, calling new Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-Colo.) grandmother Betty to congratulate her.

After handing the phone back to the Republican, Biden said that the senator’s grandmother appreciated the call but had better things to do. “I don’t have time right now," Biden said, recounting the conversation. "I’m watching my grandson Cory Gardner get sworn in." 

And for the most part, the senators and their families seemed to soak up the attention, though one of Sen. Chris Coons’s (D-Del.) daughters did appear to pull away when the vice president went in for a peck on the cheek.

Others welcomed the show of affection.

“I never thought I’d be hugging you,” the mother of Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told Biden. 

“Stranger things have happened, Mom,” Biden shot back.

The dirty secret of Biden’s rollicking performance is that he had no problem recycling quips, seemingly unafraid of his act seeming worn. 

Biden told at least five teenaged girls that he hoped their fathers had a “big fence” surrounding the house. Meanwhile, one of Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) entourage told the vice president he had told one of those girls that she couldn’t date seriously until she was 30 when Biden swore Hatch in two years ago.

Swearing in Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Biden couldn’t help but point out family resemblances. “You couldn’t deny it,” Biden told the two senators’ brothers.

He also had no issue telling men, like the new husband of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-N.H.) daughter, that “you married up, son.” 

In fact, Biden’s antics offered a touch of bipartisanship on a day when Senate Democrats and Republicans were already starting to quarrel over the Keystone XL oil pipeline. 

Biden took photos of himself with the daughter of Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Shaheen’s grandson and the daughters of Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.).

And as Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who beat back a tough primary challenge to win a seventh term, strode toward Biden, the vice president shouted out, “Thaddeus!” (The senator's name is actually William Thad Cochran.)

“The best guy in the United States Senate right here!” Biden added. “I can say that now that he's won."

This post was updated at 6:59 p.m.