Biden explains past busing position after debate attack

Biden explains past busing position after debate attack
© NBC

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties British Bookmaker: Warren has replaced Biden as Democratic primary favorite MORE defended his past opposition to busing black students to predominantly white schools after he was attacked on the issue in his first Democratic presidential debate appearance.

After a tense exchange with Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties Conservative commentator rips Shapiro over criticism of people with multiple jobs MORE (D-Calif.) about his record on civil rights, Biden sought to clarify his position, saying he believed the issue should have been decided at the local level and that courts, rather than the Education Department, should set the rules. 

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“I supported busing to eliminate de jure segregation,” he told MSNBC after the debate. "But what we’re talking about is whether or not the Department of Education, as opposed to the courts, could order de jure segregation, meaning segregation imposed by law.” 

“I supported the court’s ability to strike down any, to order busing, in fact I voted against an amendment that came up in the Senate ... that wanted to take away the power of the court to stop busing.”

Pivoting away from his decades worth of experience dealing with race issues in Washington, Biden urged the conversation moving forward to focus on future actions.

“It should be about the future. It should be about what we’re going to do to deal with institutional racism. And it’s real,” he said. “We’re going at this backwards.” 

The exchange with Harris was the emotional high point of the debate, as Harris pointed out that she herself had benefited from busing as a child.

Biden has sought to shield himself from criticism about race in recent weeks after touting his ability at a fundraiser to work with two segregationist senators while he was in Congress, a comment Harris, who is of Indian and Jamaican descent, said was “hurtful.”