Former Vice President Joe Biden supported a constitutional amendment to prevent busing to achieve school desegregation.
Biden, who is under fire for praising segregationists, was asked about the divisive issue and if he would support a constitutional amendment to resolve it during an interview with National Public Radio in 1975.
“That would clearly do it,” he said. “We are trying to figure out whether or not we can come up with an innovative piece of legislation which would limit the remedy and I don’t honestly don’t know whether we can come up with something constitutional.”
Biden, at the time a first-term Senator from Delaware, said a constitutional amendment was attractive because it presented an opportunity to “eliminate” busing without running afoul of the Supreme Court or the U.S. Constitution.
“If we can’t I will not in an attempt to eliminate busing violate the Constitution,” he continued. “I won’t do that. The only way if I’m going to go at it, I’m going to go at it through a constitutional amendment if it can’t be done through a piece of legislation.”
In another portion of the interview, Biden claimed liberals favored busing, not for practical reasons, but because those associated with opposing it were racists and segregationists.
“I think that part of the reason why much of this has not developed, much of the change has not developed, is because it has been an issue that has been in the hands of the racist,” he said. “We liberals have out-of-hand rejected it because, if George Wallace is for it, it must be bad.”
“And so we haven’t really looked at it,” Biden continued. “Now there’s a confluence of streams. There is academic ferment against it — not majority, but academic ferment against it. There are young blacks and young white leaders against it.”
A year after the interview, Biden supported a law to prohibit federal funds from being used to transport students beyond the school closest to their homes. The law was authored by then-Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), who was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan and had unsuccessfully filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
On Thursday, Biden’s record on busing was front and center during the first Democrat presidential debate when Sen. Kamala Harris confronted the former vice president on the topic.
“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bussed to school every day. That little girl was me,” Harris said. “So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously.”
Biden attempted to defend himself, claiming Harris had mischaracterized his position.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson weighed in on Thursday, saying Biden had been “on the wrong side of history.”