"Fiscal cliff" deal gives Biden big boost

Vice President Joe Biden arrives for a House Democratic Caucus meeting to discuss the legislation that will blunt the effects of the "fiscal cliff" Jan. 1, 2013, in Washington.
Vice President Joe Biden arrives for a House Democratic Caucus meeting to discuss the legislation that will blunt the effects of the "fiscal cliff" Jan. 1, 2013, in Washington.
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(CBS News) WASHINGTON - Vice President Joe Biden is getting much of the credit from Republicans and Democrats for nailing down the final deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff." CBS News correspondent Bill Plante reports the message at the White House is: Biden is back.

As President Obama's second term comes up, it's a fresh start for Biden. He's been the administration's chief negotiator with Congress, one of several recent high-profile responsibilities delegated by the president. It's a good position for Biden to be in, especially since his foot-in-mouth style often got him trouble with his boss in 2012.

"I want to thank the work that was done by my extraordinary vice president, Joe Biden," Mr. Obama said late Tuesday night, a presidential attaboy for the man who cleared the path to compromise in three action-packed days.

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The White House sent the vice president to the Capitol twice to convince skeptical Democrats that the fiscal cliff deal was a good one. He presented himself as the man who could deliver.

"What was your selling point?" one reporter asked Biden after he met with Senate Democrats on New Year's Eve.

"Me!" Biden responded.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican, ditched Harry Reid, his counterpart across the aisle, and asked to negotiate exclusively with Biden. The two men talked around the clock on the phone after midnight Monday and at 6 later that morning.

"I appreciate the vice president's willingness to get this done for the country," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

It was the second time in less than two weeks that the president put his No. 2 in charge.

Last month, Biden was tapped to address gun violence after the mass school shooting in Connecticut.

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Biden's return as chief problem-solver followed a string of gaffes that led the White House to limit his public role for a time, essentially benching the vice president, after he jumped the gun in May and endorsed same-sex marriage.

"I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights," Biden said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

That statement forced the president to change his position on the issue earlier than he had planned.

Then in August, Biden outraged both Republicans and Democrats when he said this about Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to an African-American audience:

"He's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules - unchain Wall Street! They're going to put y'all back in chains."

But Biden rebounded with a strong debate performance in October, a week after the president's disappointing showing in Denver.

"With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey," Biden said about comments from his opponent, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

The White House has always used the chatty, folksy vice president as a messenger to the middle class. But it's Biden's understanding of the Senate and its ways - and the friendships he built there over 36 years - that helped the president, who has few friends on Capitol Hill, to get this deal.

After this, the White House likely won't begrudge him a few more verbal gaffes.

(Above, watch Bill Plante's report on the vice president's new cache at the White House)