Joe Biden Reminisces About Days Lunching with Segregationist Senators

President Joe Biden appeared to reminisce about eating lunch with segregationist senators during the early part of his political career, in remarks that echo previous comments he's made about well-known supporters of segregation.

Biden was speaking at the United Performance Metals facility north of Cincinnati, Ohio and was joined by both serving senators for the state when he made reference to the late Senators James Eastland (D-MS) and Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

"You know, things have kind of changed since the days when I first got there," Biden said of the U.S. Senate.

"I was there, I got elected when I was 29 years old in the United States Senate, from a very modest background. And I was there for 36 years before becoming vice president," he said.

"We always used to fight like hell," Biden went on. "And even back in the old days when we had real segregationists like Eastland and Thurmond and all those guys. But at least we'd end up eating lunch together. Things have changed. We gotta bring it back."

Biden appeared to be lamenting the current partisan division in the Senate - an issue he's touched on before. The Senate is currently divided between 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats.

Vice President Kamala Harris has sometimes had to use her casting vote to allow her party to pass legislation or advance nominations.

Biden also addressed Ohio's Republican Senator Rob Portman, who is not standing for re-election this year. The president told Portman he was "sorry" Portman was retiring and that he was "one of the good guys" because of the way he treats other senators.

Strom Thurmond, who died in 2003, was a notorious supporter of racial segregation who famously filibustered the 1957 Civil Rights Act. He spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes but did not prevent the legislation's passage.

James Eastland, who died in 1986, often described African Americans as "an inferior race" and sometimes spoke on the Senate floor about what he called "mongrelization" of races.

Biden spoke about Eastland, who was a fellow Democratic senator, at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, where he also spoke fondly of the late Senator John Stennis, a Mississippi Democrat who was also a segregationist.

Biden has sometimes discussed his time in the Senate and compared it favorably to conditions in the chamber today, arguing that senators were more civil and bipartisan in the past.

In January, Biden took aim at Republicans for their lack of co-operation with his agenda.

"I did not anticipate that there'd be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn't get anything done," the president said.

"Think about this: What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they're for," he said.

Newsweek has asked the White House for comment.

Joe Biden Speaks in Ohio
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to an audience at United Performance Metals on May 6, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Biden spoke about his relationship with two deceases segregationist senators in remarks on Friday. Jon Cherry/Getty Images