WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden said Friday during a virtual fundraiser that he told his Democratic competitor, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., he will begin the vetting process for a running mate.
Biden has emerged as the likely Democratic nominee with Sanders trailing him by about 300 pledged delegates. Biden is 774 delegates shy of the 1,991 needed to lock up the presidential nomination.
"I am in the process and I've actually had this discussion with Bernie because he's a friend – we're competitors, he's a friend," Biden said Friday, according to pool reports. He continued that he doesn't want Sanders to "think I'm being presumptuous."
"But you have to start now deciding who you're going to have background checks done on as vice presidential candidates and it takes time," he continued.
He acknowledged that there's more time to select a vice president because the 2020 Democratic National Convention was pushed back to mid-August as organizers try to navigate the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The event, originally scheduled for July 13-17, will instead be held the week of Aug. 17.
However, Biden said his campaign plans to announce a committee "sometime in the middle of the month" to oversee the nominating vetting process for a running mate.
Biden emphasized on Friday that he believes "it's critically important that the vice president be a woman, with the experience and background to do the job," once again reiterating a commitment he made during a March Democratic presidential debate when he said he would pick a woman to be his running mate.
Biden said he's asked his old boss, former President Barack Obama, for advice on choosing a vice president and cabinet members.
Adding diversity to the Democratic ticket is widely seen as a priority for a party that now has two white men, both in their late 70s, as the last two candidates. Biden addressed that notion Friday, saying he would fill his cabinet to reflect the country's diversity, while also acknowledging his age, which is 77: "There's an enormous number of really qualified people, and one of the ways to deal with age is to build a bench ... to build a bench of younger, really qualified people."
He also said that he has spoken with others about potential cabinet positions. “If the Lord Almighty came down and said, ‘You’re president tomorrow. Write down in the next 15 minutes your Cabinet,’ I think I could do it,” he said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden tells Bernie Sanders he will begin the VP vetting process