Vice President Joe Biden rallied an audience of Democratic officials and activists at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's issues conference in New York City Saturday, telling an enthusiastic crowd that the 2012 election results rendered a decisive verdict on America's future direction - and that Republicans "didn't get the message."
"I really thought the fever would break" after the November election, Biden said. The president's re-election was "decisive," he said, but it is "quite clear [Republicans] didn't get the message."
That, or "they got the message and they don't think it matters," he said.
The problem, Biden said, is a lack of effectual leaders in the GOP. "There is nobody you can sit across the table from and shake hands, make a deal with." He implied that activists, not party leaders, are ruling the Republican roost at the moment: "The problem is, we have a tail wagging the dog in the Republican Party."
Turning to President Obama's gun-control agenda, which Biden has played a key role in developing and promoting, he said, "I have no doubt about how tough it is to get anything done on this issue."
But last year's deadly massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., changed the calculus, he said. "I believe this is a different time. What happened in Newtown shocked the conscience of the American public." Opponents of gun control, Biden said, "cannot come up with this malarkey and have people believe it any more."
The vice president pushed, among other policy proposals, universal background checks and a ban on military-style assault weapons. The latter this week was jettisoned by Senate Democrats who feared the controversial measure would jeopardize the passage of other, more broadly supported gun laws.
"Why the hell can't we show the courage by standing up and doing what the American people want us to do?" Biden asked, prompting a thunderous round of applause from the audience.
Biden's speech also touched on immigration reform, another key plank of Mr. Obama's second-term agenda. A comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Biden said, is "overwhelmingly in the interest" of the country.
Students from foreign countries who attend American universities should get a "green card stamped to their diploma" when they graduate, Biden said.
An increased demand for high-skill workers, particularly in so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), is a key driving force behind the push for immigration reform and a bipartisan bit of agreement on an issue that can become very fractious.
The vice president dwelt briefly on the economy, which he said was "just waiting to be unlocked." He also spoke about several potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders, calling Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a "decent man" and earning a laugh with his declaration that "the Ryan budget is absolutely - the Ryan budget."
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is the author of a House GOP budget lionized by supporters and anathema to opponents.
Biden is himself rumored to be considering a presidential run in 2016. In the meantime, though, he is content to bask in the glow of the man currently holding the office. "He pulled off the Turkey-Israeli deal" during his trip to the Middle East, Biden said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over a 2010 flotilla raid that killed nine Turks, an apology engineered in part by Mr. Obama. "I'm proud to be his vice president," Biden said.
The vice president closed by exhorting the activists and officials in the audience to leave no stone unturned in their drive to wrest the House of Representatives from Republican control in the 2014 midterm elections. "We desperately need you to help elect at least 17 Democrats," he said. "We can win those seats.
"Please, please, whatever you were going to do - do twice what you were going to do," he said.