Joe Biden on Obama executive orders: "We're not just going to sit around"

Vice President Joe Biden discusses how the President is going to fight income inequality, reform immigration laws and his use of executive orders
Vice President Joe Biden discusses how the P... 07:26

Vice President Joe Biden, speaking of President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address and its focus on executive orders, said, "We're just not going to sit around and wait for Congress if they choose not to act."

In an interview from the library at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington on "CBS This Morning," Biden pointed to the president's words in last year's State of the Union Address -- about movement on immigration. 

"Last year, the president asked for a move on immigration and in fact, as everybody said, 'No, it's dead-on-arrival.' This year it looks like we may get something done," Biden said. "In the meantime, the president eased up some of the deportation that was underway. So the president will take action where, in fact, he thinks it will spur action in the states and federally and with the Congress or where we have to -- where we can make some progress."

Turning to the president's language in the address, "CTM" co-host Norah O'Donnell noted that the president did not use the phrase "pathway to citizenship" after using it last year. Asked if it means the president is willing to cut a deal with Republicans on providing legal status to illegal immigrants, Biden said, "No, it doesn't mean that. We still think by far and away the preferable route to go is citizenship. We don't want two-tier people in America -- those that are illegal, but not citizens, and citizens. And so, what we are saying is -- and I've said to John (Boehner) last night -- pass something. If that's what you're going to pass, pass it. To use the wonkish term -- let the Congress get to conference, let the Congress battle it out and decide what the route is and we'll decide whether we think it's good enough. Citizenship is the pathway."

Turning to critiques of Biden made in a new memoir by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Biden said he and Gates have "disagreed" for 40 years.

Gates wrote in his book that Biden has been "wrong on almost every major foreign policy decision in the last 40 years."

"Bob and I like each other," Biden said. "We both acknowledge each other. I thought we should end the war in Vietnam. That's why I ran. He didn't think that. I thought Iran-Contra was a disaster. He thought it was a good idea. I thought (Mikhail) Gorbachev was an agent of change. You remember, he encouraged Reagan not to view him as an agent of change. I thought we should have war crime tribunals in Bosnia and he thought we shouldn't. I thought we should end this war in Afghanistan after taking care of al Qaeda, which we are about to finish doing, he didn't. The president said last night it's time to end the war in Afghanistan. That's not Bob's position."

On the war in Afghanistan and drawing down forces, Biden rejected reports that he is calling for a smaller force than the 9,000 to 12,000 troops military forces have said they'd like.

"My counsel is to the president privately," he said. "I have taken no public position on that. So that's not true, number one. Number two, there is a division within even the military as to how many troops should be left behind. But the military's united on one thing… that is, if in fact, there is no security agreement where our troops are guaranteed certain rights if they stay, the military says we shouldn't stay. So Karzai has to define the so-called BSA, this basing agreement, in order for anything to happen. The president's in the process of making that decision now. I keep my counsel to him and in private, and he will make a decision shortly.

"But here's the deal," Biden continued. "We went there for an explicit purpose -- to defeat and dismantle al Qaeda and prevent them from returning. We did not go there to nation-build. We did not go there to occupy. The president said this war is coming to an end. We'll prepare to continue to train forces in Afghanistan of the Afghan military and have a small…operation there. That is a decision to be made by the president after a consultation with the military."

And what about the future for Biden? Will he hit the campaign trail for a 2016 bid for the White House?

Biden said he and his wife Jill Biden will make that decision "later down the road."

He added, "It's too early to do that right now. I've got a job to do in the meantime. If I do the job well and decide to run for president, it will help. If I don't do the job well and decide to run for president, it won't help. And if I don't decide to run for president, it will all be OK."

Asked if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to run or not run will affect his decision, he said, "No, not directly."

Biden continued: "The only reason a man or woman would run for president -- and I'm sure Hillary is the exact same way -- is if they think they're better positioned to be able to do what the nation needs at the moment and what is the plan you have for the country and that's the only thing to generate whether you run."