Biden: 'Middle class has been hammered'

In his address to Congress on Tuesday night, President Obama pitched a populist message and said that “no challenge is more urgent” than aiding the middle class. Obama said he would “restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

Biden said that the administration was focused on revitalizing manufacturing jobs and would focus heavily on education. “That’s part of the middle-class dream … you can have a kid go on to college,” he said.

The vice president also accused Republicans of playing an obstructionist role and criticized the GOP leadership for not reining in more conservative members of the caucus, saying that there was a “minority that seems to be the tail wagging the dog.”

“This president came in with open arms and he said, ‘I’m willing to talk to anybody, to sit down,’ ” said Biden. But he added that deals with GOP leaders often came undone after resistance from its caucus.

“We made deals,” he said. “We shook hands … and they called back and said, ‘Joe, I can’t make a deal. I can’t get it done.’ ”

Biden said the administration had bent over backward to negotiate with the GOP. He said he had “spent over 40 hours sitting with GOP leadership in a room, with no press, trying to do that.” 

He pointed to the Republican stance on the payroll tax cut extension in December, saying it was emblematic of the opposition’s dysfunction. 

“The whole world came down on them, from The Wall Street Journal to their own people,” Biden said. House Republicans initially resisted a Senate-brokered agreement to extend the tax holiday by two months in favor of a longer yearlong deal but conceded after pressure from conservatives and GOP senators.

“At the end of the day I kept being told there are 86 folks in the House who won’t meet for anything that has one penny of revenue,” Biden said about the spending battles that dominated Congress in 2011.

Biden also weighed in on the GOP primary contest, joking that he was no expert on presidential races. “I couldn’t figure out the Democratic primary, or I would have joined the president early on,” Biden said to CBS’s Charlie Rose. 

“There’s no fundamental difference between Newt Gingrich and Gov. Romney on the things we care about, on the whole issue of how we deal with foreign policy, how we deal with domestic policy,” he said of the close GOP race. 

Recent polls show Gingrich, the winner of the South Carolina primary, overtaking longtime front-runner and presumptive nominee Romney in national polls.

Biden had run for the Democratic nomination in 2008 but dropped out shortly after the Iowa caucuses. He has previously said that he has not yet ruled out a possible bid in 2016.

Biden also offered praise for the U.S. special forces who staged a daring operation in Somalia, rescuing two aid workers, one an American.

Biden said the operation was “in the works for some time.” “This was incredibly daring — these guys are absolutely mind-blowingly effective at what they do,” he said.

Biden also delivered a message to “all these pirates and those terrorists": “We’ll find you and we will take care of America’s interests."