Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday night blamed conservative Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas for sinking a bipartisan background check bill and, more generally, for stoking a fear of ideological primaries that has gridlocked Congress.
At a Washington fundraiser for Massachusetts Democrat Edward J. Markey, who is running in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry, Biden teed off on the GOP, especially its tea party wing. The vice president's central argument to Democratic donors was as much, if not more, a knock against the national Republican Party as it was a ringing endorsement for Markey.
“I’m not talking about the character or even the quality of the minds of the people I’m going to mention. But the last thing in the world we need now is someone who will go down to the United States Senate and support Ted Cruz, support the new senator from Kentucky — or the old senator from Kentucky,” Biden said, according to a pool report of the event.
“Have you ever seen a time when two freshman senators are able to cower the bulk of the Republican Party in the Senate? That is not hyperbole,” Biden continued. “On the gun issue, I don’t care what your position is — I called 17 senators out, nine of whom were Republicans. Not one of (them) offered an explanation on the merits of why they couldn’t vote for the background check. But almost to a person, they said, 'I don’t want to take on Ted Cruz. I don’t want to take on Rand Paul. They’ll be in my district.'
“I actually said, ‘Are you kidding? These are two freshman,’” Biden added. “This is a different party folks. They’re not bad guys, and they’re both very bright guys. And I’m not questioning their motive.”
Paul and Cruz's offices did not immediately respond for comment late Tuesday night. Though both senators voted against the background check bill Biden cited to donors, it's worth noting that earlier Tuesday, Paul voted in favor of beginning debate on a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration overhaul. Cruz was one of 15 senators to vote "no."
Biden's remarks in D.C. Tuesday — though certainly punctuated by Biden-esque flair — were not so far off from national Democrats' campaign tactics in the state. Earlier this week, CQ Roll Call reported that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Senate Majority PAC had made major ad buys to try to tie Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez to the national party. The DSCC purchased $751,000 in TV time through June 25 and Senate Majority PAC purchased $448,000 through June 17.
Biden, who appeared at the fundraiser with former Vice President Al Gore, also attempted to exorcise the specter of Republican Scott P. Brown's victory in the last Massachusetts special election, held in 2010. He urged rich Democrats to open up their wallets now, because minority voters might not turn out without President Barack Obama on the ticket.
“There’s a big difference in this race,” Biden said. “Barack Obama’s not at the head of the ticket. And that means those legions of African-Americans and Latinos are not automatically going to come out. No one has energized them like Barack Obama. But he’s not on the ticket. So don’t take this one for granted.”
“This is an off-year, off-cycle, off-month election. He needs every solitary bit of financial help you can give to carry this home,” Biden said. “Please, don’t be asking yourself two months from now, ‘God why didn’t I do more?’”
Cruz's office provided the following response. "Vice President Biden is a good man but he's out of touch on the economy, the Constitution, and the size and scope of government. Democrats are clearly concerned by Republicans who are waking up and starting to fight, and making an impact. Senator Cruz will keep fighting and doing what he promised Texans. He's proud to play a role getting the country back to the principles that have made it the wonder of the world."