Vice President Biden held a rare on-the-record chat with reporters accompanying him Wednesday afternoon aboard Air Force Two, laying out the administration's priorities, his hopes for compromise with Republicans on the fiscal challenges facing the nation and the conclusions he drew from election night.
"I hope there's going to be some real soul-searching about, [in the] Republican Party, about what they're willing to cooperate on," Biden said.
Here is the partial transcript provided by the reporters traveling with the the vice president.
Q: What’s your takeaway from last night, the result and the size of the victory?
VP: My takeaway is that we've got a lot of work to do. I talked to the president. We’re really anxious to get moving on, first of all, dealing with the first things first, this fiscal cliff. I think we can do it. I think the real takeaway is what is the takeaway going to be on the part of our Republican colleagues? What judgment are they going to make? And having been a Democrat elected in 1972 by 3,200 votes, I know it takes a little time to kind of digest what’s going on. But I've been talking to a lot of people, made a lot of phone calls. I’m not going to get into who. But I think people know we've got to get down to work, and I think they’re ready to move. ... I know you always think I’m overly optimistic, but I think the alternative is not a good alternative, to not cooperate."
Q: As you say, though, this is not your father’s Republican Party …
VP: ... If you take a look at the makeup of the Senate now, I’ve been saying all along, I believe there are a half a dozen Republican senators all along who have been under different circumstances prepared to actually compromise. We’re going to have to compromise too. It’s not like we’re going to go in and say, this is our deal. Take it or leave it. And I still think that’s there, we’re now 55 seats. I’m assuming, I don’t know that, I've traded calls with him but I haven’t spoken to Angus, [Maine Independent Sen.-elect Angus King] . I don’t know who he’s going to go with. But he’s an open minded guy. And I just think that there’s enough of a mix.
And the House, as well. They’re going to have to take a look at – like we did back when I first got started – take a look at will the same formula work? I feel very optimistic about, in my view, immigration reform. Because as we talked about with most of the Hispanic communities I spoke with over the last month, it played a major role. And that’s got to be a wake-up call for a lot of my Republican colleagues who, like John McCain in the past, wanted to do something but felt – I don’t know what – I don’t know what slowed them finally. But I think it’s a different day. How it’s going to turn out, I don’t know, but the president and I are getting to work.
As a mater of fact, I’m meeting with him tomorrow at 4 o’clock. We have a national security meeting. So we’re winding it up.
Q: Where specifically do you think Republicans will be willing to compromise on issues of debt/deficit?
VP: Well look, I think -- You guys have probably looked at the internals of the vote more than I have so far. But from what it appears is that, on the issue of the tax issue, there was a clear, a clear sort of mandate about people coming much closer to our view about how to deal with tax policy. I think we can move, I'd like to see us, I think we can do something on corporate taxes sooner than later. That would be positive, be a little confidence-building. And you know I just think it's going to take time for the Republicans to sort of digest what the consequences for them internally. But I just think there's too much. I've been saying to you all along, and I know I may be the only guy - well, I think Clinton shares this view, President Clinton, we talked about it. But I think the fever will break. And you know, Barack's reelected -- so this sort of cause to keep a second term from happening's done. He's there for four years. So I think there's going to be - I hope there's going to be some real soul-searching about, [in the] Republican Party, about what they're willing to cooperate on.
Q: So do you see it more likely there will be an interim deal on the sequester in the short term and then ultimately a grand bargain-type deal?
VP: I don't want to speculate on that. But we are prepared to work with Republican leadership to actually deal with the two overarching problems right now. One is the whole sequester piece, and the other is the tax piece. It's possible you can bifurcate them. It's possible, there's all kinds of potential to be able to reach a rational, principled compromise. But it's going to be an interesting - I think the most interesting caucus is going to be the Republican caucus.
Staffers then tried to wrap up the interview, but the reporters traveling with Biden asked him how he sees his role in a second term and whether it would change.
VP: Well I think it will be the same. Look I am, the relationship is the same, one where the president and I have become good friends and confidants. I mean I assume my role will be the same, as I know it's shorthand, but literally the last guy in the room. I think I'll probably be asked to play a similar role on the debt issue as we did last time. I think my reaching out to the Congress and the Senate, but I also know I will be doing a lot of foreign policy. So, It'll be whatever the issue of the day is. Like I told him the first time, I only want those assignments that have a sell-by date, you know?
Staff again tried to wrap things up. The reporters asked about whether Biden and his grandkids had fun last night, even though it was a late night.
VP: It was a late night. But it was much earlier than at least I thought we'd know what the outcome was. It felt good. Thanks.