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After Senate tribute, Vice President Biden jokes about 2020 run. Or maybe he was serious?

Vice President Biden presides over the Senate on Monday. A bipartisan bill to speed government drug approvals and bolster biomedical research cleared its last procedural hurdle in the Senate in an emotional moment for Biden, who later hinted he might run for president in 2020. (Senate TV via Associated Press)

Vice President Biden made an emotional return to the Senate on Monday evening to preside over a key procedural vote on a sweeping medical research bill that includes $1.8 billion for the “cancer moonshot” he launched after his son Beau died of a brain tumor last year.

With Biden in the presiding officer’s chair, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved to rename the cancer-funding portion of the bill after Beau Biden — an amendment that passed without objection. The bill, known as the 21st Century Cures Act, then advanced toward final passage on an 85-to-13 vote.

“He’s known the cruel toll this disease can take, but he hasn’t let it defeat him,” McConnell said. “He’s chosen to fight back.”

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Biden spoke to reporters afterward and reflected on the promise of the cancer moonshot — “If we start collaborating as much as we’re beginning to do now, we really — no malarkey — we can make significant progress even if we don’t have one additional breakthrough” — and on his still-raw grief.

“I’ve got to get better, and I will, but it’s still — it takes time,” he said, recalling the 1972 deaths of his wife and infant daughter in a car crash. “Sometimes, the second year is harder than the first, and I’ve been through this once before.”

He also reflected on his life at the highest levels of politics, a life that he suggested could continue.

“Every time I come up here, I feel invigorated,” he said. “I love this place. I mean, this is, this is, where I spent my life.”

“Are you going to run again?” CNN producer Ted Barrett asked.

“Yeah, I am,” Biden, 74, replied. “I’m going to run in 2020.”

“For what?” Associated Press reporter Alan Fram asked.

“For president,” he said, deadpan. “What the hell, man.”

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NBC News reporter Kelly O’Donnell warned him: “We’re gonna run with that sir, you know.”

“That’s okay,” he said, deadpan again.

Later, Fram followed up with Biden: “Just to be clear, were you kidding about running for president in 2020?”

Biden paused and laid his hand on a Washington Post reporter’s shoulder.

“I’m not committing not to run,” he said. “I’m not committing to anything. I learned a long time ago fate has a strange way of intervening. Anyway, nice to see you guys.”

Biden then left the Capitol.

He is expected to return to the Senate again later this week for a more fulsome tribute to his 44 years in the Senate on Wednesday, and he is expected to participate in a Thursday send-off for outgoing Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).