Biden says response to tragedies ‘incredible’

DETROIT (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday said the strength of those devastated by the Boston Marathon bombing, Texas plant explosion and Connecticut school shooting is remarkable and proof that some good can come from carnage and pain.

“It showed the incredible resilience, heroism, commitment and love of the people who responded to these tragedies,” Biden said at a major fundraiser for Democrats in Michigan, which could play a big role in the 2016 presidential election.

Biden’s 50-minute speech in Detroit came at the end of a difficult week marked by violence, tragedy and a jarring defeat for the Obama administration on gun control. The vice president said he was amazed to see footage of marathon runners moving forward despite the explosions.

“I wondered what in the heck are they doing? Were they running away from harm? They were running through it. They were running to a hospital. They were running to help their fellow runners and citizens watching. It was an instinct, sort of stamped in our DNA,” he told 1,500 gathered for the state Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

Biden, who has not ruled out a presidential bid in 2016, led the Obama administration’s gun-control push. It was defeated Wednesday in the Senate.

The vice president credited Newtown, Conn., victims’ families for reliving their losses over and over again while lobbying Congress to act.

He said senators told him not to ask for their vote because “even if we do this, it will never pass the House.” Not one of the more than 15 Republican and Democratic senators he called gave him a “substantive reason” for opposing it, he said.

Five still voted for it and “believed that they may be writing themselves into the second edition of ‘Profiles of Courage,’” he said.

Biden said winning back the Republican-controlled House in 2014 is crucial and that the American people are on the side of expanded background checks for gun purchases.

He turned his attention to more typical fare for such a political gala — criticizing the GOP’s budget proposals and talking up Democrats’ vision for the middle class. He also criticized Michigan’s new right-to-work law, which prohibits workers from having to pay union fees or dues.

“We know that the future of this country is going to continue to be built on the backs of the middle class. And we understand it was organized labor who built that middle class. Therefore labor must have a seat at the table, not this right to work for less,” he said to loud applause.

Biden never mentioned the 2016 presidential election. Michigan could be important in the campaign because it could have one of the earlier Democratic primaries and is a traditional stronghold for Democrats. The party’s candidate has won the past six presidential races in the state.

In May, Biden will keynote a Democratic fundraising dinner in South Carolina, which traditionally holds one of the first primaries of the season.

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