Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday morning responded to a New York Times story detailing a paid speech he gave praising an embattled Republican incumbent during the height of a 2018 re-election bid.
“I get in trouble,” Biden said at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington, D.C. “I read in The New York Times today that one of my problems is, if I ever run for president, I like Republicans. Well, bless me, father, for I have sinned,” he quipped to laughter in the room.
According to the Times report, Biden collected $200,000 from the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan to address a conservative-leaning audience in October.
During the speech, Biden praised Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a Republican incumbent who faced a tough re-election as the midwestern state veered blue during the midterms. Upton went on to win by only four-and-a-half points and Biden’s remarks reportedly sparked disappointment among local Democrats.
“It just gives Fred Upton cover and makes it possible for him to continue to pretend to be a useful, bipartisan fellow,” Eric Lester, who chaired the Berrien County Democratic Party, told the Times. “I entered the hall with positive feelings about Mr. Biden and felt very frustrated.”
Upton, who helped draft a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, was praised by Biden for his role in crafting another piece of legislation: the 21st Century Cures Act, written after Biden’s son Beau died from cancer.
“It was one of the few bipartisan bills passed in an otherwise deeply divided and gridlocked Congress,” Biden spokesman Bill Russo told the Times. “Vice President Biden believes to his core that you can disagree politically on a lot and still work together in good faith on issues of common cause—like funding cancer research.”
During his Thursday speech, Biden referenced the report as a positive aspect of his belief in bipartisanship.
“Where I come from, I don’t know how you get anything done,” he said. “I don’t know how you get anything done unless we start talking to one another again.”
He went on to specifically praise Upton again: “He stepped up. He and three other Republicans stepped up and helped us pass it. And so I acknowledged that and now I’m a—I don’t know what I am.”
Biden is still undecided on a 2020 presidential run, but reports indicate he is leaning towards getting in.