The vice president said he was "stunned" that House Republicans put up a months-long fight over reauthorizing VAWA earlier this year. Up until this Congress, VAWA reauthorization has been a routine, bipartisan process. This time around, House Republicans held up the bill for months over its new protections for Native American, immigrant and LGBT victims of abuse. The bill eventually passed in February.
"I'm going to say something outrageous," Biden said, with his aides in the room surely cringing. "I think I understand the Senate better than any man or women who's ever served in there, and I think I understand the House ... I was surprised this last time ... The idea we still had to fight? We had to fight to reauthorize?"
Biden blamed "this sort of Neanderthal crowd" in the House for stalling the legislation.
"Did you ever think we'd be fighting over, you know, 17, 18 years later to reauthorize this?" he asked, to audible "no's" in the audience. "Well, you know what? The thing they didn't like, they said we like it the way it is [without the new protections added in] -- believe me, they don't."
Biden recalled how some Republicans accused Democrats of trying to push the envelope too far on VAWA by adding protections for those three groups. He credited women in the Senate with keeping the pressure on Republicans to accept the changes.
"It makes a difference with women in the Senate," he said to applause. "It does. It does, man ... Because they go and look all the rest of those guys in the eye and say, 'Look. This is important to me.'"
The tribal provision in VAWA was arguably its biggest sticking point; some Republicans argued it wouldn't be constitutional to grant tribal courts the ability to prosecute domestic abusers who were non-Native but living on tribal lands with their spouses. Biden laughed off that argument.
"Constitutional violation? Yeah, come on!" he said to cheers.
As for GOP opposition to adding protections for LGBT victims of abuse, he said it's not that people are homophobic, but that they need to be educated on the subject. Speaking of LGBT issues, he recalled an incident last year where he "went off script" in declaring his support for same-sex marriage – in the midst of a presidential election, and when President Obama hadn't yet gone there.
"I make no apologies on the issue of marriage," he said.
Biden had been talking for nearly 25 minutes now, and someone must have given him the signal to cut it off because he abruptly stopped and apologized for still talking
"I'm sorry to go on, but I'm so proud of you," he said to laughs. One woman shouted, "No!" "Keep going!" said someone else.