Recalling the nearly 30 years they served together in Congress, Vice President Joe Biden on Friday praised U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., as "a graceful man who has more decency, and a more powerful intellect, than almost anybody I've worked with."
Biden spoke at a fundraiser at the South Carolina State Museum, where 150 to 200 invited guests enjoyed a grilled chicken buffet lunch and then filed into an auditorium to hear from the vice president. Tickets started at $500, Spratt campaign officials said.
During a 30-minute speech, Biden delivered sharp words toward Republicans, along with frequent mentions of Spratt's stewardship of the budget. He noted Spratt's role in the Balanced Budget Agreement of 1997. Spratt is chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Sadly, Biden said, much of the work came unraveled during the Bush administration.
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"This man engineered a balanced budget," Biden said, pointing toward Spratt. "These guys, our opponents, talking about balanced budgets and deficits is like an arsonist lecturing us on fire safety."
To overcome a tough political climate, Biden said, Democrats need to spend the next three months explaining their policies in everyday terms.
"Here's the problem - we've been working so hard to get these major new building blocks laid down," Biden said. "They are so big, so heavy, that the American people don't understand what's in it for them yet.
"Now that the hard lifting is done, we're going to spend the next 90 days going out explaining to people exactly what it means to them."
Biden stopped by the fundraiser after delivering keynote remarks at a dedication ceremony for the new Ernest F. Hollings library at the University of South Carolina.
Analysts predict a tough race for Spratt, first elected in 1982 to represent the Fifth Congressional District, which includes all or parts of 14 counties - including York, Chester and Lancaster.
Noting that his motorcade passed a tea party protest on the way to the venue, Biden portrayed the rally as an example of how the Republican party has changed.
"Today's Republican party is not your father's Republican party," he said. "It's the party of the tea party, some of whom I passed outside. I'm not questioning their integrity. I'm questioning their judgment."
Several notable S.C. Democrats were in the crowd, including gubernatorial nominee and state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, state Education Superintendent Jim Rex and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of Columbia.
After the speech, Spratt and the vice president shook hands along a rope line as the speakers played "Only in America" by country duo Brooks & Dunn.
Mulvaney: Biden afraid to come to York County
While U.S. Rep. John Spratt joined most of the state's Democrats in Columbia on Friday to hear Vice President Joe Biden speak, Spratt's Republican challenger took to the airwaves.
In an interview on Charlotte radio station WBT-AM, State Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-Indian Land, suggested Biden and Spratt skipped campaigning in York County because they have little support here.
Mulvaney also took aim at Spratt and congressional Democrats, noting that Spratt's Budget Committee failed to pass a traditional budget resolution this year for the first time since a modern budget law was enacted in 1974.
"If the vice president truly wants to relive 1997, it's worth noting that the balanced budget he referenced was created by a Republican House and Democrat president - the formula we are looking to bring to Washington as a check against the Obama administration," Mulvaney said.
He said Spratt can't pass a budget because Democrats don't want people to see what's in it.
National Republican campaign operatives circulated press memos Friday labeling Spratt as "embattled" and asking whether Biden would also stump for U.S. Senate nominee Alvin Greene during his visit.
In response to a comment Biden made in Raleigh, N.C., on Thursday - saying that the GOP is "widely out of step" with popular opinion - Mulvaney said it made him ask, "Is this Joe Biden being Joe Biden, or is this what the Democrats think? It strikes me that Congress is out of step now."
Matt Garfield and Shawn Cetrone