Washington (CNN) – Vice President Joe Biden honored firefighters and public safety officers Thursday evening, telling them “you are always, always there.”
Biden, who formerly served as chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus while in the Senate, also took a moment to tease the friendly crowd about his presidential ambitions, joking that the press “likes to point out that I ran for president twice but I never made it.”
“I want you to know that in 2004, I made it,” Biden said. “I’m a president emeritus of the Delaware Volunteer Fire Association. So I have made it to the presidency.”
The vice president also touted a forthcoming initiative from the Obama administration aimed at improving access to federal funding for families of fallen public safety officers.
“Families of fallen public safety officers have had to wait much, much, much too long for federal benefits that all of us at that table and me have fought so hard to make sure existed,” Biden said.
“That’s why I’m proud to tell you that on Monday – I don’t want to steal his thunder – but a guy’s been working around the clock to fix this. The Attorney General of the United States will have an announcement to make fixing that problem, finally,” Biden said.
Among the many groups of public safety officers to whom Biden gave personalized shout outs were the first responders who battled the deadly blaze caused by a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
“When the call went out, volunteers went out. ... They suited up and they headed out, put on their equipment and they jumped. They jumped into the fray,” Biden said.
“Even then, some of the fire trucks ablaze, even then in the midst of the chaos, they held their ground. They contained the blaze within three hours. They never quit. They never quit. They never quit.”
Nine of those volunteer first responders were killed by the blast.