(WASHINGTON) — White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday denied President Joe Biden was criticizing Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., during remarks the day before in Tulsa, when he jabbed that two Senate Democrats vote more with Republicans than they do their own party.
While warning against what he called the “truly unprecedented assault on our democracy” currently taking place in the political battle over voting rights, Biden took a chance to respond to criticism he says he’s seen on TV that he’s failed to move legislation — and swiped at the moderate senators, although he didn’t single them out by name.
“‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?'” Biden asked Tuesday. “Well, because Biden only has a majority of, effectively, four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.”
It was a rare show of public frustration with fellow Democrats.
Psaki was asked Wednesday to explain where those comments came from and why the president “felt the need to call out members of his own party.”
“I would say first that if Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema were standing with me here today — they’re always welcome — they would call out their own independent streaks. And that’s something that I think they’re both proud of,” Psaki said.
Psaki went on to argue Biden was simply commenting on the lack of complexity surrounding TV analysis — and that the president knows “it’s not a straight line to victory or success” and that “sometimes… it takes more time.”
When asked flat out if she was suggesting the comment was not a criticism of Manchin and Sinema, Psaki doubled down on her defense — refusing to criticize the senators whose votes Biden would need to move any legislation.
“It was not, no. He considers them both friends. He considers them both good working partners, and he also believes that, in democracy, we don’t have to see eye to eye on every detail of every single issue in order to work together. And he certainly thinks that reflects their relationship,” she said.
Psaki also pushed back on the suggestion that the president’s comments showed a new openness to filibuster reform. She pivoted when asked if the president would be okay with voting reform getting more than 50 votes but not making it to his desk — as was the case with the Jan. 6 commission last week.
She stressed Biden would continue to advocate for both a commission and voting legislation moving forward, steering clear of any filibuster discussion.
“His view on the filibuster continues to be that there should be a path forward for Democrats and Republicans to make voting easier to move forward on progress for the American people,” she said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently announced that his chamber would vote this month on the House-passed, For the People Act, co-sponsored by every Democratic senator except Manchin, who has called the measure “too broad.”
Manchin has instead expressed support the more narrowly tailored John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
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