White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared to walk back President Joe Biden’s swipe at two Democratic senators for allegedly “voting more with” his “Republican friends.”
Biden, during remarks Tuesday commemorating the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma, highlighted the “right to vote” and urged Congress to act on this issue. Biden continued on to call out two members of his own party – presumably Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – for supporting the filibuster, though he did not directly name them.
“I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘why doesn’t Biden get this done?'” the president said. “Well, because Biden only has the 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. But we’re not giving up.”
Psaki was asked about Biden’s swipe during Wednesday’s press briefing and one reporter pointed out that Manchin and Sinema have “voted with Biden 100% of the time.” The reporter wondered why Biden felt the need to call the duo out and Psaki first said that she believes the two Democrats “would call out their own independent streaks” if present in the briefing room.
“If you look at what the president said, the big tell here is, ‘I hear all the folks on TV saying.’ Now as a former TV pundit myself, I can tell you that sometimes these conversations can be oversimplified. TV isn’t always made for complex conversations about policymaking. We all know that right, and what the president was simply conveying is that his threshold, his litmus test, is not to see eye to eye on every single detail on every issue,” Psaki said.
“And he doesn’t with Sen. Sinema and Sen. Manchin, and he doesn’t with [Republican West Virginia] Sen. [Shelley Moore] Capito who’s coming here later this afternoon. He believes there’s an opportunity to work together, to make progress, to find areas of common ground, even if you of have areas of disagreement,” she added.
The press secretary later downplayed the president’s comments further. (RELATED More Democrats Are Skeptical Of Killing The Filibuster)
“It was not, no,” Psaki said when asked if she was saying it wasn’t a criticism. “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 single issue in order to work together. And he certainly thinks that reflects their relationship.”
“I would say that the fact that the president is having Sen. Capito here today and is having ongoing discussions with Republicans in the Senate and that he’s eager to find a path forward on bipartisan work certainly tells you – I think – what you need to know about what he thinks about working with people even when there’s disagreement,” Psaki added.
Capito is meeting with Biden to discuss ongoing negotiations regarding the infrastructure proposal. Republicans and the White House have gone back and forth with counterproposals.