The White House is spinning President Joe Biden’s apparent dig at two members of his own Democratic party by contending he was instead offering commentary on TV political punditry.
Biden complained on Tuesday that his legislative agenda was being blocked in Congress because of two members of the Senate. Biden said in his complaint, “I hear all the folks on TV saying ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’ Well, because Biden only has a majority of, effectively, only four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.”
The line was interpreted by many as a swipe at Senate Democrats Joe Manchin (WVA) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), who both oppose efforts to end the legislative filibuster with key Biden agenda items under threat.
When White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked today about Biden’s remarks in Tulsa yesterday, her comment was, “I don’t think he was intending to convey anything other than a bit of commentary on TV punditry.”
“TV isn’t always made for complex conversations about policymaking. 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.”
Many Senate Democrats fear that without rule changes, Biden’s agenda could blow up in June, which Biden says should be a ‘month of action.’ But the president’s remark caused much eyebrow-raising because Manchin and Sinema have voted with him 100% of the time on major bills, according to vote data compiled by FiveThirtyEight.
“I wouldn’t say his comments yesterday were conveying a new position on the filibuster. His view on the filibuster continues to be that there should be a path forward for Democrats and Republicans to be easier to move forward on progress for the American people,” Psaki said of Biden on Wednesday.
Manchin and Sinema are two critical votes for Biden in the evenly divided Senate. Yet, most bills require 60 votes to pass the Senate, and both Manchin and Sinema do not back nixing the filibuster rules. Also, Manchin has bolted on a few high-profile issues, including occasional nominations. He is also negotiating with Republicans on infrastructure. Sinema said she missed a vote to establish a bipartisan commission to probe the January 6th Capitol riots due to a family matter.
Sinema, who sometimes parts ways with her party leadership, was one of 11 senators who missed the vote, and that bill failed to advance by a vote of 54-35 to overcome a GOP filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rallied his caucus against the commission. “I do not believe the additional, extraneous commission that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing,” he said.
Democrats are viewing with alarm state GOP efforts to impose new voting restrictions. A Democratic voting rights bill set to come up in the Senate within weeks is facing a likely Republican filibuster. Psaki said, “Biden considers new voting restrictions in legislation in Texas are part of a concerted attack on our democracy.”
The response to questions related to Biden’s statements conflicts with Democratic criticism concerning former President Donald Trump’s preoccupation with cable news and ratings.