Psaki On Biden Calling Out Democrat Senators Manchin, Sinema: ‘It Was Not’ A Criticism Of Them

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed on Wednesday that President Joe Biden calling out Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) this week was “not” a criticism of them.

“I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’” Biden said on 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. But we’re not giving up.”

Psaki was repeatedly pressed about the remarks, including the following interaction:

REPORTER: And then, on the President’s comments yesterday, he seemed to call out Manchin and Sinema for — he said, voting “more with…Republicans” than Democrats. But ProPublica actually found that they’ve so far voted with Biden 100 percent of time on major votes. And so can you explain where those comments came from and why he felt the need to call out members of his own party?

PSAKI: Well, 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. They both vote for and represent the people in the states that — and all the people who elected them to represent them in the Senate. If you look at what the Senate — 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 he — his threshold, his litmus test is not to see eye to eye on every single detail of every issue — and he doesn’t with Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin, and he doesn’t with Senator 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 have areas of disagreement.

And he also believes that sometimes, because there are three entities — three branches of government — something he knows well, having served 36 years in the Senate — that sometimes it’s not a straight line to victory or success; that sometimes, you know, it takes more time and, you know, he is open to many paths forward. So I don’t think he was intending to convey other — anything other than a little bit of commentary on TV punditry.

REPORTER: Well, he did seem to suggest that he is in favor of filibuster reform and wants to see that move. So why hasn’t he been more prominent in calling for that? And is he pressuring Manchin and Sinema to move on that issue privately?

PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that his comments yesterday were conveying a new position on his view on the filibuster. His full comment was —

REPORTER: But what did he mean by saying that Manchin and Sinema are standing in the way of his agenda, essentially? What was he referencing?

PSAKI: That’s not exactly what he said. I think it’s important to quote him directly. What he said was: I hear all the folks on TV saying, “Why doesn’t Biden get this done?” 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.

He’s not — he was not giving a specific commentary on a policy. He was conveying, again, that sometimes that’s the summary — shorthand version that he sees on cable news at times. Again, it’s not always the forum that’s easy to provide guidance on how a bill becomes a law. 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. That position hasn’t changed. And he was not intending to convey something different.

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Later in the press conference, Psaki was pressed again about the remarks:

REPORTER: Okay. And just to follow up on your comments on what President Biden said about Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema: Are you saying that that was not a criticism of the two of them?

PSAKI: 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.

REPORTER: But even saying “two Democrats vote with Republicans more than they do with their own party” —

PSAKI: “With my Republican friends.” I would say that the fact that the President is having Senator Capito here today and has been 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.

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