White House walks back Biden friendly fire on Dem senators

The White House on Wednesday tried to explain away President Biden’s swipe at two senators in his own party, insisting Mr. Biden’s surprise remarks were an appraisal of how television personalities speak about his administration and not his own view.

“I don’t think he was intending to convey anything other than commentary on TV punditry,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Mr. Biden raised eyebrows by talking about centrist senators widely assumed to be Joe Manchin III and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona during a part of a Tuesday speech in Oklahoma that touched on voting rights and toggled between a third-person and first-person perspective.

“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,” Mr. Biden said in Tulsa.

The comment prompted some observers to note that Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema have sided with Mr. Biden on major votes.

However, both senators are staking out centrist positions as some progressive Democrats agitate for more aggressive measures to muscle through Mr. Biden’s agenda on voting rights and support for families in the evenly-divided Senate.

Progressives are prodding Mr. Biden and Democrats to dismiss the filibuster rule in the Senate that effectively requires 60 votes to move forward on major legislation.

Mr. Manchin and Mr. Sinema say changing the rules isn’t the right way to produce a good outcome and would poison any hopes for bipartisan compromise.

Ms. Psaki said Mr. Biden’s remarks shouldn’t be interpreted as a push to eliminate the filibuster, though she acknowledged the president and the two senators at hand don’t always see eye-to-eye. 

“He considers them both friends, he considers them both working partners,” Ms. Psaki said.

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