White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday signaled that the Biden administration hasn’t given up hopes of working with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to push voting rights legislation through Congress, despite the centrist senator’s very public opposition to the sweeping “For the People Act” that his Democratic colleagues have been pushing.
In an op-ed published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Sunday, Manchin declared his opposition to S.1, while reiterating his refusal to eliminate the filibuster that has presented roadblocks in moving Democrats’ agenda forward with its 60-vote threshold. Manchin, however, did reiterate his support for the less-comprehensive John Lewis Voting Rights Act (HR.4).
During a briefing on Tuesday, Psaki was pressed on whether the Biden administration is content with HR. 4 potentially languishing until the fall — a timeline House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signaled in a “Dear Colleague” letter published earlier in the day.
Psaki denied that the administration views HR.4 as “languishing” and pointed to the President tapping Vice President Harris to lead the administration’s efforts to expand voting rights. The White House press secretary stressed that in addition to engaging with federal efforts to move legislation forward, Harris will use the power of the White House to “convene key stakeholders” to help push key bills forward and register voters under the President’s executive order.
“So I would say of course we’re going to work with Democratic leadership on both, even with their disagreements about what the order of events should be here, but we’re not going to wait for that,” Psaki said. “We’re going to use the White House as a convener, going to use the bully pulpit.”
Manchin attended a virtual meeting with civil rights leaders earlier Tuesday who afterwards indicated that their conversations will continue. Psaki told reporters it was “encouraging” to see Manchin engage with civil rights groups and that she expects that the President and the senator will talk about voting rights, among a wide range of other issues, the next time they speak.
The White House also declined to respond to comments Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) made Monday when he slammed Manchin as “the new Mitch McConnell” in response to the West Virginia senator’s opposition to the House-passed “For the People Act” and his ongoing refusal to nuke the filibuster.
“We’re going to leave the name calling to others. The President considers Sen. Manchin a friend,” Psaki said. “He disagrees with him on voting rights and the bill that the senator has expressed he won’t support. The President will continue to advocate for the importance of that moving forward and the reasons why it’s important and vital for our democracy.”
Psaki added that the White House will “continue to seek ways” to work with Manchin even in areas of disagreement.
Psaki’s latest remarks on Manchin’s oxygen-sucking role in efforts to push voting rights legislation through Congress comes a day after she refused to accept the notion that the centrist senator poses roadblocks to the President’s legislative agenda.
Watch Psaki’s remarks below: