Psaki finds criticism of Biden’s voting speech ‘hilarious’

Psaki finds criticism of Biden's voting speech 'hilarious'

The criticism of President Biden’s politically charged speech on voting rights legislation is just “hilarious” to Jen Psaki.

The White House press secretary on Wednesday was asked about the harsh appraisals of Biden’s Tuesday speech in Georgia, especially after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted Biden’s address as “unpresidential.”

“I know there has been a lot of claims of the offensive nature of the speech yesterday, which is hilarious on many levels, given how many people sat silently over the last four years for the former president. But I would note that in our view and the president’s view, what is far more offensive is the effort to suppress people’s basic right to exercise who they want to support and who they want to elect,” Psaki said.

The response was to a question about Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) saying Biden is going “down the same tragic road taken by President Trump casting doubt on the reliability of American elections.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a breifing in the James S. Brady press briefing room of the White House in Washignton, DC on January 12, 2022.
Psaki said that while critics called Biden’s speech “offensive,” the real offense is the “effort to suppress people’s basic right to exercise who they want to support and who they want to elect.”
AFP via Getty Images

Psaki also said, “With all due respect to to Sen. Romney, I think anyone would note there’s a night-and-day difference between fomenting an insurrection based on lies totally debunked by 80 judges, including Trump-appointed ones, and election authorities across the country, and making objective true statements.

Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, voted to convict Trump in two Senate impeachment trials and harshly criticized him during the 2016 campaign.

Romney said in a Senate speech that Biden “said quite a number of things that simply weren’t true” in his Atlanta address and that he “accused a number of my good and principled colleagues in the Senate of having sinister, even racist inclinations.”

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to deliver remarks on voting rights during a speech on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., January 11, 2022.
During his speech in Atlanta, Biden urged centrist Democrats to lower the usual 60 vote threshold for legislation to 50 votes to allow the bills to pass.

In his remarks, Biden claimed that senators and centrist Democrats must consider, “Do you want to be the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? …. Do you want to be the site of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?” Biden also suggested that “forces that attempted a coup” were behind GOP state-led election reforms.

Biden spoke in Atlanta to push for a pair of federal election reform bills that cannot pass the Senate because of Republican opposition. Biden urged centrist Democrats to lower the usual 60 vote threshold for legislation to 50 votes to allow the bills to pass.

McConnell (R-Ky.) harshly denounced Biden’s speech as a “rant,” “incoherent” and “unpresidential” — and said Biden was ” shouting that 52 senators and millions of Americans are racist unless he gets whatever he wants.”

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate Minority Leader, speaks to media during a press conference.
McConnell said Biden’s speech was “unpresidential,” among other comments, which Psaki found to be disappointing.
Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA

Biden was asked about McConnell while on Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon to pay his respects to the casket of the late Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and said, “I like Mitch McConnell. He’s a friend.”

Psaki added of McConnell: “That is why it is even more disappointing that someone who has supported and advocated for voting rights in the past… is on the other side of this argument now. And I think clearly struck a nerve, the president’s speech yesterday… but to us and to the president, what is more irresponsible, unbecoming and divisive is the coordinated effort by far too many Republicans across the country to perpetuate the big lie and make it more difficult to vote.”

A handful of Senate Democrats, including Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-WVa.), oppose lowering the threshold to proceed to 50 votes to allow for federal election reforms.

Critics say Biden has misrepresented state laws that Republicans argue are intended to reduce the risk of voter fraud and to phase out COVID-19 pandemic policies that expanded remote voting. The Washington Post gave Biden “Four Pinocchios” in April for falsely describing a new Georgia law’s impact on voting hours.

The Georgia law doesn’t alter Election Day hours but expands early voting by adding a second mandatory Saturday. It affirms that counties can open for early voting on two Sundays and allows counties to extend early voting hours beyond normal business hours. Democrats oppose provisions that require a photo ID to get an absentee ballot, shorten the window of time to vote absentee and allow state officials to take over local election offices in response to alleged misconduct.

The federal bills pushed by Biden include the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would force certain states to gain federal approval for changes to election laws, responding to a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that reduced post-Civil Rights Era oversight. The other, the Freedom to Vote Act, would make Election Day a holiday, force states to allow no-excuse mail-in voting and require that most jurisdictions allow 10 hours per day of early voting for two weeks before an election. That bill would bar states from requiring people to show ID to get a mail-in ballot.

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