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Jen Psaki says critics of Biden on voting rights are ‘fighting the wrong opponent’

·2-min read
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at the White House on 22 June, 2021 in Washington, DC, where she defended President Joe Biden’s record on speaking out in support of voting rights legislation. (Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at the White House on 22 June, 2021 in Washington, DC, where she defended President Joe Biden’s record on speaking out in support of voting rights legislation. (Getty Images)

As senators prepared to vote on sweeping voting rights legislation on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended President Joe Biden against claims that he had not done enough to support the bill, dubbed the “For The People” Act.

In the hours before the vote, which would see all 50 Republican senators vote against advancing the bill, Ms Psaki said those who were critical of Mr Biden’s advocacy for the legislation were picking a “fight against the wrong opponent”.

Even before Tuesday’s vote, the bill had been expected to fail in Senate, with Republicans already expressing strong opposition to the measure, which sought to make it easier for people to vote.

While Democrats argued that the bill was sorely needed to protect voting rights in the midst of GOP efforts in states across the country to usher in strict voting restrictions in the wake of the 2020 election, their Republican counterparts accused the party of seeking to push forward measures that would make it easier for them to win in future elections.

Still, ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Democratic Rep Jamaal Bowman had told CNN that Mr Biden needed “to be a lot more vocal” about his support for the bill “and a lot more out front”.

Asked to respond to that call during a White House briefing, Ms Psaki told reports: “I would suggest that ... those words are a fight against the wrong opponent”.

Mr Biden, she said “has been passionate throughout the course of his time in public office” on the issue of voting rights.

She further said that the president was “absolutely revolted” by the recent wave of GOP-led state laws enforcing tighter voting restrictions.

Ms Psaki said the Biden administration shares the “passion” of progressives fighting to defend voting rights.

“We share the desire to fight these efforts,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that that fight will always be easy, but he is going to stand by them in this effort.”

Responding to the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, Mr Biden said: “A Democratic stand to protect our democracy met a solid Republican wall of opposition.”

“Senate Republicans opposed even a debate – even considering – legislation to protect the right to vote and our democracy,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also hit out at Republicans following the vote, asserting that “voter suppression has become part of the platform of the Republican Party”.

Still, he said: “The fight to protect voting rights is not over.”

“In the fight for voting rights, this bill was the starting gun, not the finish line,” he said.

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