White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden “stands by everything he said” in his fiery Georgia speech last week that many criticized as divisive.
During her daily press briefing Tuesday, Psaki was asked to address the backlash Biden has received since his speech in Georgia, where the president declared that opponents of the Democrats’ election law overhaul bill were on the side of reviled figures like segregationist Gov. George Wallace and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Psaki said it was not a partisan speech but an informative one.
“I would say first that, you know, the president delivered a powerful speech about the protection of people’s fundamental rights in this country,” Psaki said, “which is their right to vote – the right to vote for anyone they choose, whether it is him or someone else. It was not a partisan speech. It was intended to lay out for the public exactly what’s at stake and lay out for elected officials what’s at stake. And he stands by everything he said in that speech.”
Pressed for details about the “genesis” of the speech, Psaki responded, “There have been discussions for months on voting rights on the Hill with Democrats, certainly an open door to Republicans to have a discussion among members and among staff about a path forward, something that 16 Republicans who are serving today have supported in the past. And also he consulted a lot with civil rights leaders, we consulted with civil rights leaders, with voting rights activists and others who have been working around the clock to advocate for voting rights.”
The White House and congressional Democrats have been pursuing passage of two elections bills: The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. But the votes aren’t there to break a Senate filibuster, and moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have consistently opposed any efforts to end the rule that creates a 60-vote threshold to advance the bills.
On Thursday, Biden characterized passing the bills as a necessary step to protecting the very future of American democracy.
“At consequential moments in history, they present a choice: Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?” the president said. “Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis? This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy.”