White House press secretary Jen Psaki argued on Tuesday that progressive members of Congress criticizing President Joe Biden for not more forcefully advocating the passage of voting rights legislation were picking “a fight against the wrong opponent.”

The remarks from the president’s top spokesperson came hours ahead of an expected Senate vote on congressional Democrats’ expansive election and ethics reform bill, a package virtually certain to fail in the face of staunch Republican opposition.

The bill’s likely demise has provoked new calls from Democrats to reform or altogether eliminate the Senate’s legislative filibuster — the 60-vote threshold now in place for most bills — while the party’s progressive lawmakers have also demanded that the president take a more public-facing role in the voting rights debate.

“He needs to be a lot more vocal and a lot more out front,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) told CNN earlier Tuesday, referring to Biden. Asked about Bowman’s comments at a White House briefing, Psaki told reporters: “I would suggest that … those words are a fight against the wrong opponent.”

Psaki said Biden “has been passionate throughout the course of his time in public office” about the issue of voting rights, and that he remains “absolutely revolted” by a recent wave of Republican laws on the state level that Democrats and activists contend make it more difficult to vote.

Responding to Biden’s progressive critics, Psaki said: “We share their passion. We share the desire to fight these efforts. … It doesn’t mean that that fight will always be easy, but he is going to stand by them in this effort.”

Bowman is not the only lawmaker putting pressure on the White House. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) tweeted on Tuesday that the American people “did not give Democrats the House, Senate and White House to compromise with insurrectionists. Abolish the filibuster so we can do the people’s work.”

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) also tweeted on Monday that U.S. democracy “is in crisis and we need @POTUS to act like it.” And Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) warned activists in a Zoom call on Monday night that Democrats could “lose the opportunity to basically enact legislation for the people for a decade, or decades, to come,” POLITICO reported.

However, it is still unclear whether Democrats can even rally their entire Senate caucus in support of the election reform bill. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said earlier this month that he would not support the legislation as written, instead outlining a compromise proposal last Wednesday that won endorsements from voting rights activist Stacey Abrams and former President Barack Obama.

Manchin and Biden spoke about the bill in a White House meeting on Monday, and the senator told reporters on Tuesday morning that he had not yet made a decision on how he would vote. By Tuesday afternoon, Manchin announced he would vote to begin debate on an “updated” version of the bill.

Meanwhile, Biden refrained from speaking publicly about the election reform bill on Tuesday, and Psaki dismissed criticism of the president’s silence ahead of the action on the Senate floor. She said the White House would release a statement from Biden following the vote and added: “I expect you’ll hear more from him in the coming days, as well.”

Original Article: politico.com

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