WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is stretching the facts when he suggests that two moderate Democrats in the Senate might be a reason why his legislative agenda, such as a sweeping voting rights bill, isn’t quickly getting done on Capitol Hill.
In a Senate divided 50-50 where legislation effectively needs 60 votes to pass, Biden points to an obstacle that doesn’t exist. He said the lawmakers, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, actually “vote more with my Republican friends.”
That’s not true.
BIDEN: “June should be a month of action on Capitol Hill. I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’ Well, because Biden only has a majority of, effectively, four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.” — remarks Tuesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
THE FACTS: His implication about their voting records is wrong.
While Manchin and Sinema have indeed been more likely than other Democrats in either the Senate or House to cross party lines, it’s not true they vote more often with Republicans than with fellow Democrats. And they haven’t done so in Biden’s presidency. So far, they’ve aligned with Biden 100% of the time.
According to CQ Roll Call, Manchin voted against his party’s majority 38.5% of the time last year, while Sinema did so for 33.1% of the votes. Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who lost his reelection race in November to Republican Tommy Tuberville, was third at 32.2%.
In the House, Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, most frequently voted last year against his party, at 27.3%, followed by Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., at 23.7%. Both lost to Republican challengers in November.
Manchin and Sinema have also supported Biden’s position in every instance so far this year, including numerous confirmation votes on Biden nominees, COVID-19 relief and the commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to FiveThirtyEight’s count. Sinema was not in town for last week’s vote on the Jan. 6 commission, citing a family matter, but said she would have backed it if she were.
The two senators, however, are opposed to eliminating the 60-vote filibuster, a procedural hurdle that effectively requires a supermajority to pass legislation. They are now being pressed anew to reconsider their opposition after too few Republicans joined with Democrats to create the bipartisan Jan. 6 commission.
Manchin also opposes the election overhaul bill that would expand and mandate early voting, same-day registration and other long-sought changes that Republicans reject.
Still, it’s not just Manchin and Sinema who oppose doing away with the filibuster. As many as 10 Democratic senators are reluctant to change the rules even for key legislation such as the voting rights bill. Biden himself has not said he wants to end the filibuster.
Manchin’s office declined to comment on Biden’s remarks, and Sinema’s office didn’t respond to messages. In a statement last month, Manchin said he was proud of CQ’s latest ranking showing him to be the most “bipartisan” lawmaker in the Senate.
Biden didn’t identify the two senators by name, but there was no mistaking whom he meant. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said Biden was not criticizing them in his remarks but was instead explaining the process to pass legislation in the Senate. She added that they would no doubt be proud of their “independent streaks” and their votes representing their states.
“He considers them both friends,” Psaki said. “He considers them both good working partners. And he believes that in democracy, we don’t have to see eye to eye on every detail of every single issue in order to work together. And he certainly thinks that reflects their relationship.”
Associated Press writer Alexandra Jaffe contributed to this report.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.