White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed Republican criticism of President Joe Biden’s remarks condemning the GOP’s efforts to restrict ballot access and change the rules of election administration.
“I know there’s been a lot of claim of the ‘offensive’ nature of the speech yesterday, which is hilarious on many levels given how many people sat silently over the past four years for the former president,” Ms Psaki told reporters on 12 January, referring to Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric.
“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. That’s not a partisan thing,” she said.
Following the president’s speech in Georgia on Tuesday, congressional Republicans lambasted his support for changes to Senate filibuster rules on which they have relied to block federal voting rights legislation fourtimes within the last year.
In a floor speech on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the president’s speech “irresponsible, delegitimizing rhetoric to undermine our democracy” and a “rant” that was “incoherent, incorrect, and beneath his office.”
Republican Senator John Cornyn then accused the president of “demagoguery” and called his speech “embarrassing,” adding that he is “embarrassed for him.”
On Tuesday, Republican Senator Mitt Romney said Mr Biden “went down the same tragic road taken by President Trump, casting doubt on the reliability of American elections.”
Asked whether the White House has a response to Mr Romney’s remarks, Ms Psaki said: “With all due respect to Senator 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 … about the effects of a coordinated, nationwide effort to undermine the constitutional right to vote.”
Over the last year, Republicans have sought to characterise their political opponents – not the former president and his allies – as the ones responsible for propagating a “big lie” working to undermine the electoral process with a “takeover” and “power grab” in federal voting rights legislation.
Meanwhile, Trump has amplified baseless “stolen election” narratives, and Republican legislators across the US have launched a partisan campaign to restrict ballot access and change the rules of election administration that would grant them greater control over election administration.
Last year, Republican state lawmakers passed at least 32 new laws in 17 states to change how elections are run, including efforts to strip oversight from election officials and put it into the hands of GOP-dominated state legislatures.
GOP legislators filed at least 262 such bills in 41 states in 2021 alone, and more are expected as legislative sessions resume in 2022, according to States United Democracy Center.
A parallel effort saw the passage of at least 24 laws in 19 states restricting ballot access, after GOP legislators filed more than 440 bills in 49 states last year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
More than a dozen bills restricting ballot access have been pre-filed ahead of 2022 legislative sessions in four states, and at least 88 bills in nine states will carry over from 2021 sessions.
In his speech on Tuesday, the president pointed out that such legislation can pass with simple majority votes, while minority representation in the US Senate can block consideration of majority legislation.
“They want chaos to reign. We want the people to rule,” the president said in his remarks from Georgia. “Jim Crow 2.0 is about two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion. It’s no longer about who gets to vote. It’s about making it harder to vote. It’s about who gets to count the vote, and whether your vote counts at all.”
The president is expected to rally Senate Democrats this week as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer outlines a plan to reintroduce a pair of voting rights bills. He has pledged to address the filibuster – in which Democrats in the evenly divided upper chamber need at least 60 votes to break – by Martin Luther King Jr Day on 17 January.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies