White House Walks Back Biden Swipe at Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, Calls Them 'Good Partners'

President Joe Biden's remark this week that his agenda is being thwarted, in part, because of "two [Democratic] members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends" was never intended to be a criticism of conservative Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, according to the White House.

"He considers them both friends, both good working partners," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday in response to the thinly veiled swipe Biden made in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the day before. "He also 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."

Biden, whose administration has been working to build congressional support for his legislative priorities, raised eyebrows with the comment—seen by many as a glimpse into the president's growing frustration.

The Democrats hold a razor-thin 50-50 advantage in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast a tie-breaking vote. Most of Biden's big-ticket priorities—including voting rights, health care, environmental quality and gun safety—can't make it through the chamber without support from 60 members, under the Senate rule that requires 60 votes to end a filibuster.

Sinema, Manchin and other Democrats have openly opposed any effort to abolish the filibuster, citing the possible future implications if the GOP regains control of the Senate.

The Democrat-controlled House already has approved several pieces of legislation touching on those Biden priorities, but the bills are stalled without a clear path for Senate approval.

"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," the president said Tuesday in Tulsa.

Biden didn't name the two senators, but Manchin and Sinema are the two most likely to buck the party on key votes and have come under intense scrutiny from the Democrats, who want to pass major legislation while the party controls both chambers and the White House.

Contrary to the president's claim, both Manchin and Sinema have voted in support of Biden's agenda—not with the Republicans—since Biden took office, according to an analysis from FiveThirtyEight. But the two senators appear to relish their outsider status, Psaki noted.

"That's something that I think they're both proud of," she said. "They both vote for and represent the people in the states and all the people who elected them to represent them in the Senate."

Manchin's and Sinema's offices didn't immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

Biden walks back Biden, Sinema slam
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin speaks during a hearing on April 20. Oliver Contreras / POOL / AFP/Getty Images