“Lets be clear: POTUS was not casting doubt on the legitimacy of the 2022 election. He was making the opposite point: In 2020, a record number of voters turned out in the face of a pandemic, and election officials made sure they could vote and have those votes counted,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
“He was explaining that the results would be illegitimate if states do what the former president asked them to do after the 2020 election: toss out ballots and overturn results after the fact. The Big Lie is putting our democracy at risk. We’re fighting to protect it,” she added, using a term Democrats have favored that attempts to tie claims that the 2020 election was riddled with fraud to Nazi propaganda.
Biden, in a lengthy press conference a day prior, said: “I’m not going to say it’s going to be legit. It’s – the increase and the prospect of being illegitimate is in direct proportion to us not being able to get these reforms passed.”
Biden and many Democrats in Congress support measures that would federalize elections, arguing the bills are needed as states pass legislation that tightens election security, describing them as hindering voting access.
The House of Representatives passed a bill that bundled the measures, but the Senate in a bipartisan vote late Jan. 19 blocked an attempt to change the voting threshold to 50 from 60, which may have enabled passage of the bill in the upper chamber.
Republicans decried the president’s claims.
“President Biden said the 2022 election won’t be legitimate unless Congress bans voter ID, legalizes ballot harvesting, and funds Democrat campaigns with taxpayer dollars. Some might call that a Big Lie,” Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), vice chair of the House Republican Conference, said on social media.
Tim Murtaugh, campaign manager for President Donald Trump, added: “What Biden is saying about the 2022 election, trying to undermine confidence in its integrity, is exactly the same thing he did when he cast doubt on the vaccines in development during the 2020 campaign. Let’s see if he gets a pass now, like he did the first time.”
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip, on Jan. 20 seconded Biden.
“I’m absolutely concerned” about the legitimacy of the elections if the election bill isn’t passed, he said on CNN.
Vice President Kamala Harris, meanwhile, confronted with Biden’s remarks during morning show appearances, declined to directly address his legitimacy claims but said it was important to pass the legislation because “states have put in place laws that are purposely making it more difficult for the American people to vote.”
In one interview, Harris signaled that Biden may turn to executive orders to address the matter.
“It is a matter of doing the work through executive orders, doing the work through the Department of Justice, which has been litigating these cases in the various states, because we believe they are a violation of the spirit of the Constitution.”