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Biden invokes comments made by N.H. governor Sununu in slamming Republicans for blocking his agenda

President Biden spoke during a news conference at the White House on Wednesday.Susan Walsh/Associated Press

President Biden on Wednesday slammed Republican senators for blocking his legislative agenda by invoking comments made by New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu when he announced he would not run for Senate in part because of what he described as the body’s inability to pass legislation.

Biden, speaking at a news conference to mark his first year as president, cited comments the Republican governor made in November 2021 when he announced he wouldn’t run for the Senate and would instead seek reelection.

In response to a question from a reporter about whether he overpromised what he could achieve in his first year in office, Biden said that he “didn’t overpromise” and argued that his administration has made “enormous progress.” But Biden said he hasn’t been able to “get my Republican friends to get in the game of making things better in this country.”

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In an attempt to illustrate his point, Biden quoted comments Sununu made in a recent Washington Examiner interview as saying of senators: “They were all, for the most part, content with the speed at which they weren’t doing anything. It was very clear that we just had to hold the line for two years. OK, so I’m just going to be a roadblock for the next two years? That’s not what I do.”

Biden suggested Sununu’s comments, in which he indicated senators told him they planned to block Democratic legislation until the midterm elections, highlight his belief that Republicans are only seeking to stall his agenda.

“I did not anticipate that there would be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done,” Biden said, referring to himself in the third person.

“Think about this: What are Republicans for?” he continued. “What are they for? Name me one thing they’re for.”

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Biden said he now has to do a “change in tactic” and make clear to Americans “what we are for and what the other team’s not.”

The Senate is evenly split, but with Democrats in control of the White House and Vice President Kamala Harris presiding over the body, the party represents 51 Senate votes. However, members of Biden’s own party, moderate Democratic senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, have blocked major pieces of his legislative agenda.

During Sununu’s November press conference, he was asked by a reporter whether he might regret the decision not to run for the Senate.

During his response, Sununu said comparing what senators’ roles are and the opportunity he has as governor is “not even close” and said multiple senators had told him he would just have to “wait around for a couple of years until we get anything done.”

As an example, Sununu cited the weighty decisions governors made on COVID-19 as they led states through the public health crisis.

“You don’t get to do any of that in the Senate,” Sununu said. “You debate and talk, nothing gets done. And as I said, sometimes that’s considered a win: doing nothing.”

Biden’s criticism of the legislative body comes as he is set to lose a vote to change Senate rules to pass legislation on voting reform because of opposition from Sinema and Manchin. Biden’s $2 trillion social spending bill that includes funding for climate change, child care, and education is also stalled.

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Biden added that he may have to break up the measure into parts in order to get some of his priorities passed.

“It’s clear to me that that we’re gonna have to probably break it up,” Biden said, adding that the two Democratic senators who are opposed to a number of measures in the bill support some parts of it.

“I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now, come back and fight for the rest,” Biden said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the context in which Governor Chris Sununu spoke about his decision not to run for Senate. He made the comments in a Washington Examiner interview published Jan. 18.


Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.