Biden Supports ‘Exception’ To Filibuster To Codify Roe v. Wade

“If the filibuster gets in the way ... we should provide an exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision," the president said.

President Joe Biden said he would support an “exception” to Senate filibuster rules to codify abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court decision repealing the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

“I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade into law and the way to do that is to make sure Congress votes to do that,” Biden said in Madrid after attending the NATO summit.

“And if the filibuster gets in the way — it’s like voting rights — we should be requiring an exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision,” the president said.

When asked specifically if the president would support changing the filibuster rules to codify abortion rights, he responded: “Right to privacy, not just abortion rights, but yes abortion rights.”

Biden said he’s meeting with a group of governors on Friday to discuss more solutions. He added that he’s going to do everything in his power that he “legally can do in terms of executive orders, as well as push for Congress and the public.”

Earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called to eliminate the filibuster in the Senate in order to codify Roe, and pushed the House to take up another vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act to “enshrine Roe v. Wade in to the law of the land.” The WHPA already passed in the House last year, but failed in the Senate twice ― once before the Supreme Court draft leak and once after ― due to the filibuster.

Biden’s comments on Thursday represent an escalation of the president’s rhetoric but likely won’t have any practical effect, since Democrats lack the support of all of their members for a rule change, which would require a simple majority vote.

During a debate over voting rights legislation earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sought to change filibuster rules to allow passage of voting rights legislation, but two conservative Democrats ― Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) — joined with all 50 Republicans to thwart the attempt. Biden supported the voting rights exception to the filibuster.

In floor speeches, Manchin and Sinema echoed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had said changing the rules would “break the Senate” even though he and former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had previously lowered the vote threshold for approving judicial nominees.

“Eliminating the 60-vote threshold — on a party line with the thinnest of possible majorities — to pass these bills that I support will not guarantee that we prevent demagogues from winning office,” Sinema said. “Rather, eliminating the 60-vote threshold will simply guarantee that we lose a critical tool that we need to safeguard our democracy from threats in the years to come.”

Instead, the two senators said the Senate could pass legislation on a bipartisan basis. “Eliminating the filibuster would be the easy way out,” Manchin said. “It’s time we do the hard work to forge the difficult compromises that can stand the test of time.”

Still, Sinema and Manchin said they supported the Democratic voting rights bills even though they wouldn’t back a rules change ― even if it was only for voting rights, as was the case earlier this year.

Manchin and Sinema have similarly said they would support legislation protecting abortion rights, but have given no indication their stance on the filibuster has changed.

As with voting rights, a bipartisan bill protecting abortion rights seems like an impossibility, with only a handful of Republicans open to the idea, far short of the 10 currently need to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

Vice President Kamala Harris recently acknowledged to CNN that eliminating the filibuster is not a realistic option.

“Right now, given the current composition of the Senate, the votes aren’t there,” Harris said, adding later, “The numbers are not there ... and we can’t de-emphasize the significance of that.”

And Harris has been a more outspoken advocate for abortion rights than the president himself. Biden had never said the word “abortion” until the Supreme Court draft leak in the Dobbs case in early May showed the court was poised to fully overturn Roe.

Before then, Biden had used the word “abortion” only three times as president, and only in written remarks.

Abortion rights advocates and some pro-choice lawmakers have been openly frustrated with Biden’s lack of action on or discussion around dwindling access to abortion care in the U.S. Many advocates told HuffPost in February that they were deeply concerned about Biden’s apparent hesitance to vocally advocate for abortion. In April, over 1,000 people who provide or have had abortions wrote an open letter to Biden urging him to talk about abortion and use his power as president to protect access to the procedure.

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