Biden Reverses Course, Says He Supports Changing the Filibuster to Codify Abortion Rights

Now it's a matter of making moves before the midterms.

Biden Reverses Course, Says He Supports Changing the Filibuster to Codify Abortion Rights
Photo:Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance via Getty Images (Getty Images)

President Joe Biden on Thursday reversed course and said he now supports lifting the Senate filibuster in order to pass a bill that would codify the holdings of Roe v. Wade into federal law.

Advocates and fellow lawmakers called on Biden to eliminate the Senate’s 60-vote threshold—either altogether or just for abortion laws—after the Supreme Court overturned Roe last week, allowing states to ban abortion.

Biden was asked about the ruling at a press conference during the NATO summit in Spain and said: “I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade in the law and the way to do that is to make sure that Congress votes to do that. And if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights, it should be, ‘We provide an exception for this’—require an exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision.”

Here’s a clip of the moment:

Importantly, Biden did not say when he wants Congress to vote on codifying Roe. But it should be ASAP in order to minimize the horrific fallout of state abortion bans—and because Democrats will likely lose control of both the Senate and the House after the midterm elections in November. Yes, Biden and other Democratic leaders still need to convince Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to approve a filibuster carve-out for abortion, but they should at least try. Previously, Democratic senators have argued that ending the filibuster would enable Republicans to pass a nationwide abortion ban at 15 weeks (or even six weeks). But in our post-Roe world, Republicans have already made it clear that, regardless of what Democrats do now, they’ll nuke the filibuster for an abortion ban when they retake power—so Democrats should do everything they can to codify protections now.

Biden’s reversal comes after intense criticism over his administration’s flaccid response to the Supreme Court ruling. Just yesterday, Reuters reported that the administration was concerned that ending the filibuster was politically risky: “White House officials worry Democrats don’t have enough votes currently to support doing away with the filibuster to pass an abortion bill, and see political risks to Biden supporting the idea.”

Biden also faced criticism this week following reports that he made a deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to nominate an anti-abortion judge to a lifetime seat when one opens up in Kentucky.

At least for now, it looks like the pressure on Biden worked. Now, pressure him to dramatically expand access to abortion pills and open additional abortion clinics on federal property, like national parks or VA Hospitals, even if they’re in blue states. The fall of Roe is a crisis and it demands a crisis-level response.

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