Biden calls on Congress to ease Senate rules to codify abortion rights

A person holds a sign reading “Codify Roe v. Wade” as abortion rights activists protest after the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade by the US Supreme Court, in Downtown Los Angeles, on June 24, 2022.

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President Joe Biden on Thursday said he would support a suspending the Senate filibuster rule to codify the constitutional right to an abortion as established by the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 ruling to Roe v. Wade.

His comments represent critical support for suspending a key procedural hurdle that has thus far prevented Senate Democrats from passing legislation that would make the Roe decision federal law. Current Senate rules require the majority party to muster 60 votes to overcome the minority’s attempt to block the advance of a bill, an procedural action known as a filibuster.

“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 told reporters in Spain.

But with the Senate split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, the GOP has been able to use the filibuster rule to stop the slim Democratic majority from approving abortion bills.

“If the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights, we provide an exception for this,” Biden said. “We require an exception of the filibuster for this action.”

US President Joe Biden holds a press conference on the last day of the NATO Summit at the IFEMA Convention Center, in Madrid, Spain on June 30, 2022.

Burak Akbulut | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Biden’s comments come a week after the nation’s highest court overturned 50 years of legal precedent by reversing its original opinion that women have a constitutional right to an abortion. They also mark the first time the president has publicly supported changing the filibuster rules to pass legislation codifying Roe v. Wade into law.

The court’s controversial ruling last week now grants states the power decide their own abortion laws without worrying about running afoul of the Roe opinion, which had allowed abortions during the first two trimesters of pregnancy.

The president said he’s scheduled to meet with state governors on Friday to discuss their options until Democrats in Congress cement their response. Echoing the belief held by many Democrats, Biden added that the court’s reversal “is a serious, serious problem the Supreme Court has thrust upon the United States.”

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“I’m going to do everything in my power I legally can do in terms of protecting abortion, as well as pushing Congress and the public,” he said.

Even Biden’s backing doesn’t mean Democrats will be able to force abortion legislation through the Senate. That’s because, while the filibuster could be changed with a simple majority vote, not all Senate Democrats like the idea of tossing out a way to check future Republican majorities.

Moderate Democrats Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, for example, have said they are against edits to the filibuster rules.

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