President Joe Biden said Thursday he would support an exception to the Senate filibuster so Democrats can make abortion access the law of the land now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade.
“If the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights,” Biden said during a press conference in Madrid, where he was attending a NATO summit. The Democratic president said there should be an “exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision.”
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As a former senator, Biden has been reluctant to support changes to the filibuster which allows any member of the 100-member Senate to block action on legislation unless it receives 60 votes. Earlier this year he also endorsed sidestepping the filibuster on the issue of voting rights, and his latest comments make clear that he’s willing to do the same for abortion.
Biden himself used to have a very different view on abortion. In a 2006 interview, he stated, “I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. I view it as a tragedy. And I think it should be rare and safe and I think we should be focusing on how to limit the number of abortions and there ought to be a common ground and consensus to do that.”
Biden’s support for changes to the filibuster in the 50-50 Senate may ultimately be immaterial. The Senate Democratic caucus would need to unanimously take such a step, but at least two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, don’t want to undermine the long-standing filibuster.
During Thursday’s news conference, Biden harshly criticized the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion and reiterated his warnings that other constitutional protections could be at risk.
“One thing that has been destabilizing is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court of the United States in overruling not only Roe v. Wade but essentially challenging the right to privacy,” he said.
The president has been under pressure to take as much executive action as possible to protect abortion, although his options are limited. Biden said he’s meeting Friday with governors to talk about abortion and “I’ll have announcements to make then.”
Reaction from Republicans to Biden’s talk of ending the Senate filibuster over abortion rights was swift.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is opposed to any changes to the filibuster rule, criticized the president’s overseas remarks for attacking the U.S. Supreme Court in front of the entire world.
“Attacking a core American institution like the Supreme Court from the world stage is below the dignity of the President. Beyond that, President Biden’s attacks on the Court are unmerited and dangerous,” McConnell said in a press release Thursday. “He’s upset that the Court said the people, through their elected representatives, will have a say on abortion policy. That does not destabilize democracy – it affirms it. By contrast, it is behavior like the President’s that undermines equal justice and the rule of law.”
“The President launched this inappropriate attack when he was asked about whether or not we are on the right track as a country,” McConnell continued. “The President needs to take a look in the mirror. The Supreme Court isn’t responsible for inflation, high gas prices, crime in the streets or chaos at the border. He is. No amount of blame shifting on the global stage will change that.”
U.S. congressional candidate Antonio Pitocco, a Republican running to represent Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District, tweeted: “If roles were reversed and it was Republicans trying to eliminate the filibuster, Democrats would be crying about fascism and tyranny.”
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