Asked about what executive action he would use to strengthen abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last week, Biden said, “The most important thing … we have to change — I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade in the law.”
“And the way to do that is to make sure the Congress votes to do that. And if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights — it should be (that) we provide an exception to this … requiring an exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision,” he added.
The President then clarified that he was also open to changing filibuster rules for for the “right to privacy, not just abortion rights.”
The Senate doesn’t have the 60 votes needed to codify Roe v. Wade under current rules. But that could change if the filibuster rules are altered to require a simple majority.
Key moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have expressed opposition to changing filibuster rules. Manchin, however, is open to codifying Roe v. Wade legislatively. There has been no indication Manchin and Sinema have or will change their positions as it relates to changing filibuster rules in the case of abortion and privacy rights.
But Biden’s call does dovetail with the White House efforts to ramp up the urgency in advance of the midterm elections — and it comes as national Democrats have increasingly raised concerns that the Biden administration is not doing enough to address and fight the Supreme Court decision.
Despite flagging poll numbers and poor prospects in holding onto the Democratic majority in the House, the White House sees a path to gaining Senate seats to increase their narrow majority.
Holding their current seats and adding at least two new Democratic senators could, in theory, create the pathway to securing the votes for a Senate rules change.
Supreme Court’s behavior is ‘destabilizing’
Biden, speaking after a series of summits with world leaders in Europe, broadly disputed characterizations that America is going backward. But he conceded that the Supreme Court’s roll back on abortion rights and the right to privacy has been “destabilizing.”
“We’ve been a leader in the world in terms of personal rights and privacy rights. And it is a mistake, in my view, for the Supreme Court to do what it did,” he said.
The President also defended his ability to effectively convey Democrats’ message on abortion, despite a complicated history on the issue, telling progressive members of his party they had little choice in the matter.
“I’m the only president they got,” he said.
Some Democrats have been critical of Biden for not speaking out louder on protecting abortion rights. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, some have complained he isn’t willing to go far enough in protecting access to abortions.
But Biden said he was the one in the White House.
“I’m the President of the United States of America,” he said. “That makes me the best messenger.”
He called the abortion ruling “a serious, serious problem that the court has thrust upon the United States,” linking the decision to other potential issues like marriage rights.
“I’m feel extremely strongly that I’m gonna do everything in my power, which I legally can do in terms of executive orders,” he said.
During Thursday’s news conference, the President said he would be meeting with governors on Friday to discuss abortion issues and would have “announcements to make then.”
This story has been updated with more from Thursday’s news conference.