US President says ‘exception’ must be made to 60-vote rule to legalize abortion
US President Joe Biden wants the Senate to get rid of the filibuster rule in order to pass abortion legislation, he told reporters Thursday at the NATO summit in Spain. However, it could run out of votes, as two prominent Senate Democrats said later in the day they would oppose it.
Biden was in Madrid to meet with the heads of other NATO countries, officially invite Sweden and Finland into the alliance and pledge more arms and money to Ukraine’s war against Russia. During his brief press conference, however, American reporters asked him about last week’s decision by the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 precedent who declared abortion a constitutionally protected right.
“We need to codify Roe v. Wade into law, and the way to do that is to make sure Congress votes to do it,” Biden said. “And if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like the right to vote, we provide an exception for that, or a filibuster exception for that action.”
His official Twitter account job a statement to the same effect a little later. The filibuster rule requires 60 senators to vote for a proposal before it can pass, preventing the Senate from approving legislation by a simple majority like the House of Representatives does.
The Senate is currently split evenly, with Vice President Kamala Harris playing the tiebreaker role in 50 to 50 votes. Biden’s Democrats tried to legalize abortion last month, after someone leaked the Supreme Court’s draft ruling ahead of the decision. The May 12 vote failed 49-51, as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) sided with Republicans against the “Women’s Health Protection Act”.
Manchin told the Daily Mail on Thursday that his stance on the filibuster had not changed since. Asked about it, the office of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) reissued its statement from last month calling the filibuster “more important than ever.”
The Supreme Court’s decision last Friday returned the abortion issue to the state legislature and said Roe v. Wade rested on a “grossly false” and “exceptionally weak” interpretation of the Constitution.
Biden’s reaction was to call the court’s conservative majority “extreme” and out of touch, and say the decision made the United States “an outlier among the developed countries of the world.” He repeated the condemnation in Madrid on Thursday, arguing the verdict was “destabilizing” and “a mistake.” He also urged Democrats to “Vote, vote, vote. This is how we are going to change it.
In his 36 years in the Senate and on the presidential campaign trail, Biden has previously opposed ending the filibuster. In 2019, he told reporters that it would be “a very dangerous thing to do.” In a 2005 speech to the Senate, he denounced Republican calls to end the filibuster as a “fundamental takeover by the majority party”.