IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Biden backs change to filibuster rule to protect abortion rights

President Biden raised a few eyebrows when he endorsed a bill to protect abortion rights, even if it means creating an exception to the filibuster rule.


Before President Joe Biden served in national office, he was a U.S. senator for 36 years. It’s no secret that the Delaware Democrat loved the institution and championed its traditions.

With this in mind, it came as something of a surprise late last year when the president announced a new position: Biden said that to protect voting rights, the Senate should “make an exception“ to the existing filibuster rule.

This morning, the president announced his support for another carveout to the existing rule. NBC News reported:

President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would support making an exception to the Senate’s filibuster to codify Roe v. Wade’s protections for a woman’s right to an abortion and privacy rights.

Speaking to reporters as he wrapped up his G7 and NATO summits, Biden said, “I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade in the law. And the way to do that is to make sure Congress votes to do that — and if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights.... We provide an exception for this, should require an exception to the filibuster for this action, to deal with the Supreme Court decision.”

The comments were not scripted, but the president didn’t appear to be entirely speaking off the cuff, either. Biden appeared eager to announce this as a new and important position of his administration.

In response to a follow-up question from NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell, the Democrat added that he wants to see legislation that protects “right to privacy, not just abortion rights.”

For proponents of reproductive rights, the presidential declaration represents an important step: The White House pushing for these protections is a key part of the process that makes success more likely.

But while Biden’s comments were significant, they weren’t determinative: It’s not up to the president to make the decision; it’s up to lawmakers to pass a bill.

And whether the White House likes it or not, the legislative arithmetic has not changed: To create an exception to the filibuster rule would require a minimum of 50 votes in the upper chamber. Those votes didn’t exist on voting rights — Senate Democrats came two votes short — and there’s ample evidence they don’t have the votes on reproductive rights, either.

The hurdles remain two Democratic incumbents — West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema — who won’t budge. In fact, the latter has suggested the demise of Roe v. Wade makes her even more eager to leave the filibuster rules intact, since it might prevent Republicans from passing a national abortion ban.

That said, it’s easy to see a possible Democratic election-year message taking shape: With two more Democratic votes in the Senate, action on this issue would go from impossible to possible.