President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would support eliminating the Senate filibuster to protect access to abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court 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.”
As a former senator, Biden has been reluctant to support changes to the filibuster, which allows any member of the 100-member chamber to block action on legislation unless it receives 60 votes. However, earlier this year he endorsed sidestepping the rule on the issue of voting rights, and his latest comments make clear that he's willing to do the same for abortion.
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.
The president has been under pressure to take as much executive action as possible to protect abortion rights, 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.”
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.
Voting legislation that Democrats and civil rights leaders said was vital to protecting democracy collapsed in January when Manchin and Sinema refused to join their own party in changing Senate rules to overcome a Republican filibuster. The outcome was a stinging defeat for Biden and his party, coming at the tumultuous close to his first year in office.