After facing mounting pressure to do literally anything after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden announced that he would support an exception to the filibuster to protect the right to an abortion.
“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,” Biden said in Madrid on Thursday, according to the New York Times. “And if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights, we can provide an exception for this, or an exception to the filibuster for this action.”
There is a lot of hill jargon in what Biden said, so allow me to try to break it all down (I have a political science degree, I got this y’all).
Now let’s move onto the filibuster, also known as the rule that keeps Democrats up at night.
All you really need to know, is that the filibuster prevents Democrats in the senate from passing almost anything with less than a 60 vote majority. The issue, Democrats only have 50 senate seats, plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.
So as long as the filibuster exists, Democrats are mostly stuck unless they can get a bunch of Republicans to vote with them, plus everyone in their party, including folks like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
But can Biden actually do anything about the filibuster? The short answer is no.
He doesn’t get a vote in the senate. And Biden has already been down this road of asking for an exception to the filibuster to pass voting rights, which went over like lead balloon with folks like Manchin and Arizona Kyrsten Sinema.
He’s also tried to get congress to vote to codify Roe before, which failed thanks to our usual suspects.
So while it’s cool for Biden, a senate rules enthusiast to call for the filibuster’s head, it likely wont change much.
The thing is, there is a ton of stuff Biden could actually do on his own to make things better.
Democrats Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been throwing out some solid suggestions since we got the hint that the court planned to overturn Roe.
These suggestions include giving federal vouchers to folks who have to travel out of state for abortions. Plus, limiting phone companies ability to sell data that could reveal if someone had an abortion and investigating whether the administration could open clinics on federal land in states that have banned abortion.
So far, we haven’t seen any of those steps. And in fact, it looks like Biden plans to nominate an an anti-abortion judge in Kentucky, according to reporting from The Hill.
But who knows, as pressure mounts for Biden to do something about the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who just lost their rights, bold moves could be coming our way.