Biden boldly comes out for the bare minimum to protect abortion rights

He said he would do away in the filibuster — only in this instance, but it’s something.

US President Joe Biden speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 29...

After nearly a week of doing essentially nothing in the wake of the Supreme Court’s abhorrent decision nullifying the federal right to reproductive health care, President Biden courageously declared he was willing to do ... well ... something, telling reporters Thursday that he’d support a limited filibuster carve-out to help codify the protections once afforded by Roe v. Wade into law.

“I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade into law, and the way we do that is to make sure Congress votes to do that,” Biden explained during a press briefing in Madrid, where the president is participating in a NATO summit. “And if the filibuster gets in the way — it’s like voting rights — it should be ... we provide an exception for this this ... require an exception for the filibuster for this action.”

While cautiously floating a limited filibuster exception hardly seems like the sort of full-throated reproductive rights rallying cry many have been hoping for from this White House, it does mark a significant step in the right direction considering the past few days of rhetoric from the Biden administration have largely ranged from “do what now?” to requests for money and prompts to vote five months from now — not exactly inspiring stuff from the ostensibly pro-choice party currently in charge of both chambers of Congress and the executive branch. Crucially, it also comes after — and presumably in no small part because of — intense criticism from the Democrats’ increasingly frustrated base.

Still, as (comparatively) significant it is that Biden is now backing a limited procedural change to parliamentary rules, his support for a Roe filibuster exception to help codify abortion access into law is by no means a guarantee that it’ll actually happen. Even if he succeeds in establishing the carve-out, he still has to contend with the fact that the last time Democrats brought forth legislation to protect reproductive rights, they couldn’t even get a simple majority thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin, the only Democrat to join Republicans and become the 51st vote against the proposed legislation.

However, as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — perhaps the loudest voice among the minority of Democrats who spent the past week actually demanding concrete reproductive rights action rather than offering platitudes — correctly pointed out, Biden’s move is a net positive one. By using his presidential megaphone for, as AOC put it, a “real, forceful push,” it’s possible that this administration might actually, finally, put its political money where its fundraising newsletter mouth is.