MADRID – President Joe Biden said Thursday he would support changing filibuster rules in the Senate to make it easier to codify a right to abortion and a right to privacy into federal law following last week's Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.
Biden called the ruling "outrageous" and "destabilizing" and said Congress must overturn it by writing Roe v. Wade into law.
"And if the filibuster gets in the way – it's like voting rights – it should be we provide an exception for this," he said during a news conference in Madrid, where he is wrapping up a six-day trip to Europe.
Because of the filibuster, 60 votes are needed in the Senate needed to pass most legislation.
Changing the filibuster would mean senators would need just a simple majority to write into law the Roe v. Wade decision that had established a constitutional right to abortion in 1973 before it was overturned last week.
But getting rid of the filibuster is up to the Senate.
And right now, there aren't enough votes to make that happen. A bill that would enshrine Roe v. Wade into law failed by a 49-51 vote last May.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Biden's remarks about the Supreme Court ruling "inappropriate."
“Attacking a core American institution like the Supreme Court from the world stage is below the dignity of the president," McConnell said in a statement. "Beyond that, President Biden’s attacks on the court are unmerited and dangerous. He’s upset that the court said the people, through their elected representatives, will have a say on abortion policy."
He added: "That does not destabilize democracy – it affirms it. By contrast, it is behavior like the president’s that undermines equal justice and the rule of law."
Progressives says a filibuster carve-out isn't enough
Biden's call for a filibuster carve-out for abortion rights could give Democrats a midterm message for November as they seek to maintain power in Congress. If Democrats can win two Senate seats held by Republicans, that would give them the 51 votes needed to rewrite the Senate's rules and codify Roe v. Wade into law.
Although Democrats currently hold the tie-breaking vote in the evenly divided 50-50 Senate, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have opposed changing the filibuster rule.
Lara Brown, director of the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, warned it was a "shortsighted tactic" that could pave the way for a future Republican majority to pass a nationwide ban on abortion.
"It's not likely to help in the long run and may even backfire," Brown said.
Since the Supreme Court decision last Friday, Biden has faced pressure from progressive Democrats pushing bold action to try to protect access to abortion, such as setting up abortion clinics on federal property, declaring a national health emergency and eliminating the Senate filibuster.
"Time for people to see a real, forceful push for it. Use the bully pulpit. We need more," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in a tweet.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which backs liberal candidates seeking office, called on Biden to convene lawmakers supportive of abortion rights immediately for a vote. "This cannot wait until after the midterms," the group said in a statement that also pushed for the total elimination of the filibuster. "A filibuster carveout is something you do when only one issue matters. Right now, the house is on fire."
In January, Biden pushed the Senate to make an exception for filibuster rules to pass voting rights legislation. But Manchin and Sinema stayed opposed to overhauling the filibuster, and Republicans blocked debate on the bill.
Biden said he will have more announcements on how his administration plans to protect abortion rights after he meets Friday with governors from states that moved to protect abortion rights following the Supreme Court's ruling.
This week, the Biden administration unveiled a plan to support access to abortion and other family planning services.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said federal officials are working to increase access to medication abortion in limited circumstances, ensure providers have appropriate training and resources and direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to take legal steps to protect family planning care.
Francesca Chambers and Michael Collins cover the White House. Follow Chambers on Twitter @fran_chambers and Collins @mcollinsNEWS.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Abortion: Biden favors changing filibuster to codify Roe v. Wade