Todd J. Gillman
The Dallas Morning News
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden declared Thursday that he wants the Senate to eliminate the filibuster, if that’s what it takes to codify abortion rights after the Supreme Court’s decision striking down Roe v. Wade last week.
That’s unlikely. But the extraordinary lengths to which Biden says he would go reflects deep frustration at the White House after the conservative majority erased nearly a half-century of constitutional protection for abortion.
Biden emphasized that it’s “not just abortion rights” but the broader right to privacy that Congress must now codify. That right, recognized for generations by the Supreme Court but not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, provides the legal underpinnings for same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, consensual sexual conduct and access to contraception.
“They just wiped it all out,” Biden said during a news conference at the NATO summit in Madrid.
Biden said he will meet with governors on Friday to brainstorm ways to counteract last Friday’s ruling. He said he will announce executive actions to protect access to a procedure that is or will soon be illegal in about 26 states in most cases, including Texas.
Justice Samuel Alito, in the opinion that overturned Roe, offered assurance that related privacy rights aren’t at risk. Abortion is different, he wrote, because it ends a budding life.
But Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, called for the court to revisit nearly all privacy-related rulings, alarming civil rights advocates and LGBT groups.
The filibuster has been sacrosanct for decades in the Senate, requiring a supermajority of 60 senators for legislation to pass. Two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema, opposed efforts in January to set aside the rule in order to push through voting rights legislation.
In a 50-50 Senate, hopes are exceedingly dim for scrapping the supermajority rule. Republicans have warned of dire consequences if Democrats go down this path.
In early May, a draft was leaked of Alito’s ruling in the Mississippi case, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health. The following week, legislation that would have codified Roe failed in the Senate, with just 49 votes in support.
A filibuster had also quashed that measure in late February.