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Biden Calls Out Manchin, Sinema Over Refusal to Back Ditching Filibuster: ‘We Need Two More Votes’

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A frustrated President Joe Biden called out two U.S. senators, both fellow Democrats, over their steadfast refusal to back efforts by their party to ditch the chamber’s filibuster rule in order to move key legislation.

Biden made his remarks ahead of a meeting on Friday with Democratic governors regarding ways to improve abortion access following last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and sent the issue back to the states where it had resided before 1973.

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The president was referencing Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of whom have repeatedly refused to blow up the filibuster, a rule that requires a 60-vote majority in order to move most legislation forward. The rule has been in place throughout most of the country’s history; it was put in place to give the minority party some leverage to control the legislative agenda.

The filibuster is a rule, not a constitutional requirement, however.

In pushing back on their party’s efforts to ditch the filibuster, Manchin and Sinema have regularly expressed concerns that should Democrats be successful in eliminating the rule, Republicans would also be able to force through legislation in the future with a bare majority. The current makeup of the Senate is 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and two Independents — Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — who caucus with Democrats. Vice President Kamala Harris serves as a tiebreaking vote, thereby giving Democrats titular control over the chamber.

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“Congress is going to have to act to codify Roe into federal law. As I said yesterday, the filibuster should not stand in the way of our ability to do that,” Biden said Friday.

“But right now, we do not have the votes in the Senate to change the filibuster at the moment. That means we need two more votes now. Well not now, when we vote, probably after November,” he added.

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“More senators and a House majority [were] elected in November to get this bill to my desk. So the choice is clear: we either elect federal senators and representatives who will codify Roe, or Republicans will elect the House and Senate and will try to ban abortions nationwide,” he claimed. “Nationwide. This is going to go one way or the other after November.”

Republican lawmakers have not come out in support of a nationwide ban; most appear to be content with the Supreme Court’s ruling returning the issue to individual states for their residents to decide.

The Daily Caller adds:

Biden’s comments were an apparent reference to the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would legalize abortion nationwide up to the moment of birth and eliminate conscience protections for doctors and nurses who refuse to perform the procedure. The legislation passed the House of Representatives in September 2021, but Manchin joined all 50 Republicans in voting against it in May. 

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The president added that his administration would work to block red states from implementing abortion restrictions, noting proposals that would prohibit women from crossing state lines to access abortion, and limit them from accessing abortifacients such as mifepristone.

“Last week, I announced two specific actions. First, there are extremist governors that plan to stop a woman from traveling from her state that prohibits her from seeking medical help she needs, to a state that provides that care, the federal government will act to protect her bedrock rights through the Attorney General’s office,” noted Biden.

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“Second, states try to block a woman from getting medication the FDA has already approved, that has been available for more than 20 years, my administration will act to protect that woman’s right to that medication,” Biden said.

Several Democrats have pressed Biden to order his administration to offer abortions on federal lands and territories. However, that move would most likely violate the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion in most instances.

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