Biden concedes Democrats don’t have votes to change filibuster

President Biden conceded Friday that Democrats currently lack the votes to alter the legislative filibuster to pass abortion rights legislation, adding that the party’s goal should be to pick up two seats in the midterm elections to do so. 

Biden’s comments came a day after he called on senators to change the filibuster — a rule which means 60 votes are needed to end debate on most legislation — to enable lawmakers to pass legislation codifying Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion ruling overturned by the Supreme Court last week.  

“Ultimately, Congress is going to have to act to codify Roe into federal law,” Biden said during a virtual meeting with Democratic governors on reproductive rights Friday afternoon. 

“The filibuster should not stand in the way of us being able to do that, but right now we don’t have the votes in the Senate to change the filibuster,” Biden said. “That means we need two more votes.” 

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have expressed opposition to changing the filibuster and reiterated that their positions had not changed through spokespeople following Biden’s remarks on Thursday. 

Biden on Friday also repeatedly said he thought that Republicans would try to ban abortion nationwide if they achieve majorities in the House and Senate after the midterm elections.  

“This is going to go one way or the other after November,” the president said.  

Biden’s rhetoric offered a preview of the White House’s messaging on abortion going into the midterms. 

History, polling and current economic conditions suggest Democrats are on a path to lose seats in Congress in the upcoming elections. Still, Democrats believe that the issue of abortion rights could be a game-changer come November, particularly when it comes to appealing to female voters. 

Biden heard from nine governors including New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) about the steps they are taking to protect access to abortion in their states.  

Hochul, for instance, spotlighted her plans to enshrine abortion rights into the state’s Constitution and shield providers and women from out-of-state lawsuits.  

She also argued that Biden could do more with his executive authority, such as using federal facilities like Veterans Affairs hospitals for abortion services — an idea the White House tried to pump the breaks on earlier this week.  

Lujan Grisham echoed Hochul in calling for more executive action and offered that abortion services could be offered at Indian Health Service clinics. 

Cooper, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association, also underscored the importance of electing more Democrats in gubernatorial races across the country.  

“Governors really are the last line of defense and they’re also the first chance at progress,” he said.