Biden Has Pushed Ending the Filibuster for More Than Just Abortion Rights

President Joe Biden reportedly voiced support Thursday for getting an exception to the Senate filibuster in order to codify abortion rights that had been established in Roe v. Wade, a move he has previously pushed in connection to voting rights legislation.

While speaking to reporters in Madrid on Thursday, Biden said that he believes "we have to codify Roe v. Wade into law."

"And the way to do that is to make sure Congress votes to do that," Biden said. "And if the filibuster gets in the way, it's like voting rights, it should be—we provide an exception for this, should require an exception to the filibuster for this action, to deal with the Supreme Court decision."

In January this year, Biden said that he would support changing the filibuster rules in order to get bills on voting rights to a vote on the Senate floor, The Washington Post reported.

The Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade last week, and the subsequent rollback on abortion rights in multiple states, immediately sparked outcry and protests from abortion rights advocates. Even before the Court issued its controversial opinion, Biden and U.S. lawmakers were facing calls to codify the federal protections for abortion rights under Roe v. Wade that have now been revoked.

Biden Supports Filibuster Exceptions
While speaking to reporters in Madrid on Thursday, Biden said that he believes "we have to codify Roe v. Wade into law," a goal that might involve pushing for an exception to Senate filibuster rules. Above, Biden holds a news conference at the NATO Summit on June 30 in Madrid. Denis Doyle/Getty Images

In simple terms, codifying means "to arrange laws or rules into a systematic code," according to Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute. Such a move can allow lawmakers to protect access to abortion, voting or other rights without having to rely on precedents or decisions from courts.

"The process of codification can involve taking judicial decisions or legislative acts and turning them into codified law," the institute explained. "This process does not necessarily create new law, it merely arranges existing law, usually by subject, into a code."

Though the Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade has given the decision on abortion procedures back to the states for now, Congress could codify abortion rights by passing a law with the same protections that Roe entailed. But when a national abortion rights bill, which aimed to codify the right to abortion, reached the Senate last month, it was not able to reach the 60-vote threshold it needed to bypass the filibuster.

Similarly, Congress has been blocked from codifying certain protections for voting rights because of the Senate filibuster.

The Supreme Court has struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the last decade, Politico reported. One piece of legislation the Biden has pushed, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, "responds to current conditions in voting today by restoring the full protections of the original, bipartisan Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was last reauthorized by Congress in 2006, but gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013," according to an information sheet on the website of Senator Patrick Leahy.

Senate Republicans were able to block the advancement of the act last year when Democrats, again, did not secure 60 votes, the Post reported.

Biden's comments in January, as well as to reporters on Thursday, show that he would back exceptions or even changes to filibuster rules in order for such legislation to pass.

As defined by the U.S. Senate, a "filibuster" is a loose term used to describe "action designed to prolong debate and delay or prevent a vote on a bill, resolution, amendment, or other debatable question." The Senate has a "tradition" of allowing unlimited debate on such items.

A bill that gets to a vote on the Senate floor only requires a simple majority of 51 votes to pass in the 100-member chamber of Congress, but even if the legislation would have enough votes in order to pass, a filibuster could indefinitely delay it from coming to a vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The Senate has adopted a cloture rule that can end debate on most topics with 60 votes, but since the group is currently evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, reaching such a majority is often extremely unlikely.

The Senate was recently able to clear the 60-vote threshold in passing the bipartisan gun bill that was crafted in the wake of several recent mass shootings, including the Texas elementary school attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.