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Biden says he will push to codify Roe if Democrats keep the House and Senate

President Joe Biden speaks about abortion access during a Democratic National Committee event at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18.
Evan Vucci
/
AP
President Joe Biden speaks about abortion access during a Democratic National Committee event at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18.

President Joe Biden vowed that if voters elect more Democratic senators and keep the House, he will send a bill to Congress to codify abortion protections into law.

Biden doubled down on abortion rights as a voting issue for Democrats this November during a speech at a Democratic National Committee event in Washington, D.C.

"We're only 22 days away from the most consequential moment in our history in my view, in recent history at least — an election where the choice and the stakes are crystal clear, especially when it comes to the right to choose," Biden said Tuesday.

"Right now, we're short a handful of votes. If you care about the right to choose then you got to vote," he said. "That's why these midterm elections are so critical to elect more Democratic senators in the United States Senate and more Democrats to keep control the House of Representatives."

Since most legislation requires a 60-vote threshold to advance in the Senate due to the filibuster rule, Democrats would need to abolish the filibuster, which could allow the law to pass with a simple majority vote.

Yet Democrats currently lack the 50 votes in the Senate needed to remove the filibuster, with Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema both expressing opposition to ending the procedure. This November, Democrats would need to elect at least two more candidates to the Senate who are willing to vote in support of ending the filibuster.

Biden said if such a bill to codify abortion protections is passed, he will sign it in January, the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Currently, Democrats hold an even 50 votes there, and control is likely to be decided in just a few races, with the House also facing slim margins.

The House previously passed a bill that would protect the right to abortion, but the vote in both chambers was largely symbolic because the Senate did not have enough support to pass it. Even Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey, who has previously voted for abortion restrictions, voted against the symbolic measure.

Then there is the threat of GOP efforts should Republicans win more seats. Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a bill that would have created federal restrictions on abortion, a measure Biden said he would veto if passed.

Voters are weighing abortion rights as a top issue

Abortion rights emerged as a main campaign talking point for Democrats following the Supreme Court's reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which prompted many states to enact abortion-restricting laws.

Although inflation has continued to be the top issue for both voters and Republican candidates, abortion rights have emerged as a top issue for voters as well.

It has been particularly energizing for younger voters, whose voter registration numbers increased following the Supreme Court's decision.

In his Tuesday speech, Biden specifically called out to younger voters who may have voted for the first time during the 2020 election.

"In 2020 you voted and delivered the change you wanted to see in the world. In 2022, you need to exercise the power to vote again for the future of our nation and the future of your generation," Biden said.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.