Abortion is added to Biden’s near-impossible to-do list

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s list of impossible tasks just keeps getting longer.

Despite big promises he made from campaigning to his first year in office, he has limited powers to retain voting rights or scale up the fight against climate change alone.

And now it’s become clear that Biden doesn’t have good options for gaining access to abortion as the Supreme Court appears poised to rule Roe v. to fall Wade.

It’s a confusing and disheartening situation for Democrats, who control both Congress and the White House for the first time in more than a decade.

But the reality is that the party has the slimmest of majorities in the Senate, and there just aren’t enough votes to guarantee abortion rights, especially with the filibuster.

Biden’s promise, Roe v. Codifying Wade into law seems destined for the same rocky shoals where other parts of his agenda, like clean energy tax credits or legislation that would pre-empt state voting restrictions, have already bottomed.


Perhaps the most succinct explanation came earlier this week from Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

“We’re stuck,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has scheduled a vote on abortion next Wednesday, which will almost certainly fail. Republicans are united in opposition, and a handful of Democrats may not support them either.

The impasse is forcing the White House to reopen its backup playbook — looking for ways to make a difference through executive action or regulatory action, while Republicans have been criticized for a lack of broader action.

“The White House is under tremendous pressure to be more assertive and vocal,” said Lawrence Gostin, who directs the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health at Georgetown Law.


But Gostin, who advises administration officials on next steps, said “Biden must hold on to winnable battles” by focusing on “low-hanging fruit.”

One such idea is to make abortion drugs more accessible through the mail. The Food and Drug Administration has already removed the requirement to pick up the pills in person, and Gostin said the practice will need an aggressive defense because it faces conservative attacks.

The Justice Department has already gone to court over access to abortion, suing Texas last year to stop a law that would ban most abortions.


Another concept, Gostin said, would allow Medicaid to pay for travel if a woman can’t get an abortion in her own state. Such a plan could run afoul of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortions, so it would have to be carefully drafted.

For example, the policy might say that Medicaid would pay for travel for authorized medical treatment if it’s not legal where the patient lives—not to mention abortion.

None of these proposals are foolproof, and they are likely to be challenged by Republicans in court or through legislation.

“It’s like slapping the mole,” Gostin said. “Every time a woman tries to break through government restrictions, they get tighter.”

These types of administrative moves are similar to what Biden did when other initiatives stalled on Capitol Hill.

For example, he signed an executive order to vote to make registration easier, and the Justice Department is stepping up efforts to protect access to ballots.


In addition, Biden included some climate guidance in infrastructure legislation passed last year, and regulators are tightening regulations on vehicle emissions.

“The President is incredibly proud of what he has accomplished in his 15 months as President,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

When asked about Biden’s struggles on Capitol Hill, Psaki cited his years of experience as a senator.

“He knows and understands that sometimes it takes longer than he would like to move your agenda forward,” she said.

However, abortion inspires even greater passions than other issues across the political spectrum, and frustration at inaction simmers.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who wants his state to become a haven for abortion seekers, said this week Democrats are falling short.


“Where the hell is my party?” he said. Anti-abortionists are winning, Newsom added. “We have to get up. Where’s the counteroffensive?’

Cecilia Muñoz, a senior adviser at New America, a left-leaning Washington-based think tank, said in an interview earlier this year, “It’s assumed that the president has a magic wand, which he doesn’t always have.”

As director of President Barack Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, she witnessed this firsthand as the White House increasingly relied on executive branch action to achieve its goals, despite Republican opposition.

“I think the advocacy community has got used to the idea that there are shortcuts,” she said. “But there are no good shortcuts.”

Mini Timmaraju, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the expected ending of Roe v. Wade will force activists to use other tactics.

“The American people are used to relying on the courts to protect their fundamental freedoms,” she said. “And now we really have to get people used to turning their attention to legislators, members of Congress and legislatures. And that’s going to be a bit of a culture shock and a bit of a mindset shift.”


Democrats appear to be losing control of Congress in November’s election, especially as Biden’s approval ratings plummet. However, some are hoping the Supreme Court’s decision will warm up their voters.

“What you’re looking for in politics is opportunity,” said Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster. “There’s an opportunity that wasn’t there before it came out.”

Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, compared Biden’s situation to President Harry Truman, who faltered in his re-election in 1948. He turned his campaign into an indictment of an “do nothing Congress” then controlled by Republicans, and managed to win a narrow victory.

The goal, Beschloss said, is “to take a bad hand and play it perfectly.”

Biden is attempting a similar tack ahead of the midterms, escalating his criticism of other Republican proposals.


He repeatedly points to a blueprint from the National Republican Senatorial Committee that would increase taxes on those on the low end of the income spectrum and force federal programs like Social Security to be reauthorized every five years.

“I offered a different plan — a plan rooted in American values ​​of fairness and decency,” Biden said Wednesday.

And he warns that Republicans may not stop at abortion and target other rights acquired by the Supreme Court, such as access to birth control or same-sex marriage.

“This MAGA crowd” — a nod to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — “is truly the most extreme political organization that has existed in recent American history,” Biden said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Abortion is added to Biden’s near-impossible to-do list

Justin Scacco

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