HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Biden’s, House’s Roe Push Face Senate Wall

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The Senate’s filibuster rule is the single roadblock standing in the way of President Joe Biden’s and House appropriators’ efforts to either codify Roe v. Wade’s abortion protections, or, at the very least, facilitate the government’s ability to respond to the US Supreme Court’s overturning of the landmark decision.

Biden said he would support changing Senate filibuster rules to make an exception for legislation ensuring privacy rights and access to abortion, saying the Supreme Court is “destabilizing” for its controversial decisions. Under intensifying pressure from progressive activists and lawmakers to respond more aggressively to protect abortion rights, Biden again said Thursday that Congress must pass legislation guaranteeing access to the procedure.

“If the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights, it should be we provide an exception for this,” Biden added. The filibuster rule could be changed with a simple majority vote. But two key Senate Democrats—Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) remain opposed to eliminating or carving out an exception to the rule.

Sinema, who supports abortion rights, has specifically argued the filibuster has been used to protect rights in the past as one reason to keep it. If they are shorn of the 60-vote shackles, Republicans could simply repeal a law codifying Roe when they take the chamber. Read more from Akayla Gardner, Nancy Cook, and Jordan Fabian.

In the House, Democrats are attempting a likely doomed push to expand federal funding for abortions under Medicaid as progressives hunt for avenues to respond after Roe was overturned. A $242 billion bill funding the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education would drop the Hyde Amendment for the first time since 1976. That provision bans the use of federal funds for abortion except for cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.

But the Democratic effort is unlikely to succeed so long as the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end a filibuster remains in effect. At least 10 Republican votes will be need needed to pass annual spending bills in that chamber, and there is no support in the GOP for nixing the restriction. Read more from Erik Wasson and Jack Fitzpatrick.

The Supreme Court invalidated three federal appeals court decisions in abortion cases, clearing its docket in light of its decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The top court granted review, vacated, and sent the cases back to the US Courts of Appeal for the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth circuits for further review. All three cases rested on Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The Eighth and Ninth circuit rulings involved Arkansas and Arizona laws that ban abortions when a person’s reason for seeking one is a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. Apart from the Sixth Circuit, every federal appeals court to consider a reason ban invalidated it. The top court previously denied review of a decision striking a similar Indiana law. The case was sent back to the Seventh Circuit. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.

  • State courts have recently had more success in protecting abortion rights. A Florida judge said the state’s new ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy violated privacy language in the state constitution that’s long been interpreted to protect the right to the procedure up to 24 weeks. Erik Larson has more.
  • In Kentucky, a court halted the state government’s enforcement of two laws banning abortion pending further review of a complaint alleging they violate the state’s constitution, a state court said Thursday. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.
  • Separately, a conservative lawyer who defended Kentucky’s abortion restrictions is a potential judicial pick by Biden, a scenario that stunned progressives. The White House informed Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) of plans to nominate former Kentucky Solicitor General Chad Meredith to a district court in the state, a spokesman for the lawmaker said. Yarmuth, in a statement, said he “strongly opposed” such a move. Read more from Madison Alder and Alex Ebert.
  • New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she will convene an extraordinary session of the legislature on Friday to begin considering legislation enshrining abortion access in the state’s constitution, Sarah Jacob reports.


  • The Biden administration says it’s taking steps to increase access to medication abortion in response to the Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe, but some of the administration’s own policies are standing in the way of women seeking to obtain the drug. Mifepristone has been approved in the US for decades and is safer than Tylenol. But US rules strictly limit which patients can get it. Shira Stein, Fiona Rutherford, and Celine Castronuovo have more.
  • More than 180 people were arrested near the Supreme Court in Washington, including Democratic lawmakers, during an abortion-rights protest. Hundreds of people streamed to the court Thursday and shut down traffic briefly, with Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) among them. “I am here to make sure every woman in every state of this country has the right to an abortion,” said Chu. Madison Alder, Alicia Diaz, and Maia Spoto have more.
  • With Roe gone, doctors and clinics across the nation are worried about what, exactly, they can legally provide and whether anti-abortion legislators in one state can affect what is done in another. Abortion will remain legal in at least 16 states and the District of Columbia. What’s not clear is whether states will craft laws restrict residents from traveling for abortions. Read more from Carly Wanna.
  • Elizabeth Holtzman was outraged when she first read the court would overturn Roe v. Wade. The 80-year-old New York Democrat, who was once the youngest woman ever elected to the House after unseating a 25-term incumbent in 1972, determined this is the right moment for a return to politics by running for office. Mia McCarthy has more.

What Else to Know Today

High Court Emission Call Risks Tying HHS Hands on Covid, Tobacco: The HHS will have a significantly harder time responding to public health threats and addressing a host of other policy issues following the US Supreme Court’s decision to block the Environmental Protection Agency from curbing power-plant emissions.

The justices’ 6-3 precedent-setting ruling could slow or halt future Covid-19 public health regulations, threaten the Food and Drug Administration’s attempts to ban menthol in cigarettes, and thwart the Biden administration’s efforts to protect reproductive health-care and LGBTQ rights, health-care scholars and lawyers said. Read more from Allie Reed and Celine Castronuovo.

  • Meanwhile, the Supreme Court turned away a challenge to New York’s Covid vaccine requirement for health-care workers, rejecting an appeal from 16 people objecting to the shot over religious grounds. Greg Stohr and Seth Stern have more.

McConnell Threatens China Bill Over Biden Drug, Climate Plan: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he will block bipartisan legislation (H.R. 4521) to boost US competition with China as long as Democrats pursue a go-it-alone economic package. McConnell’s threat comes as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and holdout Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are close to a framework agreement on a $1 trillion bill that includes prescription drug price cuts, Erik Wasson and Laura Davison report.

Tailor Boosters to Omicron, FDA Tells Vaccine Makers: The Food and Drug Administration called on vaccine manufacturers to develop Covid-19 boosters tailored to the currently circulating omicron variants for new shots that could be ready as soon as the fall. The decision follows an advisory committee vote this week to recommend updating the vaccine boosters in response to the evolving characteristics of the virus that causes Covid. Read more from John Tozzi.

Pfizer Seeks FDA Approval for Paxlovid in High-Risk Patients: Pfizer asked the FDA for full approval of Paxlovid, its Covid-19 drug that’s now used on an emergency basis, for people at high risk of developing severe disease. Read more from Riley Griffin.

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Editor’s Note: BGOV’s Health Care Briefing will not publish on the Monday, July 4 federal holiday. Publication resumes Tuesday, July 5.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at; Michaela Ross at

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