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Biden vows to 'codify' abortion rights in January, but says he needs Dems in Congress to do their part

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Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Joe Biden has staked his party's chances of maintaining control of Congress after the midterm elections on one central issue: abortion. In a brief speech in Washington, D.C., Biden promised that he would immediately "codify" abortion rights in January, so long as Democrats maintain a majority in the House and Senate.

On Tuesday, Biden spoke in front of a friendly audience at a Democratic National Committee event at the Howard Theater. Though he addressed several issues, his promises regarding so-called abortion rights have quickly made headlines.

In order to contextualize his promise to federalize abortion rights, Biden referenced the Dobbs Supreme Court decision rendered back in June, a decision that overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling and returned the abortion issue back to individual states.

"I want to remind us all of how we felt that day," he said, "when 50 years of constitutional precedent was overturned: the anger, the worry, the disbelief."

In front of a banner reading "Restore Roe," Biden attempted to harness "the anger, the worry, and the disbelief" that he hopes fellow Democrat voters experienced.

"With your support," he added, "I'll sign a law codifying Roe in January."

One unnamed Democrat official reportedly told CNN that Biden intended to sign such a bill on or around the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which takes place on January 22.

Despite Biden's enthusiasm, many doubt that Democrats can keep control of Congress, let alone add enough to their majority to overpower a Republican filibuster — or to do away with the filibuster altogether — and pass federal abortion rights legislation. The Washington Examiner noted that Republicans are "heavily favored" to retake control of the House and described the prospect of a Democrat-controlled Senate as "a tall feat."

Right now, the Senate is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Vice President Harris' tie-breaking vote gives Democrats a slight edge. However, the Women's Health Protection Act, which passed the House earlier this year, is unlikely to earn the votes of any pro-choice Senate Republicans since it would supersede all abortion restrictions at the state level, and many of those restrictions — such as parental consent and a ban on third-trimester abortions — are strongly supported by both Democrat and Republican voters.

Democrats also worry that the strong emphasis on abortion misses the mark this election cycle. When polled, voters overwhelmingly point to the economy as the most important issue in America right now. A New York Times/Siena College survey released on Monday suggests that just 5% of voters consider abortion the most important issue currently.

"If you care about the right to choose, then you've got to vote," Biden warned.

Then, employing his signature whisper-yell voice, Biden also promised to "veto" any legislation to restrict abortion should Republicans win Senate and House majorities in November.

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