Several congressional Democrats this week told Fox News Digital they believe President Biden is doing all he can to protect abortion rights, amid progressive criticism that he is not acting decisively after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Democrats are also emphasizing that Americans should be directing their anger at the Supreme Court and Republicans who support its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling.
“Let’s set the blame where it belongs – a Supreme court that now has legitimacy issues itself, because the majority of Americans… are not for a ban on abortion in the United States,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said. “But the president has done what he could, and he’s going to be doing more.”
The comments come as many Republican-controlled states have already banned abortion after Dobbs. More states are likely to do the same in the coming weeks and months – and some progressives want the president to move urgently to ensure women can get abortions.
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The New York Times editorial board said last week that an executive order from the president, “does little more than direct the health and human services secretary to look for ways to better enforce [federal laws on reproductive care], and report back.”
In response to a scathing statement from White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield criticizing progressive activists, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., tweeted, “How about we attack the six extremist justices on the court as out of touch instead of attacking the most passionate grassroots activists in our own party.”
However, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said Biden is working with a limited tool kit of executive powers. He said changing the Senate filibuster, as Biden said he supports, could be the solution.
“I think he’s trying to exhaust all possible administrative steps the administration can take in the executive branch. But there are limitations,” Casey said. “Just like any issue, the legislative process is where most of the work has to get done. In the end, it gets you back into, just as voting rights did and just so many other issues that relate to domestic policy – it gets you back into a debate about changing the rules.”
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Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., added: “Executive action is very limited on this issue. The Supreme Court has ruled, overruled Roe v. Wade. And so now it’s up to the states…. There’s not a whole lot that a president can do to reverse that. It’s up to the legislative branch now.”
“I think he’s doing as best as he can given that executive action is not the same as legislative action,” Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, told Fox News Digital.
“First point is that it’s immediately challenged in court – immediately – and persons are going to ask for injunctive relief. So you have to be measured with it,” Green added. “If you’re not measured with it, you’ll find yourself in court, injunctive relief, and then possibly not having the action that you seek validated by the court. So he’s being thoughtful about this, in my opinion.”
Besides Biden’s more limited executive order last week, the White House says it is eyeing a slate of other possible actions it can take without congressional support. Among them, White House Gender Policy Council Co-chair Jennifer Klein said in a press briefing, is declaring a public health emergency.
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However, Klein also said declaring such an emergency may not have the kind of effect advocates believe it could.
“When we looked at the public health emergency, we learned a couple things. One is that it doesn’t free very many resources. It’s what’s in the public health emergency fund, and there’s very little money — tens of thousands of dollars in it,” she said. “So that didn’t seem like a great option. And it also doesn’t release a significant amount of legal authority. And so that’s why we haven’t taken that action yet.”
Nevertheless, Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said he hopes the White House is diving deep on what its options are and does act.
“There’s 12 ideas out there, I haven’t gone deep on any one of them, but I do think it’s important that this country grapple with the fact that a freedom that two generations of Americans… took for granted… [has] been taken away,” Himes said.
“My job is not to tell the White House what to do,” Himes added. “My hope is that they’re, you know, grappling with and coming up with ways to mitigate the tragedy and the damage that will be done by the removal of this freedom.”
Other Democrats, including Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., focused on expressing outrage at the Supreme Court and at Republicans.
“This is a clear choice between a Democratic Party that is going to protect Roe v Wade and a MAGA Republican Party that wants to ban abortion in all 50 states,” Maloney, the chair of House Democrats’ campaign arm, said. “The president has been crystal clear that we’re going to protect Roe v. Wade and we support that.”
“It’s absolutely outrageous that this Supreme Court has taken away women’s rights in America,” Merkley said. “And it’s absolutely outrageous that Republicans in the Senate are lining up to rip away women’s full access to reproductive care.”