During his campaign, now-President Biden loved likening his image to that of FDR. But when a rogue U.S. Supreme Court threatened to overturn the sweeping reforms of FDR’s New Deal, Roosevelt directly challenged their gross power grab by threatening court expansion coupled with expansive judicial reforms. The controversial move paid off; the Court subsequently backed down and FDR preserved the slate of New Deal–era reforms that kept the working class alive during the depths of the Great Depression and formed the basis for much more broadly shared prosperity in the subsequent decades.
Opposing today’s radical Supreme Court is no less high-stakes an endeavor. And yet, Biden, unlike his self-proclaimed role model, thus far refuses to unabashedly employ all legal and political means to fight back, particularly if they are controversial or polarizing. The president has many options at his disposal, like declaring a national emergency, limiting the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, or providing abortions on public lands, but there is little sign they are even under consideration.
In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last Friday, President Biden promised to do “all in [his] power to protect a woman’s right in states where they will face the consequences of today’s decision.” In the same speech, he announced a number of commitments toward that end, including preserving access to mifepristone, a self-administered early abortion drug, and defending people’s right to travel across state lines to access abortion care. Then on Thursday, he announced that he would support a reform of the filibuster to codify Roe. These are important first steps, though with Sen. Pat Leahy in the hospital and Sen. Joe Manchin still a supporter of the filibuster, codifying Roe will be impossible.
But, alarmingly, in the days since the Dobbs decision was announced, the Biden administration has repeatedly signaled that those initial actions—alongside asking people for donations and to vote in November—may represent the sum total of its planned response. [Continue reading…]