Vulnerable Dem Mum on Biden's Call To Abolish Filibuster

Sen. Maggie Hassan last year abandoned support for filibuster for election reform

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) / Getty Images
June 30, 2022

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) last year abandoned her long-held support for the filibuster in an attempt to pass Democrats' so-called voting rights legislation. But just months later, the vulnerable Democratic candidate is silent on President Joe Biden's call to abolish the voting threshold to codify Roe v. Wade.

Biden on Thursday called for an exception to the filibuster to enshrine abortion rights after the overturn of Roe—a position Hassan has yet to support even though she said the Supreme Court "decided to take away a woman's most fundamental freedom" in its ruling last week. While Hassan had long supported the 60-vote threshold since she joined the upper chamber in 2017, she called for an exception to the rule in December in an attempt to pass Democrats' failed election reform bill.

Hassan's reelection bid is essential to Democratic efforts to retain the party's Senate majority, but the former New Hampshire governor faces a tough election environment in November. She won her election in 2016 by a narrow 1,000-vote margin, and polls this year show strong support for Republicans nationwide. While the Democratic candidate presents herself as a moderate, she has focused her campaign on support for abortion on demand. She met on Monday with abortion clinic workers, campaigned against the pro-life records of her potential Republican opponents, and voted in favor of a bill this year that would not only codify Roe but also protect abortion up until birth. Her efforts have landed her strong financial support from pro-abortion groups such as NARAL and EMILY's List, which launched a TV ad this week boosting the Democratic candidate.

Local media in New Hampshire reported in June that Hassan told voters on the campaign trail she has "supported making particular exceptions to the filibuster for voting rights, (and) for a woman's fundamental right to make her own health care decisions." But in official statements, Hassan has only advocated using this filibuster exemption for Biden's election reform bills. Her statements released in response to the overturn of Roe make no mention of the filibuster. Hassan's Senate office did not respond to a request for comment on whether the senator believes the exception should be extended to abortion legislation.

Abortion advocates have pressured Democrats to end the filibuster to save Roe—a strategy backed by party leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), and now Biden. Hassan's silence on the issue may anger portions of her base who have already criticized her more moderate positions on issues such as border security.

While in the minority, Hassan in 2017 signed a bipartisan letter that urged Senate leadership to save the filibuster. Hassan and her Democratic colleagues in 2020 alone used the filibuster around 320 times, but she called for an exception to the rule last year once Democrats held a majority. Her sudden reversal on the issue was necessary, she argued, to save democracy.

"We must change the rules, to allow a simple majority of this body, as our Founders intended, to pass laws that will protect the right to vote and protect American democracy," Hassan said on the Senate floor.

Biden has had a similar flip-flop on the issue. As recently as 2019, the president said ending the filibuster is a "very dangerous thing to do." Biden has since called for exceptions to the filibuster to expand voter and abortion access.

The Senate attempted to codify Roe this year through the Women's Health Protection Act, which would overturn all pro-life laws across the country and allow abortion up until birth. The bill not only failed to hit the 60-vote mark in the Senate but also did not get a simple majority. Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) opposed the bill.