Biden had said before the election that if Democrats held Congress in the midterm elections, a bill codifying the Supreme Court’s 1973 abortion decision would be the first he would send them. If enacted, Biden pledged to sign it on or around the 50th anniversary of Roe in January.
Biden told reporters that unless something unexpected happened in the House, where Republicans are poised to take the majority, the votes would not be there.
“I don’t think there’s enough votes to codify,” he said.
A Republican-controlled House would be unlikely to pass the bill that advanced earlier this year. But even if Democrats retain the House, they don’t have the votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.
The bill that has passed the House and been rejected by the Senate goes further than Roe in striking down state-level abortion restrictions that had been upheld by courts since 1992’s Casey v. Planned Parenthood.
A majority of the Senate currently opposes the measure, with Republican abortion rights supporters and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) voting no.
The Supreme Court overturned Roe over the summer in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. This ruling and the abortion issue were major drivers of Democratic turnout as they pushed back an expected Republican red wave.
At most, Republicans will hold a slender majority in the House. Control of the chamber remains uncertain almost a week after the elections.
The midterm elections of 1994, 2010, and 2018 all saw the party in power lose the House as the opposition gained at least 40 seats.
Biden made the statement after taking comments from reporters following remarks on the G-20 summit after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
The president mostly took questions on foreign policy issues, but a reporter shouted about abortion near the end of his press availability.