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Biden weighs in on what was accomplished at the NATO summit

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Biden is heading home from a week in Europe, where he's made progress strengthening NATO as it works to deter Russia. But the president acknowledges there are big problems to confront here at home - on inflation, high gas prices and abortion rights. This is what he said at a press conference in Madrid this morning.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The one thing that has been destabilizing is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court of the United States and overruling not only Roe v. Wade but essentially challenging the right to privacy.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow is covering this and joins me now. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So supporters of abortion rights have been frustrated with the president that he hasn't been more vocal after the court's decision to overturn federal protections for abortion rights. Did he give any more clarity on what his next move is?

DETROW: Not really. And you're right. So far, the White House has been vague on what executive actions it will take. Biden said he'll be providing more details tomorrow when he's back at the White House, and he's meeting with governors to talk about this. He kept sticking to that message we've heard for the last week, that the fix for this, according to Biden, is getting Congress to codify abortion rights and that voters need to expand Democratic majorities to make that happen.

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BIDEN: If you care, if the polling data is correct and you think this decision by the court was an outrage or a significant mistake, vote. Show up and vote. Vote in the off year. And vote, vote, vote. That's how we'll change it.

DETROW: And as we've covered, this has really frustrated a lot of Democratic voters. There are Democratic majorities in the House and Senate right now, and this right got taken away. Biden did make some news today, saying that he would support carving out an exception to the filibuster to pass laws guaranteeing abortion rights, as well as laws guaranteeing other rights based on privacy that could now be in danger. But remember; that's exactly what he called for earlier this year when it came to voting rights. He urged the Senate to take a vote to carve out an exemption to the filibuster. The Senate did that. The vote failed. The filibuster remains in place.

MARTIN: So let's pivot a bit because the president was speaking at the end of this NATO summit. He and others have called it historic. Is that a correct characterization?

DETROW: Yeah, I think that is a fair way to put it. NATO cleared the way for two new members to join - Sweden and Finland. And at the same time, the U.S. and other NATO countries agreed to a larger and more aggressive military presence in Europe in order to deter Russia from attacking other countries. And Biden pointed out again that Vladimir Putin has now unwittingly given a new focus and urgency to NATO.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: He's getting exactly what he did not want. He wanted the Finlandization of NATO; he got the NATO-ization (ph) of Finland. Think about this. That's what he thought. Now NATO and Sweden are closer than ever.

DETROW: And just to briefly explain what Biden meant - that term Finlandization was Cold War foreign policy, shorthand for Finland's neutral policies. So Biden's pointing out here that by invading Ukraine, Putin has now created a situation where a large country bordering Russia has decided it wants to join NATO, and that effectively doubles the NATO border with Russia.

MARTIN: So he's got these successes in this summit abroad, but, I mean, as we noted, it's not just the overturning of abortion rights; the president keeps facing these huge economic challenges.

DETROW: Yeah.

MARTIN: I mean, inflation is a real problem for him.

DETROW: Yeah. And one thing that he acknowledged was that some of the big factors in Europe are not going away anytime soon. The war is going to continue. That means Russian oil will stay off the markets. And as he pointed out, that means a lot of grain will remain trapped in Ukraine, and that adds to scarcity problems around the world.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow. Thank you.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.