Several of Joe Biden’s Democratic presidential rivals seized the opportunity Friday to highlight his reversal on federal funding for abortions, seeking to elevate their profile in the crowded field and weaken the candidate leading in the polls.
In a morning tweet, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) took aim at the former vice president hours after Biden announced that he now opposes the so-called Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion. The tweet also highlighted another potential weakness for Biden.
“Bravo to @JoeBiden for doing the right thing and reversing his long-standing support for the Hyde Amendment,” Moulton wrote. “It takes courage to admit when you’re wrong, especially when those decisions affect millions of people. Now do the Iraq War.”
Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran who was among the first U.S. troops to arrive in Baghdad during the 2003 invasion, was referring to Biden’s vote as a senator from Delaware to authorize the Iraq War in 2002. Biden called his vote “a mistake” a few years later.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, sought to draw attention to Biden’s flip-flop with a play on words. He shared a reporter’s tweet that recounted the Biden campaign’s confirmation earlier this week that Biden still supported the Hyde Amendment and his announcement Thursday night that he no longer does.
“Now can I do the Dr. Jekyll tweet?” de Blasio wrote on Twitter.
Other Democratic hopefuls were even quicker to react.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told MSNBC in an interview shortly after Biden’s reversal that she was “not surprised” by it.
“I think it would have been a big problem for him,” she said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a tart rebuke, without using Biden’s name.
“I opposed the Hyde Amendment in 1993. I oppose it today. I will never back down,” he tweeted.
As of noon Thursday, most Democrats who sought to ding Biden were all lagging in early polling. And some, including Moulton and Klobuchar, risked calling attention to their own votes in favor of the Hyde Amendment as part of larger funding bills.
In fact, nearly every member of Congress running for president has voted multiple times for spending bills that include Hyde language.
Moulton and Klobuchar voted for such legislation in September, as did Sens. Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.). So did Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), as well as former congressman Beto O’Rourke (Tex.).
Asked about Biden’s announcement during an appearance Friday on CNN, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he was not interested in attacking Biden.
“There are 24 candidates running for president in the Democratic process,” Sanders said. “Joe is one of them. He will run his campaign the best way he can. All I can say is that I have always supported a woman’s right to control her own body, and that means all women, including lower-income women. . . . I’m glad that Joe has come to that position.”
Because of the Hyde Amendment, poorer Americans reliant on Medicaid do not generally have access to federal assistance for abortions.
During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier Friday, Bennet was also relatively muted in his assessment of Biden’s reversal when asked about it.
“I think it’s great. I’m glad that he did it,” Bennet said. “I think that’s very positive.”
Biden announced his change in position during a speech Thursday night at the Democratic National Committee’s African American Leadership Council summit in Atlanta. He told the crowd that in an environment where the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion is under attack in Republican-held states, he could no longer support a policy that limits funding.
“We’ve seen state after state including Georgia, passing extreme laws,” Biden said. “It’s clear that these folks are going to stop at nothing to get rid of Roe.”
“Circumstances have changed,” he said.
On Wednesday, his campaign issued a statement confirming that, unlike much of the rest of the field, Biden was not calling for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which dates to 1976, when Biden was a young senator. The amendment allows for exceptions only in the case of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life.
Paige Winfield Cunningham contributed to this report.