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New polling shows support for filibuster reform

CHARLESTON — With leaked comments from U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin showing a softening on his position on the filibuster, new polling shows some support for reforming the gridlock-causing procedure.

A poll commissioned by Fix Our Senate and conducted by Global Strategy Group — a pollster often used by Manchin — found that 43 percent of registered voters in West Virginia see the filibuster as a way to create more gridlock, versus 35 percent who believe the filibuster helps bring about bipartisan compromise between the two political parties, while 22 percent remain unsure.

“Even if you support the filibuster as something that had promoted compromise in the past, if that was your position, it is clearly no longer doing that,” said Eli Zupnick, a spokesperson for Save Our Senate. “People in West Virginia are looking at the status quo and they’re seeing more bills are being filibustered and there’s less bipartisanship.”

According to the U.S. Senate, the filibuster is a loose term used to describe any debate or delay meant to keep senators from voting on a bill. In order to end a filibuster — a move known as “cloture” — 60 votes are needed. After the January run-off elections in Georgia, the Senate is split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker.

The filibuster was most recently used in May by Senate Republicans to block a vote on the bill creating an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building by supporters of former President Donald Trump to block certification of the 2020 presidential election in favor of President Joe Biden. Senate Democrats also used the filibuster when they were in the minority in 2020.

Once the respondents heard a positive statement about filibuster reform, 46 percent expressed support and 41 percent opposed changes to the filibuster. That’s because when initially asked, very few West Virginians expressed strong support either way, with 31 percent supporting reform, 37 percent opposing reform, and 33 percent admitting they didn’t know enough about the filibuster.

“The filibuster is not really high on West Virginia minds,” Zupnick said. “People in West Virginia, like people in most states around the country, care about the things that impact them. They care about COVID relief. They care about the economy and jobs and getting checks to help them through this crisis. They’re not concerned about process.”

When presented with three reform options, 59 percent of respondents support restoring the filibuster to its previous version. Historically, the filibuster requires a senator to be constantly speaking on the floor of the Senate in order to block action on a bill. When asked if they support a “talking filibuster” — which requires the filibustering senator to stay on the Senate floor and talk continuously — 50 percent of respondents supported that.

Manchin, D-W.Va., has consistently come out against eliminating the filibuster, doing so bluntly last week in an op-ed and in TV news appearances. But Manchin has expressed support for reforming the filibuster this year, including supporting a talking filibuster.

The Intercept reported Wednesday about a taped conversation Monday between Manchin and supporters of No Labels, a group that works to foster bipartisanship. During that conversation, Manchin once again expressed support for filibuster reform, including lowering the threshold from 60 votes to 55 votes.

“That’s one of many good, good suggestions I’ve had,” Manchin said on the call. “So, I’m open to looking at it, I’m just not open to getting rid of the filibuster, that’s all … Right now, 60 is where I planted my flag, but as long as they know that I’m going to protect this filibuster, we’re looking at good solutions.”

Ryan Frankenberry, state director for the West Virginia Working Families Party, said his group supports eliminating the filibuster. However, between Manchin’s statements and the poll results, Frankenberry said he is pleased with the direction things are going.

“We see this as progress … We’re going to keep talking to West Virginia and we’re going to keep educating them about the filibuster.” Frankenberry said. “I think that if Senator Manchin is starting to move on that, that’s a good sign.”

Zupnick noted that 66 percent of the respondents said they care more that their senators do what is right for West Virginia, even if that means their position changes over time.

“It was great to see that West Virginians, like many people across the country, want their senators to do what’s right,” Zupnick said. “If the circumstances change, then the position should change. They are not looking for Senator Manchin to just never change at all. When the filibuster has clearly been abused and is broken, he has the opportunity to fix it and to bring it in line with his vision for the Senate.”

The poll, conducted by phone with 500 registered voters in West Virginia between May 10 and May 16, has a margin of error of 4.4 percent. The poll was weighted to correspond with the results of the 2020 election results.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com

Filibuster – WV Public Memo D06.03.21

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