President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats may have the facts on their side regarding the filibuster, but voters appear to care very little.
While Biden and his Capitol Hill allies complain their legislative priorities are being impeded by Republicans and Senate rules in the 50-50 chamber, some voters are oblivious to the finer details. Polls show they simply blame Democrats for Washington’s latest gridlock.
Biden’s problems started with the Jan. 5 Georgia Senate runoffs, according to Spencer Kimball, Emerson College Polling’s director. Democrats clinching a majority by the slimmest of margins, with Vice President Kamala Harris capable of casting tiebreaking votes as the voting president of the chamber, dominated headlines, but the party falling short of a filibuster-proof 60 votes received less attention, he explained.
Yes, part of the news cycle was cannibalized by the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Kimball told the Washington Examiner. But the pollster suspected the twin Democratic wins would eventually “hurt” Biden because they created “a perception in the court of public opinion that the Democrats had control of all three branches,” he said of the White House and both chambers of Congress.
“Expectations have been raised that a lot was going to get done, and now the reality seems to be contrary to that belief, and we see a drop in Biden’s overall approval ratings,” he said.
David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center, agreed Biden’s approval rating dip was a warning sign before the 2022 elections, though the governing party has historically suffered losses in midterm cycles.
Biden’s popularity has been hovering around 52% as of July 1, down from a 55% high in January and March, according to FiveThirtyEight. At the same time, his disapproval rating increased this month to 42%, up from 34% in January and February.
“Voters don’t care about the filibuster rule and may view it as D.C. excuse-making,” Paleologos said. “When a party is in control, voters expect them to get things done, and, if their leadership and bipartisanship is strong enough, they will successfully make the case to the minority party. If they are unable to, they will be penalized.”
Patrick Murray, Monmouth University Polling Institute’s director, described liberal Democrats hand-wringing over Biden’s thwarted agenda as being “basically correct.”
“When 2022 rolls around, voters will ask ‘What have you done for me?’ not ‘Did you try to be bipartisan in passing policy?'” Murray said. “Also, even if they agree that Republicans stymied the process, many will still blame the Dems if nothing gets done because the Dems are, nominally at least, in charge.”
Republican senators last week blocked the passage of S. 1, dubbed the For the People Act, which would have federalized aspects of elections. The move capped Biden’s “month of action” to expand voter access across the country, countering laws introduced in states such as Georgia that are supposed to shore up election security and integrity. It was perceived, too, as the start of a public pressure campaign on Democrats against reforming the filibuster.
“We can disagree on issues, on healthcare, education, climate, but we should not disagree whether or not Americans have the fundamental right to vote,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in an interview. “We should initiate an end of the filibuster on that bill.”
Fellow liberal, New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, was outraged by White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s suggestion his criticism of Biden not elevating the bill was “a fight against the wrong opponent.”
“I’ll continue to do my part to hold anyone who impedes on our progress accountable, whether that be Senator Joe Manchin, the Biden administration, or another institution that prevents progress,” he wrote in a fundraising email. Bowman had earlier called Manchin “the new Mitch McConnell” for being against S. 1 and filibuster changes.
Psaki has dodged questions on whether preserving the filibuster is more important to Biden than voter access, but she said the White House anticipated that the S.1 vote would “prompt a new conversation about the path forward.”
Biden’s own position concerning the filibuster has morphed, from staunch opposition to its removal to voicing support for modifications, including returning to a “talking filibuster.” A talking filibuster would allow the minority party to slow legislation rather than obstructing it, so Democrats could tout a handful of accomplishments in 2022. For example, measures covering the federal minimum wage, gun control, immigration, even the Equality Act.
“If we have to, if there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we’ll have to go beyond what I’m talking about,” he said in March.
Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, another high-profile centrist Democrat, are the only members of their caucus who openly oppose eliminating the filibuster. Roughly 19 Democratic senators want to remove the rule, while the rest fall between backing some adjustments to staying mum on the issue. Many of them endorsed the filibuster when Republicans were in power.
Source: Washington Examiner : ‘DC excuse-making’: Voters blame Biden and Democrats, not filibuster, for gridlock