The filibuster saga in the news

Over the past two months, Washingtonians have absorbed every minute detail of the filibuster saga, but as the debate’s final hours near, you might wonder, how does the filibuster issue play in Peoria?

“So far it has been on the inside of our A section,” said Jack Brimeyer, managing editor for the Peoria Journal Star, adding that it is mostly the “political groupies” who are tuned in to up-to-the-minute coverage.

Around the United States, newspapers have been following the filibuster issue with varying degrees of interest.

The Orlando Sentinel has also tended to play the story on the inside and has not run it every day. Deputy Managing Editor Ann Hellmuth said that, while the paper’s readers realize what is at stake with the judicial nominations and the filibuster, there is little interest to read about the issue at the “glacial rate” at which Congress moves.

Meanwhile, at The State in Columbia, S.C., “We are playing it on the inside if at all,” said staff writer Lee Bandy. “[Readers] don’t even talk about it.”

National polls tend to favor Bandy’s assessment.

A Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey conducted May 11-15 found that only 14 percent of the country has been following the so-called “nuclear option” debate closely; 39 percent of adults surveyed said they were not following the issue closely at all.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted late last month showed that merely 12 percent of adults surveyed were closely following the issue; 65 percent said they were either not following the issue closely or not following it at all.

However, while the nation does not seem to be following the filibuster issue, most Americans surveyed think that, in the current controversy, Democrats should have the right to filibuster judicial nominees. In a Time poll conducted May 10-12, 59 percent of respondents said that Republicans should not to be able to eliminate that procedure.

Results from an Associated Press-Ipsos survey conducted May 17-19 showed that 78 percent of Americans want the Senate to take “an assertive role” in considering Bush’s nominees.

In a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted May 12-16, 51 percent of respondents said they disapproved of how Congress is doing its job, the highest disapproval rating since March 1997.

In the Pacific Northwest, the filibuster debate seems to be commanding more attention.

“We have had it at the top of the front most days,” said David Boardman, managing editor of The Seattle Times.

The “option” has frequently graced the front page and the inside pages of the Anchorage Daily News, because of the role that centrist Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has been playing in the debate.

“It is a significant story with national ramifications and also because of Lisa Murkowski,” said Rich Mauer, special-projects editor.

Mauer explained that readers are concerned about the ramifications that a Murkowski dissent could have on state programs.

“[Her decision] could have serious effects on the economy and people’s lives,” Mauer said.

Reports in the Providence Journal have also centered on a centrist, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.). Metro Managing Editor Sue Areson said that, while the paper has not put the issue on the front page, in-depth stories about the filibuster have run on the inside of the paper.

Filibusters blocked 10 of Bush’s 218 first-term judicial nominations. Seven of the nominees — Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, William Myers, William Pryor, Henry Saad, Richard Griffin and David McKeague — are threatened with the filibuster this year.