Repeating omission of Wash. Post, NY Times ignored GOP decision to punt on spending bills, "gum up" Democrats' agenda

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

On November 29, The Washington Post reported that incoming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to work with Democrats on parts of their agenda but failed to mention the decision by congressional GOP leaders to put off work on several government spending bills for fiscal year 2007 until Democrats take control of the Congress next year. The day after, in its profile of McConnell, The New York Times followed suit.

In a November 30 article, The New York Times reported that incoming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) "expressed optimism for cooperating with Democrats" and "said that he would like to reach some early legislative agreements" with them. But like The Washington Post's profile of McConnell published a day earlier, the Times did not mention the decision by congressional Republican leaders to put off work on several government spending bills for fiscal year 2007 (which began on October 1, 2006) until the Democrats take control of the Congress in January 2007. Despite McConnell's pledge to work across the aisle on raising the minimum wage and reforming congressional ethics, the unfinished budget work left behind by the Republicans is intended "to gum up" this Democratic agenda, according to the Associated Press.

Not only did the Times fail to bring up the Republicans' obstructionism in this article, the news department has yet to report on the matter at all, despite publishing a scathing editorial on November 24 on the issue.

From reporter Carl Hulse's November 30 Times article, headlined "Senate G.O.P. Leader Adapts to an Unexpected Role":

Despite his reputation for partisanship, Mr. McConnell said he accepted the judgment of a frustrated electorate, and expressed optimism for cooperating with Democrats, most quickly on an ethics overhaul. He also said the new sharing of government power could give the two parties an opening to take on some of the most difficult issues, including changes to Social Security.

"The question is, Are you going to work together and try to do good things for the country or not?" he said. "I would like to see us quit playing games with Social Security. They know and we know it is a huge problem. This is the kind of thing divided government might be able to conquer."

[...]

Mr. McConnell said that he would like to reach some early legislative agreements with Democrats and that he saw an increase in the minimum wage as one possibility, as long as it is tied to tax breaks for small businesses that would bear new costs. And he indicated a strong willingness to work with Democrats on changes in rules governing lobbying contacts, as well as new disclosure of earmarks -- spending provisions inserted by individual lawmakers.

"We should have done it this year," he said. "I think it was a failure of the current Congress not to do that."

He also said he hoped both parties saw the new Congress as a chance to move beyond early legislative goals and find consensus on broad immigration policy and Social Security.

Absent from the Times article, however, was any mention of the decision by the Republican leadership to, as a November 24 Times editorial put it, "walk away from their most basic constitutional responsibility -- passing a budget" and instead opt to "leave[] the mess to the incoming Democrats in January":

The departing Republican majority in Congress is about to leave the nation a memorial to its own shameful history as the grand enabler of record debt and deficits. G.O.P. leaders are preparing to walk away from their most basic constitutional responsibility -- passing a budget. Instead of finishing work on government spending bills needed for the next year, they're reported to be planning nothing more than a cut-and-paste, short-term continuing resolution. That will allow them to run out early from their lame-duck session, leaving the mess to the incoming Democrats in January.

[...]

The Democratic majority will have more than enough to do in preparing the 2008 budget plan and dealing with an estimated $130 billion supplemental bill from the White House to continue the Iraq war. It doesn't need the distraction of having to sort out some $460 billion in left-over spending priorities.

Indeed, the AP reported on November 20 that "Republicans vacating the Capitol are dumping a big spring cleaning job on Democrats moving in," and that "GOP leaders have opted to leave behind almost a half-trillion-dollar clutter of unfinished spending bills." Congress has already passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded until December 8 and, according to a November 20 Bloomberg article, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has notified incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that "Republicans have decided to pass another stopgap spending measure when they return to Washington next month and leave the rest of the budget work needed to fund the government next year to the Democrats." As Reuters noted on November 16, only two of the 11 government spending bills for fiscal year 2007 have been enacted, while all but one have passed the House.

The Republicans have indicated that the decision to avoid action on the spending bills is politically motivated. The AP reported that "[s]ome Republicans also look forward to using unfinished budget work to gum up an early Democratic agenda that includes raising the minimum wage, negotiating lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, cutting interest rates on college loans and repealing some tax breaks for oil companies." And as the weblog Think Progress noted, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) told the Chattanooga Times Free Press: "I know a lot of folks just as soon not to see them done this year and let the Democrats struggle here next year."

Nonetheless, the November 30 Times article uncritically reported McConnell's assertion that he "would like to reach some early legislative agreements with Democrats," while ignoring entirely this reported maneuvering on the part of the Republican leadership in Congress. In fact, apart from the editorial cited above, the Times has yet to report on this matter in its news pages.

Posted In
Government, The Senate
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post, The New York Times
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