CNN ignored evidence of GOP obstructionism, allowed McConnell to attack Dems

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

On the July 23 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash referred to the "narrative that we've heard more and more from the Republicans here, which is that they say the Democratic Congress simply isn't getting anything done." Bash then showed a video clip of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asserting that "the American people are looking at this Congress and saying, 'Where's the legislation? What are you going to do to make America better?' " But in airing the GOP claim that the Democratic leadership "isn't getting anything done" -- which Bash did not challenge -- she ignored the Republicans' record of blocking legislation proposed by the Democratic majority in the Senate. Indeed, as McClatchy Newspapers reported on July 20: "This year Senate Republicans are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before."

From the McClatchy article:

Seven months into the current two-year term, the Senate has held 42 "cloture" votes aimed at shutting off extended debate -- filibusters, or sometimes only the threat of one -- and moving to up-or-down votes on contested legislation. Under Senate rules that protect a minority's right to debate, these votes require a 60-vote supermajority in the 100-member Senate.

Democrats have trouble mustering 60 votes; they've fallen short 22 times so far this year. That's largely why they haven't been able to deliver on their campaign promises.

By sinking a cloture vote this week, Republicans successfully blocked a Democratic bid to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by April, even though a 52-49 [sic] Senate majority voted to end debate.

This year Republicans also have blocked votes on immigration legislation, a no-confidence resolution for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and major legislation dealing with energy, labor rights and prescription drugs.

Nearly 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year have been cloture votes. If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes - 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002, according to the Senate Historical Office.

The McClatchy article was accompanied by a graphic comparing the projected number of Senate cloture votes for the current congressional term with previous terms:

McClatchy graph

Further, as Media Matters for America noted, an April 18 Roll Call article (subscription required) quoted Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) acknowledging the GOP's strategy. He said, "The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail ... For [former Senate Democratic Leader Tom] Daschle (S.D.), it failed. For [then-Senate Minority Leader Harry] Reid [D-NV], it succeeded, and so far it's working for us."

The McConnell clip that aired during Bash's report came from his July 22 appearance on CNN's Late Edition. During that interview, McConnell further asserted that the Democratic Congress has conducted only "Iraq votes and investigations. On the legislative side, about all we've been able to accomplish is to keep the lights on in the Capitol, 19 or 20 post office renamings, and we have passed a very important troop funding bill, thank goodness." Host Wolf Blitzer did not challenge McConnell with the record pace of cloture votes and the GOP leadership's stated "strategy of being obstructionist."

Later on the July 23 Situation Room, Blitzer interviewed Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) about his upcoming resolution to censure President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. During the interview, Blitzer uncritically repeated McConnell's assertion that the Democratic Congress was not producing legislation and asked Feingold to respond:

BLITZER: When I spoke yesterday with the Republican leader, the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, in the Senate, he said it's precisely these kinds of what he would characterize as "stunts," political stunts, whether an all-night debate involving Iraq or motion of censure, which is why the approval number, the job approval number for the Congress is even lower than it is for the president of the United States. Instead of focusing in on substantive, he says, issues, you're focusing in on political theater. What would you say to McConnell?

From the July 22 edition of CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer

BLITZER: Before we get to the specifics of that debate, I want your quick reaction to what Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said earlier today on Meet the Press, recommending censure of the president. Listen to this.

FEINGOLD [video clip]: I think we need to do something serious in terms of accountability. And that's why I will be surely introducing a censure resolution of the president and the administration.

One, on their getting us onto the war of Iraq -- in Iraq and their failure to adequately prepare our military, and the misleading statements that have continued throughout the war in Iraq. And a second, on this administration's outrageous attack on the rule of law.

BLITZER: All right, do you want to respond to Senator Feingold?

McCONNELL: Yeah. You know, today marks the 200th day of the new Congress. And the kind of stunt that Senator Feingold just recommended, on the heels of the all-night theater of Tuesday night, gives you a sense, Wolf, of why this Congress now has a 14 percent approval rating. We think it's the lowest in the history of polling.

All they do is have Iraq votes and investigations. On the legislative side, about all we've been able to accomplish is to keep the lights on in the Capitol, 19 or 20 post office renamings, and we have passed a very important troop funding bill, thank goodness.

But the American people are looking at this Congress and saying, where's the legislation? What are you going to do to make America better? I think Senator Feingold's suggestions are right in league with the all-night session the other night, which the American people are looking at with disbelief.

BLITZER: Here's what the specifics of his charges -- and I'll briefly go through them. Among other things, for the incorrect information on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, incorrect information about any Al Qaeda links to Saddam Hussein, failure to plan for a civil conflict in Iraq, overstretching of the Army and the Marine Corps, justifying military involvement in Iraq by repeatedly distorting the situation in Iraq.

From the July 23 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BASH: And now, it is important to note that it was just about a year and a half ago that Senator Feingold first pushed this idea of censuring the president. And back then, Wolf, Democratic senators could not run far or fast enough from this idea, or even answering questions about it. And although the leadership is making clear they're not going to bring it up for a vote now, that is not the case anymore. They are, as you just heard, much more complimentary of this idea that Senator Feingold is proposing.

BLITZER: And how are the Republicans reacting to all of this, Dana?

BASH: Well, they're not -- they're certainly trying to jump on this and really seize on what Senator Feingold is saying and try to weave it into a narrative that we've heard more and more from the Republicans here, which is that they say the Democratic Congress simply isn't getting anything done. And they point out over and over, Wolf, that the Democratic Congress' approval ratings are even lower than President Bush.

And, in fact, I want our viewers to take a listen to what the Senate Republican leader told you on Late Edition yesterday. Take a listen.

McCONNELL [video clip]: The American people are looking at this Congress and saying, where's the legislation? What are you going to do to make America better? I think Senator Feingold's suggestions are right in league with the all-night session the other night, which the American people are looking at with disbelief.

BASH: So, as you just heard, Republicans are grabbing on to this, saying that this is part of the frustration the American people have with the Democratic Congress. And that, Wolf, is one of the reasons why the Democratic leadership at this time is saying that they are not going to bring this particular measure for a vote on the Senate floor.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thank you very much.

[...]

BLITZER: When I spoke yesterday with the Republican leader, the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, in the Senate, he said it's precisely these kinds of what he would characterize as "stunts," political stunts, whether an all-night debate involving Iraq or motion of censure, which is why the approval number, the job approval number for the Congress is even lower than it is for the president of the United States. Instead of focusing in on substantive, he says, issues, you're focusing in on political theater. What would you say to McConnell?

FEINGOLD: The only stunt that's going on here is by Republicans in the Senate who have continued to fabricate excuses for this Iraq war, year after year. They have been enablers of this tragedy. They have not shown the guts to stand up, in most cases, and vote to end this war. They will use every excuse, every slogan, every political trick to not let us end this war. So I would call that the stunt. And that's the stunt that's killing Americans, not what I'm talking about.

BLITZER: One final question. I want you to respond to your old friend Senator [John] McCain [R-AZ], who strongly disagrees with you when it comes to Iraq. But a lot of our viewers out there remember McCain-Feingold, the campaign finance reform law that the two of you worked so closely on.

Posted In
Government, The House of Representatives, The Senate
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Dana Bash
Show/Publication
Late Edition
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