Sammon falsely attributed the term "nuclear option" to Senate Democrats

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

On Fox News, The Washington Examiner's Bill Sammon said of House Democrats' move to suspend the 60-day requirement for voting on the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement: "I call it more like the 'nuclear option,' because that's what the Democrats called the Republican threat to change the rules back when they were trying to get judges through." Sammon was referring to a 2005 Republican-proposed Senate rule change that would have effectively eliminated the ability to filibuster judicial nominations. But the term "nuclear option," as it pertains to judicial filibusters, was originally coined by Republican Sen. Trent Lott -- not by Democrats.

On the April 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, during a panel discussion about a vote in the Democratic-led House to suspend the 60-day requirement for voting on the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, Washington Examiner senior White House correspondent Bill Sammon said of the House Democrats' move: "I call it more like the 'nuclear option,' because that's what the Democrats called the Republican threat to change the rules back when they were trying to get judges through." Sammon was referring to a 2005 Republican-proposed Senate rule change that would have effectively eliminated the ability to filibuster judicial nominations. But as Media Matters for America documented on several occasions, the term "nuclear option," as it pertains to judicial filibusters, was originally coined by Republican Sen. Trent Lott (MS) -- not by Democrats. In fact, during the April 17, 2005, edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos Lott admitted that he is "given credit" for calling the proposed rule change the "nuclear option," but added: "I'm not sure I want it. I prefer to call it the constitutional option."

Indeed, a May 17, 2005, Washington Post article about rhetoric used in the Senate during the judicial nomination process in 2005 which reported that "the term was coined by Republican Sen. Trent Lott," also stated that: "Republicans have tried to rechristen 'nuclear option' as the 'constitutional option,' a less radioactive alternative. 'Nuclear option' gives Democrats too many opportunities to portray the Republican position as bellicose, doomsday-bringing and generally unpleasant."

From the April 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

[begin video clip]

HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This isn't about ending anything. It's about having a timetable that respects the concerns, the aspirations, the challenges faced by the American people. We are the people's House. Their timetable should be our timetable.

REP. KEVIN BRADY (R-TX): Who could imagine that this Congress would send a signal to the world that we are not just an unreliable leader in trade, we are an unreliable negotiator in trade. It is embarrassing and it is dangerous, and it will cost America jobs.

[end video clip]

BRIT HUME (anchor): So what are those two people arguing over? They're arguing over a free trade agreement with Colombia, which is a strong American ally in this hemisphere, and a neighbor, and not a friendly neighbor of Hugo Chavez. There you can see the location of Colombia right cheek by jowl with Venezuela down there.

And the administration had argued that this was a good deal for the United States because tariffs are now a lot higher on American goods going into Colombia than they are on Colombian goods coming into the United States.

Nonetheless, labor does not want this deal, and there's criticism of the way labor unions and their leaders are treated in Colombia. And that was all in this witch's brew that led to this being blocked today, and the rules under which trade deals are considered being changed by the House at Nancy Pelosi's instigation.

How does this play out politically, Bill?

SAMMON: Well, the Republicans are calling this rule change the "Hugo Chavez rule," because the argument is that it drives Colombia, you know, closer to Hugo Chavez. And Colombia is an ally of ours. The Democrats are always complaining that the Bush administration is alienating our allies. Well, this is clearly alienating an ally by shafting Colombia and backing out of this agreement.

I call it more like the "nuclear option," because that's what the Democrats called the Republican threat to change the rules back when they were trying to get judges through.

HUME: In the Senate.

SAMMON: And the press went crazy, went ballistic -- "You can't change the rules." And yet, that's exactly what Nancy Pelosi did. It will have wide-ranging ramifications to other allies -- South Korea, we have other trade agreements.

And suddenly, we're telling all the countries in the world, "You know, you can't really trust us to do a fast-track authority on a trade deal, 'cause we may just decide we don't want to do the trade deal with you."

JUAN WILLIAMS (Fox News contributor): Now, the Democrats today were saying, "Listen, it's not that the deal is dead. It gives us more time. We could put in place more protections for labor, specifically -- also environmental possibilities."

Posted In
Government, The Senate
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
Stories/Interests
Filibusters/Nuclear Option
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