Media reported GOP reconciliation criticisms, ignored their previous support for process

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

Print media have uncritically quoted Republican senators criticizing congressional Democrats' decision to use the budget reconciliation process to advance health-care reform and education initiatives as overly partisan, without noting that congressional Republicans -- including the senators quoted -- voted to allow the use of the budget reconciliation process to pass major Bush administration initiatives.

In April 24 and April 25 articles reporting that congressional Democrats have agreed to use the budget reconciliation process to advance health-care reform and education initiatives, print media have uncritically quoted Republican senators criticizing the decision as overly partisan, without noting that congressional Republicans -- including the senators quoted -- voted to allow the use of the budget reconciliation process to pass major Bush administration initiatives.

Examples include:

  • An April 25 Washington Post article reported that "Republicans and some influential Democrats have opposed using reconciliation, especially for health care, saying it flies in the face of Obama's pledge of bipartisanship and would poison efforts to produce a health care plan that could win broad support," and quoted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) assertion that the process "would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis."
  • An April 25 Los Angeles Times article reported that use of the process "threatens to sow outrage among Republican lawmakers" and that McConnell "warned against the move to limit GOP power," and quoted McConnell's assertion, "Fast-tracking a major legislative overhaul such as healthcare reform . . . without the benefit of a full and transparent debate does a disservice to the American people. ... And it would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis."
  • An April 24 Associated Press article reported that the advantages of the reconciliation process "come at a cost: fury among Republicans who protest that overhauling the U.S. health care system is far too big and important to advance under fast-track rules that allow for only a 20-hour debate in the Senate," and quoted McConnell's assertion that use of the process "would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis."
  • An April 24 Bloomberg News article reported that "Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said the reconciliation plan would cause a 'tremendous furor' among his colleagues and virtually ensure most oppose any health care legislation," and quoted Hatch's assertion, "With all the complexities of health care, you cannot please all of the stakeholders and if they make it a partisan exercise, my gosh, we'll beat them up for the rest of their lives."

As Media Matters for America has documented, the Post previously repeated criticism from Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Judd Gregg (R-NH), and the Times previously repeated criticism from McConnell, regarding Democrats' potential use of reconciliation to pass health-care reform legislation without noting that those senators supported the use of reconciliation to pass the Bush tax cuts.

As Media Matters has noted, Republicans used the reconciliation process to pass the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, and the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005, among others. In a March 28 article, The New York Times reported: "[T]here are a couple of problems for Republicans as they push back furiously against the idea, chief of which is the fact that they used the process themselves on several occasions, notably when enacting more than $1 trillion in tax cuts in 2001." The article continued:

That means critics can have a field day lampooning Republicans and asking them -- as Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, did repeatedly the other day -- why reconciliation was such a good idea when it came to giving tax cuts to millionaires but such a bad one when it comes to trying to provide health care to average Americans.

McConnell and Hatch were among 51 senators -- all 50 Republicans and Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) -- who voted in favor of a 2001 amendment to the fiscal year 2002 budget resolution that allowed for the consideration of President Bush's 2001 tax cuts -- the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 -- through the reconciliation process. McConnell and Hatch subsequently voted for the tax cut bill itself.

Further, in 2003, McConnell and Hatch voted for the Senate version of the fiscal 2004 budget resolution that called for additional tax cuts to be considered under reconciliation and for the final version of the 2004 budget resolution. They also voted against an amendment to the Senate version of the budget resolution, proposed by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), that would have stripped reconciliation instructions from the resolution. In 2005, McConnell and Hatch voted for the final version of the fiscal 2005 budget resolution, which also called for tax cuts through reconciliation. They subsequently voted for the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 itself.

Additionally, while an April 25 New York Times article noted that "Republicans have used the procedure themselves in the past," the Times did not note McConnell's prior support for the use of that process in reporting that he "told Mr. Obama in the meeting that that approach was likely to heighten partisan tensions in Congress." The article also quoted McConnell's statement that using reconciliation "would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis."

From the April 25 Washington Post article:

Republicans and some influential Democrats have opposed using reconciliation, especially for health care, saying it flies in the face of Obama's pledge of bipartisanship and would poison efforts to produce a health care plan that could win broad support.

"It would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a written statement.

From the April 24 Associated Press article:

Those advantages come at a cost: fury among Republicans who protest that overhauling the U.S. health care system is far too big and important to advance under fast-track rules that allow for only a 20-hour debate in the Senate.

"It would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

From the April 25 Los Angeles Times article:

The plan, which would use special provisions of the budget process to prevent a Senate filibuster, threatens to sow outrage among Republican lawmakers and could complicate Democrats' efforts to push through the rest of their agenda. But Obama and his allies believe their decision to use the "budget reconciliation" process will allow passage of the kind of health system overhaul that has eluded Washington.

[...]

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned against the move to limit GOP power.

"Fast-tracking a major legislative overhaul such as healthcare reform . . . without the benefit of a full and transparent debate does a disservice to the American people," he said. "And it would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis."

From the April 24 Bloomberg News article:

Republicans oppose use of the reconciliation procedure. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said using it would cause a "tremendous furor" among his colleagues and virtually ensure most oppose any health care bill.

"The partisan side of me says: Go for it, because if they do that, they're going to get hung with the worst health care bill in history," Hatch said. "With all the complexities of health care, you cannot please all of the stakeholders and if they make it a partisan exercise, my gosh, we'll beat them up for the rest of their lives."

From the April 25 New York Times article:

The no-filibuster arrangement is fiercely opposed by Republican leaders, who say health care is too important to be exempted from the Senate rules that usually mean major bills must win support from 60 senators.

At the White House meeting this week, Mr. Obama told senators from both parties that he did not want a health care overhaul to fail if it came up a vote shy of the 60 needed to break filibusters, the people with knowledge of the session said. Republicans have used the procedure themselves in the past, but Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, told Mr. Obama in the meeting that that approach was likely to heighten partisan tensions in Congress.

The arrangement is spelled out in a tentative budget agreement reached Thursday night between Congressional leaders and the White House, allowing health legislation that meets budget targets to be approved by a simple Senate majority, under a process known as reconciliation.

[...]

The Democrats can rely on 58 votes in the Senate, and expected to add a 59th once the courts finish their review of the disputed election in Minnesota. But Mr. McConnell said that using the no-filibuster approach on health care "without the benefit of a full and transparent debate, does a disservice to the American people."

"It would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis," he said.

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