Quick Fact: Examiner, Fox Nation (again) misuse "nuclear option" term


Both the Washington Examiner and Fox Nation falsely described the budget reconciliation process as the "nuclear option," despite the fact that the "nuclear option" actually refers to a procedure that would be used to change Senate rules. Reconciliation requires no such rule changes and has been used many times in the past.

Fox Nation: "Durbin Prepares Nuclear Option for Obamacare." On January 20 Fox Nation posted the following headline and linked to a FoxNews.com article that similarly misused the term "nuclear option":

Fox Nation nuclear option screen grab

Wash. Examiner: "[S]o-called nuclear option" is "formally known as reconciliation." From a January 20 Washington Examiner article:

Even so, the reform effort now faces at best a major retooling. Democratic leaders in Congress have been privately mulling other options for passing health care -- none of them politically appealing.

Invoking the so-called nuclear option, a legislative maneuver guaranteed to bring howls of protest from Republicans, would allow Democrats to push health care through the Senate on a simple majority vote.

But in order to pass the measure that way, formally known as reconciliation, lawmakers would have to meet strict tests, including showing that the bill is paid for in the budget. It also could threaten Democrats' standing with the majority of Americans who oppose the bill.

FACT: "Nuclear option" was coined to describe the process to change Senate filibuster rules

Lott described proposal to change filibuster rules as nuclear option. The term "nuclear option" was coined by Sen. Trent Lott, one of the leading advocates of a proposal to change the Senate rule that requires a three-fifths supermajority to invoke cloture and end a filibuster. After Republican strategists deemed the term a political liability, Republican senators began to attribute it to Democrats. As Media Matters for America noted, at the time, many in the news media followed suit, repeating the Republicans' false attribution of the term to the Democrats.

FACT: Reconciliation is already part of Senate procedure, and Republicans have used it repeatedly

Reconciliation process is part of Congressional budget process. The budget reconciliation process is defined by the U.S. House Committee on Rules as "part of the congressional budget process ... utilized when Congress issues directives to legislate policy changes in mandatory spending (entitlements) or revenue programs (tax laws) to achieve the goals in spending and revenue contemplated by the budget resolution."

Republicans have repeatedly used reconciliation to pass President Bush's agenda. Republicans used the budget reconciliation process to pass President Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as well as the 2005 "Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act." The Senate also used the reconciliation procedure to pass a bill containing a provision that would permit oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (The final version of that bill signed by President Bush did not contain the provision on drilling.)

FACT: Fox News routinely misuses "nuclear option"

Fox Nation, Fox News personalities routinely invoke the "nuclear option" while discussing reconciliation. Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity, Dick Morris, Bret Baier, and Greta Van Susteren have all falsely compared reconciliation to the "nuclear option."

Posted In
Government, The Senate
Washington Examiner, Fox Nation
Julie Mason
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