Fox News continues to attempt to redefine "nuclear option"


In its latest attempt to redefine the meaning of the term "nuclear option," Fox News has seized on a Breitbart-promoted video to falsely accuse Democrats of hypocrisy for considering using the reconciliation process to pass health care reform, when they had previously opposed the "nuclear option." But, in fact, the nuclear option referred to a Republican proposal to change Senate filibuster rules on judicial nominees and was not related to reconciliation.

Fox News uses Breitbart-hyped video to accuse Dems of hypocrisy on reconciliation

Fox & Friends: "Irony" that Dems are now considering reconciliation. On Fox & Friends, host Brian Kilmeade said: "The problem with reconciliation is the Republicans say it's an outrage. It's bypassing the Constitution. It was never intended for that reason. Is that what the Republicans are saying, or is that what the Democrats have already said when the Republicans had the majority? Let's look at this tape, first put together by a website called" After playing the video, co-host Steve Doocy said: "Harry Reid has said it's still on the table, and that's why we are showing the irony that the Democrats were saying, you can't do reconciliation. It's just wrong. It's not the spirit of the Congress." [Fox & Friends, 2/25/10]

Sean Hannity: "What do you make of the hypocrisy?" On his February 24 Fox News show, Sean Hannity aired clips of Democratic leaders and asked Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich, "What do you make of the hypocrisy?" Gingrich replied: "Well, I think that what you're seeing is a Chicago-machine politics approach that basically says, if we can run over you and mug you then we're going to get away with it. And I think what they don't understand is this is not Chicago. The United States is not going to tolerate a group of people trying to apply kind of a Hugo Chavez majoritarian rule in the Senate." [Hannity, 2/24/10]

Bret Baier: Reconciliation was "once called the nuclear option." On Fox News' Special Report, Bret Baier said that the Senate process of reconciliation "was once called the nuclear option" and then aired clips of what he claimed were Democrats criticizing the "nuclear option" "when Republicans were using it." After he aired the clips, Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers said, "Thank you for establishing beyond all doubt that politicians are hypocrites." [Special Report, 02/24/10]

Fox Nation: "Video Flashback: Dems Howl with Rage Over Nuclear Option." The Fox Nation embedded the Naked Emperor News video under the headline, "Video Flashback: Dems Howl with Rage Over Nuclear Option." From the Fox Nation:


Van Susteren: "[Y]ears ago when it came to Republicans using reconciliation, Democrats were singing a different tune." On her February 24 Fox News show, Greta Van Susteren noted that Democrats want to use reconciliation to pass health care and said, "But years ago when it came to Republicans using reconciliation, many Democrats were singing a different tune." After playing the clips, Van Susteren told former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum that there "may be some hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle." Santorum later said, "It is, in my mind, Democratic hypocrisy, not Republican hypocrisy." [On the Record, 02/14/10]

Beck: "[T]hey all stood up and said this was such a bad idea." On his radio show, Fox News host Glenn Beck played clips from the video and said of the possibility that Democrats might use reconciliation: "Why are they threatening this so much? Especially when they all stood up and said it was such a bad idea." [Premiere Radio Network's The Glenn Beck Program, 2/24/10]

"Nuclear option" was coined by GOP in 2005 to describe a process to change Senate filibuster rules

Lott described proposal to change filibuster rules as "nuclear option." The term "nuclear option" was coined by former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), one of the leading advocates of the proposal to change the Senate rules on filibusters for judicial nominations. 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.

Democratic senators in video weren't discussing reconciliation. The clips of Democratic senators aired were first compiled in a video created by the conservative website Naked Emperor News and promoted on -- where "NEN videos premiere." As Media Matters noted, the senators were expressing opposition to the proposal to change Senate rules to eliminate use of the filibuster for judicial nominations -- i.e. the "nuclear option" -- not the use of reconciliation.

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 repeatedly used reconciliation to pass President Bush's agenda. Republicans used the budget reconciliation process to pass Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as well as the 2005 "Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act." The Senate also used the 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 that Bush signed did not contain the provision on drilling.)

Reconciliation has been used to pass major changes to health care laws

Reconciliation has repeatedly been used to reform health care. On February 24, NPR noted that many "major changes to health care laws" have passed via reconciliation. These measures include COBRA, which allows laid-off workers to keep their insurance coverage, and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Fox News has a history of conflating reconciliation and the "nuclear option"

Fox News repeatedly falsely labels reconciliation as "nuclear option." Fox News hosts and guests have repeatedly pushed the falsehood that the "nuclear option" refers to the budget reconciliation process. The Fox Nation and Fox News personalities like Hannity, Van Susteren, Dick Morris, Bret Baier, and Bill Sammon have all falsely compared reconciliation to the "nuclear option," and the Fox Nation has previously coupled its headlines with images of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear bomb:


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