For The Conservative Media, Democrats' Maneuvering Subverts Democracy, But Not Republicans

››› ››› ANDY NEWBOLD

The conservative media are cheerleading Wisconsin Republicans' use of questionable tactics to ram through a union-busting bill. However, when Democrats were in charge of Congress, they were consistently accused of subverting democracy or acting unconstitutionally, even though they were using well-established procedures to pass their agenda.

Conservative Media Repeatedly Attacked Democrats For Using Completely Legitimate Parliamentary Techniques

Conservatives Attacked Democrats For "Hugo Chavez"-Like Tactics. Former Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich claimed on the February 24 edition of Hannity that if Democrats used the budget reconciliation procedure to assist in passing the health care reform law, they would be engaging in "Hugo Chavez majoritarian rule." In fact, Republicans themselves repeatedly used budget reconciliation to pass bills that did not have the support of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. [Media Matters, 2/24/10]

Fox & Friends Claimed That Using Reconciliation Was "An Outrage. It's Bypassing The Constitution." On Fox & Friends, co-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 nakedemperor.com." 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]

Fox Repeatedly Attack Democrats For Using Reconciliation Procedure To Pass Health Care Reform. During the health care debate, Fox News falsely dubbed the reconciliation the "nuclear option," falsely suggested that Democrats had said reconciliation was an illegitimate procedure in the past, and did not mention that Republicans had repeatedly used reconciliation to pass bills. [Media Matters, 2/12/10, 1/21/10, 1/19/10, 1/17/10, 9/3/09, 8/22/09]

Fox Attacks Democrats For Considering "Self-Executing Rule" Procedure To Vote On Health Care Reform. In early 2010, House Democrats considered using a parliamentary procedure called a "self-executing rule" to vote on and amend the health care bill that had passed the Senate. As Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron explained, by using this procedure, the House would be able to pass the legislation "in one vote instead of two" using a procedure that had been used in the past by both parties. However, Fox News personalities repeatedly falsely claimed that House Democrats were attempting to pass the health care bill without even holding a vote. [Media Matters, 3/17/10]

Fox News Repeatedly Suggested Self-Executing Rule Might Be Unconstitutional. While discussing the self-executing rule procedure during his show, Sean Hannity said: "they have prepared -- I've put it up on my Web site. They have prepared a court challenge as to the constitutionality of it." In addition, on the March 19 edition of his show Glenn Beck said: "Let's Forget About That Whole Constitution Thing. ... Let's Just Instead Deem That It Has Been Passed In The House." Beck also asked: "How is this even constitutional?" Beck similarly wrote in his newsletter that Democrats are "slaughtering the Constitution" and that "the Constitution is being thwarted" if the health care reform legislation passes using the self-executing rule. [Media Matters, 1/7/11]

Conservative Blogger Morrissey Attacked Democrats For Using Procedure To Extend Legislative Day. Responding to a Politico article noting that at the start of the latest session of Congress, Senate Democrats planned to extend the "first legislative 'day' for several weeks" to give Democrats the chance to consider proposals to change the filibuster rule. HotAir blogger Ed Morrissey stated:

Surprise! Despite the clamor on the Left to "reform" the filibuster now that Democrats have lost most of their Senate majority, some Democrats have looked ahead to the next election and balked at making the majority omnipotent. A flurry of proposals to change the rules to end or neuter the filibuster have clogged the process, with none of them gaining a consensus. "Reform" backers have become so desperate that they want to change the definition of a day in order to get more votes:

[...]

Why, that's exactly what voters had in mind during this past midterm election! They turned out in droves to vote for even more chicanery and posterior-protecting absurdities, like insisting that a day can last for weeks. That has an additional, practical complication; it would appear to require Joe Biden to continuously preside over the Senate, as the Vice President does on the first day in a session. It's not as if Biden is especially busy, of course -- Wreckovery Summer is long over -- but even Senators can only take so much of Sheriff Joe. [HotAir.com, 1/4/11]

  • Extension Of Legislative Day Is "Not Improper." Contrary to Morrissey's rhetoric, veteran Senate expert Norm Ornstein said: "the Senate has often defined a legislative day to last more than one day. This is unconventional, but not improper." Furthermore, Steven Smith, a congressional expert and Washington University in St. Louis political science professor, agreed. [Media Matters, 1/4/11]

Conservative Media Accuse Democrats Of Engaging In "Door-Gate" By Supposedly Considering Health Care Reform Bill Behind Closed Door. Numerous conservative media figures accused Democrats of showing a lack of transparency while crafting legislation on health care reform, often claiming that the legislation is being decided "behind closed doors." But these assertions ignore both the weeks of open debate in House and Senate committees, and examples of Republican lawmakers forgoing transparency while in the majority. Fox News host Neil Cavuto went so far as to call the Democrats' actions "door-gate" and hosted John Galka, a locksmith, to discuss how to get past the door. [Media Matters, 11/4/09]

But Now, Right-Wing Media Cheer Wisconsin GOP's Use Of Questionable Tactics To Ram Through Bill That Slashes Union Rights

Doocy: If Dems Don't Like Wisconsin GOP Passing Anti-Union Bill, "Too Bad." From the March 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

CARLSON: I thought it was favorable to the governor that those emails were released because it showed that he was coming off his mark a little bit, but guess what--now the Democrats are going to say look, this was unconstitutional what the Republicans did. They are claiming now that it's a violation of Wisconsin's open meeting law because they only got two hours' notice.

DOOCY: Well too bad. They left their jobs three weeks ago, and then the Republicans gave them a chance, gave them a chance, common back, we're ganna take your parking, were ganna take your paycheck, nothing. Well, understandably the Democrats in Wisconsin are furious. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/10/11]

Bolling: What The GOP Did Is Wisconsin Is "Fantastic," "I Was In The Car Fist Pumping" When I Heard That. From the March 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

BOLLING: Across the board you talk about Wisconsin teachers, you talk about Ohio teachers, you talk about New Jersey teachers, what the teachers come back and say, the individual teachers, hey it's not us, it's the union heads, the teachers' union bosses who are lobbying for all this stuff. Forget it, give us the salaries, give us the jobs. Look at what Scott Walkers says he's ganna have to do.--1,500. By the way that interview with Scott Fitzgerald this morning on the phone, I was in the car fist pumping, that is fantastic what they did there. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/10/11]

Hannity and Coulter: "Huge Victory" In WI And "They Didn't Need The 14 Democratic Cowards After All." From the March 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity sat down with columnist Ann Coulter where they stood in strong support of the Wisconsin GOP. Coulter also added "I'm glad they came up with this today, and I do want to ask, why it took them three weeks to figure this out?":

HANNITY: All right. Now, why don't we start with Wisconsin, that's the breaking news now. Huge victory, and guess what? They didn't need the 14 democratic cowards after all.

[...]

COULTER: And by the way, the response of the guy who oversees the bus drivers, well it is in the contract. Every American ought to know about every one of those outrage. Do you know, if you work for the state of Wisconsin, if you take a single phone call, a single phone call when you are not at work, you get to bill for half an hour of overtime. These are insane contracts because there is no management with government. It's another politician trying to buy your vote. There's no, you know, capitalist overseer, trying to squeeze more work out of people for less money. You can't have unions for government workers. Which FDR said, which George Meany said. And why aren't the Wisconsin Republicans pushing this. I think they're -- I love them but this is tough love, you have fallen down on the job and they are losing the battle as we saw from the Rasmussen poll yesterday. I'm glad they came up with this today, and I do want to ask, why it took them three weeks to figure this out? . [Fox News, Hannity, 3/9/11]

Hotair Mocks WI Dems For Labeling Passage Of Collective Bargaining Bill As "Affront To Democracy." In a March 9 Hot Air post, blogger AllahPundit mocked WI Democrat Chris Larson calling him a "fleebagger" and marking his comments as "pure oblivious irony.":

Update: Fleebagger Chris Larson retaliates with 100 megatons of pure oblivious irony:

What Republicans did was an affront to democracy. Never shall a voter doubt which party stands for the working class, and which for the rich.[HotAir.com, 3/9/11]

Wisconsin Legal Experts Question Legality Of Passage Of Senate Bill

Media And Political Law Expert: GOP Not Giving Required 24-Hour Notice of Conference Committee "Raises A Lot Of Serious Questions." The Wisconsin State Journal reported on March 10:

Although the Senate hadn't yet passed the bill, Senate rules allow the Senate president to move a bill to a conference committee if the Assembly's intent is clear and it's past the amendable stage -- a step the Senate took last month.

Word quickly spread that the Republicans were planning to rush the measure through by stripping the fiscal elements of the bill. Within an hour, the rotunda began to fill with angry protesters, while an even larger crowd gathered outside the building.

The 6 p.m. conference committee lasted just minutes, and featured an angry speech by Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, the only Democratic member present, who accused the Republicans of violating the state's open meeting law and "trampling on democracy."

"Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of law," he said, referring to the short notice given for the meeting.

Typically, 24 hours' notice is required for a public meeting. There are exceptions, but it was not clear Wednesday that the conference committee met those standards.

Attorney Robert Dreps, an expert in media and political law, said exceptions can be made if notice is "impossible or impractical."

"It raises a lot of serious questions," he said. "I don't think they can satisfy the standard for giving such short notice for that committee meeting."

Senate Chief Clerk Robert Marchant said such notice is not needed when the Senate is in special session, but Dreps said he knew of no such exemption. [Wisconsin State Journal, 3/10/11]

Journal Sentinel: "I Can't Imagine How" Republicans Met Standard For Not Requiring 24-Hour Public Meeting Notice. A March 10 Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel article further noted:

On Wednesday, Republicans formed the conference committee - made up of legislators from both houses - to modify Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill. The committee e-mailed a notice to all legislative offices that the panel would meet at 6 p.m. to act on the legislation.

A staffer for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) released a statement from Rob Marchant, the Senate chief clerk, stating that he believes the Republican legislators had acted appropriately.

Marchant said a Senate rule permits no advance notice for meetings when it is in special session - which it is when it's dealing with the budget-repair bill. Despite this, Marchant said, the Senate tried to alert members of the conference committee about two hours before the meeting. Even if the notice arrived a little late, he said he believes there was no violation. "The notice appears to have satisfied the requirements of the rules and statutes," Marchant's note says.

But Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, the lone Democrat who was at the meeting, disagreed. "I don't think it's going to stand up," he told reporters afterward.

Barca, a Kenosha Democrat, said his office received a notice of the committee meeting at 4:09 p.m., less than two hours before the lawmakers gathered to act.

Attorney Robert Dreps, an expert on the state open meetings law, said he did not believe the conference committee could meet on such short notice.

State law generally requires a 24-hour advance notice for public meetings. But government meetings can be called with just two hours' notice when it is impossible or impractical to alert people any sooner, said Dreps, who has represented the Journal Sentinel in the past. "I can't imagine how they can meet that standard," he said. [Journal Sentinel, 3/10/11]

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