No, Obama didn't promise to pass health care reform only with a supermajority


Another Andrew Breitbart-hyped video from the Naked Emperor News website is bouncing around the right-wing echo chamber. As usual, it doesn't live up to the hype -- on the campaign trail before the 2008 election, Barack Obama didn't promise that he would pass health care reform only with a supermajority of support -- but that isn't stopping conservatives from using it to attack President Obama.

Last week, Media Matters documented how a Naked Emperor video, hyped by Breitbart, pushed by the Drudge Report, and echoed by Glenn Beck, advanced the falsehood that "the nuclear option" refers to the budget reconciliation process. Right-wingers used the falsehood to accuse Democrats -- who had complained in 2005 when Republicans considered changing Senate filibuster rules in what the GOP at the time called the "nuclear option" -- of hypocrisy for considering using reconciliation to pass health care reform. But there wasn't any inconsistency in Dems' wanting to use a process that has been employed repeatedly to pass legislation, including major health care reforms, after having criticized Republican plans to change the Senate rules.

This time, right-wingers are claiming the new video shows Obama promising that he won't pass health care reform without a supermajority. Here's Glenn Beck from his radio show today:

BECK: New audio for you from Barack Obama saying that we cannot, cannot pass it with a simple majority vote. Health care has to be supermajority, has to be done that way. You can't just slip it by the American people, which they are now saying they're going to do. Yet another broken promise from Barack Obama.

The video itself shows several clips of Obama on the campaign trail in 2006 and 2007 discussing how he expected to pass health care reform. For example, in a September 2007 speech, Obama says of health care reform, "This is an area where we're going to have to have a 60 percent majority in the Senate and the House in order to actually get a bill to my desk. We're going to have to have a majority to get a bill to my desk that is not just a 50-plus-1 majority." In another clip, Obama discusses how he wanted to campaign in a way that brought more than a "50-plus-1" majority because "you can't govern" after such a victory and predicts that "you can't deliver on health care. We're not going to pass universal health care with a 50-plus-1 strategy." In a 2006 speech, Obama says, "If we want to transform the government, though, that requires a sizable majority."

What he's saying in these clips is that he expected it would be more difficult to govern (such as passing health care reform legislation) without broad support. Whether health care reform has such broad support may depend on how you interpret various polls and how you expect Congress to vote on upcoming bills. But what Obama is not saying in those clips is that he promises not to pass health care reform without a supermajority.

Of course, this hasn't prevented right-wingers from claiming that he made such a promise. Blogger Jim Hoft posted the video at his Gateway Pundit site and wrote: "But, of course, like everything else Obama promised, this statement came with an expiration date. Today Obama will announce that democrats will force their unpopular nationalized health care bill through Congress using a simple majority to ram it through."

Similarly,, the Drudge Report, the Fox Nation, and the Jawa Report all posted the video and claimed that Obama said, in Breitbart's words, "Democrats Should Not Pass Healthcare With a 50-Plus-1 Strategy." Did Obama say Dems "should" pass health care reform only with more than that 50-plus-1? That's not what the video shows him saying.

Somehow, I doubt they'll come to realize that the Naked Emperor video, er, has no clothes.

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