On Fox News' Special Report, Bret Baier said that the Senate process of reconciliation “was once called the nuclear option,” then aired clips of what he claimed were Democrats discussing the “nuclear option” “when Republicans were using it.” In fact, the Democrats shown in the clips were discussing the actual “nuclear option” -- which was a 2005 Republican proposal to change filibuster rules -- not the reconciliation process, which is currently part of the rules.
From the February 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
BAIER: Charles mentioned reconciliation, the parliamentary process where you could pass budgetary measures, according to the rules through the Senate, with 51 votes rather than 60 -- it's usually needed. It was once called the nuclear option, and Democrats, when Republicans were using it, had this to say about it.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA [2005 video clip]: What I worry about would be that you essentially have still two chambers, the House and the Senate, but you have simply majoritarian, absolute power on either side. And that's just not what the founders intended.
SEN. JOE BIDEN: [2005 video clip]: This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is a fundamental power grab.  I say to my friends on the Republican side, you may own the field right now, but you won't own it forever. And I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.
SEN. HARRY REID [2005 video clip]: This is exactly what the filibuster does. It encourages moderation and consensus. It gives voice to the minority so that cooler heads may prevail. The filibuster is a critical tool in keeping the majority in check.
BAIER: Kirsten, there's a lot more tape.
KIRSTEN POWERS (Fox News contributor): I'm sure there is. Thank you for establishing beyond all doubt that politicians are hypocrites.
Conservatives, Fox News redefine reconciliation as “nuclear option”
“Nuclear option” was coined by GOP to describe a process to change Senate filibuster rules. The term “nuclear option” was coined by former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), one of the leading advocates of a 2005 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.
Reconciliation process is part of congressional budget process, has been repeatedly used by Republican-controlled Senates. 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.”
- Congressional Research Service reported that Congress used reconciliation process to pass 21 bills between 1980 and 2007. An August 10, 2005, Congressional Research Service (CRS) report lists 19 bills Congress passed that were enacted through reconciliation from FY 1981 to FY 2005 -- 16 of which became law and three of which were vetoed by President Clinton. A separate March 2008 CRS report lists an additional three reconciliation bills passed by Congress since 2005.
- Reconciliation has repeatedly been used to reform health care. On February 24, NPR noted that many “major changes to health care laws” passed via reconciliation. Additionally, during a February 24 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition, correspondent Julie Rovner quoted George Washington University health policy professor Sara Rosenbaum saying: “In fact, the way in which virtually all of health reform, with very, very limited exceptions, has happened over the past 30 years has been the reconciliation process.” Indeed, reconciliation was used to pass COBRA, Medicare Advantage, the Patient Self-Determination Act, and several other health care reforms.
- GOP used reconciliation to pass Bush's tax cuts. Republicans used the reconciliation process to pass Bush's 2001 tax cut, the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001; Bush's 2003 tax cuts, the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003; and Bush's 2005 tax cuts, the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the 2001 tax cuts would “reduce projected total surpluses by approximately $1.35 trillion over the 2001-2011 period” ; that the 2003 tax cuts would “reduce projected total surpluses by approximately $1.35 trillion over the 2001-2011 period” ; and that the 2005 tax cuts would “reduce federal revenues ... by $69.1 billion over the 2006-2015 period.”
Conservatives falsely label reconciliation as “nuclear option.” Media Matters for America has highlighted how conservative media and politicians, as well as Fox News hosts and guests, have pushed the falsehood that “the nuclear option” refers to the budget reconciliation process in order to accuse Democrats of hypocrisy for previously criticizing the nuclear option and now considering using reconciliation to pass health care reform.
Dems in video clip weren't talking about reconciliation
Clips of Democratic senators -- who weren't discussing reconciliation -- lifted from Breitbart.tv. The clips of Obama, Biden, and Reid that Baier aired were first compiled in a video created by the conservative website Naked Emperor News and promoted on Breitbart.tv -- where “NEN videos premiere” -- and Fox Nation. As Media Matters for America noted, they were expressing opposition to the 2005 Republican proposal to change the Senate rules to eliminate use of the filibuster for judicial nominations -- not to the use of reconciliation.