Fox News' Greta Van Susteren falsely described the budget reconciliation process as the “nuclear option,” and allowed Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) to refer to it as “arcane.” In fact, the “nuclear option” actually refers to a procedure that would be used to change Senate rules, while reconciliation requires no such rule change and was used many times by Republicans during the Bush administration, with the support of Gregg.
Van Susteren repeatedly advances reconciliation misinformation
Van Susteren repeatedly claims reconciliation is the “nuclear option.” On the January 20 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Van Susteren teased an interview with Gregg about the reconciliation process by stating, “Next: Is the nuclear option coming? And by the way, what is the nuclear option? If you don't know, you need to sit right where you are because you're about to find out. Republican Senator Judd Gregg is next, and he's going to explain it to you.” She introduced the interview by asking, “Is a nuclear option coming?” and asking whether Democrats can “push through legislation with only 51 votes.” Later in the interview, she claimed that “the slang” for reconciliation is “nuclear option.” During the segment, Fox News aired the caption, “Reconciliation process is also known as 'nuclear option' ” :
Van Susteren allows Gregg to claim reconciliation is “arcane.” From Van Susteren's interview with Gregg:
VAN SUSTEREN: What's reconciliation?
GREGG: Well, that's a good question. This is a very arcane Senate procedure. It's part of the budget process, and it essentially says that with 51 votes, you can pass bills which make the budget work.
“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 then-Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), 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.
Reconciliation is already part of Senate procedure, and Republicans have used it repeatedly with Gregg's support
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 -- including Gregg -- 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.” Gregg voted in support of using reconciliation for each of those bills.
Despite his description of reconciliation as “arcane,” Gregg “publicly favored” the procedure in 2005 to pass oil drilling in ANWR. As Media Matters documented, a March 31, 2009, Washington Post article reported that “while Gregg has sharply attacked Democrats for considering the use of reconciliation, which would allow them eventually to pass legislation to reform health care with 51 votes rather than the normal 60 that would be needed to avoid a filibuster, Gregg publicly favored such a provision as Budget Committee chairman in 2005 as part of an attempt to push through a GOP-backed proposal to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Gregg was one of 51 senators who voted against striking language allowing the reconciliation process to be used to open up the refuge from the budget resolution and introduced a reconciliation bill that, as originally introduced in and passed by the Senate, included a provision to open up the refuge to drilling. (The bill as enacted did not contain such a provision.)
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 Van Susteren have all previously falsely compared reconciliation to the “nuclear option.”