Fox News continues to falsely claim Dems considering "changing the rules" to pass health care reform

Fox News continues to falsely claim Dems considering "changing the rules" to pass health care reform

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Fox News anchor Jamie Colby falsely characterized Senate Democrats passing health care reform legislation with a simple majority through a process known as reconciliation as "potentially changing the rules with the nuclear option." In fact, Democrats are not considering "changing the rules" -- reconciliation is already part of Senate procedure and Republicans have used it repeatedly in the past, while the term "nuclear option" was coined by then-Republican Sen. Trent Lott in 2005 to refer to a possible Republican attempt to change Senate filibuster rules.

From the August 22 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:

COLBY: There's been a lot of talk in the last week about potentially splitting the bill, potentially changing the rules with the nuclear option, and the question I have is the Blue Dogs were very vocal before the recess -- we haven't heard much since everyone has been back in their home states -- and I'm wondering whether or not you'll take a position different than other Democrats when you get back. And what would be at the top of your list of what you'd hope there would be a consensus on?

[...]

COLBY: Will you exercise -- the Democrats, will they exercise, do you believe, the nuclear option? And the president said in an interview last week that there must be a program that is deficit neutral. Is that possible?

"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 Lott, 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

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 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." The Senate also used the reconciliation 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 signed by President Bush did not contain the provision on drilling.)

Fox News figures repeatedly refer to reconciliation as "nuclear option"

Bill Sammon: "Democrats are headed for not the public option, but the nuclear option." Fox News vice president of news and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon has repeatedly falsely compared the potential use of reconciliation to pass a health care bill to the "nuclear option."

Dick Morris predicts Democrats will use "reconciliation, the so-called nuclear option." On the August 10 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Fox News contributor Dick Morris predicted that Democrats will try to pass a health care bill "with 50 votes on reconciliation, the so-called nuclear option."

Sean Hannity: Dems "are even talking about a nuclear option." On August 11, host Sean Hannity similarly stated that Democrats "are even talking about a nuclear option if they can't get their 60-vote filibuster number in the Senate -- or filibuster-proof number."

Bret Baier: Reconciliation "used to be called the nuclear option, didn't it?" On August 19, while discussing health care reform, Bret Baier stated that "reconciliation" is "where the vote would be ... they would only need 51 votes instead of the 60 normally required. Reconciliation is what it's called now. It used to be called the nuclear option, didn't it?"

Mike Emanuel: Dems "considering the nuclear option" to pass health care reform. On August 20, White House correspondent Mike Emanuel stated that "if you look at the headlines this morning, it says that, basically, the Democrats are considering the nuclear option -- 51 votes to get the most controversial aspects of health care reform through." Emanuel added: "So the question is: Are some Democrats somewhere basically threatening Republicans, saying, you can either get with us or we're gonna shove it down your throats? And so, definitely, you see some flexing of muscles from some Democrats out there."

Van Susteren: Dems might use "nuclear option, which is slang for ... reconciliation." On August 20, Greta Van Susteren asserted that Democrats are "threatening to go nuclear, literally." Van Susteren later added, "Democrats might use the nuclear option, which is slang for a parliamentary procedure called reconciliation, to get health care reform passed."

Juan Williams: Passing a Democrats-only health bill is "literally what would be called the nuclear option." On August 22, Fox News political contributor Juan Williams stated on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday that passing a health care reform bill without Republican support is "possible, but it's literally what would be called the nuclear option in terms of reconciliation."

Fox News graphic defined "nuclear option" as "[f]orcing government-run insurance through the Senate with just 51 votes." On August 20, Bill Hemmer stated: "Democratic congressional leaders now considering a nuclear option to pass the most controversial parts of the reform package." Fox featured this onscreen text advancing the false definition:

Fox Nation: "Dems Consider Nuclear Option to Pass Health Care." On August 20, Fox Nation featured the following headline and image:

Transcript

From the August 22 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:

COLBY: There's been a lot of talk in the last week about potentially splitting the bill, potentially changing the rules with the nuclear option, and the question I have is the Blue Dogs were very vocal before the recess -- we haven't heard much since everyone has been back in their home states -- and I'm wondering whether or not you'll take a position different than other Democrats when you get back. And what would be at the top of your list of what you'd hope there would be a consensus on?

[...]

COLBY: Will you exercise -- the Democrats, will they exercise, do you believe, the nuclear option? And the president said in an interview last week that there must be a program that is deficit neutral. Is that possible?

REP. JASON ALTMIRE (D-PA): Well, we have to be deficit neutral, there's no question about that. We have to pay for every added expense that's in this bill. This cannot add one penny to the federal deficit. I think that's a must. With regard to the Senate rules and procedures, look, I don't know the way they're going to approach the bill.

All I know is that in the House, in order to achieve consensus, we're going to have to reform that bill. It wasn't good enough. That's why I voted against it in committee. We can do better. We can move to consensus and I think we're going to get that done.

Posted In
Government, Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Jamie Colby
Show/Publication
America's News HQ
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