Network nightly news broadcasts have served as a conduit for House Republicans to attack Obama administration initiatives through committee hearings -- all part of the GOP's "aggressive campaign," according to a recent New York Times report, to hold committee hearings and rely on media to cover the hearings' chosen narrative.
Sean Hannity hosted Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Citizens United as they used Fox News as a platform to launch a campaign targeted at ending the so-called congressional exemption to the Affordable Care Act. There's one problem: the congressional exemption does not exist.
On the November 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity, David Bossie, president of the conservative political organization Citizens United, and Vitter joined Hannity to announce a new campaign calling on Congress to "Live By Your Laws." While the segment aired, Citizens United's Twitter account encouraged its followers to "join the movement" with Bossie, Hannity, and Vitter to stop a rule within the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) that allegedly exempts members of Congress and their staffs as well as the White House from having to take part in the ACA's health insurance exchanges. Hannity introduced the segment by playing most of Citizens United's new advertisement.
Contrary to the trio's claims, the reality is that the ACA requires Congress and its staff to obtain health insurance on the exchanges and also prohibits them from receiving subsidies under the ACA. Because of this "special punishment" as The Washington Post's Ezra Klein called it, congressional staffers would be forced to cover the entire cost of their health insurance. To avoid that punishment, the Office of Personnel Management clarified that it would continue to subsidize congressional employees' health insurances costs just like most employers throughout the country do. One Republican lawmaker said of the clarification, "There's no question it was the right thing to do."
Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.
CNN's State of the Union misleadingly hyped congressional Republican demands to interview survivors of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The report ignored, however, that multiple key witnesses to the attack have already testified before Congress and more are scheduled to testify in the future.
From October 25 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Fox's Bill Hemmer refused to accept a U.S. senator's correction and admonishment of the network's misreporting on the health care plans of Congress and congressional staff under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare).
During the fight over the government shutdown and Affordable Care Act, a favorite refrain of the right-wing media and the tea party has been the line that Congress is receiving exemptions and special treatment under the ACA that normal Americans cannot obtain. This is not true -- staffers receive the same employer-sponsored health care that most employed Americans receive.
A conservative pundit repeated this myth in an October 23 segment on America's Newsroom, and when Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) came on after a commercial break to discuss violence in Egypt, he wanted to correct the record -- but Fox host Hemmer wouldn't allow it.
Near the end of Corker's interview, Hemmer revealed that the senator was displeased with Fox's handling of the Congressional exemption story in the previous segment, saying in part, "You were listening to our program a bit earlier during the commercial break. You took strong exception to the fact that you think Congress is playing by the same rules that regular Americans are playing by when it comes to Obamacare."
Corker replied, "I think there's been a lot of misreporting and sort-of a myth around what's happening with Obamacare."
The senator then made three different attempts to tell the truth about congressional coverage.
Each time, Hemmer interrupted Corker. He parroted the myth that Congress receives special treatment and rebuked Corker's explanation with claims that people "get lost" in the facts.
From the October 17 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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From the October 16 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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Fox News hid a House Republican tactic that ensured a government shutdown by citing discredited author Ed Klein to misleadingly blame White House adviser Valerie Jarrett for the shutdown.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed on October 16 that Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was "the architect of the shutdown," continuing the network's pattern of excusing Republicans of blame for the impasse. But the federal government shut down on October 1 after Republicans refused to fund the government without unrealistic policy changes to the Affordable Care Act, and reports from after the shutdown began explained how Republicans changed congressional rules to ensure federal gridlock. Talking Points Memo (TPM) explained:
The House and Senate were at an impasse on the night of Sept. 30. The House's then-most-recent ploy for extracting Obamacare concessions from Senate Democrats and the White House -- by eliminating health insurance subsidies for Congress members and their staffs -- had been rejected by the Senate. The 'clean' Senate spending bill was back in the House's court.
With less than two hours to midnight and shutdown, Speaker John Boehner's latest plan emerged. House Republicans would "insist" on their latest spending bill, including the anti-Obamacare provision, and request a conference with the Senate to resolve the two chambers' differences.
Under normal House rules, according to House Democrats, once that bill had been rejected again by the Senate, then any member of the House could have made a motion to vote on the Senate's bill. Such a motion would have been what is called "privileged" and entitled to a vote of the full House. At that point, Democrats say, they could have joined with moderate Republicans in approving the motion and then in passing the clean Senate bill, averting a shutdown.
But previously, House Republicans had made a small but hugely consequential move to block them from doing it.
So unless House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wanted the Senate spending bill to come to the floor, it wasn't going to happen. And it didn't.
Congressional experts told TPM that such a move is highly unusual:
"I've never heard of anything like that before," Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told TPM.
"It is absolutely true that House rules tend to not have any explicit parliamentary rights guaranteed and narrowed to explicit party leaders," Sarah Binder, a congressional expert at the Brookings Institution, told TPM. "That's not typically how the rules are written."
When House Democrats attempted to bring the Senate bill funding the government to a vote on October 12, they were told by a presiding Republican member that they could not do so due to the GOP leadership's rule change. A House Republican aide later confirmed the rule change to CNN.
Right-wing media that demanded the Republican Party shut down the government and put the debt ceiling at risk as a strategy to damage ObamaCare are already signaling that they blame members of Congress who were insufficiently supportive for the plan's failure.
That's consistent with the theory Media Matters laid out yesterday that the right-wing media has become convinced that conservatism cannot lose, and thus any evidence suggesting that a conservative strategy failed will be rejected on the grounds that either the strategy didn't really lose, or the real fault lies with its implementers who somehow betrayed the plan.
Last night, the House GOP failed to coalesce around a bill that would have funded the government, raised the debt ceiling, and implemented various conservative policies. Current reporting indicates that both Houses of Congress will now pass the Senate's bill, which will fund the government and raise the debt ceiling, but without the sort of Republican demands that have stalled those objectives for weeks.
Observers across the spectrum are calling this a crushing defeat for the Tea Party strategy that linked must-pass legislation to defunding or delaying ObamaCare, and it's easy to see why. For weeks it's been clear that because Republicans control only the House of Representatives, the only deal that could pass both houses of Congress and be signed into law by President Obama would be one that relied largely on Democratic votes in the House. House Speaker Boehner's attempt to pass a bill with only Republican support never had a chance, led to devastating poll numbers for his party, and in the end the GOP couldn't even find a set of demands that they all agreed with.
But among the members of the right-wing media who promoted this strategy, it's not the plan that was at fault, it's the failure of Republican leaders to stick it out. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson responded to the latest developments by blaming the House Republicans who "have signaled they are giving up" and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was "outsmarted" by Majority Leader Harry Reid (who also happens to control the majority of the Senate). His next step?
We only need a few good small businessmen and women to stand up and challenge these Republicans who are caving. If they refuse to fight for us, we must fight them. It is the only way we will finally be able to fight against Obamacare.
I am tired of funding Republicans who campaign against Obamacare then refuse to fight. It's time to find a new batch of Republicans to actually practice what the current crop preaches.
From the October 16 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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On the morning of October 14, after two weeks of the GOP's government shutdown had cratered the party's standing in the polls and with the debt ceiling looming, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson sent his daily email to subscribers. "Keep Fighting" was the message from the conservative media mogul, whose strategies are frequently adopted by his party's right wing.
Erickson's daily briefing urged readers to press Senate leaders not to accept a deal that didn't defund or delay Obamacare. He also demanded House leaders pass a debt limit increase while holding firm on refusing to pass a bill to fund the government unless it is tied to defunding health care reform. And crucially, he wrote that he had just donated to two conservative PACs "at the forefront of the fight" and to primary opponents of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and urged his readers to do the same.
The conservative wing of the party has been dictating its strategy since at least mid-August, when vocal minorities in both houses implored congressional leadership not to defund the health care law as the price for passing short-term government funding legislation. To outside observers, it seems clear that the strategy has been an abysmal failure. And yet, prominent right-wing media figures not only want to double down on that strategy, but punish members of the party who seem the least bit hesitant to pursue it.
How to explain these wildly disparate assessments? A large faction of the right-wing media -- Erickson, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity Breitbart News, and a host of others -- has become trapped in the political embodiment of a variant of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.
Under that logical fallacy, adherents shift definitions and appeal to purity when confronted with evidence that disproves their beliefs rather than accepting reality. In this case, the right-wing media has become convinced that a central pillar of modern conservatism is that it cannot lose. Any evidence suggesting that a conservative strategy has failed is thus rejected on the grounds that either the strategy didn't really lose, or its implementers weren't true conservatives and thus betrayed the plan by failing to promote it with quite enough fervor. That mindset has locked the right-wing media and through it many activists and lawmakers into a seemingly endless pattern of crisis politics with potentially devastating consequences for the country.
Fox News' timeline of the ongoing government shutdown cherry-picked dates to omit congressional Republicans' conception and furtherance of the shutdown over their demand to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare).
The Wall Street Journal misleadingly praised the government shutdown, suggesting it could help the economy. In fact, the shutdown has already cost the economy billions and is predicted to harm economic growth even further.
A Wall Street Journal article promoted false Republican claims which disputed the devastating effects failure to raise the debt ceiling on October 17 would have on the U.S. economy, despite recent Journal reporting which admitted default could have "cataclysmic" consequences.
In an October 9 article headlined "Obama's Default Scenario Derided," the Journal noted that according to President Obama, "if Congress doesn't raise the country's debt ceiling soon, an economic crisis with skyrocketing interest rates and a crashing stock market could follow," as the U.S. would default on its pre-existing debts -- an understanding of the manufactured impending fiscal crisis which is supported by economists and the Treasury Department.
But rather than confirm this factual assertion, the Journal instead provided a platform for Republicans who baselessly "say they don't believe" default will lead to devastating negative effects and have even "questioned what the word 'default' really means." The Journal hyped Republican claims that the White House could choose to prioritize which payments to make once the deadline hits, and claimed these misleading remarks had credence because the U.S. has never defaulted before, making the potential crisis "unchartered waters."
In reality, the Treasury Department does not have the legal authority to prioritize payments if the debt ceiling is not raised, and economists agree that congressional failure to raise the debt limit could be catastrophic, setting in motion a financial crisis in the United States and around the globe.
The "debt ceiling" was officially breached on May 17 of this year. Since that date, the Treasury has implemented "extraordinary measures" to avoid defaulting on American sovereign debt obligations by shifting funds from various accounts. The New York Times reported that these measures will be exhausted by October 17:
Economists of all political persuasions have warned that a failure to raise the debt ceiling by the Treasury's deadline of Oct. 17 could be catastrophic. The world economy's faith in the safety of Treasury debt would be shaken for years. Interest rates could shoot up, and stock prices worldwide would most likely plummet.
The Journal itself has previously reported the devastating consequences the prospect of default is already having on the worldwide economy. On October 8, the Journal reported that short-term U.S. debt prices had fallen "amid rising investor concern about the prospect of a government-debt default, sending the yield on one-month U.S. Treasury bills to its highest level since the financial crisis." The same day, the Journal reported that China had warned the U.S. of default's "global ramifications," and that banks in the United Kingdom have begun "stockpiling cash" and preparing for "cataclysmic" consequences.
Domestically, money for government employees, the military, Social Security, Medicare, food safety inspections, and more could cease or be delayed, and CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik reported that "if a default happens, there's one analyst who says that the S&P 500 could drop 45 percent."
Furthermore, the claim that the administration could choose to prioritize some payments over others in order to avoid default is false. Tony Fratto, a former Treasury Department assistant secretary and senior George W. Bush White House staffer called payment prioritization "fanciful," and Treasury Department Inspector General Eric M. Thorson reported to Congress that the Treasury had no means or capacity to prioritize certain payments over others. Slate economics blogger Matt Yglesias explained that Treasury has "no more legal authority to prioritize payments than they do to borrow extra money."