Following news that the government shutdown will bar the Pentagon from providing death benefits to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, Fox News is ignoring the role the network and the Republican Party played in causing the painful closure.
The federal government has been shut down since October 1 after House Republicans refused to vote on the Senate funding bill unless President Obama agreed to significant changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). To mitigate public outcry over withheld federal paychecks, cancelled food inspections and cancer treatment, and closed national parks, Republicans have attempted a piecemeal approach of proposing narrow bills to keep specific government programs funded, while President Obama and Democrats have demanded that the full government be reopened.
Fox News' Sean Hannity has been leading the charge for a government shutdown for the better part of 2013, repeatedly pushing congressional Republicans to hold the government hostage unless demands to alter the ACA are met.
Hannity, it turns out, was in good company. According to a new report in The New York Times, the tea party caucus in Congress and conservative activists have been planning the shut down over Obamacare since 2012. Financed by the likes of Freedomworks and the billionaire Koch brothers, the Times exposed how the congressmen practiced defending their shutdown by arguing they desired to fund the entire government, just not the ACA.
On October 8, one week into the government shut down, news surfaced that the Pentagon is unable to pay death benefits to families of soldiers killed at war in Afghanistan over the weekend because of the shutdown.
Fox reacted to this news by blaming President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). On The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, reporter Jennifer Griffin decried this "horrible impact" of the shutdown and argued that "the president should be asked about this."
Carlson and Griffin brainstormed Republican-backed strategies -- e.g., the pair discussed the feasibility of a piecemeal CR bill funding payments to veterans' families -- but they ignored any solution that includes the GOP passing a single CR funding the entire government.
From the October 8 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the October 7 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the October 7 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
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An inaccurate Fox News report about Affordable Care Act (ACA) navigators in Florida was used by House Republicans to falsely claim that the Obama administration violated its promise that navigators would not visit people in their homes. But the groups cited in the Fox report, Enroll America and United Way, are not performing navigator services in Florida.
On October 2, a blog post on the Republican majority Energy & Commerce Committee website cited a Fox News report to claim that that navigator groups, which were established under the ACA to help Americans understand their new insurance plan options, were going to people's homes and that the administration promised this would not be allowed:
It has already been documented that the first day of the health care law's open enrollment was riddled with 'glitches,' disappointments, confusion, and even more delays. But the problems don't stop there. Fox News reported Tuesday that two Navigator groups in Florida went "door-to-door knocking on the homes of the uninsured, offering their help, helping them navigate through the different plans that are available." Such door-to-door outreach has previously been described as inappropriate, which is probably why a top administration official denied that such activity would occur.
Formal guidance was issued just ten days before enrollment began, and reads, "Please note that outreach activities should not include door-to-door activities to help consumers fill out applications or enroll in health coverage." Yet as yesterday's report makes clear, such activity began on day one.
The October 1 report from Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson showed volunteers from United Way and Enroll America going door-to-door in Coral Gables, Florida, to raise awareness about the ACA, but incorrectly labeled them as "healthcare navigators." During the report, Fox reporter Phil Keating said:
KEATING: The United Way and Enroll America teamed up in Coral Gables, Florida, this morning. They actually put navigators going door-to-door, knocking on the homes of the uninsured, offering their help, helping them navigate through the different plans that are available.
But the organizations mentioned in the Fox report are not navigators in Florida.
From the October 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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As the government shutdown loomed and then became a reality, right-wing media figures have called for maintained Republican commitment to keeping the government closed until Democrats agree to significant changes to the Affordable Care Act.
A Fox News anchor suggested that since the majority of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees have been furloughed under the government shutdown, we should simply do without them even after it has been resolved. However, EPA employees furloughed include those in charge of cleaning up hundreds of hazardous waste sites and enforcing clean air and water laws.
On Wednesday, Fox News' America's Newsroom noted that less than 7 percent of the over 16,000 EPA employees would be working during the government shutdown (about 1,000 total employees). Co-anchor Martha MacCallum laughed that "some" have "asked why we need the other 15,000 EPA workers at all," adding that these were "valid questions":
The "some" who are asking this are several Republican lawmakers behind the government shutdown. For instance, Rep. Steve Stockman who has rallied for the shutdown, tweeted a Washington Examiner article suggesting furloughed employees may be "non-essential" long-term, and re-tweeted a follower celebrating the idea that they wouldn't return:
Fox News misleadingly claimed Senate Democrats were to blame for the government shutdown, ignoring the role Republicans in the House and Senate have played in refusing to negotiate over government funding.
On the October 2 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy attacked Senate Democrats for not showing up to a Republican photo opportunity, in which congressional Republicans including Sen. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) sat on one side of a table facing empty chairs. Doocy claimed, "none of the Democrats showed up to try to resolve the Senate shutdown":
Fox also hyped an October 1 tweet from House Majority Leader Cantor that claimed that House Republicans were "ready to negotiate with the Senate," criticizing the Senate Democrats in an on-screen graphic for leaving House Republicans "alone at table to compromise."
But House Republicans' October 1 offer to negotiate was little more than a photo opportunity since, as The New York Times pointed out, they have shown no willingness to back down from their "threat of blackmail." From The New York Times editorial board:
Finally, at the last minute, when there was still time to end the charade with a straightforward spending bill, Mr. Boehner made the most absurd demand of all: an immediate conference committee with the Senate. Suddenly, with less than an hour left, he wanted to set up formal negotiations?
For six months, the Senate has been demanding a conference with the House on the 2014 budget -- talks that might have prevented the impasse in the first place. But the House leadership has adamantly refused, knowing it would not succeed in getting all the cuts to taxes and spending that it demands. For Mr. Boehner to call for a conference near midnight was the height of hypocrisy.
Having let down the public, Republicans will now, inevitably, scramble to save their reputation. They are desperate to make it appear as if President Obama and the Democrats are the ones being intransigent, hoping voters will think that everyone is at fault and simply blame "Washington." Mr. Boehner even mocked the president on Monday for refusing to negotiate over health reform, as if he actually expected Mr. Obama to join in wrecking a law that will provide health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans under threat of blackmail.
Fox's newest attempt to blame Senate Democrats for the government shutdown ignores that the controversy is the result of an unprecedented effort by House Republicans to demand concessions in exchange for doing their job. As USA Today noted, the GOP's demands "are both preposterous and largely unrelated to budgetary matters" and "[n]o president of either party could accept that kind of badgering. No president should."
Though the media has repeatedly presented a false equivalence between the House Republicans and Senate Democrats' actions in advance of the shutdown, attempts to shift the full weight of the blame away from the GOP ignores the fact that threatening to shut down the government in order to repeal duly-passed legislation is a "dramatic break from the past." In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait highlighted the importance of remembering that "one party is pursuing this as a conscious strategy." The Huffington Post's Dan Froomkin also reported that congressional experts and historians agree that "[e]ven compared to the famous government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, the current GOP bargaining position is unprecedented in its political extremism":
"It's unheard of to shut the government down because you want to repeal a law," said Tiefer.
"That seems quite beyond the pale," said George Washington University political science professor Sarah Binder.
Former Congressional Research Service and the Library of Congress official Louis Fisher said he was shocked when he saw what he now recognizes as a foreshadowing of today's crisis, when Republican senators refused for two years to confirm Richard Cordray -- or anyone else, for that matter -- to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless President Obama agreed to change the bureau's structure.
"That is really amazing, to say you're not going to confirm unless the underlying statute is rewritten," Fisher said. "That was breathtaking to me."
"The Republican Party is caught between politics and its responsibility, as a majority party of the House of Representatives, for governance," said [University of Maryland professor of government and politics the Frances] Lee. "Governance always requires disappointing your base."
It's easier when you're in the minority, she said. "The party out of power can take advantage of its lack of responsibility for governing."
Today's GOP "wants to behave like a party that has no power at all, but unfortunately for it, it does," she said. "The politics of defunding Obamacare are great with its base, but it has an institutional role which it cannot evade."
After repeatedly begging Congressional Republicans to continue the federal government shutdown, Sean Hannity is ratcheting up his expectations. He encouraged conservatives to leave the government inoperable for up to two months if that's what it takes for Democrats to acquiesce to GOP demands -- advice that would carry devastating effects for the American people.
October 1 marked the first day of a federal government shut down, as House Republicans refuse to fund the government unless Democrats and President Obama agree to significant changes to the three-year-old Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare").
Fox host Sean Hannity has spent the last year begging Republicans to hold America hostage and shut down the government over Obamacare. Now that he's gotten his wish, Hannity is ordering conservatives to keep the government closed, even if it takes "a month or two months." As he told Republican Sen. Rand Paul (KY) on Hannity about the shutdown:
HANNITY: I think the worst outcome, though, for the Republicans in the House at this point -- as they have been reasonable and the president totally unreasonable, Reid unreasonable -- is to cave. I don't think they should give in at all. And if that means that they're going to sit this out for a month or two months, or however long the president wants to be arrogant and not talk to anybody, then just sit it out.
The effects of a protracted government shutdown would be catastrophic.
After only two or three weeks, veterans' disability claims and pension payments to approximately 3.6 million veterans likely won't be paid.
Funding for the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC), which gives grants to states for low-income pregnant women, new mothers, and infants, will run dry after one week of a shutdown. WIC, which serves 53 percent of all babies born in the U.S. has contingency funds are available, but they will be exhausted by the end of the month.
Food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, will run out of money to operate by the end of October if the shutdown is ongoing.
Importantly, this damage would pile on top of the chaos the shutdown immediately caused. After House Republicans forced the government to close, over 800,000 federal workers were furloughed and may not receive pay. National parks and landmarks closed. Many home loans no longer processed and economic growth will slow. The Center for Disease Control will cease some disease-prevention programs and most of the Food and Drug Administration's food-safety operations will end.
Unsurprisingly, Hannity is unconcerned by this impact, as it "doesn't impact [him] mentally."
From the October 1 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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Fox News greeted the opening of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges on October 1 with lies about the law. Contrary to Fox guest and serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey's claims, Congress does not get a "special subsidy" for health insurance, the law does not cut Medicare benefits, and plans offered on the exchanges will provide a variety of benefits.
From the September 30 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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Fox News' Sean Hannity repeated the recent Fox talking point that President Obama was willing to negotiate with Iran, Syria, and other foreign actors, but refused to even speak with Republican members of Congress. In fact, the president has repeatedly emphasized his willingness to negotiate and recently spoke with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and other congressional leaders.
On the September 30 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity asked his guest. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), about the President's willingness to work with Republicans to avoid a looming government shutdown over GOP efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act. Hannity said, "The president will talk to Syria, Iran, Vladimir Putin, but he won't talk to members of the House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate. Do I have that right?" Graham responded, "You got it right."
Hannity claimed Obama was unwilling to even "talk" with Republicans in Congress. In reality, Obama called Speaker Boehner and other GOP leaders earlier today. According to Reuters:
President Barack Obama urged House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Monday to back legislation to fund the government for six weeks and to vote on it quickly to avoid a government shutdown in hours.
The White House said Obama, in a phone call to the top Republican in Congress, asked Boehner to drop House Republican attempts to tie continued funding of the government to cutting money for Obama's signature healthcare law, the central obstacle holding up an agreement.
Despite Hannity's claim, Obama's call to congressional leaders was even reported in his show's on-screen text:
And though the text describes the news as "Breaking News," Reuters reported on the call over an hour before Hannity aired.
OBAMA: I'm always willing to work with anyone of either party to make sure the Affordable Care Act works better, to make sure our government works better. I'm always willing to work with anyone to grow our economy faster, or to create new jobs faster, to get our fiscal house in order for the long run. I've demonstrated this time and time again, oftentimes to the consternation of my own party.
Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol praised Republican efforts to force congressional staffers to foot the entire cost of their health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare"), pretending any subsides Congressional staffers receive from their employer would be tantamount to "special treatment."
With the deadline to avoid a federal government shutdown looming, Republican Senator David Vitter (LA) proposed an amendment to the spending bill that would fund the government and avoid a shutdown. His proposal, passed by the House on a 228 - 201 vote, eliminates health care subsidies members of Congress and their staff will receive from their employer, the federal government, to help pay the cost of their coverage under the Obamacare exchanges.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol praised the plan as an "extremely strong, political, and substantive" provision during an appearance on the September 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report. Discussing the possibility of a government shutdown, Kristol claimed:
KRISTOL: This is the best political ground for them to fight on ... They are getting rid of the exemption -- the special treatment for congressmen who get special treatment -- better than that of anyone else who's forced into the exchanges.
When host Bret Baier pointed out that even some Republican congressmen disagreed with the measure because they "don't think that their staff should have to feel the pain here," Kristol doubled down:
KRISTOL: I think the House Republicans are intelligent to insist on it, to prevent the Obama administration's change of it and to say, 'I'm sorry, there's no reason Congress or their staffs, nice people though they are, should get a better break than all the other Americans who are being forced into the exchanges under Obamacare.'
The "better break" Kristol cites is actually a special punishment targeted at congressional staff members, a punishment Vitter and House Republicans are fighting to continue.