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The November 17 nightly news broadcasts and the November 18 morning news broadcasts of the three major television networks failed to cover the defeat of budget legislation pushed by the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives that would have cut spending on health and education programs. On November 17, the House voted down the measure, which contained $142.5 billion in discretionary spending, by a margin of 224 to 209, with 22 Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition. Two of the three network morning news programs covered two other Republican-backed measures that passed early on November 18 -- a House budget-cutting bill and a Senate tax-cutting bill -- while ignoring the defeat of the earlier House bill.
The networks' lack of coverage is significant because, as The New York Times noted, the bill's defeat marked "the first time since the early days of the Republican takeover of the House a decade ago that the majority had come out on the losing end of such a vote." The Los Angeles Times also noted that "[t]he GOP leadership's struggles came on some of the first major actions the House has taken since Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), known for controlling his party's members and moving controversial measures to passage, was forced to give up his post as majority leader after being indicted in Texas on money-laundering charges."
The defeated measure would have cut current spending by $164 million, The New York Times reported. Early November 18, House Republicans succeeded in passing legislation "cutting benefit programs, such as Medicaid and food stamps, by about $50 billion over the next five years," according to the Los Angeles Times. The bill passed 217-215, with no Democrats voting in support, after Republicans leaders reduced the extent of some cuts to attract the support of moderates in their party, the Los Angeles Times reported.
On the respective November 18 broadcasts of NBC's Today and CBS' The Early Show, NBC's Ann Curry and CBS's René Syler each mentioned the $50 billion spending cut approved by the House, as well as a bill approved by the Senate containing $60 billion in tax cuts -- bills that passed early on November 18 -- but neither mentioned House Republicans' failure to pass the earlier spending bill. ABC's Good Morning America made no mention of either House bill or the Senate bill.
The failure to cover the defeat the budget bill is especially striking in the case of NBC's Nightly News, given that a November 17 post by NBC News producer Mike Viqueira on the Nightly News' Daily Nightly weblog -- posted shortly before that evening's Nightly News broadcast -- cited the "completely unexpected defeat" of the bill as "evidence that the congressional GOP has some serious problems." Viqueira remarked that the House Republican leadership was "blindsided by an unusual coalition of conservatives and moderates," an event "[t]hat does not reflect well on the man running the floor in the absence of Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo."
From the November 18 broadcast of NBC's Today:
CURRY: During the night, the House passed $50 billion in budget cuts by two votes. Opponents say the cuts will hurt the poor. The Senate, meantime, passed a tax cut bill that will prevent about 14 million families from paying higher taxes through the alternative minimum tax.
From the November 18 broadcast of CBS' The Early Show:
SYLER: On Capitol Hill, the House approved a budget cut package early this morning by a two-vote margin. It would cut $50 billion from a group of welfare programs over several years. It still needs an OK from the Senate. Just before the House vote, the Senate approved $60 billion in tax cuts.