Media characterize expected standoff on Iraq funding as Congress "defiant" of Bush, not vice versa

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

In their coverage of the Senate's March 29 passage of a spending bill that calls for troop withdrawal from Iraq to begin with the goal of having the troops home by March 31, 2008, several media outlets -- CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press -- have characterized the Senate as "defiant" or as having "defied" President Bush by passing a measure he has threatened to veto. This characterization suggests that authority to make that determination lies with the president, and the Senate's action undermines that authority. In fact, the Constitution gives Congress the authority -- and responsibility -- to legislate.

The following have characterized congressional actions as defiance of the president:

  • On the March 29 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer claimed, "The Senate defied the president, passing a war spending bill with a timeline for U.S. troops to leave Iraq." The accompanying on-screen text read: "Senate Defies Pres. Bush, War Bill OK'd Despite Veto Threat." Blitzer later added, "Let's get some more now on our top story, the Senate's defiance of the president's promise to veto its war spending bill for Iraq." CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry also described the Senate as "defying" Bush, saying, "Wolf, this president obviously under siege on two fronts -- the full Senate defying him on Iraq policy, as well as this Senate panel hearing testimony -- explosive testimony in that U.S. attorney flap."
  • A March 30 New York Times article on the passage of the Senate measure was headlined, "Defying Bush, Senate Passes Iraq Spending Measure," although the article itself noted that Democrats "dismissed Republican complaints that they were micromanaging military policy, saying that Congress had Constitutional authority equal to that of the executive branch and that Democrats were forced to intercede because of Mr. Bush's refusal to heed public demands for withdrawing forces."
  • A March 29 Washington Post report stated, "The Senate today defied a White House veto threat and narrowly approved a $122 billion war spending bill that calls for combat troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq this summer."
  • A March 30 Associated Press report stated that the Senate was "defiant." From the article: "A defiant, Democratic-controlled Senate approved legislation Thursday calling for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq within a year, propelling Congress closer to an epic, wartime veto confrontation with President Bush."

As Media Matters for America previously noted (here, here and here), NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory and CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash both asserted that the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law was defying the White House by authorizing subpoenas for White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers, and three others, rather than characterizing Bush's conditions for congressional interviews of his staff as defiance of Congress' oversight responsibility.

From the March 29 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: The Senate defied the president, passing a war spending bill with a timeline for U.S. troops to leave Iraq. And despite President Bush's vowing the bill will never get past his veto pen, the president is -- the Democrats in Congress and some Republicans are moving forward on that front.

[...]

HENRY: Wolf, this president obviously under siege on two fronts -- the full Senate defying him on Iraq policy, as well as this Senate panel hearing testimony -- explosive testimony in that U.S. attorney flap. The president is trying to both push back and focus on the rest of his legislative agenda, but that's easier said than done.

[...]

BLITZER: Then, just two days ago, the Senate defied President Bush with its own move toward a troop pullout. Republicans had hoped to strip a Senate bill of language calling for a pullout deadline, but they failed by a vote of 50-48. And again, President Bush was quick and harsh with a response.

[...]

BLITZER: Let's get some more now on our top story, the Senate's defiance of the president's promise to veto its war spending bill for Iraq. Today, one lawmaker who normally votes with the Democrats did not join them. He voted against the Senate bill.

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