Media outlets avoid reporting that Senate GOP is blocking or "filibustering" Iraq amendment

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On July 13, blogger Joshua Micah Marshall contrasted The New York Times' current reporting on the Republican Senate minority's use of the filibuster with its description of the then-Democratic minority's use of the tactic in 2005. Marshall compared the headline of a July 12 Times article -- "Senate Narrowly Backs Bush in Rejecting Debate on Increasing Time Between Deployments" -- to that of a June 21, 2005, Times article -- "Democrats Block a Vote on Bolton for the Second Time." Marshall asserted that the Times "is committed to forcing the filibuster back into the closet," adding: "Please stop spinning this to obscure what's actually happening" -- that is, that Republicans are filibustering or blocking up-or-down votes, as Democrats did with John Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Marshall also highlighted a July 16 Reuters article that reported that Senate Republicans are "insisting on 60 votes" for passage of a Democratic amendment aimed at withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. A Media Matters for America survey of reports on the GOP's refusal to allow an up-or-down vote on the amendment -- offered by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) -- turned up several others that avoid stating that Republicans are attempting to block or filibuster the amendment:

  • In a July 17 Washington Post article on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) plan to hold an all-night Iraq debate on the Senate floor, staff writer Shailagh Murray reported that Reid "hoped to convince Republicans to allow a simple-majority vote on a Democratic proposal to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq by next spring. But GOP leaders held firm to a 60-vote threshold for passage."
  • A July 17 article in The Hill reported that Reid "said yesterday he would move to cut off debate on the majority's showpiece Iraq withdrawal plan -- Reid's second straight cloture filing on the defense authorization bill -- unless Republicans reconsider their insistence on 60-vote margins to approve war amendments."
  • On the July 17 edition of NBC's Today, anchor Ann Curry reported that Reid "is planning a rare, marathon, all-night debate on the war in Iraq starting tonight in an effort to keep up the pressure on Republicans to vote to start to bring the troops home." Curry added that "Republicans call the move political theater."
  • On the July 16 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, congressional correspondent Dana Bash conflated the number of votes needed to "pass" the Reed-Levin amendment with the number of votes needed to end debate. Bash reported that "[o]nly three Republicans now support the Democrats' withdrawal deadline, nowhere near enough to pass." While the support of those three Republicans would not give Democrats the 60 votes needed to approve the upcoming cloture vote -- which would end debate and allow for a simple majority vote -- it would give supporters of the amendment the simple majority of votes needed to "pass" the measure in an up-or-down vote. Host Wolf Blitzer later said that "Democrats clearly in the Senate don't have enough votes to break a filibuster."

Throughout most of Bash's report, the on-screen text read "Dems Stage All-Nighter: Anti-War Spectacle":

Moreover, as Media Matters documented, on the July 17 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, co-host Diane Sawyer reported that Reid -- rather than the Senate Republicans -- is "vow[ing] to filibuster, talking all night to close out all topics besides a vote on Iraqi troops withdrawals."

By contrast, a July 16 McClatchy Newspapers article on Reid's plan described the GOP tactic as a "filibuster":

Senate Democrats are planning an all-night session Tuesday, daring Republicans to engage in an old-fashioned filibuster over Iraq troop withdrawals rather than just threatening one.

The tactic was unlikely to deliver the 60-vote supermajority that war critics need to bypass procedural hurdles and amend a defense authorization bill so that it would require withdrawing combat troop in four months.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday that a little late-night drama might focus more public attention on why the new Democratic majority still hadn't enacted binding antiwar legislation as it had campaigned to do.

[...]

With at least three Republicans supporting the withdrawal amendment, Reid said he could get a majority vote but was frustrated that the Republican leadership had been successful so far in blocking that vote.

From the July 17 edition of NBC's Today:

CURRY: In other news this morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is planning a rare, marathon, all-night debate on the war in Iraq starting tonight in an effort to keep up the pressure on Republicans to vote to start to bring the troops home. Republicans call the move political theater.

From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the July 16 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: Dana, what exactly are the Democrats planning on doing?

BASH: Well, they're going to be debating, now, all night tomorrow night, Wolf. You know, pulling an all-nighter is really a tried-and-true way to get attention around here. But the reality is it may get the Democrats some good press, but not necessarily what they really need -- votes.

[begin video clip]

BASH: It will be a classic Senate spectacle. Democrats plan to roll in cots for the cameras and stage an all-night Iraq debate. Pure political theater intended to shine a spotlight on Republicans who won't vote for a deadline for troop withdrawal.

REID: They're protecting the president rather than protecting our troops.

BASH: Privately, Democrats admit their theatrics are not likely to produce GOP votes. Only three Republicans now support the Democrats' withdrawal deadline, nowhere near enough to pass. And just one other GOP senator, Maine's Susan Collins, says she is considering voting yes.

[...]

BLITZER: Well, speaking of September, the Democrats clearly in the Senate don't have enough votes to break a filibuster. They need 60 for that.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post, NBC, CNN, Associated Press
Person
Dana Bash
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