9News uncritically reported GOP charge that Senate Dems are "stalling funding for the entire U.S. military"

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On multiple July 18 broadcasts, KUSA 9News uncritically reported Republican accusations that U.S. Senate Democrats were withholding funding for the military. Republicans made the charge after they blocked a vote on a Democratic amendment that would set a time frame for the redeployment of troops in Iraq. However, the bill that contained the amendment wouldn't take effect until October 1 and, as McClatchy Newspapers reported, "isn't technically needed in order to continue military funding."

In July 18 segments about U.S. Senate Republicans blocking a vote on a Democratic amendment aimed at withdrawing troops from Iraq, KUSA 9News uncritically reported Republican accusations that Senate Democrats were withholding funding for the U.S. military. For example, during the broadcast of 9News at 4 p.m., Steve Handelsman, national correspondent for NBC's affiliate news service, NBC News Channel, stated that "Republicans were angry" over the all-night debate on the amendment and repeated GOP claims that "Democratic leaders are stalling funding for the entire U.S. military." Similarly, on the 9News at 5 p.m. and 9News at 10 p.m. broadcasts, co-anchor Adele Arakawa reported that "Republicans say Democratic leaders are stalling funding" and are "holding up funding for the entire U.S. military," respectively. In fact, as Media Matters for America noted, a July 19 McClatchy Newspapers article reported that the annual Defense Department funding authorization bill -- which includes the troop withdrawal amendment that Republicans blocked -- "wouldn't take effect until fiscal 2008 begins on Oct. 1 and isn't technically needed in order to continue military funding."

The blog Think Progress also pointed out that the defense bill is not set to take effect until October 1 and that "[f]unding for the troops -- including emergency appropriations -- has already been earmarked through September 30th, 2007."

As the Associated Press reported, following an all-night session, Senate Republicans on July 18 blocked Democrats on a procedural vote that would have permitted the Senate to proceed with a direct vote on S. Amdt. 2087 to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, offered by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) decided to temporarily suspend work on the Defense Department funding authorization bill after Republicans blocked the vote on the Democratic amendment.

In contrast to the 9News reports, McClatchy noted the distinction between the GOP charge that Senate Democrats are withholding funds for the U.S. military, and the reality of when the funding is to take effect:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, "What I hate the most is that because of the next election, we can't set aside our differences and focus on what we have in common: providing our troops with what they need."

The authorization bill covers myriad aspects of defense policy, from treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to equipment levels.

While it wouldn't take effect until fiscal 2008 begins on Oct. 1 and isn't technically needed in order to continue military funding, the bill contains several politically popular elements: a 3.5 percent military pay increase, more money for mine-resistant vehicles known as MRAPS and improved care and benefits for wounded veterans.

As Media Matters has noted, the bill's provision of a pay raise for the military would not take effect until January 2008.

From the July 18 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 4 p.m.:

KIM CHRISTIANSEN (co-anchor): A rare all-night debate in the U.S. Senate ended today with another defeat for Democrats on Iraq. Republicans beat back a plan to force the start of a U.S. withdrawal. But the fight's not over yet. Steve Handelsman is on Capitol Hill.

[begin video clip]

HANDELSMAN: At the end of the all-night Senate debate, this morning Republicans blocked a vote on forcing a U.S. pullout.

UNIDENTIFIED: The motion is not agreed to.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): They chose to continue protecting their president instead of our troops.

HANDELSMAN: A Republican win by eight votes.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It's been a good day. For the troops in the field, the surge goes on.

HANDELSMAN: Secretary of State Rice was on the Hill urging a "no" vote. But another Republican defected, Susan Collins of Maine.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): We're all a little bit weary. But we're one vote closer to ending this war.

HANDELSMAN: Democrats vowed to fight on.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN -- identified as R-UT): We cannot wait until next year or until next month or until September to change our strategy.

HANDELSMAN: Senators had debated for 20 straight hours.

UNIDENTIFIED: A withdrawal will be calamitous.

HANDELSMAN: Stumbling to praise U.S. troops at 3 a.m.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): At every turn they have delivered magnificant -- magnificancy -- bleh, sorry, it's too late.

HANDELSMAN: Republicans were angry over the forced marathon.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): Last night's performance made us the laughingstock of the world.

HANDELSMAN: And they're angry that Democratic leaders are stalling funding for the entire U.S. military.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I can't tell you how much I regret it and I am much more sad than I am angry.

HANDELSMAN: Delivery of the new IED-resistant MRAP vehicle could be delayed.

MCCAIN: Now what happens? Now what happens?

HANDELSMAN: Democratic leaders say they'll look for another chance to force an Iraq pullout, and to embarrass Republicans who blocked the pullout today. I'm Steve Handelsman, NBC News, Capitol Hill.

[end video clip]

CHRISTIANSEN: And President Bush has his own plans. He's invited every senator to a secret briefing from Baghdad tomorrow so that U.S. generals can talk about the surge and ask for patience.

From the July 18 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 5 p.m.:

ARAKAWA: Democratic leaders say they're pleased at the message their all-night debate on Iraq sent, even though Republicans blocked a plan to force the start of a U.S. troop withdrawal. Susan Collins of Maine became the latest Republican to defect. But when the 20 straight hours of debate were over, Republicans still were able to block a vote on forcing a U.S. pullout by eight votes.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It's been a good day. For the troops in the field, the surge goes on.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): They chose to continue protecting their president instead of our troops.

ARAKAWA: Republicans say Democratic leaders are stalling funding for the entire U.S. military. Delivery of a new IED-resistant vehicle called the MRAP could be delayed. Democrats say they will look for another opportunity to force an Iraq pullout. President Bush has invited every senator to a secret briefing from Baghdad tomorrow. U.S. generals will talk about the troop surge and ask for patience.

BOB KENDRICK (co-anchor): The Pentagon wants to pay for more of those specially armored vehicles that Adele mentioned by shuffling its budget. That tops our look at "America Today." The vehicle is called a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle -- that's what the MRAP stands for. This video was provided by the Department of Defense. The Pentagon says the MRAP greatly improves soldiers' chances of surviving a roadside bomb. More than 14 hundred U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq by roadside bombs, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has asked congressional leaders to rework the Pentagon's budget to order more MRAPs. That is contingent on Congress finding agreement on war funding.

From the July 18 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 10 p.m.:

ARAKAWA: Democratic leaders say they'll look for another opportunity to force a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq after Republicans blocked a plan following a rare all-night debate. Republicans say Democratic leaders are holding up funding for the entire U.S. military. One more Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, has sided with the Democrats, but the Republicans still blocked the plan to force a withdrawal by eight votes.

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