CNN joins Fox News in falsely comparing reconciliation process to "nuclear option"

››› ››› ADAM SHAH

Echoing Fox News' Bill Sammon and Sean Hannity, CNN hosts Anderson Cooper and Kiran Chetry both falsely compared Senate Democrats' potential use of the reconciliation process to pass health reform legislation to the "nuclear option." In fact, the term "nuclear option" was coined by then-Republican Sen. Trent Lott in 2005 to refer to a possible Republican attempt to change Senate filibuster rules, while reconciliation is already part of Senate procedure and Republicans have used it repeatedly in the past.

From the August 18 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

COOPER: Tonight: Breaking news that could change everything in the White House battle for health care reform. Call it the nuclear option.

After negotiating with the Republicans, conservative Democrats and, seemingly, themselves, over parts of a plan, CNN has learned that the administration could be getting closer to a very big change -- namely, crafting a health care bill and trying to ram it through the Senate, even if it passes by only a single vote.

From the August 19 edition of CNN's American Morning:

CHETRY: We've heard about the nuclear option before, right? I mean, that was when there was talk about maybe bypassing Democratic concerns when it came to judicial nominees. Well, now, the nuclear option is something that we're talking about yet again. This time it has to do with Democrats considering going it alone when it comes to health care. We're live from the White House next hour.

"Nuclear option" was coined to describe the process to change Senate filibuster rules

Lott described proposal to change filibuster rules as nuclear option. The term "nuclear option" was coined by Lott, one of the leading advocates of a proposal to change the Senate rule that requires a three-fifths supermajority to invoke cloture and end a filibuster. After Republican strategists deemed the term a political liability, Republican senators began to attribute it to Democrats. As Media Matters for America noted, at the time, many in the news media followed suit, repeating the Republicans' false attribution of the term to the Democrats.

Reconciliation is already part of Senate procedure, and Republicans have used it repeatedly

Reconciliation process is part of Congressional budget process. The budget reconciliation process is defined by the U.S. House Committee on Rules as "part of the congressional budget process ... utilized when Congress issues directives to legislate policy changes in mandatory spending (entitlements) or revenue programs (tax laws) to achieve the goals in spending and revenue contemplated by the budget resolution."

Republicans have repeatedly used reconciliation to pass President Bush's agenda. Republicans used the budget reconciliation process to pass President Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as well as the 2005 "Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act." The Senate also used the reconciliation procedure to pass a bill containing a provision that would permit oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (The final version of that bill signed by President Bush did not contain the provision on drilling.)

Fox News personalities repeatedly refer to reconciliation as "nuclear option"

Fox News' Sammon: "Democrats are headed for, not the public option but the nuclear option." Fox News vice president of news and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon has repeatedly falsely compared the potential use of reconciliation to pass a health care bill to the "nuclear option." For instance, on the August 18 edition of Fox Business' Cavuto, Sammon stated:

SAMMON: Well, I don't know, but I think what's going to happen, Neil, is that, you know, we talk about this public option, you know, going in and coming out, and so on and so forth. I think, in the end, it will go back in. Even if it is pulled out now, it'll go back in because the Democrats are headed for not the public option, but the nuclear option -- which is to say they'll change the rules to the Senate so that you don't need 60 votes, you'll only need 50 votes. And then, of course, Biden would be the tiebreaker.

Fox News' Hannity, Morris also redefine reconciliation as nuclear option. On the August 10 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Fox News contributor Dick Morris predicted that Democrats will try to pass a health care bill "with 50 votes on reconciliation, the so-called nuclear option." The next day, host Sean Hannity similarly stated that Democrats "are even talking about a nuclear option if they can't get their 60-vote filibuster number in the Senate -- or filibuster-proof number."

Transcripts

From the August 19 edition of CNN's American Morning:

CHETRY: We've heard about the nuclear option before, right? I mean, that was when there was talk about maybe bypassing Democratic concerns when it came to judicial nominees. Well, now, the nuclear option is something that we're talking about yet again. This time it has to do with Democrats considering going it alone when it comes to health care. We're live from the White House next hour.

From the August 18 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

COOPER: Tonight: Breaking news that could change everything in the White House battle for health care reform. Call it the nuclear option.

After negotiating with the Republicans, conservative Democrats and, seemingly, themselves, over parts of a plan, CNN has learned that the administration could be getting closer to a very big change -- namely, crafting a health care bill and trying to ram it through the Senate, even if it passes by only a single vote.

Now, this comes, of course, after taking it on the chin at town halls, sometimes over things not even part of any plan. This weekend, the White House seemed to back away from the so-called public option, a government-provided insurance alternative.

Today, the White House says nothing has changed; they still want that public option. But now it seems they may be considering some tough moves to make that happen.

From the August 18 edition of Fox Business' Cavuto:

CAVUTO: Will we get some packaging? In other words, will we get either scaled-down reform -- I mean, something that the president can claim is victory?

SAMMON: Well, I don't know, but I think what's going to happen, Neil, is that, you know, we talk about this public option, you know, going in and coming out, and so on and so forth. I think, in the end, it will go back in. Even if it is pulled out now, it'll go back in because the Democrats are headed for not the public option, but the nuclear option -- which is to say they'll change the rules to the Senate so that you don't need 60 votes, you'll only need 50 votes. And then, of course, Biden would be the tiebreaker.

So they won't have to worry about Republicans, because Republicans aren't going to vote for this thing whether it has the public option or doesn't have the public option. Democrats will realize that. They'll go for the full Monty.

Posted In
Government, The Senate, Health Care
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Anderson Cooper, Kiran Chetry
Show/Publication
Anderson Cooper 360, American Morning
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