On Fox & Friends, hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, and Brian Kilmeade seized on Dick Morris' claim that Democrats have a "secret" plan to pass health care, in which the House would pass the Senate bill as it is, and the Senate would pass an amended bill through reconciliation. But the fact that Democrats are considering this approach is not "secret"; Fox & Friends itself has reported it for a week, and it has been widely reported in other media.
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Fox & Friends surprised by Morris' revelation of Democrats' "secret plot" to pass health care reform
From the January 27 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
DOOCY: All right, we heard House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say the votes to pass health care reform are not there. But are she and Harry Reid leading a secret Democratic plot to sneak the plan through Congress despite growing opposition? Let's continue the conversation with Dick Morris.
Dick, I was reading at dickmorris.com last night that you have heard from Democratic sources that there is a secret plan and it involves a whole bunch of people having to say, OK, we promise we will vote that way if you do this.
MORRIS: Yeah, what's going to happen, I think, is Reid and Pelosi are now kind of saying the votes aren't there, and Harry Reid said there's no rush -- which is ridiculous given what he said before -- but I think that they have a plan to pass this. In fact, I know they do.
What they're planning to do is go to the House and say, look, we don't have 60 votes in the Senate, so please pass the Senate bill as is, and once you do that, it can go directly to the White House and become law. And we promise that we in the Senate will use reconciliation, requiring only 51 votes to fix the bill to incorporate the amendments that you, the House, want incorporated.
And what they're going to do is send a letter to the House signed by 52 Democratic senators embodying those commitments, saying if you pass this bill, we will carve out unions for a special treatment and exempt them from the Cadillac insurance tax, we can end this special treatment for Nebraska. We'll increase the fines if you don't have insurance. We'll increase the subsidy to help you get insurance. We may increase some of the taxes in it.
And the -- on the strength of that letter, the House is supposed to abandon the attempt to amend the bill and instead pass it as the Senate passed it.
CARLSON: But, Dick, this sounds like absolute political suicide for people involved in this plan, especially when you have these members of Congress coming out and saying, we're not talking about health care right now, and then they would be up to this? There would be an American revolt.
The following on-screen graphic appeared during the segment:
However, Fox & Friends has already repeatedly discussed the same two-step reconciliation approach that Morris purportedly exposed
January 20: Shively reports on the two-part reconciliation option. In a report on the January 20 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News correspondent Caroline Shively said Congress has a "couple of sticky options" for passing the health care bill, including that "the House could pass the Senate bill knowing that it would be modified later in the budget process through a maneuver called reconciliation." In a later report, Shively reiterated that "the House could pass the Senate bill with a wink and a nod, knowing that it would be modified later in the budget process through a maneuver called reconciliation."
January 20: Peter Johnson Jr. reports on the reconciliation option. After Shively's reports on January 20, Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. said, "People are saying, OK, there are a few things that can be done. If the president wants to ram it through, then the House can pass the Senate version. But we just went through this whole 'mishegas,' as some folks say, where, well, we need a 60 or $80 billion give-back to the unions on the Cadillac tax plans. That's not the Senate bill. Is the House going to pass that now? We can go to the nuclear option, the nuclear plan -- something called reconciliation -- where we can play with it, where we can say it really fits into this narrow category on tax and spending, but it really doesn't, and then later I'll give you my word, we'll undo it." As Media Matters for America has noted, reconciliation is not the "nuclear option."
January 25: Doocy asks Perino about the reconciliation option. On the January 25 edition of Fox & Friends, Doocy said to Fox News contributor Dana Perino that "now it sounds like they're trying to push it through. They might use the reconciliation or nuclear option or something like that. What's going on here?" Perino replied, "Well, as unseemly as it might appear to most Americans that the Democrats are trying to ram something through, perhaps that is exactly what they're trying to do. I actually think it's more likely that they're just thinking through their options, and that that might be one of them." During the interview, the on-screen text repeatedly referenced Pelosi and Reid "plotting to pass" health care reform, at one point referring to the plan as "Reid's Reconciliation":
Other outlets have also reported Democrats' possible two-step reconciliation approach
Two-step reconciliation also reported on blogs, mainstream media. Democrats' possible two-step approach to passing health care reform has been reported on extensively by progressive blogs, right-wing blogs, and the mainstream media since Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts' January 19 special election. For instance, The Washington Post reported on January 20 that "[o]ne alternative is for House leaders to pass the Senate bill and then try to fix it using a fast-track budget procedure known as reconciliation. Such bills cannot be filibustered in the Senate -- meaning they need just 51 votes to pass -- but rules limit their contents to provisions that affect the federal budget. Senior House Democrats said they are studying the rules for reconciliation to try to better assess its potential." The January 21 editions of The Baltimore Sun and The New York Times also reported the option.