Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rachel Maddow Calls Out Republican Hypocrites and Liars (and the Washington Post)

Wow. Watch this video of Rachel Maddow calling out Republican hypocrites and liars (and going after The Washington Post for enabling the lies). Good stuff.

At least The Washington Post ran columnist E.J. Dionne’s response to Sen. Orrin Hatch’s op-ed (and for the record, am I the only one who finds statements by Republicans that majority rule is somehow a violation of the democratic process to be ridiculous, if not offensive?). Dionne makes a few additional points worth noting:

The health-care bill passed the Senate in December with 60 votes under the normal process. The only thing that would pass under a simple majority vote would be a series of amendments that fit comfortably under the "reconciliation" rules established to deal with money issues. Near the end of his column, Hatch conceded that reconciliation would be used for "only parts" of the bill. But why didn't he say that in the first place?

Hatch grandly cited "America's Founders" as wanting the Senate to be about "deliberation." But the Founders said nothing in the Constitution about the filibuster, let alone "reconciliation." Judging from what they put in the actual document, the Founders would be appalled at the idea that every major bill should need the votes of three-fifths of the Senate to pass.

Hatch quoted Sens. Robert Byrd and Kent Conrad, both Democrats, as opposing the use of reconciliation on health care. What he didn't say is that Byrd's comment from a year ago was about passing the entire bill under reconciliation, which no one is proposing. As for Conrad, he made clear to The Post's Ezra Klein this week that it's perfectly appropriate to use reconciliation "to improve or perfect the package," which is the only thing that Democrats have proposed doing through reconciliation.

Hatch said that reconciliation should not be used for "substantive legislation" unless the legislation has "significant bipartisan support." But surely the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, which were passed under reconciliation and increased the deficit by $1.7 trillion during his presidency, were "substantive legislation." The 2003 dividends tax cut could muster only 50 votes. Vice President Dick Cheney had to break the tie. Talk about "ramming through."

The underlying "principle" here seems to be that it's fine to pass tax cuts for the wealthy on narrow votes but an outrage to use reconciliation to help middle-income and poor people get health insurance.

Keeping Maddow’s and Dionne’s comments in mind, it’s also worth noting how The Indianapolis Star frames the issue. Today, the Star ran a front-page article (apparently not available on the Star’s website) sourced from McClatchy Newspapers that included a “Q-and-A on Reconciliation”. Among the questions and answers:

Q: Why do Republicans object so much? Haven’t they used this tactic before?

A: Yes, many times. However, they say the tactic is intended to be used only on budget-related matters, not to force through substantive policy legislation. While they’ve used reconciliation in the past to cut taxes and overhaul welfare, in many cases with bipartisan support, they say this is different.

Notice anything left out of that answer? The Q&A tells us what Republicans say but doesn’t tell us how Democrats respond or, more importantly, what the truth is. The Q&A cites the oft-repeated not for “substantive policy legislation” and “bipartisan support” talking points. But how ’bout, for example, those 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that increased the deficit by $1.7 trillion (and remember that according to a comparison of the various health reform proposals done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the Senate bill at $871 billion over ten years with a net reduction to the deficit of $132 billion over ten years), one of which required Vice President Cheney to break a tie? McClatchy doesn’t fact check Republican statements; they just reprint them and The Indianapolis Star goes along.

Maddow and Dionne are right and the “mainstream media” — despite cries of “liberal bias” — is letting Republicans control the debate with half-truths and lies.

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