For Second Day, NBC Touts Democrats Blaming Tea Party for Budget Fight

After NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer joined Senator Chuck Schumer on Wednesday in labeling the Tea Party as the cause of the budget stalemate in Congress, on Thursday, Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell again provided a platform for Democratic talking points in an interview with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

O'Donnell, who spoke with Reid Wednesday night, began with a challenge: "If there were a shutdown, are you responsible? At least in part?" Reid replied: "How can we be blamed when we have given them everything they want and they won't take yes for an answer?" She then summarized the Democratic argument: "Reid said Republicans refuse to compromise....[his] answer is blame the Tea Party."

After a sound bite of Reid claiming that "Republicans are afraid of the Tea Party," O'Donnell noted: "Visible and vocal....The Tea Party supporters and elected House members put 65 policy changes on the table, known as riders. Many include deep cuts to social programs and the health care law."

Following a sound bite of House Speaker John Boehner explaining the GOP's opposition to a shutdown, O'Donnell again cited Reid: "[He] says Tea Party pressure gives Speaker Boehner less room to make a deal. " Moving back to the interview, she wondered: "If you name the Tea Party and call them out, doesn't that make it harder?" Reid replied: "There are people of good will in that Republican caucus in the House of Representatives who want to do the right thing. They're being held back by this loud group screaming from the Right."

O'Donnell then asked Reid to describe Boehner's personality: "Is the John Boehner you see in private different than the Speaker we see publicly?" Reid remarked: "I've watched John Boehner – and I have to be very careful, I don't want to say too many nice things about him, it might hurt him with the Tea Party. But I have great respect for John Boehner. He's got a very difficult job and I know he's trying to do the right thing."

Following O'Donnell's report and interview with Reid, Lauer spoke with White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie, who identified a cause of the budget disagreement: "...this isn't just about the number of spending cuts....It's also those policy riders that Republicans feel very strongly about, de-funding Planned Parenthood, curbing the EPA. Those are very important to Republicans, non-starters to Democrats. Ultimately, the deal could break down over those kind of issues."

Lauer then warned that a shutdown would mean "there'll be a political price to pay. There'll be punishment from the American people."

One wonders when NBC will talk to a Republican about the obstinance of Senate Democrats and the left wing keeping them from compromising.


Here is a full transcript of the April 7 segment:

7:02AM ET

VIEIRA: We're going to begin with the efforts in Washington to avert a government shutdown. NBC's Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell has the latest. Kelly, good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Countdown to Shutdown; No Deal After Late Night White House Meeting]

KELLY O'DONNELL: And good morning to you, Meredith. Well, the White House meeting went on for about 90 minutes, wrapping up just before 11:00 Eastern. Then staffers kept going. This morning sources say they did take a break, but no breakthroughs. But they'll be back at the bargaining table again today. A night shift for more budget negotiations at the White House very late Wednesday.

BARACK OBAMA: Good evening, everybody.

O'DONNELL: A progress report from the President, who made the stakes more personal.

OBAMA: A government shutdown has real consequences for real people.

O'DONNELL: Minutes later, standing together, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Harry Reid.

HARRY REID [SEN. D-NV]: I have confidence that we can get this done, but we're not there yet.

JOHN BOEHNER [REP. R-OH]: I do think we made some progress. But I want to reiterate, there's no agreement.

O'DONNELL: A crisis point.

SHEILA JACKSON LEE [REP. D-TX]: Don't shut this government down. You're not going to shut it down on my watch!

O'DONNELL: Both parties battling over how deep federal cuts should go to keep the government open after Friday.

MITCH MCCONNELL [SEN. R-KY]: Taking pot shots at everything the Republicans have proposed while rooting, rooting for a shutdown.

O'DONNELL: In an exclusive interview with NBC News before the White House meeting, Majority Leader Reid said Republicans refuse to compromise. If there were a shutdown, are you responsible? At least in part?

REID: We have said, 'Okay, what's your number? We'll go halfway.' That wasn't good enough. 'What's your number? We'll go all the way.' How can we be blamed when we have given them everything they want and they won't take yes for an answer? They won't take yes for an answer.

O'DONNELL: Reid's answer is blame the Tea Party.

REID: We know the Republicans are afraid of the Tea Party.

O'DONNELL: Visible and vocal.

MICHELE BACHMANN [REP. R-MN]: We will prevail!

O'DONNELL: The Tea Party supporters and elected House members put 65 policy changes on the table, known as riders. Many include deep cuts to social programs and the health care law.

BOEHNER: Republicans have no interest in shutting down the government. Shutting down the government, I think, is irresponsible. And I think it will end up costing the American taxpayers more money than we're already spending.

O'DONNELL: But Reid says Tea Party pressure gives Speaker Boehner less room to make a deal. If you name the Tea Party and call them out, doesn't that make it harder?

REID: There are people of good will in that Republican caucus in the House of Representatives who want to do the right thing. They're being held back by this loud group screaming from the Right.

O'DONNELL: Is the John Boehner you see in private different than the Speaker we see publicly?

REID: I've watched John Boehner – and I have to be very careful, I don't want to say too many nice things about him, it might hurt him with the Tea Party. But I have great respect for John Boehner. He's got a very difficult job and I know he's trying to do the right thing.

O'DONNELL: And today, Boehner's next move is to have the House of Representatives vote on a one-week extension. The President has said he doesn't want to see that happen. Senate Democrats say they don't want to see it either. But Boehner and Republicans say that's at least one way to prevent a shutdown. Matt.

LAUER: Alright, Kelly O'Donnell at the Capitol this morning.

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC