On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams sneered that the government shutdown was "being driven by a committed core of Republican members of Congress who are all but assured of re-election in their districts, and just can't be conservative enough for many of the folks back home." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In the report that followed, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd joined Williams in blaming the GOP for the budget showdown: "You know, these Tea Party conservatives helped propel Republicans to take control of the House in 2010. And these conservatives, they are the engine behind this current standoff now."
The segment led off with a sound bite of President Obama using talking points identical to the assertions from Williams and Todd: "One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government. All because they didn’t like one law."
On Wednesday's Today, co-host Matt Lauer posed this question to Todd: "Can this end unless the Republicans are willing to walk away with nothing?" Todd argued: "No, I think it only ends, Matt, when the Republicans split on this. When you have a group of moderate Republicans or Senate Republicans basically publicly say, 'That's it, we've had enough.'"
Earlier in the exchange, Todd offered his unsolicited opinion on Republicans' political strategy: "...you've got the debt ceiling hanging out there. The nation's credit card, we hit our credit limit in a couple of weeks. That's sitting out there. That's another leverage point that Republicans think they have – I think it's a political mistake – but they think they have it."
Before teeing up Todd to predict GOP surrender on the shutdown, Lauer voiced his agreement with the slanted analysis of MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews, who appeared on Tuesday's Today: "I thought Chris Matthews put it pretty well yesterday. He said the Republicans are asking the President for something he can't give them, by asking that this health care law be delayed or dismantled. That's his baby and nobody can give away their baby."
Todd added: "I agree, I don't see how the President ever gives anything on health care other than maybe this repeal of a medical device tax or maybe some small change."
Here is a full transcript of Todd's October 1 Nightly News report:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: What’s happening right now in Washington has been a long time coming. It’s being driven by a committed core of Republican members of Congress who are all but assured of re-election in their districts, and just can't be conservative enough for many of the folks back home. This is about the divide in our country, the end of the old chain of command in Congress and anger over Obamacare. Our political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd is with us with that part of the story. Chuck, good evening.
CHUCK TODD: Good evening, Brian. You know, these Tea Party conservatives helped propel Republicans to take control of the House in 2010. And these conservatives, they are the engine behind this current standoff now. [begin voiceover] The Tea Party has the president's attention.
BARACK OBAMA: One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government. All because they didn’t like one law.
TODD: The faction is a group of about 80 members of Congress, who in August wrote a letter to Speaker John Boehner urging him to use the budget negotiations as a wedge to reverse the Affordable Care Act.
REP. TIM HUELSKAMP: We thought it was important to stand on principle, that since 2010 elections, the Republicans are very clear we don't like Obamacare but never had a chance to actually vote on it.
TODD: They come from the most conservative districts in the country. On average, in 2012, they captured 65 percent of the vote in their districts, districts where the president barely cracked 37 percent. They represent only one-third of the Republicans in the House, and only 18 percent of the American population.
DAVID WASSERMAN [EDITOR, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT]: These 80 Republican letter-signers in the House come from districts where Obama lost by 23 points. There is no chance that Democrats have a shot at holding these Republicans accountable by winning their seats.
TODD: So who are they? Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp comes from a district where the president didn’t even break 28 percent. He is confident his constituents support him in the shutdown.
HUELSKAMP: I'll just say most Americans don’t realize the government’s shut down. It has no impact on their daily lives. They got their mail today, they’re going to get the Social Security check.
TODD: Down in Louisiana, Bill Cassidy came to D.C. the same year the country sent Barack Obama to the White House. In 2012, Cassidy got 79 percent, Obama 32 percent, a comfortable enough margin that he argues the shutdown is not about ideology.
REP. BILL CASSIDY: Blue America, purple America, and red America. You want the government funded.
TODD: Both congressmen say they will not budge on the government shutdown until the Democrats budge on the health care law.
HUELSKAMP: At a minimum, members of Congress should not have a gold-plated health care system just for themselves.
CASSIDY: These are our battlegrounds. This is our hope to represent the American people in a way to make this law less onerous.
TODD: Brian, they do get a little uncomfortable when you ask them about the idea that they're cashing paychecks while the government workers are on furlough, but Congressman Cassidy tells me, he says by the next paycheck, if the government’s still shut down, he hopes to delay it and not take it.
WILLIAMS: Chuck Todd, as another day’s sun sets on the U.S. Capitol. Chuck, thanks.