On Monday's CBS Early Show, White House correspondent Bill Plante reported on the possibility of Democrats using reconciliation to pass a health care reform bill and noted how Republicans used the procedure when they were in the majority: "In the past it has helped the majority party push through some controversial legislation. In 2001, Republicans used it to pass a giant $1.3 trillion tax cut."
A Media Research Center special report conducted from January 20 to March 31 in 2001 found that out of 94 judgements of the size of the Bush tax cuts on ABC, NBC, and CBS, "84 percent...labeled it as 'big' or 'huge' or otherwise portrayed it as large." CBS was one of the worst offenders, with various reporters describing the cuts as large a total of 14 times in that ten-week period. Then-CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather alone used the word "big" 11 times to describe the tax cuts.
Meanwhile, on Monday's Early Show, Plante did not use the "giant" label to describe the massive ObamaCare legislation, simply referring to it as a "sweeping proposal." According to a Heritage Foundation study by James C. Capretta, the total cost of the bill could add up to $2.5 trillion over ten years.
Plante did acknowledge the partisan nature of the reconciliation process, in which legislation is passed with 51 votes in the Senate rather than the customary 60: "Even some Democrats don't think it's the right thing to do. Reconciliation sounds agreeable, like bipartisanship. But in Congress, reconciliation means just the opposite." Later in the report, a clip was played of Republican Senator Tom Coburn describing it as "a thumbing of the nose at the American people." A clip was also played of Democratic Senator Kent Conrad pointing out that reconciliation "was never designed for that kind of significant legislation."
On Friday, Plante placed the blame for gridlock at Thursday's health care reform summit on Republicans.
Here is a full transcript of Plante's Monday report:
BILL PLANTE: There is one way the President may be able to get health care without Republican support. It's a legislative device called reconciliation. But even some Democrats don't think it's the right thing to do. Reconciliation sounds agreeable, like bipartisanship. But in Congress, reconciliation means just the opposite.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Health Care Reform; Debating Reconciliation]
LARRY SABATO: Reconciliation is a device to short circuit the need for 60 votes, a super majority in the Senate, to pass major legislation.
PLANTE: When it's used in budget bills, they can't be filibustered or amended. In the past it has helped the majority party push through some controversial legislation. In 2001, Republicans used it to pass a giant $1.3 trillion tax cut, a centerpiece of President Bush's economic plan. They used it again in 2003 for a $350 billion tax cut. This time, Democrats are in charge and Republicans say reconciliation is a bad idea.
TOM COBURN: If you use reconciliation on this health care bill as we see today, what you're going to have is a thumbing of the nose at the American people. They don't agree with it. We need to change it.
PLANTE: And even some Democrats warn that reconciliation was never meant for a sweeping proposal like the health care bill.
KENT CONRAD: It was never designed for that kind of significant legislation. It was designed for deficit reduction.
PLANTE: Now, the President is expected to announce as early as Wednesday whether he'll support reconciliation to pass health care. His biggest problem will be getting Democrats on board because the vote would leave many of them very vulnerable in November.