CBS’s Bob Schieffer utilized Democratic Party spin in discussing Monday evening’s procedural vote in the Senate that blocked a vote on a non-binding Iraq resolution. Schieffer, appearing in his weekly "Capitol Bob" segment on Wednesday’s "Early Show," blamed Republicans for blocking the vote and dismissed their arguments:
"...So they did the only thing that they could do, they used the Senate rules to block the vote. Now that group will give you another version of all this, but basically that's what happened."
Schieffer failed to mention the reason Republicans blocked the vote and that is because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will not allow votes on two Republican alternatives. As the Washington Times noted on Wednesday:
"Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has said he won't allow a vote on the resolution of no confidence unless a similar vote is allowed on two other resolutions."
Reid may worry that the Republican versions may be more popular. As CBS News Capitol Hill Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson noted on Tuesday's "Early Show," the alternative offered by New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg may get the most votes in the Senate:
"The Gregg Resolution is seen as positive for the President and the idea that it could end up with the most votes isn't part of the Democrats' plan."
But the fact that it may be the most popular measure, is that enough reason to forbid a vote on it? It would appear not as even the New York Times editorial page criticized Senator Reid on his decision to bar votes on alternative proposals:
"But the right way for the Senate to debate Iraq is to debate Iraq, not to bar proposals from the floor because they might be passed. The majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, needs to call a timeout and regroup."
But none of these facts were presented by Mr. Schieffer. In fact, "Capitol Bob" concluded that the parliamentary tactic used by the Republicans to block a vote "may backfire" on them:
"It could backfire on the Republicans, because every newspaper in America yesterday for example had on the front page, virtually every newspaper, 'Republicans Block Vote on War.' So the Democrats think that they've got the high ground on this."
But did these same newspapers that Schieffer cited put on the front page that Democrats blocked votes on federal judges using the same tactic? And were Schieffer and CBS similarly outraged at the Democrats for it?
The transcript of Bob Schieffer’s segment follows:
Hannah Storm: "This morning in Washington, the Senate is in a stalemate. Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on a non-binding resolution to show disapproval for President Bush's troop surge in Iraq. To find out why, we turn to 'Capitol Bob,' CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent and host of 'Face the Nation' Bob Schieffer. Good morning, Bob."
Bob Schieffer: "How are you, Hannah?"
Hannah Storm: "I'm just great, thanks. Well, the Senate can't even bring itself to debate a resolution on Iraq. They're all caught up in these procedural issues right now. What's it going to take to break the logjam?"
Bob Schieffer: "Well, I'm not sure it's going to be broken, number one Hannah. But basically what has happened here is, I mean, all sides are crying foul and I think probably all sides are right on this one. But here is what happened. You have three groups of people in the Senate. The Democrats are all against this war. The Republicans, and there are about 20 of them, many of them have to run for re-election in 2008. They want to put some distance between themselves and the President's war policy because they know this is a very unpopular war. Those two groups together have enough votes to pass a resolution that will be critical of the President's war policy. Now, there's a third group and that is the Republican leaders in the Senate and the Republicans who don't have to run for reelection next time, they're trying to avoid a vote that would be embarrassing to the President. They know the other groups have the votes to pass this resolution. So they did the only thing that they could do, they used the Senate rules to block the vote. Now that group will give you another version of all this, but basically that's what happened."
Hannah Storm: "How does the fact that several Senators are planning on running for president, how is that impacting the situation? Are they sort of tauting their own plans and not getting down to work and compromising with other people in the Senate?"
Bob Schieffer: "Well, actually, I think most of them are running for President <laughs>."
Hannah Storm: "<Laughter> That's true."
Bob Schieffer: "Yes. But that is what they're trying to do. Everybody is trying to stake out a position on this war. They know it is very, very unpopular with the public. They know that the President's approval ratings are very low at this point. They want to separate themselves, but the tricky part is -- they don't want to go on record as wanting to cut off funds for the troops that are there, they can just see the television commercials if they do that. So that is what has made this so tricky. It could backfire on the Republicans, because every newspaper in America yesterday for example had on the front page, virtually every newspaper, 'Republicans Block Vote on War.' So the Democrats think that they've got the high ground on this. We'll find out as this story begins to, you know, continue on. But for now, I think, Hannah, we're not going to see a resolution come to the Senate floor."
Hannah Storm: "And real quickly, how much does it matter anyway? Does a non-binding resolution really have any teeth? Is it going to affect the President's policy in any way?"
Bob Schieffer: "Well, actually, I think it would because it would tend to isolate the President, but here's what may also happen. Some of the Democrats were telling me yesterday after this episode, they may actually when they-- what they call the supplemental appropriation, which is the money they use to pay for this war, when it comes to the Senate over the next two weeks, they may look for places in that supplemental appropriations bill to cut off certain funds, not funds--not funds for the troops that are already there but funds that could prevent the President from sending more troops. And that may well happen. They don't have the votes to do it yet, but it could happen. They're thinking seriously now about it.
Hannah Storm: "Yeah. Meanwhile, the House isn't waiting. They're going to set aside a few days for their own debate next week. Bob Schieffer, thanks as always."