Lott Scolds CBS's Schieffer on GOP 'Blocking' Iraq Resolutions: 'Totally Incorrect'

When, on Sunday's Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asserted that after the Senate debate over resolutions on Iraq “came to a halt, every newspaper in the country that I know about had a headline on the front page that said 'Republicans block debate on Iraq war,'” Republican Senator Trent Lott corrected Schieffer and all the other misguided journalists: “That was totally incorrect.” A befuddled Schieffer asked about the spin which dominated the media early in the week: “How can all of them have been wrong?” Lott explained: “Because we didn't block debate. Actually, the vote was to continue debate.” Indeed, Senate Republican wanted to allow votes on several proposed resolutions while the Democratic leadership wanted debate limited to two resolutions.

Schieffer himself endorsed the spin unfavorable to Republicans. On Wednesday's Early Show, as noted in Michael Rule's NewsBusters posting, Schieffer castigated Republicans: “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.”

The Wednesday, February 7 MRC CyberAlert recounted:
FNC's Brit Hume on Tuesday night scolded the mainstream media for framing their coverage, of the Senate battle over Iraq resolutions, around a spin favorable to Democrats. Citing headlines, such "GOP blocks a debate over Iraq policy" in the New York Times, Hume countered: "In fact, of course, both sides were trying to have the debate on terms most favorable to their party, but in this case as it happened, the Republicans were actually seeking a broader debate with more resolutions considered while the Democrats wanted to address just those that seemed most likely to come out their way."
On the February 11 Face the Nation, guest questioner John Harris of The Politico, raised with Lott the public's frustration with the “debate about the debate” in the Senate over resolutions on Iraq policy. This exchange ensued:
Senator Trent Lott: “We want a debate, not a mandate. And I've been in the position as Majority Leader, where you have to decide how do you proceed, and I've learned the hard way you proceed by letting both sides have their say -- a full debate -- and offer different resolutions. You can't cut off the minority from offering one or more amendments. Senator McConnell, I thought, really worked aggressively to try to get this debate going forward. We had at least four or five resolutions that we would liked to have offered on our side. He agreed to cut it down to two, and then we were dictated to as to what that was going to be. But here, here's the point. That is inside Senate baseball. Should we have a full debate? Yes, we're ready to go forward.”

Bob Schieffer: “Well, then why don't you have it, Senator? Because you can call it [over Lott] wait, let me just ask this question. You can call it inside baseball, but after that debate came to a halt, every newspaper in the country that I know about had a headline on the front page that said 'Republicans block debate on Iraq war.' Now, that can't a good thing for you.”

Lott: “And that was totally incorrect. I don't know that I've ever-”

Schieffer: “How can all of them have been wrong?”

Lott: “Because we didn't block debate. Actually, the vote was to continue debate. Fifty-two United States senators in the United States in the last week talked and debated about the issue. But here's the point-”

Schieffer: “And in the end, did nothing.”

Lott: “Well, you know, the Senate's been in session six weeks, we voted on two major bills, not one of them has gone to the President for a signature. One of the lessons that should have come out of last year's elections was the American people want action. They want us to step up and act on these issues, and yet we haven't produced one solid result yet. But here, I want to go back to the substance. All we were asking was that we have an opportunity to have an open debate, offer more than one resolution, but at least have a vote on whether or not we support funds for the troops that are in Iraq. Isn't that an important part of the debate? That's all it was really about. And we were told, 'No, no, no. We don't want you to have a vote on we support funds for the troops in the field,' because that would have been the top voting issue, and they -- the Democrats did not want that. I believe the American people want us to support our troops with the funds when they are doing a mission, even if you don't agree with the details of the mission. That was the crux of the debate. You can argue about the debate over the debate, but the substance really did matter. And we're going to have that debate. We're ready to go forward now. But we're not going to be dictated to that you can't have a vote on an issue as critical as providing funds for the troops....”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center