NBC Sets Up Obama to Run Against 'Do-Nothing Congress,' Lumps in 1995 GOP Congress

Friday's NBC Nightly News ran a report touting the prospect that President Obama could portray the current Congress as a "Do-Nothing Congress," based primarily on the number of bills passed rather than delving into the issues addressed, even making a comparison with the 1995 Republican Congress as if it could be similarly described as unproductive.

Correspondent Kelly O'Donnell's piece put most of the onus on Republicans for supposedly questionable results in Congress, as she featured early on soundbites of Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer complaining about House Republicans calling an end to the congressional session. Anchor Brian Williams set up the report:

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill across town, the House of Representatives was in session for two minutes today before leaving for the weekend, and they leave a lot of unfinished business as the year winds down. Some folks have revived the old Harry Truman rallying cry when he ran against the "Do-Nothing Congress." That was back in 1948. It worked for him. Our report tonight from NBC's Kelly O'Donnell.

Correspondent O'Donnell began her report highlighting complaints from Democrats:

KELLY O'DONNELL: Despite a very long to-do list, Congress left Washington for a long weekend.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I wish we were still here in session having these kinds of debates.

O'DONNELL: Urgent unfinished business that affects every working American on hold.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Don't go home, Speaker Boehner, because we're going to be here, and you'll be embarrassed before the American people if you do.

The NBC correspondent then included a soundbite of House Speaker John Boehner while she noted that House Republicans had passed a bill to extend the payroll tax cut which President Obama is still not satisfied with, as she called the President "unmoved."

O'Donnell then turned attention to the argument that the current Congress could be characterized as a "Do-Nothing Congress" based on the number of bills passed, and even suggested that the 1995 Congress - which was known for passing significant conservative legislation after Republicans came to power in the House for the first time in 40 years - could be similarly portrayed as a "Do-Nothing Congress." O'Donnell:

Another President, Harry Truman, gave this kind of Washington gridlock a do-nothing nickname back in 1948. ... History repeats and even outdoes itself. This Congress's workload falls short. The House passed 326 bills. The Senate, 368. The fewest since 1995.

Then came a soundbite from Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution further attacking Congress over the number of bills and days in session, rather than addressing the substance of items passed: "-by any reasonable historical standards, has been extremely unproductive. Few days in sessions, few votes, few measures passed."

As she neared the end of the report, O'Donnell finally included a soundbite arguing that Democrats in Congress have been a hindrance to passing legislation as she included a clip of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: "-President and a Senate that would rather spend their time doing - doing cheap political theater."

Below is a complete transcript of the report from the Friday, December 9, NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Meanwhile on Capitol Hill across town, the House of Representatives was in session for two minutes today before leaving for the weekend, and they leave a lot of unfinished business as the year winds down. Some folks have revived the old Harry Truman rallying cry when he ran against the "Do-Nothing Congress." That was back in 1948. It worked for him. Our report tonight from NBC's Kelly O'Donnell.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Despite a very long to-do list, Congress left Washington for a long weekend.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I wish we were still here in session having these kinds of debates.

O'DONNELL: Urgent unfinished business that affects every working American on hold.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Don't go home, Speaker Boehner, because we're going to be here, and you'll be embarrassed before the American people if you do.

O'DONNELL: Today, House Republicans did make public their plan to extend the payroll tax cut that Speaker Boehner had touted Thursday.

JOHN BOEHNER, HOUSE SPEAKER: I think this is a bipartisan proposal that the President ought to endorse.

O'DONNELL: Today, the President was unmoved.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE OF REPORTER: Any closer to a deal on the payroll tax cut today?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, WALKING ACROSS THE WHITE HOUSE LAWN: Merry Christmas!

O'DONNELL: Another President, Harry Truman, gave this kind of Washington gridlock a do-nothing nickname back in 1948.

FORMER PRESIDENT HARRY TRUMAN: This Republican "Do-Nothing Congress" toward labor.

O'DONNELL: History repeats and even outdoes itself. This Congress's workload falls short. The House passed 326 bills. The Senate, 368. The fewest since 1995.

THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: -by any reasonable historical standards, has been extremely unproductive. Few days in sessions, few votes, few measures passed.

O'DONNELL: Senate Republicans say Democrats are responsible for the slow pace.

MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: -President and a Senate that would rather spend their time doing - doing cheap political theater.

O'DONNELL: Among the unresolved year-end fights, money to keep the government open runs out next week. Long-term unemployment benefits are about to expire. Medicare doctors will take a big pay cut unless Congress prevents that. And that payroll tax automatically goes back up, on average about $1,000, unless Congress can find a way to agree. Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, Washington.