At the top of Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith proclaimed the passage of ObamaCare: "A major victory for President Obama as House Democrats work late into the night to pass health care reform." A headline on screen read: "Historic Victory."
Co-host Maggie Rodriguez later introduced a report on the legislation by remarking that Smith, who was pleased with his NCAA March Madness bracket picks, was "not the only one who's happy this morning. So is President Obama." She went on to declare: "We begin with Congress's historic passage of health care reform late last night." Rodriguez recited ObamaCare talking points: "Now under this law...insurance companies will not be allowed to drop your coverage if you get sick. There will be no cap on lifetime insurance benefits and you can keep your children on your health insurance through the age of 26. Also, coverage will be available for uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions."
In the report that followed, correspondent Nancy Cordes began by describing the "sense of relief for Democrats," in the wake of the bill's passage. The on-screen headline read: "Historic Vote; Health Care Reform Passes; Heads to Obama's Desk."
Cordes made sure to highlight the President's role in pushing the unpopular legislation through: "Just before midnight, the President went to the East Room of the White house to hail his party's hard-fought victory....Mr. Obama had been working the phones and cutting deals right until the end. Even issuing this executive order, reiterating a ban on using federal funds to pay for abortion services, which secured six critical votes from anti-abortion Democrats."
Cordes only briefly referred to thousands of tea party protestors who descended on Capitol Hill over the weekend to voice their opposition: "Impassioned protesters swarmed Capitol Hill all day and into the night. Most of them urging members to kill the bill. Their intensity was matched by hours of heated debate on the House floor leading up to the vote." A clip was played of Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner berating Democrats for going against the will of the American people.
Despite the earlier celebratory tone, after Cordes's report, Rodriguez pressed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the lack of public support for the bill: "The President has what some say is an even bigger challenge, which is selling had bill to an American public, which according to most polls, largely does not support it and according to the latest CBS poll, doesn't even understand it. 54% of the people that we polled say it's confusing. How does the President, considering the facts that the Republicans are out there constantly highlighting the problems with this bill, how does he convince the public?"
Sebelius replied: "I think what's been going on for the better part of a year is a lot of attempts to confuse and scare Americans....I am convinced that once people understand what's in the bill and the fact that a lot of what they've been hearing has never been contemplated, has never been in the bill, that they'll be very enthusiastic about what Congress did last night."
Rodriguez continued to challenge Sebelius, turning to the issue of abortion: "You got the votes needed to pass this after the President promised to sign an executive order vowing that no federal funding would be used to pay for abortion....Do we have the word from the White House this morning that...he will not go back on this order, that it will stand no matter what?" As Sebelius attempted to stick to talking points, Rodriguez interrupted: "But what about the abortion question?"
In a news brief at the top of the 8PM ET hour of the broadcast, reporter Betty Nguyen announced that Democrats were "ecstatic" over the passage of "historic health care reform legislation." White House correspondent Chip Reid agreed with Nguyen's "ecstatic" description and noted that "Republicans are furious and most Americans are simply confused." Reid cited the same CBS News poll that Rodriguez had alluded to earlier: "only 42% of Americans understand the bill, while 54% are confused by it. More Americans believe they will be hurt by the Democrats' plan than those who believe they will personally benefit from it. 35% compared to just 20%." Interesting that CBS chose to portray Americans as "confused" by ObamaCare, rather than opposed to it.
Despite the poll numbers, Reid added: "Still, supporters remain optimistic." A clip was then played of Democratic strategist Tad Devine, who dismissed the bill's unpopularity: "The popularity of this bill is – will inevitably grow and here's why, because the attacks against are going to be muted, they're going stop." No Republicans were featured in Reid's report.
Reid concluded that the President was "going to hit the road and try to explain to the American people that passing health care reform was a good idea."