Despite John Boehner receiving overwhelming support from the Republican caucus to be reelected as Speaker of the House, NBC Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell hyped dissension in the ranks on Friday's NBC Today: "After a turbulent few weeks of setbacks that had cast doubt on his power and influence, a dozen rebellious conservatives turned against him, but Boehner had enough votes."
On Thursday's NBC Nightly News, O'Donnell proclaimed: "John Boehner's path to a second term as Speaker of the House has been rocky. But there was no challenge, only a handful of conservatives voted against him." That morning, Today co-host Matt Lauer proclaimed a "civil war" among Republicans over a Hurricane Sandy relief bill.
On Friday's Today, O'Donnell suggested the high-profile job was wearing Boehner out: "And while Boehner is known to show emotion, it seemed to reflect the pressure he's been under."
While transitioning to all the pork stuffed into the fiscal cliff deal passed by the House on Tuesday, O'Donnell declared: "The fiscal cliff drama that tarnished Boehner's political capital also cost taxpayers with special interest giveaways."
O'Donnell listed several of the costly earmarks, followed by a sound bite of Senator John McCain denouncing them. One wonders where such scrutiny was before the legislation was voted on. In fact, on Tuesday, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd fretted over "shenanigans" by House GOP members opposing the legislation.
Here is a full transcript of O'Donnell's January 4 Today report:
7:00AM ET TEASE:
MATT LAUER: Still the Speaker. John Boehner shows his trademark emotion as he's re-elected to his leadership post on Capitol Hill. As Vice President Joe Biden welcomes lawmakers and their families to Washington like only he can.
JOE BIDEN: Come on, mom. Take a chance....You are beautiful.
7:02AM ET SEGMENT:
LAUER: Let's start with the real work beginning today for the new session of Congress. NBC's Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell has the latest on that. Hi, Kelly.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Back to Work in Washington; Boehner Returns as Speaker After Fiscal Cliff Fight]
KELLY O'DONNELL: Hi, Matt. Well, the new House gets down to business today, tackling a problem leftover from the old congress, and that is billions in relief for Hurricane Sandy victims. We're also learning about some special tax breaks that were in that fiscal cliff deal. But first, with so much criticism leveled at Speaker Boehner, there were some questions about whether his future was in doubt. The rousing applause for John Boehner capped his return as Speaker of the House. After a turbulent few weeks of setbacks that had cast doubt on his power and influence, a dozen rebellious conservatives turned against him, but Boehner had enough votes. And, following tradition, the top Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, did the honors.
NANCY PELOSI: I present the people's gavel to the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. May God bless you!
O'DONNELL: And while Boehner is known to show emotion, it seemed to reflect the pressure he's been under.
JOHN BOEHNER: You come here humbled by the opportunity to serve.
O'DONNELL: The fiscal cliff drama that tarnished Boehner's political capital also cost taxpayers with special interest giveaways. The law extended for two years tax breaks that were already on the books, including $430 million for Hollywood, to entice producers to make their movies and TV shows in the U.S. $70 million in tax credits for NASCAR track builders. 59 million for algae growers. 7 million in tax credits for buyers of electric scooters. All were part of the package that was passed late into the night to prevent the fiscal cliff crisis. Senator John McCain says those breaks should not have been part of a must-pass bill.
JOHN MCCAIN: Do we need a special tax break for all these special interests, like algae growers? Why don't we give a special tax break to the American citizen?
O'DONNELL: Congressional aides say while some tax breaks might be seen as questionable, the law does a lot more, including helping teachers deduct classroom school supplies and providing tax credits for hiring veterans. That fiscal cliff drama gave Vice President Joe Biden much of the spotlight as a key negotiator.
JOE BIDEN: Happy New Year.
O'DONNELL: But his role Thursday, swearing in senators...
BIDEN: Congratulations senators.
O'DONNELL: ...turned more than a few heads, as the Vice President clearly relished his chance to greet senators' families. And there was certainly a lot of charm being poured on by the Vice President. And he is actually back here today to preside over another important tradition, a joint session of Congress where the Electoral College votes from last November are officially recorded. So that really means today is finally the end of that presidential election. Matt.
LAUER: That's good news for a lot of people. Kelly O'Donnell on Capitol Hill. Kelly, thanks very much. And we're gonna have more on that photo-op with Vice President Biden in just a moment. And by the way, David Gregory will have the latest on the new session of Congress this Sunday on Meet the Press. His guests will include Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.