ABC's George Stephanopoulos Hypes Democratic Spin on Reconciliation

Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Friday offered liberal spin for the issue of using reconciliation to pass the health care bill, a process that would allow legislation to go through the Senate with only 51 votes: "Reconciliation has been used for President Bush's tax cuts, for welfare reform, for other health care bills in the past." [Audio available here.]

Stephanopoulos' guest, John McCain, quickly dismissed this obvious talking point: "George, it's not been used for one-sixth of the Gross National Product." The ex-Clinton aide turned journalist also promoted the idea that Barack Obama has been bipartisan on the health care divide. He challenged the Arizona Senator, "But, the President said you had a point there. He also said he was willing to work with Republicans on malpractice reform, on health savings."

Before playing a clip of Obama at the health care summit, Stephanopoulos defended, "And all he closed with was a plea for Republicans to look at his ideas." Interestingly in the 8am hour, Stephanopoulos let his pessimistic view of the future of the health care legislation be known.

In the second half of the show, GMA occasionally runs a usually light segment called Morning Mix. On Friday, Stephanopoulos revisited Thursday's summit between Obama and Congress. Talking to fellow journalist Cokie Roberts, he blurted, "How about on the Democratic side, Cokie? Now, it's clear that Democrats have to try to pass this alone. I don't see the votes there."

This is certainly an opinion that he didn't express during the harder, 7am news hour. Instead, Stephanopoulos waited until much later in the program, when many had gone to work. It will be interesting to see how often he repeats that prediction.

A transcript of the February 26 segment, which aired at 7:08am EST, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to find out what Senator John McCain thinks we should do now. Welcome to the Newseum.


STEPHANOPOULOS: So, it was pretty clear after yesterday, no Republicans came out and said they could consider the President's plan. And the Democrats say they are not going to start over. So, what happens now?

MCCAIN: Well, I hope that they would start over. The President's very good at defining the opposition's position in a way that's most favorable to him. He said, for example, "We can't afford another year of debate." We're not saying we want another year of debate. What we're saying is, let's start on the areas we agree on, whether it be medical malpractice reform, or taking care of those with pre-existing conditions or a number of other issues and go step-by-step. And the other aspect of it is, you would not know from the way the Vice President just spoke, the American people overwhelmingly are against what they're trying to do. And they really are- the reason why I brought it up yesterday was not because of the campaign. But because the American people don't like these unsavory deals. The issue came up twice about Florida and the 800,000 people. Because where they live in Florida will not be subject to Medicare Advantage cuts. Now, you know, Medicare Advantage is a very popular program with seniors. Now, you can argue- I don't agree with the argument that it might have to be cut, although, I don't agree with that. But to say carve out one group of 800,000 and there's 300,000, 30,000, in my state, who have Medicare Advantage that are going to be cut with this plan. That's unsavory.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, when- excuse me, the President- But, the President said you had a point there. He also said he was willing to work with Republicans on malpractice reform, on health savings.

MCCAIN: Does that mean he's going to undo the Pharma deal, the health- hospital associations? Is he going to make- Now, he's going to go back to his position where he supported drug reimportation from Canada instead of the deal they cut behind closed doors.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, he did lay out three or four areas, including that Medicare Advantage issue, where he said, "You know what? You guys might have a point. Let's look at it." And all he closed with was a plea for Republicans to look at his ideas. Take a look.

BARACK OBAMA: I'd like the Republicans to do a little soul-searching and find out, are there some things that you'd be willing to embrace, that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance and dealing seriously with the pre-existing condition issue?

MCCAIN: We would be seriously interested in dealing with the pre-existing conditions issue. We have a proposal for establishment of risk pools, so insurance companies can compete.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they only have three million people, not 30 million people.

MCCAIN: If you establish risk pools so that people who have those pre-existing conditions, that the insurance companies can compete for them. That obviously would have, in our view, make significant progress in that direction. If you lower the costs- the things driving people out of health insurance in America, is the escalating and dramatic increased costs. And here they are with a program that's another two and a half trillion cost to the taxpayers. So, we are ready to work on a number of issues with the President. But we want to do it step-by-step.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no comprehensive approach?

MCCAIN: We don't want the budget gimmickry that gives you six years of benefits for ten years in taxes. I mean, that's crazy! That is just Bernie Madoff accounting! So, we want to work. But we want to work step-by-step.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, you don't expect that to happen now, do you?

MCCAIN: So does the overwhelming majority of the American people. I hope we will. I hope we will. There are areas that we can agree on. But to go to the 51 votes, instead of this traditional 60 in the United States Senate, will have cataclysmic effects. And by the way, the Vice President said he didn't know what the American people- I know what the people in Arizona want because I've been traveling all around the state. Town hall meeting after town hall meeting. Phone calls, letters. They don't want a massive-

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, they also say they want to get something done.

MCCAIN: Sure they do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And on that point, the 51 votes, the reconciliation. Reconciliation has been used for President Bush's tax cuts, for welfare reform, for other health care bills in the past. 21 times.

MCCAIN: George, it's not been used for one-sixth of the Gross National Product. Robert Byrd said, the expert in the Senate, said it would be outrageous if we used reconciliation for this issue. So, I still want- we all still want to sit down. We want to negotiate. And we want to try to get something done. But the majority of the American people say, start over or don't do anything. Obviously, we can't not do anything because Medicare's going to go broke.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, just bottom line, it doesn't seem like the gap has been bridged between you and the President this morning?

MCCAIN: I think it was good to have that conversation. I think it was good for the American people, people all over the world that watched, are educated on the issues. Very informed people on the issues. I think it helps the American people make a judgment. I would be glad to go over again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Senator McCain.

MCCAIN: Not soon!

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks for your time this morning.

-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.