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CBS Hypes Senate GOP Attacking 'Crazy' Tea Party's ObamaCare 'Suicide Note'

On Wednesday's CBS Evening News and Thursday's CBS This Morning, Nancy Cordes repeatedly played up how an unidentified Republican in the U.S. Senate attacked a House proposal to de-fund ObamaCare as "suicide". Cordes underlined that "Speaker Boehner was forced into the risky strategy by his right flank", and wondered if the plan was "just a recipe for a government shutdown".

Norah O'Donnell picked up where the correspondent left off, asserting that "there feels like something new about this fight this time...and that is that the Senate Republicans are saying to their colleagues in the House, you've gone crazy on this." Charlie Rose quickly added that these anonymous GOP senators were "describing it as a dumb idea".

CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley led Cordes' first report by spotlighting that "the Fed chairman warned that Washington could still wreck the economy, and the chances of that seem higher tonight. Congress is facing two deadlines...one, to fund the government; the other to increase the amount the U.S. can legally borrow. If Congress doesn't act, the government could shut down, or it could default on its debts. But Republicans in the House said today that they won't pass those bills unless they can drop all of the funding for...ObamaCare."

The CBS correspondent wasted little time before using her "risky strategy" phrase about the House plan on ObamaCare, and noted that "roughly 40 Tea Party Republicans...balked at funding the government past September 30, unless the President's health care law was de-funded or delayed." Cordes used ideological labels for the House Republicans again and again during the segment, but didn't give any for their Democratic opponents:

NANCY CORDES (voice-over): Steve Scalise of Louisiana says he and other conservatives are tired of taking symbolic votes to repeal the law, and wanted something with more teeth.

CORDES (on-camera): But, you know, the Senate is never going to vote for that. So is this just a recipe for a government shutdown?

SCALISE: Oh, more and more senators are recognizing how devastating this law is.

CORDES: ...Democrat Chuck Schumer says his party, which controls the Senate, is united against de-funding the President's signature achievement.

How is a law that isn't even fully implemented yet a "signature achievement"? Cordes later cited her "suicide" anecdote during a segment with correspondent Major Garrett:

CORDES: ...[T]he House is set to vote on this plan on Friday. It will probably pass, but just with Republican support. And then, it lands with a thud at the doors of the Senate. And so, we'll be watching to see if Senate Democrats can come up with some way to strip out this measure that de-funds the President's health care law. If they can't, you're going to start to see Senate Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce push House Republicans to back down from this position, which one Senate Republican described to us today as 'suicide'.

The following morning, the journalist revisited the remark from the unidentified GOP politico, while adding additional negative labeling:

CORDES: ...[M]any Republicans think this is a risky, if not foolhardy strategy. But House Speaker John Boehner was under pressure from about 40 or so Tea Party Republicans to do this, and he needed their votes...Boehner tried to put the best face possible on the controversial approach he had hoped to avoid....

...On Wednesday, the Chamber of Commerce, a traditional Republican ally, urged House Republicans not to play games with funding, saying, 'It is not in the best interest of the U.S. business community or the American people to risk even a brief government shutdown.' But conservative House members were ecstatic about the plan, which they feel is their last chance to try to stop the President's health care law before public insurance exchanges go into effect on October 1.

...Senate Republicans are almost unanimously opposed to this plan. One called it a 'suicide note'. Another said it would harm the American people. They don't like the President's health care law either, Norah and Charlie. They just don't think that funding should be held hostage because of it.

Moments later, Rose and O'Donnell used their "crazy" and "dumb" terms during a segment with John Dickerson. At the CBS News political director spoke, the morning newscast put up an on-screen graphic pointing out the 24 percent job approval rating of Congress, but didn't mention something that they reported less than two months earlier – that according to a CBS News poll, "more Americans than ever want the health care law repealed".

Dickerson himself reenforced his colleagues' point about the Senate Republicans' criticism of their House colleagues:

JOHN DICKERSON: I've been in conversations with a lot of Republican senators. And what's new about this here, is we've had a lot of discussion about the battle within the Republican Party, and it's often framed as a, kind of, establishment versus the grassroots. But what you have here is you have conservative Republicans – people with real credentials. Ron Johnson, the senator from Wisconsin, is one I talked to. He doesn't like this. He ran – came into office against ObamaCare. He has all the bona fides in the world, in terms of hating ObamaCare. But he said this is, tactically, a bad idea, because this is going to die in the Senate. And what will happen, is Republicans will be blamed for a government shutdown. And so, they'll get all the political blame, and nothing will be done to de-fund or hurt ObamaCare. So, on tactical grounds, he says it's a bad idea.

The full transcripts of the relevant segments from Wednesday's CBS Evening News and Thursday's CBS This Morning:

09/19/2013
06:33 pm EDT
CBS Evening News

SCOTT PELLEY: It was five years ago this week that the Wall Street giant, Lehman Brothers, collapsed – setting in motion the worst economic downturn since the Depression. The Dow plunged 500 points the next day. And look at where it hit bottom in early 2009 [6,547.05]. Since then, though, it has made a remarkable recovery – up 139 percent. But we also noticed this: over those same five years, folks who depend on interest from banks CD's for income have seen the average return plunge from two and half percent to less than one-quarter of one percent.

As Anthony [Mason] mentioned, the Fed chairman warned that Washington could still wreck the economy, and the chances of that seem higher tonight. Congress is facing two deadlines in the next three weeks: one, to fund the government; the other to increase the amount the U.S. can legally borrow. If Congress doesn't act, the government could shut down, or it could default on its debts. But Republicans in the House said today that they won't pass those bills unless they can drop all of the funding for the Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare.

Major Garrett is at the White House tonight, and Nancy Cordes at the Capitol. Nancy?

NANCY CORDES: Well, Scott, that sets up a standoff with Democrats that is going to need to be resolved within the next 12 days. That's when the government is going to start running out of money if Congress doesn't act.

CORDES (voice-over): Speaker Boehner was forced into the risky strategy by his right flank, and made it clear today it was not his first choice.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R), HOUSE SPEAKER (from press conference): We listened to our colleagues over the course of the last week. We have a plan that they're happy with. We're going forward.

CORDES: By 'colleagues', he means roughly 40 Tea Party Republicans, who balked at funding the government past September 30, unless the President's health care law was de-funded or delayed.

REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R), LOUISIANA: This is a devastating law that's having a devastating impact on all of our health care across the country.

CORDES: Steve Scalise of Louisiana says he and other conservatives are tired of taking symbolic votes to repeal the law, and wanted something with more teeth.

CORDES (on-camera): But, you know, the Senate is never going to vote for that. So is this just a recipe for a government shutdown?

SCALISE: Oh, more and more senators are recognizing how devastating this law is.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D), NEW YORK (from press conference): They're on a different planet.

CORDES: Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer says his party, which controls the Senate, is united against de-funding the President's signature achievement.

SCHUMER: This small group of people, who even Republicans know are off the deep end on this issue, have the Republican leadership in the House so shaken and scared, that that leadership's going along with this insane plan.

CORDES (on-camera): Senate Republicans almost unanimously oppose this plan put forward by their House counterparts. They all oppose the President's health care law, too. They just don't feel, Scott, that government funding or the economy should be put at risk because of it.

PELLEY: Now, Nancy, hold with us just a moment, while we go over to the White House for the President's view, with Major Garrett. Major?

MAJOR GARRETT: Scott, after we get through the fight over government funding, Washington must increase the government's legal authority to borrow money to finance its current $16.7 trillion debt. In mid-October, that authority expires, and the government could default.

Now, Republicans want to link de-funding ObamaCare to this debate as well. Today, President Obama called that unacceptable.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You have never seen, in the history of the United States, the debt ceiling – or the threat of not raising the debt ceiling – being used to extort a president, or a governing party, and – and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget, and have nothing to do with the debt.

GARRETT: Scott, the President was speaking to business leaders, and he warned them that a government default could slow economic growth and hurt their profits. The President's hope: these business leaders will lobby Republicans in Congress to raise the debt ceiling without any conditions at all.

PELLEY: Well, let me ask both of you: there's not much time. How does this end?

CORDES: Well, Scott, the House is set to vote on this plan on Friday. It will probably pass, but just with Republican support. And then, it lands with a thud at the doors of the Senate. And so, we'll be watching to see if Senate Democrats can come up with some way to strip out this measure that de-funds the President's health care law. If they can't, you're going to start to see Senate Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce push House Republicans to back down from this position, which one Senate Republican described to us today as 'suicide'.

GARRETT: And, Scott, there is no flexibility here at the White House on the question of de-funding or delaying ObamaCare. The President will reject any Republican initiative in that direction. And on this debt ceiling – the question of a government default – the President will not negotiate at all. The way he believes to avoid a government default, is give Congress no choice but to raise the debt ceiling.

PELLEY: Major Garrett, Nancy Cordes – thanks very much.


09/19/2013
07:05 am EDT
CBS This Morning

NORAH O'DONNELL: And one issue that Anthony [Mason] mentioned that could damage the recovery is a forced government shutdown. The odds of a shutdown are getting better, because the Speaker of the House is giving some fellow Republicans what they want: a single vote that would keep federal agencies running only if the health care overhaul by President Obama is put on hold.

Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill. Good morning, Nancy.
                    
NANCY CORDES: Good morning Norah and Charlie. Well, many Republicans think this is a risky, if not foolhardy strategy. But House Speaker John Boehner was under pressure from about 40 or so Tea Party Republicans to do this, and he needed their votes.

[CBS News Graphic: "Another Fiscal Cliffhanger: Threat Of U.S. Government Shutdown Grows"]

CORDES (voice-over): Speaker Boehner tried to put the best face possible on the controversial approach he had hoped to avoid.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE (from press conference): There should be no conversation about shutting the government down. That's not the goal here. Our goal here is to cut spending, and to protect the American people from ObamaCare.

CORDES: But any government funding bill that cuts money from the President's signature achievement is dead on arrival in the Democratically-controlled Senate, and will be vetoed by President Obama, as he made clear in a speech to business leaders.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What I will not do is to create a habit – a pattern whereby the full faith and credit of the united states ends up being a bargaining chip to set policy.

CORDES: Unless Congress acts, the federal government will run out of money to operate, starting on October 1. On Wednesday, the Chamber of Commerce, a traditional Republican ally, urged House Republicans not to play games with funding, saying, 'It is not in the best interest of the U.S. business community or the American people to risk even a brief government shutdown.'

But conservative House members were ecstatic about the plan, which they feel is their last chance to try to stop the President's health care law before public insurance exchanges go into effect on October 1.

REP. STEVE KING, (R), IOWA: If we don't draw this line now, then the implementation begins. It's chaos.

REP. JACK KINGSTON, (R), GEORGIA: This is worth fighting over – a government health care takeover, and – and a program that's not even ready? This isn't just a philosophy that we're debating. This is chaos versus common sense.

CORDES (on-camera): But Senate Republicans are almost unanimously opposed to this plan. One called it a 'suicide note'. Another said it would harm the American people. They don't like the President's health care law either, Norah and Charlie. They just don't think that funding should be held hostage because of it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Nancy, thank you.

CBS News political director John Dickerson is also in Washington. John, good morning, and tell us how it got to this.

JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, Charlie. Well, it got to this, essentially, because in the House, John Boehner tried to find – and other Republican leaders – tried to find a way to – to deal with two issues: one, they've got to continue funding the government; but the other is that they've got this group of conservatives in the House who want to tie the de-funding of ObamaCare to that funding of government. The Republican leaders had a, kind of, clever trick that would, kind of, split that in half – allow everybody to get what they want. Conservatives revolted, said,  no – no games. We came to Washington to de-fund ObamaCare. That's what our constituents want. We're going to attach this to the funding mechanism – make it one big vote – and we're going to fight this fight right now at this moment, where they think they have leverage.

NORAH O'DONNELL: But there feels like something new about this fight this time – which is a recurring fight, John – and that is that the Senate Republicans are saying to their colleagues in the house, you've gone crazy on this – right? That's what you're hearing.

ROSE: Describing it as a dumb idea-

O'DONNELL: Yeah-

DICKERSON: Well, that's right. I've been in conversations with – with a lot of Republican senators. And what's new about this here, is we've had a lot of discussion about the battle within the Republican Party, and it's often framed as a, kind of, establishment versus the grassroots. But what you have here is you have conservative Republicans – people with real credentials. Ron Johnson, the senator from Wisconsin, is one I talked to. He doesn't – he doesn't like this. He ran – came into office against ObamaCare. He has all the bona fides in the world, in terms of hating ObamaCare. But he said this is, tactically, a bad idea, because this is going to die in the Senate. And what will happen, is Republicans will be blamed for a government shutdown. And so, they'll get all the political blame, and nothing will be done to de-fund or hurt ObamaCare. So, on tactical grounds, he says it's a bad idea.

[CBS News Graphic: "Job Approval Of Congress: Approve, 24%; Disapprove, 68%; Source; CBS News, The New York Times Poll; Margin of Error: +/- 3% Pts."]

ROSE: And Ben Bernanke says that looming, kind of, shutdown has a very negative effect on economic growth.

DICKERSON: That's right – and that's why the Chamber of Commerce is putting pressure on Republicans. And people should remember there are two fights here. There's the fight over funding the government – which has an economic impact – but then, the follow-on fight, which is coming, which will have all the same kind of debates and fights between different factions – and that's the fight over the debt limit. And if the fight over funding the government is bad for the economy, the debt limit fight will be catastrophic.

[CBS News Graphic: "Who Do You Trust More To Handle Debt Limit Negotiations? Obama, 43%; Republicans, 40%; Neither, 12%; Both, 1%; Source: The Washington Post, ABC News Poll; Margin Of Error: +/- 4% Pts."]

And so, if this fight – how this fight goes is a bit of a prelude, and that's one of the things that's in the mix here – is Republicans, on the one hand, feel like they're going to lose leverage in that debt limit fight to come. Others say, of course, no – we need to have this fight now to put us in a better position for that fight. Anyway, the bottom line is, lots of fighting to come.

ROSE: Thanks, John.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.