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Tilting at Windmills

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March 1, 2010

MEDIA SCREWS UP CONRAD STORY.... Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" yesterday, and made some comments news outlets took very seriously. The lead story on Mark Halperin's "The Page" yesterday, for example, told readers, "Conrad: Reconciliation Can't Do Comprehensive; Budget gatekeeper says Sunday full health care package by 51 just 'won't work.'"

This Politico report was even more dramatic.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) threw cold water on the idea of using the reconciliation process Sunday during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"Reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform," said Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. "The major package would not be done through reconciliation."

Asked by CBS host Bob Schieffer to elaborate, given that the White House suggested earlier Sunday that they could pass the main bill with a simple majority of 51 votes, Conrad said that reconciliation was not, in fact, an option.

Reporters found Conrad's comments provocative and newsworthy for only one reason: the media is taking Republican talking points seriously, and doesn't realize the GOP rhetoric is nonsense.

If Dems were trying to pass a comprehensive health care reform package through the Senate using reconciliation rules -- the way Republicans keep insisting -- Conrad's on-air remarks might be important. But that's not reality. Democrats already passed a comprehensive health care reform package through the Senate using the regular ol' legislative process. The talk, at this point, is about using reconciliation for a budget fix, which incidentally, is why reconciliation exists. It's really not that complicated.

The news outlets that jumped on Conrad's observation didn't realize just how ordinary his remarks really were.

Jon Chait posted the transcript, which makes it clear Conrad is actually on board with exactly what Democrats intend to do: House passes Senate bill, Senate approves modest, budget-related amendments through reconciliation. This wasn't the senator throwing "cold water" on the Dems' plan; this was Conrad endorsing the Dems' plan.

Chait concluded, "Look, it would be okay for reporters and pundits to be obsessed with what legislative method is employed to pass health care reform if they boned up on the issue. Alternatively, it would be okay for them not to understand it at all if they deemed it an irrelevant issue. (Which, in my opinion, it is.) But obsessed and ignorant makes for a bad combination."

Steve Benen 2:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Comments

Does anyone still seriously believe that today's TV anchors and commentators are hired for their journalistic skills? Seriously?

Posted by: wheresthebeef on March 1, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Conrad's on-air remarks might be important. But that's not reality. Democrats already passed a comprehensive health care reform package through the Senate using the regular ol' legislative process. The talk, at this point, is about using reconciliation for a budget fix, which incidentally, is why reconciliation exists. It's really not that complicated."

Looking through the link you provided, I don't see where Conrad made this point, which would have circumvented the MSM talking points.

Why didn't he say that HCR had already passed and only amendments would be passed through reconciliation?

Conrad seems intent on adding to the level of general confusion by only stating that the HCR bill can't be passed through reconciliation. With friends like him, who needs enemies?

Posted by: bdop4 on March 1, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

...obsessed and ignorant makes for a bad combination.
Obsessed and Ignorant is a prerequisite combination for a prominent position in the MSM.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on March 1, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, if only there were some Senator somewhere who could make an unequivocally clear statement to remove any doubt. Maybe a Senator from some border state? You know, the Cauck border? (And, no, not Max Baucus)

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on March 1, 2010 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with bdop4, why isn't Conrad politically savvy enough to realize how his comments will be read? A comprehensive health care package has passed both the house and the senate and reconciliation is simply adjusting a few minor details.

Posted by: Paul on March 1, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

The MSM is obviously not ready for prime time. Or any air time, for that matter.

Imagine, if the Major League play-by-play announcers didn't know the Rules of the Game.

Posted by: DAY on March 1, 2010 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Mark Halperin couldn't find the zipper on his fly with both hands on a clear day with a 6 hour advance notice.

What a Mucking Foron.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 1, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Indeed, one has to wonder if Conrad is being intentionally obtuse, and if so, why?

Posted by: Moteinyoureye on March 1, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Here Kent Conrad makes exactly Steve Benen's point himself:

http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/77097-conrad-opens-door-to-reconciliation-for-healthcare

Conrad is quoted as saying:

"I have never supported the use of reconciliation for healthcare reform writ large, I’ve never thought that would work. I think the reason it wasn’t used is it became clear to others that it wouldn’t work for a whole series of reasons."

and:

"If the House passed the Senate bill, could reconciliation, that process, be used to fix things that might be improved upon? Yes. Would I support it? I can’t know that without knowing what would be included in the package."

Posted by: mcc on March 1, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Day makes a good point. I don't know any member of the villager media elite who could pass a freshman level course on the rules of Congress. Imagine how long a play by play announcer who didn't know the rules of the game he was covering would last. Why can't we have elite political media at least as well educated in their specialty as the typical play by play announcer is in his.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 1, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Earth to MSM personalities - Health Care Reform has already passed both chambers of our bi-cameral legislature! Reconciliation is to be used to shore up some provisions that need to be changed - nothing more, no new legislation to be put forth, just a "reconciliation" of existing (passed) bill's language.

WTF, WTF journos! Get it right, get it right, or don't get it at all!

What a bunch of misinformation we're being given by those who consider themselves champions of important and relevant info for a free and liberty minded people - what hogwash if indeed the panels of pundits pronounce putrified Prufrock pith! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 1, 2010 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'm appalled to discover yet again how incredibly ignorant journalists are.

Posted by: Rick Taylor on March 1, 2010 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

This is a story that the mainsteam media will never get right, on purpose. The idea of conflict and "rule-breaking" and confrontation is just too irresistible; screw the country.
So the Dems have to suck it up, correct the record of course, but know that the media and Republicans will throw a huge hissy fit, and just DO IT.

Posted by: bruce k on March 1, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Chuck Todd of NBC is the only MSM reporter who's got this one right. And only one MSM columnist, EJ Dionne, has repeated Todd's "find."

Journalism is dead in America; all you see on your TV are zombies.

Posted by: Mxyzptlk on March 1, 2010 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know whether this Country is center-right, but the MSM sure is. You can't trust anything they say. It's as if it is put out by the RNCC. Even NPR is bad. How hard can it be to get this stuff right?

Posted by: Scott F. on March 1, 2010 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

I know what Conrad is talking about, and yet I still had a problem following his argument. As noted above, he was not clear at all.

Posted by: steverino on March 1, 2010 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Look, the media screws up every story that requires more than a grammar school education in journalism.

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