Thursday, April 19, 2012

How The Mainstream Media Enables Senate GOP Obstructionism Of The Majority's Will

by Adam Shah/Media Matters

Yesterday, we documented how the conservative media, following the release of a report by the Secretary of the Senate, covered up obstructionism by Senate Republicans in order to cast Democrats as "do-nothing" and "lazy." In fact, Republicans have routinely resorted to filibusters to try to block bills that would have otherwise passed the Senate.
But the right-wing media would not easily get away with this if not for the complicity of the mainstream media. On Monday, a majority of senators voted in support of legislation to enact the Buffett Rule, which would set a minimum effective tax rate for annual income in excess of $1 million. Fifty-one senatorsvoted in favor of the bill, while 45 senators opposed it. The legislation did not pass the Senate, however, because a Republican filibuster meant that a supermajority of 60 senators was needed in order to pass the bill.
But the mainstream media was noticeably derelict in reporting that the bill had majority support and was blocked by procedural tricks by the minority. For instance, The Boston Globe article on the subjectstated: "Monday night's Buffett rule vote, which blocked consideration of the bill in a 51-45 tally, was timed to coincide with Tuesday's IRS filing deadline." The article continued: "Republicans prevented the measure from receiving the 60 votes necessary to open debate. All Republicans but Senator Susan Collins of Maine voted against it. All Democrats except for Mark Pryor of Arkansas voted for it."
Unless a reader knew the number of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, the reporting makes it seem that 51 senators voted against the bill rather than in favor of it.
USA Today similarly failed to inform its readers that the bill received majority support. 
USA Today noted that the bill failed "to reach a supermajority needed to pass a tax plan," but never made clear that the bill did have a majority or that a supermajority was necessary because Republicans used procedural tricks to prevent an up-or-down vote. Indeed, the most natural reading of the article makes it seem that 51 senators voted against the Buffett Rule. The article reported:
The Democratic-controlled Senate failed on Monday to reach a supermajority needed to pass a tax plan offered by President Obama to require millionaires to pay a 30% minimum effective tax rate.
The 51-45 defeat of the "Buffett rule," named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, fell mostly along party lines. The bill needed 60 votes to move forward. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was the only Republican to vote with Democrats, while Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor sided with the GOP.
While The Washington Post noted in the body of its article on the subject that 51 senators voted in favor of the Buffett Rule, the headline of its article was: "Senate rejects consideration of 'Buffett rule' tax increase for millionaires."
And The New York Times reported the facts necessary for readers to know that the Buffett Rule got majority support, but still failed to straightforwardly report that 51 senators voted in favor of the Buffett Rule. Instead, the Times stated: "[T]he fierce debate preceding the 51-45 vote -- the Democrats were nine votes short of the 60 they needed -- set off a week of political wrangling over taxes that both parties insist they are already winning."
With the mainstream media making it so difficult for readers to learn that Senate Republicans are using procedural tricks to block the will of the Senate majority on issues like the Buffett Rule, it's that much easier for the right-wing media to hide the obstructionism of Senate Republicans.
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