American Future Fund's Attack On Sen. Reid Is Breathtakingly Deceitful

March 12, 2010 6:16 pm ET

The conservative American Future Fund has created a new attack ad seeking to portray Democrats as hypocrites on the process of reconciliation.  Their ad highlights various statements made in 2005 in which Senate Democrats opposed a Republican plan to change the rules for confirming judicial nominees.  Because they have no facts to attack Democrats on the merits of the argument, they've egregiously resorted to taking quotes out of context.  Budget reconciliation and the Republican-led "nuclear option" plan to change the rules of the Senate are entirely separate things.

AFF Ad "Breathtaking"

Narrator: Harry Reid and President Obama are forcing their health care takeover on Nevada patients. Now Reid and Obama plan to dodge Senate rules. They're resorting to a legislative trick called the nuclear option, because they don't have the votes. But listen to what they said about the nuclear option just a few years ago.

Sen. Reid: The filibuster serves as a check on power, and preserves our limited government.

Sen. Schumer: The checks and balances, which have been at the core of this republic, are about to be evaporated.

Then-Sen. Biden: This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power.

Then-Sen. Obama: And that's just not what the founders intended.

Then-Sen. Biden: And I pray God when the Democrats take back control we don't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.

Narrator: The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Tell Reid Nevada patients deserve better than backroom deals and Senate tricks. Tell him to start over." [American Future Fund "Breathtaking", accessed 3/12/10 via YouTube]

AFF Is 100% Wrong On Nuclear Option & Reconciliation

Despite the clear implication of the AFF ad, Democrats are NOT attempting to pass health care reform by using the nuclear option.  Reconciliation is LAW and does not change the rules like the nuclear option does.

"The Use Of Reconciliation Is This Case...Is Compatible With The Law, Senate Rules, And The Framers Intent." Thomas E. Mann and Raffaela Wakeman of the Brookings Institution and Norman J. Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute wrote:

Reconciliation was intended to be a narrow procedure to bring revenues and spending into conformity with the levels set in the annual budget resolution. But it quickly became much more. The 22 reconciliation bills so far passed by Congress (three of which were vetoed by President Bill Clinton) have included all manner of budgetary and policy measures: deficit reductions and increases; social policy bills like welfare reform; major changes in Medicare and Medicaid; large tax cuts; and small adjustments in existing law. Neither party has been shy about using this process to avoid dilatory tactics in the Senate; Republicans have in fact been more willing to do so than Democrats.

The history is clear: While the use of reconciliation in this case - amending a bill that has already passed the Senate via cloture - is new, it is compatible with the law, Senate rules and the framers' intent. [New York Times, 3/7/10; emphasis added]

Reconciliation Will Be Used For Budgetary "Fixes" That Even Republicans Support.  During an appearance on MSNBC's Hardball, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd explained the reconciliation process likely to be used for fixing health care reform:

CHUCK TODD: A little fact check on reconciliation - they're not trying to pass the entire health bill on reconciliation.

MATTHEWS: I think the Democrats are in good shape right now to get this thing through in a two-step. Get the House to pass the Senate bill and get through the Senate reconciliation.

MATTHEWS: That's what he means.

TODD: However, that's how it's framed. Correct, that's what he - what's happened here is the Republicans are saying, they already tried to pass out the bill. They're going to pass health care through the Senate.

They're trying to do these fixes, which is - the irony is, it's all of the - most of the fixes, about half of them are the ones that Republicans have been complaining about with the cornhusker kickback. They're going to get rid that. They're going to do -

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS: Jim Clyburn just said they're going to get rid of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We're on the record. The great thing about tonight's show is we're getting the facts out here. The facts are they're not going to use reconciliation to pass health care.

(CROSS TALK)

They're going to pass the Senate bill in the House and then, right around the same time, they're going to pass the fixed bill with reconciliation which is basically dealing with the fiscal numbers, which is an appropriate way to use reconciliation.

TODD: The parliamentarian is going to have an easy time with that one. [MSNBC, Hardball, 3/25/10]

Reconciliation Will Help Seniors And The Poor While Eliminating The "Cornhusker Kickback." The Los Angeles Times reported: "The healthcare [reconciliation] package is expected to boost subsidies for low- and moderate-income Americans who will be required to buy health insurance. It will scale back a new tax on high-end 'Cadillac' health plans, which was a key part of the Senate bill. It will phase out a coverage gap in Medicare's drug coverage known as the doughnut hole. And it will provide additional aid to states to help them expand their Medicaid programs for the poor, while eliminating special assistance for Nebraska that was included in the Senate bill but stirred a storm of criticism." [Los Angeles Times, 3/11/10]

The Actual "Nuclear Option" Is Very Different From Reconciliation

The Nuclear Option Would Have Eliminated An Important Check On The Presidency.  According to the Washington Post: "[Bush] issued a statement from Europe demanding an 'up-or-down vote' on Priscilla R. Owen and Terrence W. Boyle for seats on appellate courts only hours before Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales held a news conference to cast the judicial dispute as one of 'fairness.' Despite a flurry of congressional negotiations yesterday, Senate Republicans appear increasingly likely to exercise the 'nuclear option of changing Senate rules to prevent Democrats from filibustering Bush's judicial nominees. The filibuster allows a minority in the Senate to block almost any legislation as long as it can muster at least 40 votes. It is considered one of the great institutional checks on the influence of the majority party and sometimes the presidency. If it is eliminated for judicial nominations, Bush will enjoy greater latitude in filling vacancies on appellate courts, which are one step below the Supreme Court." [Washington Post, 5/10/05, emphasis added]

Conservatives Have Used Reconciliation Multiple Times In Recent History

Republicans Have Used Reconciliation Several Times In Recent History, Including Passage Of The Bush Tax Cuts.  The New York Times reported: "Republicans carry a long record of having employed reconciliation themselves on big and controversial legislative packages. Sixteen of the 22 'reconciliation bills' that have made it through Congress were passed in the Senate when Republicans had majorities. Among them were the signature tax cuts of President George W. Bush, the 1996 overhaul of the welfare system, the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicare Advantage insurance policies and the Cobra program allowing people who leave a job to pay to keep the health coverage their employer provided (the 'R' and 'A' in Cobra stand for 'reconciliation act')." [New York Times, 2/24/10]

Because AFF Deceitfully Takes Several Democratic Quotes Out Of Context, Here Is The Full Story

Despite the misleading context in which AFF portrays Democratic quotes, these senators were discussing the actual nuclear option and not budget reconciliation.

AFF Reid Misquote:

Sen. Reid: The filibuster serves as a check on power, and preserves our limited government.

Reid Quote In Context:

Reid: The Nuclear Option Will Allow Republican To Have Unchecked Power.  During the 2005 debate over whether or not the Republican majority in Congress would change Senate rules through the "nuclear option," Senator Reid said:  

"Mr. President, the right to extended debate is never more important than when one party controls Congress and the White House. In these cases, the filibuster serves as a check on power and preserves our limited government. Right now, the only check on President Bush is the Democrats' ability to voice their concern in this body, the Senate. If Republicans roll back our rights in this Chamber, there will be no check on their power. The radical rightwing will be free to pursue any agenda they want, and not just in judges. Their power will be unchecked on Supreme Court nominees, the President's nominees in general, and legislation such as Social Security privatization. Of course, the President would like the power to name anybody he wants to lifetime seats on the Supreme Court and other Federal courts. It is interesting to note that the statistics used by the majority leader do not take into consideration the nominees who we have been willing to clear. Sure, you get statistics like that when they will not bring them forward." [Reid Floor Statement via Fox News, 5/18/05]

AFF Schumer Misquote:

Sen. Schumer: The checks and balances, which have been at the core of this republic, are about to be evaporated.

Schumer Quote In Context:

Schumer: "They Will Change The Rules, Break The Rules, Misread The Constitution So They Will Get Their Way."  During a floor statement, Sen. Schumer said:

"If the situation in the Senate were not so grave, there might be some humor in the fact my strict constructionist Republican friends who daily claim to be against activist judges are, through the nuclear option, engaging in the most activist reading of the Constitution to seat an activist judge on the appellate court. That is breathtaking hypocrisy.

But we are more profound than that. We are on the precipice of a crisis, a constitutional crisis. The checks and balances which have been at the core of this Republic are about to be evaporated by the nuclear option, the checks and balances which say if you get 51 percent of the vote you do not get your way 100 percent of the time. It is amazing. It is almost a temper tantrum by those on the hard right. They want their way every single time, and they will change the rules, break the rules, misread the Constitution so they will get their way.

That is not becoming of the leadership of the Republican side of the aisle, nor is it becoming of this Republic. That is what we call abuse of power." [Schumer Floor Statement, 5/18/05, via LexisNexis]

AFF Biden Misquote:

Then-Sen. Biden: This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power.

Biden Quote In Context:

Biden: Never Before In History "Has Any Party Been So Bold As To Fundamentally Attempt To Change The Structure Of" The Senate.  During a Senate floor statement in which he spoke against the use of the "nuclear option" in regards to judicial nominations, then-Senator Joe Biden said:

 "We should make no mistake. This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is a fundamental power grab by the majority party, propelled by its extreme right and designed to change the reading of the Constitution, particularly as it relates to individual rights and property rights. It is nothing more or nothing less. Let me take a few moments to explain that. Folks who want to see this change want to eliminate one of the procedural mechanisms designed for the express purpose of guaranteeing individual rights, and they also have a consequence, and would undermine the protections of a minority point of view in the heat of majority excess. We have been through these periods before in American history but never, to the best of my knowledge, has any party been so bold as to fundamentally attempt to change the structure of this body. Why else would the majority party attempt one of the most fundamental changes in the 216-year history of this Senate on the grounds that they are being denied ten of 218 Federal judges, three of whom have stepped down?" [Biden Floor Statement via C-SPAN archives, 5/23/05]

AFF Obama Misquote:

Then-Sen. Obama: And that's just not what the founders intended.

Obama Quote In Context:

Obama: Changing The Senate Rules "Would Change The Character Of The Senate Forever." During an appearance at the National Press Club, then-Senator Obama said:

"And what we have now is a president who has decided, you know, 'I've gotten 95 percent of my appointees, but there are these 10 that I want just because I want them.' Hasn't gotten his way. And that is now prompting, you know, a change in the Senate rules that really I think would change the character of the Senate forever...I remember what it was like the first several years that I was in the minority...You couldn't attach an amendment. You could not get a thing done. If you were in the minority, you might as well not have even showed up. And then there was redistricting, and a few years later, the Democrats are in charge, and now the Republicans cannot get a thing done. And the Democrats don't have to pay them any attention whatsoever. And what I worry about would be you essentially have still two chambers -- the House and the Senate -- but you have simply majoritarian absolute power on either side, and that's just not what the founders intended."  [Obama National Press Club Statement, 4/26/05, via ABC News]

AFF Biden Misquote:

Then-Sen. Biden: And I pray God when the Democrats take back control we don't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.

Biden Quote In Context:

Biden: The Nuclear Option Would Change 218 Years Of Senate Procedure.  During a speech on the Senate floor, then-Sen. Biden said:

"I do not want to hear about 'fair play' from my friends. Under our rules, you are required to get 2/3 of the votes to change the rules. Watch what happens when the majority leader stands up and says to the Vice President--if we go forward with this--he calls the question. One of us, I expect our leader, on the Democratic side will stand up and say: Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. President. Is this parliamentarily appropriate? In every other case since I have been here, for 32 years, the Presiding Officer leans down to the Parliamentarian and says: What is the rule, Mr. Parliamentarian? The Parliamentarian turns and tells them.

Hold your breath, Parliamentarian. He is not going to look to you because he knows what you would say. He would say: This is not parliamentarily appropriate. You cannot change the Senate rules by a pure majority vote.

So if any of you think I am exaggerating, watch on television, watch when this happens, and watch the Vice President ignore--he is not required to look to an unelected officer, but that has been the practice for 218 years. He will not look down and say: What is the ruling? He will make the ruling, which is a lie, a lie about the rule.

Isn't what is really going on here that the majority does not want to hear what others have to say, even if it is the truth? Senator Moynihan, my good friend who I served with for years, said: You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

The nuclear option abandons America's sense of fair play. It is the one thing this country stands for: Not tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field.

I say to my friends on the Republican side: You may own the field right now, but you won't own it forever. I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing. But I am afraid you will teach my new colleagues the wrong lessons." [Biden Floor Statement via C-SPAN archives, 5/23/05]

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