NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, on Monday's Today show, lumped the Wisconsin and federal budget fights together and depicted the Republicans, in both cases, as being on the defensive. Starting in Wisconsin O'Donnell reported that over the weekend "Protesters backing union workers vented anger" but didn't mention the Tea Party had a counter-protest. Then O'Donnell, moving to the budget struggle on Capitol Hill, passed along Democratic talking points as she reported: "Democrats claim Republicans are too stubborn and their budget cuts too severe" and advanced: "The '90s government shutdown, with empty offices and closed national parks, left the Republican majority then with real political damage. A cautionary tale today."
O'Donnell aired sound bites from Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer on the offensive, warning against a government shutdown with Schumer charging Speaker John Boehner with being "reckless." However when it came to the GOP side O'Donnell aired a clip of Senator Tom Coburn defensively admitting: "It's good for political rhetoric to talk about a government shutdown, but I don't know anybody that wants that to happen."
The following is a transcript of the segment as it was aired on the February 21 Today show:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Budget battles are raging in states across the country and on Capitol Hill where the government is facing a looming deadline that could lead to the first shutdown in 15 years. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is on Capitol Hill this morning with the latest. Kelly, good morning.
KELLY O'DONNELL: Hi there, Savannah. Well after so many days of protest in Wisconsin and so few days left here in D.C. to avoid a federal budget crisis, the real political question this morning is which side will blink first? The pressure ratcheted up in Madison, Wisconsin over the weekend. Protesters backing union workers vented anger aimed at the state's new Republican governor. Governor Scott Walker went on national television to defend his effort to drop some collective bargaining rights and get unionized state and local workers to pay more for health care and pensions.
[On screen headline: "Government Shutdown? States Battle On Budgets As Federal Crisis Looms"]
GOV. SCOTT WALKER: And I think right now, frugality is in. People expect us to make tough decisions to make sure we don't pass the buck on to our kids and our grandkids. And that's exactly what we are doing here in Wisconsin.
O'DONNELL: And here in Washington, where buck-passing got its name, some Democrats are predicting a government shutdown when current funding runs out March 4th.
SEN. DICK DURBIN: If we end up shutting down the government and calling into question whether we're going to meet our obligations for Social Security checks and paying our troops, then that is an absolute, utter failure.
O'DONNELL: Democrats claim Republicans are too stubborn and their budget cuts too severe.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: Speaker Boehner has said, even before negotiations, that he wants it a certain way. That is reckless. That's what Newt Gingrich did in 1995.
O'DONNELL: The '90s government shutdown, with empty offices and closed national parks, left the Republican majority then with real political damage. A cautionary tale today.
SEN. TOM COBURN: It's good for political rhetoric to talk about a government shutdown, but I don't know anybody that wants that to happen.
O'DONNELL: The Republican led House, working around the clock till 5am Saturday, did pass a budget extension with $61 billion in cuts for the current year, to keep the government operating. But because the Senate won't agree to such deep cuts, House Budget committee chairman Paul Ryan expects another round of talks.
REP. PAUL RYAN: We are not going to accept these extremely high levels of spending. We are not looking for a government shutdown. And I think we'll have negotiations with short-term extensions with spending cuts in the interim is my guess.
O'DONNELL: And the challenge is members of Congress are back in their home districts and states all week. Behind the scenes here, Senate staffers are poring over what the House passed over the weekend, looking for any areas of compromise they might find. But when everybody comes back to town, there will only be five days, before that deadline, to reach some sort of an agreement. And we know, in Capitol Hill terms, that's just not much time at all.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here