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, 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.

[Update, Thursday, 7:30 pm Eastern: the full transcripts of the relevant segments from Wednesday's CBS Evening News and Thursday's CBS This Morning are available at]

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan was a news analyst at Media Research Center