Today in Bad Journalism: Bloomberg News Doesn't Even Know What Untruth to Tell

From Bloomberg News:

The health-care legislation working its way through the Senate passed the House of Representatives March 21 in a 219-212 vote that had no Republican support. Democrats circumvented traditional rules that require a two-thirds majority for passage by taking advantage of a budget process called reconciliation.

If Bloomberg wants to repeat the Republican talking point that passing legislation through reconciliation is inappropriate, the least it could do is make the argument correctly. It is Senate rules, not "traditional rules," to which it is referring.

Those rules do not require a "two-thirds majority" to pass legislation. They only require a two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto. Nor, contrary to the propaganda that Bloomberg is attempting to parrot, is any supermajority required to pass legislation under Senate rules. What does require a supermajority (but it is three fifths, not two thirds) is a motion to end debate and proceed to a vote. A refusal by 41 or more senators to support such a motion is called a "filibuster." Passing legislation with a simple majority through budget reconciliation is a way to circumvent the filibuster, but it is not a way to pass a bill with fewer votes than one needs to pass a bill under normal rules. Senators used to routinely allow votes on bills they disagreed with, and bills passed with fewer than 60 votes. Only in the past few years has Congress become so polarized, and the Republicans so obstructionist, that the filibuster has been the minority's default posture.

Aside from whether Bloomberg's reporters and editors who cover politics have been asleep for the year-long civics lesson the rest of us have undergone, I'm wondering why this sentence even needed to be written, since the premise is incorrect. Health-care reform is not currently "working its way through the Senate." It already passed the Senate. And it did so under normal rules, with the supermajority of 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster, not through reconciliation. The legislation that "passed the House of Representatives March 21 in a 219-212 vote" is the same Senate bill! The reconciliation sidecar, which now goes to the Senate, passed 220-211.

I know this is confusing, but all one needs to do is Google "House health care votes" and up pops this story from Yahoo News, which contains the following two sentences:

The House late Sunday voted 219-212 — no Republicans voted in favor — to send the 10-year, $938 billion bill to Obama.

A companion measure sought by House Democrats to make a series of changes to the main bill was approved 220-211.

Now, given that the Senate and House have passed the legislation and Obama just signed it into law, the Senate could theoretically pass the reconciliation sidecar under normal rules. And you might wonder why the Republicans would filibuster the sidecar, considering that the changes it makes, like eliminating the Cornhusker Kickback, are causes they endorse. But, out of pure partisanship, they say they would filibuster the sidecar, so the Democrats are going through reconciliation to pass that. Maybe reasonable people can differ about whether every single sidecar provision is sufficiently budgetary in nature to qualify for reconciliation, but to formulate such an opinion they need to first understand what they are talking about.

Today in Bad Journalism: Bloomberg News Doesn't Even Know What Untruth to Tell | News