July 05, 2003
Misleading Headlines

"Malpractice Bill is Likely to Lose Key Senate Vote" is the headline of this New York Times article (via Yahoo! News). I call it misleading because it implies that the bill is likely to be rejected. The truth of the matter is that it will never come up for a vote; the vote it is likely to lose is a cloture vote on yet another Democratic Party filibuster. Even the lead paragraph is set up to imply that the bill will lose a floor vote:

WASHINGTON, July 5 A bill that would impose strict limits on jury awards in medical malpractice cases a central element of President Bush's plan to revamp tort law appears headed for defeat in the Senate, but the majority leader, Bill Frist, intends to introduce the measure on Monday anyway, forcing a vote that could be used against Democrats in the next election.

That does not match what is said in the third paragraph:

The bill has no Democratic sponsors, and Republican leaders, including Dr. Frist and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican whip who will manage the bill on the floor, concede they do not have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

I may be viewing the issue through partisan glasses, but did the Republicans ever push so many filibusters in a single session when they were in the minority? I really cannot recall ever hearing so much about filibusters (judicial nominees, spending bills, new laws) as I have in the past year or so. I do recall hearing about "Republican obstructionism" and Harry Truman referred to the GOP-controlled congress as the "do-nothing" congress, but it appears, at first blush, that the Democrats have elevated it to an art form.

(Update—7 July03/10:17AM—the headline has changed, although I don't think this effort is any better. It now reads "Short of Votes, Senate G.O.P. Still Pushes Malpractice Issue". Nope, no bias there. Will they ever get it?

posted on July 05, 2003 06:40 PM


These filibusters represent the GOP's largest political opportunity. If properly intensified and publicized, the Republicans could point to them and say, "Look who's holding up the business of government -- the government you elected! -- out of narrow partisan interest and petty spite!"

It might well be enough to give them a cloturable Senate come 2004. Then they'd have to deliver on their promises, and we'd see what Republicanism really means.

posted by Francis W. Porretto on July 6, 2003 05:00 AM

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