IT’S ONLY A ‘CONTROVERSY’ WHEN DEMS DO IT…. At this point, thanks to a very aggressive push, the reconciliation process in the Senate has been deemed “controversial” by major media outlets. And why is it “controversial”? Because Republicans are upset about it.

As a result, even real journalists at credible outlets have begun characterizing the Senate rule, used plenty of times before on legislation large and small, as contentious and problematic. Even reporters who understand that Dems aren’t even considering passing the entire comprehensive reform package through reconciliation have nevertheless internalized Republican talking points.

ABC News, for example, reported the other day that Democrats “will use the controversial reconciliation rules requiring only 51 Senate votes to pass the ‘fix’ to the Senate bill.”

Given the partisan indignation over using Senate rules, it’s reasonable to wonder, has reconciliation always been “controversial”? Or are we dealing with a Senate rule that was simply accepted in previous years, but has become a “controversy” now because Republicans decided it should be?

Jamison Foser took a closer look at media coverage from 2003, when the second round of Bush/Cheney tax cuts narrowly passed through reconciliation, despite bipartisan opposition.

And yet, in the weeks leading up to the reconciliation vote, the media didn’t portray the Republicans as ramming tax cuts through Congress via unprecedented use of an obscure procedural gimmick to circumvent Senate rules. In fact, they didn’t say much of anything at all about reconciliation. […]

The Washington Post didn’t run a single article, column, editorial, or letter to the editor that used the words “reconciliation” and “senate.” Not one. USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and the Associated Press were similarly silent.

Cable news didn’t care, either. CNN ran a quote by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley about the substance of the tax cuts in which he used the word “reconciliation” in passing — but that was it. Fox News aired two interviews in which Republican members of Congress referred to the reconciliation process in order to explain why the tax cuts would be temporary, but neither they nor the reporters interviewing them treated reconciliation as a controversial tactic.

And ABC, CBS, NBC? Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Even the insider publications that tend to cover legislative minutia paid little attention to the Republicans’ use of reconciliation…. You’d think that if reconciliation was really the controversial and heavy-handed tactic the media is currently portraying it as, there would have been a ton of media coverage of Senate Republican aides suggesting the parliamentarian would be fired if he didn’t let the GOP handle reconciliation however they wanted.

But the media couldn’t have cared less. Reconciliation was simply a Senate rule, and lawmakers were simply going to use it. There was nothing “controversial” about it.

Scholars of propaganda could write an impressive paper on the Republican campaign on reconciliation in recent months. Partisan hacks have managed to convince an entire political world and a media establishment that use of a fairly routine Senate procedure is not only problematic, but genuinely scandalous. They’ve even convinced some Democrats to feel squeamish about a process Republicans have used repeatedly with no qualms at all.

It’s quite a sight.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.