On the Senate floor yesterday afternoon, Senate Republicans killed a popular jobs bill, despite the fact that a majority of senators supported the legislation. But the public’s understanding of what transpired will be shaped by the media’s coverage — and some outlets were much more responsible than others.
The Associated Press, for example, got it right. Under a headline that read, “Senate GOP blocks Obama infrastructure plan,” the AP piece told readers, “Republicans in the Senate Thursday dealt President Barack Obama the third in a string of defeats on his stimulus-style jobs agenda, blocking a $60 billion measure for building and repairing infrastructure like roads and rail lines.”
That accurately reflects what transpired. Reuters got it right, too. The headline read, “Republicans block another part of Obama jobs plan,” and the lede told readers, “Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a $60 billion White House proposal to repair crumbling bridges, highways and other transportation systems as President Barack Obama’s job creation agenda hit another obstacle in Congress.”
So far, so good.
Others got the story very wrong. CNN’s headline, at least online, read, “Competing infrastructure spending measures fail in Senate.” Here’s the lede:
In a pair of votes aimed more at making political points than law, the Senate rejected competing Democratic and Republican proposals to boost construction of roadways and other infrastructure projects.
Politico‘s report was even worse. The headline read, “Senate gridlock: Both parties block jobs bills.” And check out the lede:
Rival Democratic and Republican jobs bills failed in the Senate on Thursday, the latest sign of the partisan gridlock gripping Washington as Americans look for relief from high unemployment and a sagging economy.
No, no, a thousand times, no. This just isn’t what happened.
It’s really not that complicated. Democrats unveiled a real jobs bill, which was subjected to weeks of policy scrutiny, and enjoyed broad, bipartisan support in public opinion polls. It would have invested 50 billion in direct spending on transportation projects, another $10 billion to get the National Infrastructure Bank up and running, and it was fully paid for with a 0.7% surtax on millionaires and billionaires, representing just 0.2% of the population. Estimates showed the legislation would have created hundreds of thousands of jobs, but literally every Senate Republican killed it anyway.
So why did Republican leaders push this yesterday as an “alternative” jobs bill? To get media outlets to tell the public that “both sides” presented jobs bills, even though that’s not true.
And as CNN and Politico helped prove, this little stunt worked.