Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Bipartisan misuse of the word 'bipartisan'

U.S. Park Service personnel erect barriers and hang signs as they close the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on Oct. 1, 2013, the start of a federal government shutdown.
U.S. Park Service personnel erect barriers and hang signs as they close the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on Oct. 1, 2013, the start of a federal government shutdown.

The federal-government shutdown arrived this morning. But the blame game started much earlier.

On the eve of the first government shutdown in 18 years, we checked two statements by leading figures in the federal funding debate that sought to show how "bipartisan" their position was. Neither fared very well on the Truth-O-Meter.

On Sept. 27, 2013, President Barack Obama said, "If Congress chooses not to pass a budget by Monday — the end of the fiscal year — they will shut down the government, along with many vital services that the American people depend on," Obama said in an appearance before reporters in the White House. "The good news is, within the past couple of hours, the United States Senate — Democrats and Republicans — acted responsibly by voting to keep our government open and delivering the services the American people expect."

We found that the president had a point that 25 Republicans backed a procedural motion to proceed to the bill itself. But experts told us that when analyzing Obama’s comment, it was more important that not a single Republican ultimately voted "to keep our government open" when the chamber took up the bill itself. We rated the claim Mostly False.

Meanwhile, on Sept. 20, 2013, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, released a statement that said in part, "Today, the House of Representatives did what Washington pundits only a few weeks ago said was impossible: a strong bipartisan majority voted to defund Obamacare. This is a victory for House conservatives, and it is a victory for Speaker (John) Boehner and Republican leadership."

On the final vote, the measure -- which paired continued funding for the government with a defunding of Obamacare -- passed by a 230-189 margin. But just two Democrats, Reps. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Jim Matheson of Utah, joined all but one Republican in voting for the measure.

We have addressed claims of "bipartisanship" in the past and have generally been skeptical of a claim where a tiny fraction of a caucus serves as justification for the "bipartisan" label. In this case, barely more than 1 percent of the Democratic Caucus voted for the bill. We rated the claim False.