By Alexander Bolton - 08/03/11 05:38 PM EDT
After an acrimonious, months-long debate over raising the national debt limit, a battle many Democrats think the Republicans won, Senate Democratic leaders are becoming increasingly frustrated over how the media reports on the bold tactics of Tea Party Republicans.
This frustration boiled over during a Wednesday press conference on the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration and what Democrats call the GOP’s extortionist tactics
Democrats are angry that members of the media appear to be accepting the GOP argument that Democrats are to blame for the temporary shutdown.
Democratic senators believe reporters are failing to call out Republicans for using extreme legislative tactics, such as pushing debt-limit negotiations to the brink of a national default and threatening a government shutdown in April.
“This is a made-up crisis, this is government by hostage taking,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said of the FAA shutdown.
“The fact is, when you look back at their threats to shut down the entire government — remember that? — unless they got tax breaks for the rich, followed by holding the full faith and credit of this government hostage to their desires to cut government spending — and now here we are a third time,” Boxer said of the Republicans.
“I hope the American people wake up. This is their modus operandi: Government by crisis that they make up. Government by hostage taking. Government by threat,” she said.
More from The Hill:
♦ LaHood blames GOP colleagues for FAA impasse
♦ Patent reform bill on Senate agenda after recess
♦ Vitter blocks Interior nominee over Gulf drilling concerns
♦ Top HHS officials to take over exchanges office
When Jonathan Karl, a correspondent for ABC News, asked why Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) had blocked a short-term FAA extension offered by Republicans on the Senate floor Tuesday, Democrats lost their patience.
“There’s a certain naivety that comes with your question,” said Boxer. “The story here today is the fact that our leader is reaching out to [House Speaker John] Boehner [R-Ohio] to say, ‘If we want to resolve a particular issue, whatever it might be, let’s talk about it,’ but not have one side say, ‘Take it or leave it or people will be out of work.’ And the essence of your question doesn’t understand that.”
House Republicans have offered Senate Democrats a short-term extension of the FAA authorization that would close several small rural airports in the home states of Democratic senators, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Rockefeller.
Rockefeller objected to the House GOP’s bill on the Senate floor and proposed instead a clean short-term extension of the reauthorization that would not have closed small airports, which Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) blocked on Tuesday.
Democrats say the real issue behind the fight is not the Essential Air Service program, which subsidies small rural airports. They say Republicans have threatened to cut it only to force them to give ground on a bigger issue, a new regulation put out by the National Mediation Board, which makes it easier for airline employees to vote to unionize.
Rockefeller, who as Commerce chairman has jurisdiction over the FAA bill, said that Boehner informed him a few days ago that he would negotiate only if Democrats agreed in advance to accept the Republican position on decertifying the new regulation and subjecting it to judicial review.
One reporter asked why Democrats didn’t swallow the cuts to small airports in their states to pass the short-term authorization and then return in September “to fight another day.”
But Reid retorted that Republicans would find other “hostages” to force Democrats to back down on the labor issue.
Democrats charged Wednesday that the media has fallen for the red herring of cutting subsidies to small airports.
“The fact is that you’ve got to dig a little bit behind the surface here of what this is really about,” said Boxer. “Whatever the issue is, this is about government by threats, government by one side making its demands …”
“And these folks falling for it,” Reid interjected, gesturing to the reporters in the Senate radio and television gallery.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is in charge of the Democrats’ messaging operation, then broke in.
“In all due respect, the issue is not essential air service, it’s not even a labor issue, it’s the issue of hostage taking,” he said.
“It’s as if someone puts a gun to your head and says, ‘Give me your money,’ and then you say, ‘Why won’t you give them your money?’ ” Schumer said. “You leave out the whole context that there’s a gun being held to your head and that is not fair and that is not right.”
Reid appeared frustrated Tuesday afternoon that the media was not critical enough of House GOP tactics during the debt-limit debate. Senate Democrats think that Tea Party conservatives have brought an extremist style to Washington that threatens to create national chaos if they don’t get their way.
Vice President Biden reportedly compared Tea Party-affiliated House freshmen to terrorists during a meeting with House Democrats earlier this week.
On Tuesday Reid read on the Senate floor an op-ed by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman that was critical of the media’s reluctance to judge Tea Party tactics.
“If one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read ‘Views Differ on Shape of Planet,’ ” Reid said, quoting Krugman. “But would that cult still rule in a situation as stark as the one we now face, in which one party is clearly engaged in blackmail and the other is dickering over the size of the ransom?
“The answer, it turns out, is yes. And this is no laughing matter: The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster.”