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CBS Leads with Byrd's 'Shame, Shame' in Story on GOP 'Delaying Tactics'

Centering a Friday night story on how, as anchor Katie Couric explained, "Republicans are doing everything they can to block" the "health reform" bill, "including delaying tactics in this race against the clock," CBS put front and center Senator Robert Byrd's "shame, shame" admonition of Republicans.

Reporter Nancy Cordes began her story by showcasing the aging Democrat: "As he was wheeled into the Senate chamber shortly after 1:00 AM, 92-year-old Robert Byrd made it clear how he felt about being pulled out of bed to vote." CBS showed a wide-shot of the Senate chamber with the area around the wheelchair-bound Byrd lightened with his words on screen as viewers heard the matching audio picked up by a nearby microphone: "Shame, shame."

Cordes elaborated: "His ire was directed at Republicans who intentionally dragged out debate on a defense spending bill, hoping that in turn would hold up the health care bill Democrats desperately want to pass before Christmas." She soon demanded of Republican Senator Orrin Hatch: "What's the point of forcing these votes to be held at the dead of night on Christmas eve? Why not just move along?"The story on the Friday, December 18 CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Now to the battle over health care reform. Democrats are still trying to get the elusive 60th vote they need to pass a bill. It takes 60 votes to cut off a filibuster. And Nancy Cordes tells us Republicans are doing everything they can to block the bill, including delaying tactics in this race against the clock.

NANCY CORDES: As he was wheeled into the Senate chamber shortly after 1 AM, 92-year-old Robert Byrd made it clear how he felt about being pulled out of bed to vote.

BYRD, WITH WORDS ON SCREEN, AS SENATORS APPLAUD: Shame, shame.

CORDES: His ire was directed at Republicans who intentionally dragged out debate on a defense spending bill, hoping that in turn would hold up the health care bill Democrats desperately want to pass before Christmas.

SENATOR HARRY REID, ON SENATE FLOOR: Not even the darkness outside can conceal the game being played inside this Senate chamber.

CORDES: It's one of several stalling tactics Republicans have employed in recent days, and they're not apologizing

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNEL: I don't think anybody in the room's missed it. We don't think this bill ought to pass, and we're not in a hurry to complete it.

CORDES: With just 40 Senators, Republicans don't have the power to stop the health care bill, just delay it.

CORDES TO SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: What's the point of forcing these votes to be held at the dead of night on Christmas eve? Why not just move along?

HATCH: Why don't the Democrats say, look, let's sit down. Let's work this out. Wouldn't that be the way to do it? They can do anything they want to and they found, hey, that isn't the way it goes.

CORDES: Especially not with a mid-term election year right around the corner.

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: What you do is you make the majority party, the people allegedly in control, look inept and then you run against them for not being able to accomplish anything. This is standard politics, Politics 101.

CORDES: But Republicans won't need to bother stalling if Democrats can't negotiate an abortion compromise with their lone remaining hold-out, pro-life Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. There are other problems - Senators haven't seen the bill or the changes to it and they still don't know how much it will cost. Nancy Cordes, CBS News, Capitol Hill.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center