COMMENTS: Tabloid Golfer Trumps Parliamentary Procedure

Celebrity scandal attracted more attention than hard news. Tiger Woods was Story of the Day as the golfer announced his comeback to competition after a tabloid winter. His first tournament will be the Masters, for which CBS Sports happens to own the broadcast rights. Guess which network decided that the Woods story was worthy to lead its newscast. NBC led with more serious self-promotion, the results of its in-house opinion poll on the popularity of Congress and the prospects for healthcare reform. For the second straight day, ABC played it straight, leading with the healthcare bill's prospects for passage.

There were two developments on Capitol Hill. Outside, a few hundred members of the Tea Party rallied. Kill the Bill, CBS' Chip Reid quoted their slogan. Inside, the Rules Committee deliberated on how the House should combine adoption of the Senate bill with its own amendments in order to win majority support. "What they are talking about is a procedure called Deeming," grinned ABC's Jonathan Karl at the opportunity to display his arcane procedural chops. "It can be found in Vol. VI Ch. 21 of Deschler's Precedents," he showed us. "It is a procedure that has been used about 20 times over the last 30 years, by both Democrats and Republicans, but never on legislation as seismic as health care reform." CBS' Reid called it "a special shortcut."

NBC's political director Chuck Todd provided the analysis on the opinion poll his network conducted with The Wall Street Journal. He called the even split over the healthcare legislation (46% pro, 45% con) "very good news for the President" since he can assure wavering Democrats that the party's base supports the bill. As for the prospects for the midterm elections in November, Todd envisaged "total upheaval." Here are the approval ratings for the 111th Congress: 59% of Democrats disapprove, 69% of independents, 86% of Republicans.


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