As far as politically controversial legislation goes, there's not a lot of daylight between the GOP's "American Health Care Act" and the Democratic Party's "Affordable Care Act," except for maybe the fact that the Republicans managed somehow to be even less transparent than their colleagues on the Left.
Yet, a look at the Washington Post's coverage of the two bills after they passed the House shows a split in what the newspaper considers "controversial."
On Nov. 8, 2009, this is how the Post reported on Democrats' successful efforts to get then-President Obama's healthcare law passed through Congress' lower chamber: "House Democrats promise health-care victory as Republicans remain opposed to bill."
The opening paragraph read, "Hours after President Obama exhorted Democratic lawmakers to 'answer the call of history,' the House hit an unprecedented milestone on the path to health-care reform, approving a trillion-dollar package late Saturday that seeks to overhaul private insurance practices and guarantee comprehensive and affordable coverage to almost every American."
The overall tone of the 2009 report was fairly positive, and focused almost entirely on policy.
Nearly eight years later, on May 4, 2017, this is how the Post covered the GOP's success in passing their version of a healthcare bill through the House: "House Republicans narrowly pass controversial bill to overhaul the health-care system, claiming fulfillment of a major campaign promise."
The story's opening paragraph is an almost word-for-word repeat of its headline. The report's tone isn't exactly negative, but unlike the 2009 piece, the Post's Thursday story focused less on policy and more of the gritty back-and-forth fight between Republicans and Democrats. It also focused a great deal of attention on GOP infighting. To be fair to the paper, details of what's contained in the ACHA were extremely sparse at the time of its passage.
The Post's coverage of the Republican bill isn't inaccurate, and its authors do a fine job of capturing the moment. But those same exact words could have been used in 2009 without changing a serif, and they would have been just as accurate.
So it's curious to the difference of the paper's coverage of the two bills, and to see the shift in tone with just eight years between them.
(Reminder: Headlines are almost always written by the editors, not the reporters.)