ABC's Stark uncritically aired Paulson's claim to "welcome" oversight, but his bill would make his decisions "non-reviewable"

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

During her ABC World News report on the Bush administration's $700 billion Wall Street proposal, Betsy Stark uncritically aired Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's claim that he "welcome[s]" oversight of the administration's plan, but did not note that a section of the bill states: "Decisions by the Secretary [of the Treasury] pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

During the September 23 edition of ABC's World News, ABC News business correspondent Betsy Stark uncritically aired Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's claim that he "welcome[s]" oversight of the Bush administration's proposal for the Treasury to purchase up to $700 billion worth of assets of troubled financial institutions. However, Stark did not note that while the bill requires that the Treasury secretary make semiannual reports to congressional committees on how the authority is being used, a separate section of the administration's proposal states: "Decisions by the Secretary [of the Treasury] pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

During her report, after airing footage of Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) saying, "You're not asking for a blank check. We're not going to give you a blank check. There will be oversight, and you accept and understand that that is part of what we have to do," Stark aired Paulson's response, "I accept and understand it. I welcome it." She then asked, "But will Congress ultimately agree to it?" But Stark never noted the section of the bill that would make Paulson's actions "non-reviewable."

By contrast, during the September 23 edition of MSNBC's Race for the White House, host David Gregory aired footage of Paulson saying, "I believe we need oversight. We need oversight," and noted that "the text from the original draft of the president's three-page bill sent to Congress reads this way, quote: 'Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion and may not be reviewed by any court [of] law or administrative agency.' "

From the bill:

Sec. 3. Considerations.

In exercising the authorities granted in this Act, the Secretary shall take into consideration means for --

(1) providing stability or preventing disruption to the financial markets or banking system; and

(2) protecting the taxpayer.

Sec. 4. Reports to Congress.

Within three months of the first exercise of the authority granted in section 2(a), and semiannually thereafter, the Secretary shall report to the Committees on the Budget, Financial Services, and Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committees on the Budget, Finance, and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate with respect to the authorities exercised under this Act and the considerations required by section 3.

[...]

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

From the September 23 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

STARK: Lawmakers also made it clear that no matter how dire things are, they will not rubber stamp sweeping powers for the Treasury secretary or a $700 billion fix-it fund without congressional oversight.

[Begin video clip]

MARTINEZ: You're not asking for a blank check. We're not going to give you a blank check. There will be oversight, and you accept and understand that that is part of what we have to do.

PAULSON: I accept and understand it. I welcome it.

[End video clip]

STARK: But will Congress ultimately agree to it? Many senators seem reluctant to be in what one called, "the bailout business."

From the September 23 edition of MSNBC's Race for the White House:

GREGORY: My headline tonight: "Putting the Brakes on the Bailout."

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson says he wants the passage of this $700 billion rescue plan for Wall Street to be, quote, "clean and quick." Chairman [Ben] Bernanke of the Fed said it risks a recession if Congress doesn't do it. But Congress is putting the brakes on the bailout.

Paulson and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed, were met with skepticism today from both Republican and Democrats alike, members on the Senate Banking Committee, who are wary of hastily writing the government a blank check funded by the taxpayers.

Inside the Capitol, lawmakers questioned the details of the plan and called for greater oversight. Today, Paulson said he never meant to imply that the plan didn't need oversight.

PAULSON [video clip]: So, if any of you felt that I didn't believe that we needed oversight, I believe we need oversight. We need oversight. We need protection. We need transparency. I want it. We all want it.

GREGORY: But the text from the original draft of the president's three-page bill sent to Congress reads this way, quote: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion and may not be reviewed by any court or [sic] law or administrative agency."

Posted In
Economy
Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
Betsy Stark
Show/Publication
ABC World News Tonight
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.