COMMENTS: Paulson Makes His Pitch to the Senate

The Senate Banking Committee hosted the Story of the Day. All three newscasts led with its hearings into the Treasury Department's proposal for a $700bn fund to bail out the debt-laden financial industry. Secretary Henry Paulson made his pitch along with Chairman Benjamin Bernanke of the Federal Reserve Board. "I believe, if the credit markets are not functioning, that jobs will be lost, the unemployment rate will rise and more houses will be foreclosed upon," Bernanke testified. CBS, courtesy of Chantix, its single sponsor, enlarged its newshole (25 min v ABC 18, NBC 20), to make room for anchor Katie Couric's Campaign '08 series Presidential Questions. It featured Barack Obama's impersonation of Marlon Brando: "You disrespected me, you know. Now, you want a favor?"

ABC's Betsy Stark summarized the mood at the banking committee as "a tense five-hour affair" with many senators "skeptical if not downright outraged" by the $700bn request. NBC's Tom Costello found both Democrats and Republicans "reluctant to approve a blank check or give sweeping powers" to the Treasury. CBS' Bob Orr narrowed the protests to "fiscal conservatives in particular" who are "angry about being rushed to risk taxpayer money to clean up Wall Street's mess."

So reporters found the same set of four proposals to modify Paulson's plan that they found Monday. ABC's George Stephanopoulos ticked them off: regulatory oversight of the bailout fund; limits on lavish remuneration for bailed-out executives; relief for foreclosed homeowners; and federal stock ownership in rescued firms. "Democrats and Republicans alike agree that these conditions have to be met in some form for this bill to pass," Stephanopoulos declared. CBS' Orr reported that the lone objection to that list from the Bush Administration was the last, "an equity stake in the companies it helps."


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