O'Donnell Calls Senate Bailout Bill a Decorated 'Christmas Tree'

     It’s rare, but occasionally a journalist actually questions over-the-top government spending.


     NBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O’Donnell took an inquisitive tone in an Oct. 1 interview with Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., about a $100 billion provision for renewable energy in a bill that is intended to be an emergency rescue for the beleaguered banking system.


     “Given all of these sweeteners that have been added to the bill – and I want to return to that question about this extra $100 billion that includes tax credits for renewable energy sources, like solar energy and wind power – I mean what is this doing in a bailout bill or a rescue bill?” O’Donnell asked. “I mean [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson and the President promised a clean bill. Does this just look like a Christmas tree that’s just being added up with a bunch of other stuff?”

     Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appointed Gregg a chief negotiator on the bill. Gregg told O’Donnell the bill included what looks suspiciously like pork because it had to get passed before adjournment.

     “First you got to understand, Norah, that this bill – the tax extenders bill is something that has to pass before we adjourn and we’re going to adjourn tonight or tomorrow,” Gregg said. “Everybody knows it has to pass because all these tax deductions – which encourage things like alternative source energy and R&D [research and development] tax credit, will keep people from getting hit with the alternative minimum tax – will kick into effect all of those – will be eliminated or those taxes will kick into effect if we don’t pass the bill.

     According to Gregg – the combination of the two bills – the tax extenders and the bailout – was not a negative and he defended the bill by noting it did not include any earmarks.

     “So this is a must pass bill – the tax extender bill. And putting the recovery bill with it is not in my opinion detrimental,” Gregg said. “There is no – there are no earmarks in the recovery bill.”

     “The recovery bill is about helping people on Main Street get credit and in that recovery bill we put a lot of controls like taxpayer protection, making sure there’s no golden parachutes, making sure mortgagees can stay in their homes to the extent that we can help them do that, having proper oversight. So we have worked hard to make this bill a responsible bill in the area of protecting the taxpayer and a bill that can accomplish what we need to do, which is free up credit for Main Street,” Gregg continued.

     The previous bailout legislation, which was defeated in the House of Representatives in another form, has gotten widespread support from many in the media – including CNBC’s Jim Cramer – who warned of a 3,000-point plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) if nothing was passed.