"Good Morning America" news anchor Chris Cuomo on Tuesday actually challenged liberal House member Barney Frank over how Congress has spent the bailout money. At one point, after the host implored Frank to think of the American taxpayers, the irritated congressman commanded, "I'm sorry, sir, but- I'm sorry, if you keep interrupting we cannot have a coherent conversation." Frank would later rage over Cuomo's "distortions."
The ABC News anchor kicked off the interview by observing, "You Democrats say you're gung ho, talking numbers in this stimulus plan." He then skeptically queried, "But, in light of all the spending that's been done already with the questionable results, what gives you the confidence that you can pass this?" Now, it should be pointed out that Cuomo often seemed to be pressing the Democratic congressman from the left. Regarding those Americans who took out loans for more than they could pay back, he asked, "Why didn't you look out for the little guy and make sure that first package, instead of $270 billion to financial institutions, went to the people holding those mortgages?" The host continued, "Went to the working men and women? Why didn't you do that first?"
However, Cuomo should be given credit for not allowing Frank to simply blame the Bush administration. After one such attempt, the journalist attacked, "Mr. Chairman, your title is Chairman of the House Financial Committee. I mean, certainly, this isn't just about you looking to the administration. You have a role in this also."
Towards the end of the segment, Cuomo again provoked the ire of Frank. Speaking of the American taxpayer, he questioned, "You seem to be saying that you're powerless in this. Why should they have confidence in the new administration?" Frank angrily shot back, "No, I'm not saying that. Excuse me. I'm sorry, this is terribly distorted! I didn't say I was powerless." The back and forth continued and, as Cuomo attempted to end the interview, the powerful Democrat complained that "responding to your distortions takes some time."
A transcript of the January 6 segment, which occurred at 7:41am, follows:
CHRIS CUOMO: We're hearing a lot about this new economic stimulus plan. Unimaginable numbers. $700, $800 billion. And it makes us think. Well, what happened to that other $700 billion bill that Congress passed already? Where's that money going? What do we know? What is really the option going forward? Who knows better than the man who is about to join us from Washington? Massachusetts Representative, Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
CONGRESSMAN BARNEY FRANK: Good morning.
CUOMO: Thank you for joining us. So, Congress is back. You Democrats say you're gung ho, talking numbers in this stimulus plan. But, in light of all the spending that's been done already with the questionable results, what gives you the confidence that you can pass this?
BARNEY FRANK: Well, first, I am struck when people like yourself , Chris, talk about all the great spending that nobody mentions the Iraq war. And I think we really lose perspective here. You know, in 2001, we were trying to get the budget balanced. We got committed to an enormous increase in military spending. And I was opposed to that. I think it's been a great waste. I hope we can cut that back. And obviously, all spending is relevant. But I wish people would not ignore the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions, probably ultimately more than a trillion, that will go to that war. Secondly, we are talking about two different things. We've had two different crises. And I do think intelligence analysis looks at what the problem is and what you try to do for each problem. First, we had a credit crisis in which people having, in the private sector, and this is a private-sector-caused problem, they made bad investments. Unwise investments. And then they sold each other these bad investments. Unfortunately, you had in Washington at the time, during the past ten years, the philosophy that the market knows best. And regulation wasn't present to give people some safeguards. As a result of having bought a lot of bad stuff, people wouldn't buy good stuff. The Bush administration came to us and said if you don't give us $700 billion right away, they'll be a collapse. Now, we have a problem, because the initiative is with the administration. But, it hasn't been $700 billion. We did vote the authorization. But we said that after they spent the first half, they were going to have to notify Congress before they can spend the second half. We are sufficiently dissatisfied with what the Bush administration did with the first half.
CUOMO: But, Mr. Chairman-
FRANK: So, as of now, that second 350 is frozen and not being spent until we come to some agreement with the Obama administration about how to spend it.
CUOMO: Mr. Chairman, your title is Chairman of the House Financial Committee. I mean, certainly, this isn't just about you looking to the administration. You have a role in this also.
FRANK: Well, one, technically-
CUOMO: You approved the T.A.R.P plan. You approved the spending. And the question is, where is the accountability? Do you know where that money went?
FRANK: Well, I'm trying to explain that. No, in part, we don't- first of all, this is not just a technical thing since you're stretching the title. It's the Financial Services Committee. I say that because there is a Senate Finance Committee that deals with taxes. Yes, we know in part where it went. We are unhappy with that. We set up a mechanism to monitor it. And because we are unhappy with it, we have frozen the second half of it.
CUOMO: But just think about that as the taxpayers out there, Mr. Chairman-
FRANK: I'm sorry, sir, but- I'm sorry, if you keep interrupting we cannot have a coherent conversation. These are not subjects that can be answered in 18 seconds. You asked me what's happened, I told you. They spent the 350 differently then they told us. We expected them to spend a lot to spend on diminishing foreclosures. They refused to do that. As a result, we have froze the second half. And we won't unfreeze it until we get an agreement, and I think we will, because we have a different and, I think more flexible, administration.
CUOMO: Let me ask you a different question here. We said we have two different crises, credit crisis, consumer crisis. But ultimately, they both come down to the citizens who put up their money to help with these problems. Why didn't you help them first? Why didn't you look out for the little guy and make sure that first package, instead of $270 billion to financial institutions, went to the people holding those mortgages? Went to the working men and women? Why didn't you do that first?
FRANK: We tried to do that. We thought we were doing that. When we wrote the bill in the House- and there is a problem because you have an administration and they have got the initiative- That's the way the American system of government works. When we wrote the bill, we wrote it very differently than they asked us. And we instructed them to, in fact, do exactly that, to provide a larger amount of money for mortgage foreclosure. To our surprise, the administration refused to do that. Now, under the American system of government, when you give people the authority and tell them to do things, the courts will not order them to do that. They say, well, that's discretionary. So, in fact, if you looked at this, and we've had hearings, by the way. We had a hearing once it was clear the administration was not going to use the authority we gave them to reduce foreclosures, we called Secretary Paulson up. We complained about that. He refused to do it. We had one option, which was to freeze half the money. So, it's not a $700 billion program at this point. It's a lot of money. But it's only half. And we're not going to release any more money until we get the Obama administration, which is much better on this, to commit to do that. We've tried very hard to push the Bush administration to use the authority and the funds we gave them to reduce foreclosures. They refused. And that's why things are on hold until we get a new administration.
CUOMO: The American taxpayer, well, the American taxpayer is hearing all this.$10 Billions in bonuses. Golden Sachs and Morgan Stanley, alone. You seem to be saying that you're powerless in this. Why should they have confidence in the new administration?
FRANK: No, I'm not saying that. Excuse me. I'm sorry, this is terribly distorted! I didn't say I was powerless.
CUOMO: You said the administration proposed it. That there's a method of doing things. That you didn't like it, but that's the way it is.
FRANK: No, I'm sorry. This is the worst kind of distortion! In the first place, I don't think it's powerlessness to say, instead of spending $700 billion, you're only going to be able to spend half of it and we will freeze the second half. I am saying, yes, when we have a president in power, and he's named the Secretary of the Treasury, Congress cannot under the Constitution directly administer programs. We can create the programs. We can authorize the administration to do it. This is an administration that has defied congressional authority in a number of cases. Finally, we had one option, which was to stop it. That's not powerlessness. I don't think freezing $350 billion is not doing anything, and holding it until the Obama people get there. And if you think that Congress can simply take over and run the program, that simply isn't the way the American Constitution works. So, yes, it is the case that is the case that we authorized-
CUOMO: I don't mean to cut you off. I don't mean to cut you off.
FRANK: Well, it takes some time to- responding to your distortions takes some time.
CUOMO: It's a longer conversation. I want to get you that time. I promise I'll try. Thank you for joining us this morning. I appreciate it.