More than a month ago, it was the Bush administration coming hat-in-hand to Congress asking for billions for a financial bailout. Today, leaders of the Big Three automakers are playing the role, asking for $25 billion in loan guarantees to stave off collapse.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) opposed the last bailout request and isn’t too happy about this one, either. “As we consider altering the Treasury bailout program to provide cash assistance to the domestic auto manufacturers, I am concerned that, once again, we are about to employ the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach to problem solving,” he tells the auto execs.
“Is this the end, or just the beginning? Some reports state that the firms appearing today may each need $30 billion. If that is true, we should be told that today,” he adds.
Sen. Charles Schumer speaks out cautiously in favor of action, noting that the auto industry makes up four percent of the nation’s GDP, 10 percent of its industrial base and accounts for “four million ancillary jobs.”
While he argues the industry is “too vital to let fail,” he qualifies that he does “share some of my colleagues concerns” that the executives will be back shortly, having blown through the bailout. “We must be assured that whatever aide we give you is accompanied by a plan…not just to survive, but to thrive,” he says, taking a swipe at Detroit’s “gas-guzzling past.”
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) spoke colorfully about the previous bailout request, decrying it as setting the American people on the road to serfdom. He calls this bailout “virtually a blank check,” but expresses sympathy for auto workers.