Auto bailout: Congress gets closer to a decision
Lawmakers say bankruptcy for Detroit's Big Three is 'not a viable option.'
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But there's a growing consensus among lawmakers once critical of the bailout that inaction – or punting the decision to the Obama administration – is no longer an option.
"Bankruptcy is not a viable option, because it will seal the death of the domestic automobile industry," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York, at a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.
"I think I speak for many of us here: We care less about where the money comes from than how it's spent," he said, adding that he still did not trust the management of US auto companies to direct their own recovery.
In a bid to regain trust on Capitol Hill, the CEOs of the Big Three drove to Washington for back-to-back hearings this week – eschewing the corporate jets that riled lawmakers at their last appearance on Capitol Hill.
"We're just plowing ahead because this innovation is exciting to us," said Tony Posawatz, on site to show the Volt to lawmakers and the press.
"We're the only ones on record to do this high-volume production [of electric cars], once we get through these near-term economic issues," he added.
At the same time, the United Auto Workers union announced contract concessions on Wednesday to bolster the case that Detroit is changing its ways.
"We and the workers and retirees we represent are prepared to do our part to ensure that the companies can continue as viable operations," UAW president Ron Gettelfinger told the Senate banking panel on Thursday.
Meanwhile, UAW members swarmed over Capitol Hill, trolling for votes – or at least a less hostile stance from lawmakers opposing the bill.
"I think we were able to put a personal face on the situation," said Mike Herron, chairman of UAW Local 1853 at the Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. In the run-up to Thursday's hearings, Local 1853 members met with Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, who has opposed a bailout.
"We wanted to be sure that he understood that we have 30,000 people in middle Tennessee who rely on Saturn for a job," Mr. Herron said. "Suppliers, school teachers, bankers, shopkeepers are all scared to death about what's happening, just as they are in Detroit."