AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY CRISIS
(Senate - December 11, 2008)

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[Pages S10927-S10931]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                       AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY CRISIS

  Mr. REID. Mr. President, to all those within the sound of my voice, 
we have tried very hard to arrive at a point where we can legislate for 
the automobile industry. People have worked very hard. I believe 
everyone is working in good faith. I am terribly disappointed that we 
are not able to arrive at a conclusion, but I want to say in the most 
emphatic manner how much I appreciate Senator Chris Dodd. He has worked 
going into months now.

[[Page S10928]]

We had the housing crisis, we had the bailout of the financial 
industry, and now the automobile industry. This man has worked day and 
night for months. Chris Dodd is one of America's great legislators. He 
has been here a long time. He is a veteran of the House and the Senate, 
and so I admire his patience and perseverance.
  His counterpart, Senator Shelby, and I served together in the House, 
and he hasn't been heavily involved in these negotiations, but I like 
Richard Shelby very much. One thing about Senator Shelby, you never 
have to guess where he stands on an issue.
  In the last several days--and maybe I will be criticized by some on 
my side, but I doubt that--I have been extremely impressed with Bob 
Corker of Tennessee. Now, we weren't able, based on his good work, to 
arrive at something on which we could get enough Republicans to agree, 
but he did some wonderful work, and I think the work he did is going to 
pay dividends next year because even though this is a real loss--my 
personal feeling--for the country, that we are not going to be able to 
do something, I think the manner in which we have proceeded, led by 
Senator Corker on the Republican side, has been extremely good. I 
repeat, I think it is going to work well next year.
  We have a lot of work to do. We have issues like this we will be 
dealing with next year, and I think we have come to a point in the 
legislative process in the Senate that we have to start working 
together and not have one side say yes and one side say no. So I hope 
my friends on the other side of the aisle also recognize what Senator 
Corker has tried to do.
  I certainly have no problem with others who disagreed with the 
approach we have taken, with the White House. This is not our proposal. 
We have worked with President Bush. President Bush is President of the 
United States--and everyone knows, you can read my book as to how I 
felt about the White House and what has happened--the White House has 
been extremely available. Josh Bolten and others in the White House 
have worked very hard with us to come up with an agreement, and we did, 
working with the House Banking Committee, the Senate Banking Committee, 
as I have indicated, led by Senator Dodd. But we have not been able to 
get this over the finish line.
  So although we have worked and worked--and we could spend all night 
tonight, tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday--we are not going to get to the 
finish line. That is just the way it is. There is too much difference 
between the two sides. All of us on this side of the aisle are in favor 
of the proposal that has been negotiated with the White House and the 
two banking committees, but we are not going to be able to vote on that 
more than likely.
  The procedure now that we have in the Senate is that 1 hour after we 
come in tomorrow morning, we can vote on cloture. And what are we 
voting on? It is a bill that we took from the calendar to be an 
instrument--it is a tax instrument because a lot of what we are doing 
with this banking matter involves the Finance Committee--and we would 
take that and move to proceed on that--cloture on that--and then as 
soon as we got cloture on that, we would amend it with our proposal.
  As I have indicated, we know we don't have 60 votes. There is no need 
to play around with that and cause undo hardship. So I have spoken to 
my friend, the distinguished Republican leader, and what we propose is 
that at about 10:30 or so tonight we will vote on cloture, just to show 
everybody where we are. Everybody should understand when this vote is 
over tonight--and I don't think we are going to get 60 votes--it is 
over with.
  Mr. President, I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow. It is not 
going to be a pleasant sight. Millions of Americans, not only the auto 
workers but people who sell cars, car dealerships, and people who work 
on cars, are going to be directly impacted and affected.
  As I mentioned earlier today, Christmas is approaching. This will be 
a very bad Christmas for a lot of people as a result of what takes 
place tonight.
  I want my colleagues to know that I have expressed my opinion as to 
what I think should happen. There are many people who have been 
involved in this on the other side of the aisle who in good faith 
disagree with what I said, and I accept that and appreciate that. But I 
think the time for talking is over. We should vote and move on to 
something else.
  I am happy to yield to my distinguished colleague, Senator McConnell.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Casey). The Republican leader is 
recognized.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, this has been a challenging exercise 
for everyone involved on both sides. We all remember a couple of months 
ago we were called upon to rescue the American financial system. At the 
end of the day, after a few fits and starts, 74 out of 99 Senators 
present thought it was a good idea to do that. It was a vote we all 
proudly cast from our individual seats and most of us supported it. It 
was a broad, bipartisan vote, supported by the two Presidential 
candidates as well.
  Now we have moved into a very tricky and challenging area, and that 
is sort of industry-by-industry rescue. We have had before us the whole 
question of the viability of the American automobile manufacturers. 
None of us wants to see them go down, but very few of us had anything 
to do with the dilemma they have created for themselves. So the 
question was: Is there a way out? The administration negotiated in good 
faith with the Democratic majority a proposal that was simply 
unacceptable to the vast majority of our side because we thought it, 
frankly, wouldn't work.
  Into this breach stepped the junior Senator from Tennessee who, I 
must say, has made an extraordinary impact in a very small amount of 
time. I am hard pressed to think of another Member who has been here 
such a short period of time who has made such an impression on 
colleagues on both sides of the aisle by mastering an extraordinarily 
complicated subject and being able to explain it in a way that is 
understandable. He has diligently pursued an agreement that could pass, 
that could enjoy broad support on both sides. He has made great 
progress in that direction.
  The sticking point we are left with is the question of whether the 
UAW is willing to agree to a parity pay structure with other 
manufacturers in this country by a date certain. I understand their 
reluctance to do that, and so far, in the discussions Senator Corker 
and Senator Dodd and others have had, they have not been willing to 
give a date specific by which parity could be achieved. It is upon that 
issue that we have reached an impasse for the moment.
  At this stage I share the view of the majority leader that we should 
go ahead and have the vote on cloture to the measure he outlined. We 
can have it at 1 o'clock this morning or we could move it up and do it 
now. I will be happy, I say to my friend, the majority leader, to try 
to get the vote we could have at 1 o'clock at 10:30 or 10:40, if he 
wishes me to. I think that would probably end the discussion, at least 
for today. We all know we will be involved in this discussion in the 
future, but that will probably end it for today.
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the cloture 
vote on the motion to proceed to H.R. 7005 occur at 10:40. I ask 
consent that Senator Dodd, who has spent so much time on this, be given 
10 minutes.
  If there is anyone who wishes to respond to that, they would have 10 
minutes to do so.
  Mr. McCONNELL. I say to my friend, I have to reserve the right to 
object for the moment. I think I have one Member with whom I have to 
check to see if he can get this done in the next few moments. I can 
think of no reason this would not be a good idea, but for the moment, I 
am going to have to object.
  Mr. REID. So we don't lose any time, let's move to Senator Dodd, and 
when you come back we will move forward.
  Thanks for everyone's patience.
  Senator Dodd.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut is recognized.
  Mr. DODD. Mr. President, let me begin by thanking the distinguished 
majority leader and my colleagues. This has been a long ordeal. I know 
many of the conversations I have had over the last several days have 
been wondering when, if ever, we might come to a conclusion of what has 
been a lengthy process over the last 2 weeks

[[Page S10929]]

now since this matter emerged. Prior to the Thanksgiving recess, the 
majority leader and others invited the automobile industry to present 
plans by December 2 to the Congress on how they might restructure their 
industry in a way that would allow us to step forward and try to 
preserve them and allow them to exist for a few more weeks while a 
broader plan could be devised that would allow them to possibly 
survive.
  As my colleagues may know, over the last several weeks we have had a 
number of hearings on the matter. The Presiding Officer at this point 
is a member of my committee, along with others who have been very 
diligent in sitting through long hearings, on an average of 5 or 6 
hours apiece, to listen to all of the various ideas.
  As the Republican leader pointed out, it is a very complex subject 
matter to be asking this institution, in a matter of days, to try to 
understand with all of the ramifications of it. Given the precarious 
nature of it, I think we all appreciate at this juncture that we are 
looking at least one, maybe two, of the three automobile manufacturers 
that have existed for almost a century in our country--at a time of 
great economic peril, when the confidence and optimism in our country 
is at risk--we run the risk over these days of watching this industry 
disappear. The blow to the American conscience and confidence and 
capability is beyond economic terms, if that occurs.
  I pray this evening that will not happen. No one can say with 
absolute certainty it will. But we have been warned. We have been 
cautioned by those whose jobs it is to analyze this industry who have 
told us that could happen.
  Tonight we will go home for the holiday recesses, but for the 
literally hundreds of thousands of people whose jobs depend upon this 
industry, this will not be a joyous season, wondering whether their 
jobs, their livelihoods, their homes, their children's futures are at 
risk because we were incapable of coming up with an answer to provide a 
period of time here to allow intelligent, solid, good, hard-working 
people to put together a plan to save the American automobile industry. 
It is disheartening to me, to put it mildly, that we were unable to 
come to that agreement.
  Let me say very candidly, Bob Corker is someone I have come to 
appreciate immensely. He is a member of my committee. We have worked 
very well together over this last year on many complicated issues, and 
I appreciate immensely his effort, as he did again this evening, to try 
to come to a conclusion where we could at least agree on something to 
move forward.
  There were three major issues my friend from Tennessee brought to me. 
I will not go into great detail in this limited time. I will wait until 
tomorrow, if time permits, to go into a longer discussion. Of the three 
issues, we agreed on two almost immediately. On the third, involving 
the parity with compensation of the domestic automobile industry and 
those of the foreign competitors doing business here, we could not come 
to closure. The issue simply came down to this. There was no debate, by 
the way, from the United Auto Workers or anyone else that we ought to 
achieve parity in those wages or benefits. The question was the timing 
of it.

  We are in a deep recession. People are being laid off. The Bank of 
America announced today 35,000 people will be laid off. Industry after 
industry is dropping its employees. The idea that you are going to have 
new hires replace the active employees in a time such as this is 
difficult, to put it mildly. So the notion somehow that within days or 
weeks after March 31 of this year that this would mandate--mandate 
parity between those wages of domestic companies and foreign companies 
was the stumbling block.
  The President of the United States, the other body, Democrats and 
Republicans as well as the autoworkers, the heads of these companies, 
came together and for 8 days we negotiated an agreement. It was 
painful. It is not perfect by a long shot. But it allowed us to get to 
next year to begin to work on this in a way that might make it possible 
for this industry to survive.
  Tonight, regretfully, despite the efforts of the White House, people 
here, people in the other body obviously, workers as well as managers, 
we have stumbled this evening, unable to make this closure on this 
issue to allow us to go forward.
  I am deeply saddened, but more than saddened I am worried this 
evening of what we are doing with an iconic industry. None of us here 
was going to write a check without conditionality. This bill I have 
drafted along with others is some 36 pages long and filled with 
conditions, establishing a czar--chosen by this President of the United 
States, not the coming one--to oversee this and say you must meet these 
obligations if you are going to survive. His determination will 
determine whether the industry can go forward. If the czar were to say 
you have not complied, bankruptcy would entail, chapter 11 and, 
candidly, chapter 7. It would be nothing more than a liquidation of 
this industry.
  But we ought to try to avoid that. I thought most of us felt that was 
a bad outcome. I know my friend from Tennessee believes that, as I do. 
The outcome of that will cost the American taxpayers billions of 
dollars, by the way, and that is very well where we may end up this 
evening. I regret it deeply. I am saddened by it, worried about it, 
that in the midst of deep and troubling times we are now going to add 
to that substantially by walking away from an issue of whether we could 
agree that parity between these wages and benefits could be achieved 
without slamming it down in such a way as to make it difficult for us 
to achieve the result.
  Out of the three issues, we agreed on two and three-quarters but were 
unable to come to closure on this one which, frankly, in my view, was 
not an economic issue but a political one, because we are not demanding 
this of dealers, of suppliers, of anyone else. The only group we have 
asked this of is the workforce. No one else in this bill is required on 
a date certain to meet any other obligations, only this one. Yet we 
fully understand economically how hard that could be, to demand that 
kind of accountability and not trust a czar or a leader working with 
the industry and others to reach that agreement.
  To the majority leader I say thank you, and to your staff, the 
Banking Committee staff, my friend Bob Corker, the Members of the 
House, Republicans and Democrats, to the White House, which has been 
tremendously helpful in these last few days on trying to put this 
together without all of us agreeing. Yet, despite all of that, this 
evening we will not get cloture. This will fail. We will go home. I am 
afraid our country is going to be in deeper trouble because of this 
issue. I regret that deeply.
  I thank the majority leader.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader is recognized.
  Mr. REID. I ask unanimous consent the cloture vote vote on the motion 
to proceed to H.R. 7005 occur--Senator Stabenow wants the last 5 
minutes before the vote.
  Mr. McCONNELL. I say to my friend, at least 5 minutes for Senator 
Corker.
  Mr. REID. Senator Shelby, 5 minutes?
  Mr. SHELBY. I would like 3 minutes.
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, Senator Corker will be recognized for 5 
minutes, Senator Shelby for 3 minutes. I said a lot of nice things 
about you so that is about the right length of time for the speech. The 
final 5 minutes will be Senator Stabenow. Then we will vote on H.R. 
7005 as soon as their speeches are finished.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Without objection, it is 
so ordered.
  The Senator from Tennessee is recognized.
  Mr. CORKER. Mr. President, I want to express my deep gratitude to 
Chris Dodd for all the work he has done over the last week, to Senator 
Durbin who joined us in meetings, and to all the people who have been 
involved in trying to reach an agreement.
  I do want to say this is a highly technical matter. It involved 
volunteer employed benefit accounts, it involved bonds, it involved all 
kinds of discussions that were technical in nature. We had the United 
Auto Workers representative in the room. We had three companies in 
another room. We were talking to bondholders on the phone. We were 
certainly talking to our colleagues. We are about three words, three 
words away from a deal.

[[Page S10930]]

  What my colleagues wish to see is a date certain when something is 
going to occur. We offered any date in the year 2009, any date.
  Any day. Just when will we actually get there? I think what we have 
offered is incredibly reasonable. I think there is a way for us to get 
there. I still do. There are an awful lot of bright people in this 
room. This is an important issue. We have solved everything 
substantially, and about three words keep us from reaching conclusion 
tonight.
  Again, we offered any date in 2009. We were not able to get a 
definitive day. And I think there is still a way to make this happen. 
By the way, I want to say, if this happens, this is so much better than 
what is before us on the floor.
  These companies are going to be able to go forward with only one-
third of the debt level they now have--one-third. They are going to be 
able to pay half of their VIVA, $21 billion to GM, half of it in stock, 
so it is not cash. Those companies will be stronger than they have been 
in 40 years if we are able to reach this agreement or they will be in 
Chapter 11 because there are date-certain things that have to occur.
  This is a very responsible piece of legislation, and I think people 
on both sides have acted responsibly. But we are three words--maybe 
two, maybe four, somewhere in that range--away from having what I 
believe is a landmark piece of legislation, landmark, historic, that 
would actually allow those companies to go ahead with strength they 
have not had in my lifetime. I regret that, but I thank all of those 
who have been involved.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alabama.
  Mr. SHELBY. Mr. President, I have a few minutes, but first I wish to 
commend my colleague and fellow member of the Banking Committee, 
Senator Corker, for his work in this regard, trying to forge a 
compromise.
  Of course, I think most of you know where I stand on bailouts. I do 
not think they work. I do not believe this one would ever work. But 
these companies could be saved. These companies could be saved. I have 
said I think they are bloated, the management is bloated. These 
companies either have already failed or are failing. That is a shame. 
These are not the General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler I knew. But all of 
us in America will benefit by competition.
  I come from the South, where we have a growing automobile industry, 
but there are 300 million people in this country, the largest 
automobile market in the world. There is no reason for General Motors, 
Ford, and Chrysler not to be competitive, but they are not going to be 
competitive, folks, as long as they are operating under this business 
model. Whether they get money soon or next year or what, it is going to 
be probably a lot of money.
  But I want to tell the American people tonight, bailouts generally do 
not work. And this is a huge proposed bailout. I fear it is just the 
downpayment on more to come next year. So I would vote no on this 
tonight.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.
  Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, first let me say that this is not a 
bailout this evening, this is a bridge loan of $14 billion to stop us 
potentially, if one of the companies goes under, from over $150 billion 
in taxpayer funds that we will be spending, including assuming the 
taxpayers' cost for 775,000 pensions in a bankruptcy that will go into 
the pension guarantee fund. So we are talking about a small bridge loan 
in a global credit crisis where every other country in the world has 
stepped up to help their auto industry because they understand it is 
critical to their national defense, they understand it is critical to 
their economy, and they are trying to create the middle class we have 
had in America. In America, if this goes down tonight, we are saying we 
do not care about the backbone of the economy which has been and will 
continue to be manufacturing. Somebody has to make something in this 
country. We cannot all push paper on Wall Street. Somebody has to make 
something.
  The reality is, this is a tough bill. I wish to thank our leaders, 
Senator Reid for his patience and diligence and leadership, and Senator 
Dodd for his incredible patience, his staff being involved. It placed 
one more crisis on the doorstep of Senator Dodd to have to deal with. I 
appreciate Senator Corker stepping up to try to work this out and 
certainly Senator Voinovich and Senator Bond. Senator Levin and I have 
worked closely with them. But the reality is this: If we walk away this 
evening and do not vote to proceed with this bill, we are saying it is 
okay for a major auto company in America to go bankrupt, for 2.5 
million people in this economy to lose their jobs. Over what? We have a 
tough bill that creates a restructuring mechanism where everybody comes 
to the table to restructure. We give them until March 31. If they are 
not moving in good faith, the $14 billion can be rescinded. If they do 
not have a viable plan by March 31, there is no more assistance.
  Unfortunately, what my Republican colleagues have said is that the 
only way we are going to do this, the only way we are going to do this, 
is the workers have to negotiate first with the Republican Party, with 
the Republicans. As long as the workers were willing to take all of the 
cuts the Republican Party thinks they should before the negotiation, 
they would be willing to step up and save the backbone of manufacturing 
in this country and 2.5 million jobs.
  We have tried everything. We have negotiated with the White House in 
good faith. I appreciate that. They have kept their deal. We have 
negotiated with every party that wanted to come forward, including 
today, all day, focusing with Senator Corker. But the reality is, we 
are in a position where evidently the only thing that matters to the 
majority of those on the other side of the aisle is that workers get 
paid too much in this country--somehow, workers get paid too much in 
this country--and unless we sock it to the workers, they are not 
willing to allow a $14 billion bridge loan to be able to save an 
industry and save an--
  Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, can we have order? I would like us to at 
least give the courtesy of listening to the Senator since we are not 
going to give her the courtesy of the vote.
  Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, there are those who think they can play 
games with this and there are no consequences. This is not, tonight, 
about Democrats and Republicans. It is not about auto executives versus 
workers. This is about the economy of this country. We are in serious 
trouble, ladies and gentlemen. If one of our auto companies goes down, 
we are going to pick up the paper and begin to see the suppliers of 
this country go down. And they supply not only the folks in my State, 
they supply Toyota, Nissan, and Honda. They supply the Army. The same 
folks who make the axles for the trucks that our brave men and women 
are driving in Iraq and Afghanistan today make the axles put on our 
trucks and our cars.
  The reality is, our national defense and our economy and the middle 
class of this country are hanging in the balance by this vote. Shame on 
us if we walk away cavalierly thinking that we can do this another 
time. Now is the time. People are watching, not just in Michigan but 
all across the country, businesses large and small, families in their 
homes, retirees who have done nothing but work hard their whole lives 
and now want to know their pensions or their health care, as part of 
something they worked for all of their lives, is protected. This is 
about whether we are going to make a commitment to the middle class and 
a commitment to American manufacturing. You cannot walk away from the 
American auto industry and not affect every part of manufacturing in 
this country.
  It is not too late. I know we assume the votes are not there, but the 
votes can be there. There are enough votes in this room. There are 
enough votes in this room to give them the chance, just the chance to 
restructure. And if folks do not believe in the end that what they have 
come up with, 3 months from now, is good enough, then that is it. But 
don't 2.5 million people and the major auto presence and manufacturing 
in this country deserve 3 months, 3 months of time to be able to 
restructure, for advanced manufacturing in the future? If we do not do 
that, we are going to change our dependence on foreign oil for a 
dependence on foreign automobiles. We will be asking other countries to 
send us their tanks, send us their automobiles, send us their trucks 
for our defense. That

[[Page S10931]]

makes no sense. People of good will know better.
  I would ask my colleagues to join with us in voting for the future 
and the economy of this country.

                          ____________________