(Senate - December 12, 2008)

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[Page S10970]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                       AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY CRISIS

 Mr. WYDEN. Yesterday, when I heard the majority leader was 
going to call a cloture vote, I changed my schedule and hurriedly 
returned to Washington, DC, from Oregon, where I had been working on 
the Oregon Business Plan at the Oregon Business Summit in Portland. I 
was on an airplane, about an hour away from the Capitol, when the 
Senate Leader called the vote, and I missed the cloture vote on the $14 
billion loan package for the U.S. automobile industry. It is my 
understanding that if my vote could have possibly made the difference, 
the Leader would have waited for my plane to arrive, but I want it to 
be noted that it was my intention to vote for cloture. While I continue 
to have concerns about ensuring that taxpayers are protected if this 
loan is to occur, I believe that if the President can unwisely provide 
$700 billion of taxpayer money for the investment banks that took 
horribly unacceptable risks and helped trigger an economic collapse, we 
certainly have a duty to attempt to preserve a cornerstone domestic 
industry and the jobs of hundreds of thousands of working people whose 
personal actions are in no way responsible for the current economic 
 Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I am extremely disappointed that the 
Senate was not able to pass legislation to make bridge loan funding 
available to our country's automotive industry--not because I condone 
the behavior of these companies in recent years which brought them to 
the brink but because I believe allowing their failure at a time of 
great economic uncertainty could deal a serious blow to our national 
  The domestic automotive industry represents almost four percent of 
our Nation's gross domestic product and ten percent of our industrial 
production by value. One out of every 10 U.S. jobs is impacted by the 
U.S. automotive industry. GM, Ford and Chrysler account for roughly 65 
percent of U.S. auto production and support millions of jobs across all 
50 States. The Center for Automotive Research recently reported that in 
Massachusetts alone, the automobile industry accounts for more than 
28,000 jobs and $256 million in wages. The bridge loans that would have 
been made available through this legislation would have gone to protect 
not only the jobs dependent on this industry but the American economy 
as a whole, which is suffering from a widespread liquidity crisis that 
extends well beyond the vital automotive sector.
  I believe this critical moment presents an opportunity for the 
Federal Government and the automobile manufacturers to transform an 
industry that has long resisted the changes that are so clearly 
necessary for their continued global competitiveness. The assistance 
provided in the bill was conditioned upon a commitment by the industry 
to use this money wisely to become more efficient market participants. 
The legislation included important provisions that would help ensure 
American taxpayers that this assistance is not used as a line of credit 
simply to continue business as usual. The legislation also included 
important safeguards to limit executive compensation to ensure that 
taxpayer funds are not wasted.
  I was absent for the vote that occurred Thursday evening because--as 
the incoming Foreign Relations Committee Chairman--I was representing 
the Senate at ongoing international climate change negotiations being 
held in Poznan, Poland. But I was prepared to return from Poland at a 
moment's notice had we reached a bipartisan agreement or were my vote 
needed to pass cloture and break a logjam. Instead, thanks to 
obstruction by the minority, the 110th Congress has come to a close, 
and the automobile industry teeters on the brink of collapse. In the 
absence of Congressional action, I urge the President to tap the 
Troubled Assets Relief Program so that American automakers can access 
sufficient capital to survive in the short-term. I remain hopeful that 
the 111th Congress will be a Congress of real economic progress and 
will work to ensure that the American automobile industry remains 
globally competitive in the long-term.