Friday, November 14, 2008

Dodd: Dems Can't Pass Auto Bailout This Year

Given the increasingly dire economic news that seems to have come out on an hourly basis this past week, I thought for sure that Congress would come up with a way to get $25B to the automakers to keep millions of Americans employed and the country's manufacturing base, or what's left of it anyway, at least somewhat intact. After $700B to Wall Street, $25B looks like a small price to pay, right? Right?

Well, Chris Dodd decided to blow all my happy thoughts right out of the water tonight.

An architect of the original bailout bill said Thursday Democrats lack the votes to pass bill giving auto companies a piece of the $700 billion bailout pie next week.

"I want to help them if we can, but I'm not going to give anyone a blank check, so we're going to try and do something if we can next week. I don't think the votes are there. Candidly, I don't think we have the votes to get that done. With no big change between now and next Wednesday, I'm skeptical," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who chairs the Senate Banking Committee.

Uh oh. Republican cooperation is key, and as of today, that is starting to look less likely.

But, Republicans Thursday indicated they will be less willing to sign a big new check for Detroit than they were to prop up the financial industry earlier this year.

"People up here don't get it," fumed one Senior Republican Thursday. "Bailouts are less popular than Congress."

Besides "being popular", Republicans still are overly focused on the unions. Although the UAW has renegotiated contracts and the automakers have cut over 40% of their workforce in the past three years alone (an astonishing figure), one starts to wonder if the Republicans are looking for a way to bust the UAW once and for all. Knowing that the specter of the over-paid union worker is still out there, they conveniently deny that the Bush recession/credit crunch has pushed the automakers to this critical point and keep trying to play pin-the-blame-somewhere-other-than-the-Bush-legacy.

And there remain questions whether Republicans still stinging from Election Day defeats and the public outcry against the earlier bailout bill could doom this one. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said the domestic automakers' problems are "not the product of our current economic downturn" but "the legacy of the uncompetitive structure of its manufacturing and labor force."

So, we will just push the country into that Depression that the free-market crowd is clamoring for, "eliminating up to 3 million jobs and depriving governments of more than $150 billion in tax revenue". Amongst other assorted really scary economic figures. I hate to sound so incredibly cynical, but that sure would tie the hands of a brand-new president quite nicely, wouldn't it?

Barney Frank always soothes my shattered nerves.

But Frank said Democrats are betting that Republicans will not want to be responsible for the collapse of the auto industry.

If Congress passes a bill, Frank said of the White House, "we don't think they'll kick it back".

Sure hope he is right, and I sure hope they get something passed next week. Put some reasonable conditions on there, and let's get this done, or we can remind everyone in 2010 just who was responsible for the collapse of the US economy.

I'm guessing America will remember anyway.