Senator Bond is joining with senators from other auto-producing states to propose an alternative financial rescue plan for the Big Three automakers.
With efforts to move a $25 billion aid package for automakers stalled, both Democratic and Republican senators from states heavily vested in the auto industry stepped forward to offer an alternative. Their proposal would allow General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to tap the money already allocated to help them re-tool to produce environmentally-friendly cars and trucks.
Senator Bond said the alternative shows promise.
“Right now hundreds of thousands of Missouri workers and millions of American workers are threatened with the loss of their jobs,” Bond told a news conference held in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) held the news conference, flanked by Bond and several other senators, including fellow Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, also a Democrat. Both senators from Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), attended.
Initially, senators had sought to carve out a $25 billion chunk from the $700 billion financial rescue package Congress approved earlier to help thaw frozen financial markets. Those talks broke down and Senate leaders declared they didn’t have the votes to pass it.
That led the senators from auto-manufacturing states to propose the alternative. Congress earlier had approved money to help domestic brands switch to fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles. Bond said the compromise would allow the three manufacturers to use that money as a bridge loan to make it through the current difficult economic times.
The proposal caught the attention of the White House.
“The president has insisted that help for the auto industry be contingent on the industry making the changes needed to be viable,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement this afternoon. “We are pleased the Democratic leadership now agrees that is necessary.”
“The bipartisan Bond-Levin compromise meets that test. Their plan provides assistance from already-appropriated funds, and has strong taxpayer protections,” Perino added. “While we need to review the language, this is an agreement the president could support. We encourage the Congress to pass it as soon as possible.”
Under a provision in the plan, automakers would have to present plans for long-term viability when they apply for the loans. Other requirements would be made.
“There are a lot of steps the auto industry is going to have to take,” said Bond, “One would suggests selling corporate jets might be one.”
Bond made reference to one of the more controversial stories in Washington; the fact that the three chief executives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler flew to Washington by company jet. Many lawmakers took great pains to point out that fact during testimony the three gave before Senate and House committees.
The senators had pushed to vote on the compromise proposal immediately. Senate leaders have delayed any vote until early next month. Another obstacle must be cleared. House leadership has been strongly opposed to using the money set aside to turn Detroit green for anything other than that sole purpose.