- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

UPDATED:

Top congressional Democrats conceded Thursday they lacked the votes to pass a $25 billion bailout for the U.S. auto industry and said they would try again in December.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada demanded that the nation’s Big Three automakers submit a detailed plan by Dec. 2 on how much taxpayer money they would need and how they would use the funds before Congress would even consider a rescue package.

“Until they show us a plan, we cannot show them the money,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters.

Mr. Reid said Congress was “kicking the can down the road” because the heads of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC had failed to sway lawmakers during two long days of testimony before House and Senate panels this week.

“We do not have the votes” to pass an aid bill now, Mr. Reid said. “What happened in Washington this week was not good for the auto industry.”

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The decision to delay a vote short-circuited a last-minute effort by senators from Michigan and other Midwestern states to broker a compromise to help the beleaguered industry before the lame-duck session of Congress recesses at the end of the week.

Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi said that the auto companies would have to submit a detailed plan including “accountability and viability” for the industry if federal aid is to be given.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, and Senate banking panel Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, would first examine the plan in early December, with the full House and Senate prepared to return once more to Washington the week of Dec. 8 if necessary.

Detroit’s Big Three have made a concerted plea for help, saying their restructuring efforts have been undercut by the global financial crisis.

Within hours of Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi’s news conference, GM, Ford and Chrysler all had promised in public statements to give the Democratic lawmakers the blueprint they seek.

But many on Capitol Hill argue the companies themselves are at least partly to blame, the victims of their own management, marketing and engineering mistakes over the years. The revelation that the three top auto executives flew to Washington on corporate jets did not help their cause.

Mr. Reid, Mrs. Pelosi and others say the Bush administration already has the authority to tap the $700 billion Wall Street rescue package Congress approved last month to help the struggling car companies.

President Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. oppose that approach, saying the bailout money is still needed to prop up the fragile U.S. credit markets.

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