Good news: last night, the auto industry bailout was passed by the House of Representatives 237-170.
Bad news: some Republicans in the Senate are likely to filibuster the legislation.
Look, it’s not great that we need this bailout. But this is an entire American industry we’re talking about, an industry that millions of people rely on to pay for their homes and to keep food on their families’ tables.
None of this money is going to be given away–the funds involved in the bailout are loans that the auto companies are going to have to pay back. Plus, in order to even get the money the auto industry is going to have to follow guidelines that will help steer them back toward long-term viability.
While some Republicans are advocating chapter 11 bankruptcy, it’s a terrible option for auto industry workers. Chapter 11 would allow automakers to void their union contracts and discard their pension obligations. If they go into bankruptcy, automakers would be forced to cut employee pay and benefits, including pension obligations, effectively pulling the rug out from under thousands of retirees nationwide.
Of course, Republican opposition to the bailout isn’t surprising–leave it to the GOP to wreck the economy and then stand in the way of Democrats cleaning up their mess.
And, of course, there’s a big reason Republicans are lining up to kill the bailout–cash.
Alabama’s Richard Shelby has been one of the leading opponents of the auto bailout. But what Shelby won’t tell you is that Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota all have manufacturing plants in Alabama.
Tennessee’s Bob Corker is also one of the biggest opponents of the bailout–in fact, he’s been tasked with writing alternate legislation. Incidentally, Tennessee is home to both Toyota and Nissan manufacturing facilities [UPDATE: Volkswagen is also building a plant in Chattanooga, slated to open in 2011.]
In other words, some of the biggest Republicans opposing the rescue of the American auto industry have a vested interest in seeing American automakers fail.
Everything these Roadblock Republicans do to stop the bailout should be viewed with suspicion. These guys aren’t on the side of American workers–they’re on the side of foreign auto manufacturers. The Republicans are willing to sell out millions of Americans in exchange for big fat campaign contributions from Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz.
Meanwhile, Democrats are being responsible and are fighting to save millions of American workers and retirees. And fortunately for them–after January 20th–being responsible and doing the right thing for America’s middle class will get a lot easier.
UPDATE: And I’m not defending the stupid business practices of American auto companies. They’ve made a lot of mistakes, everything from opposing better fuel efficiency and mileage standards to continuing failed product lines and, most reprehensibly, outsourcing jobs overseas.
But the bailout is necessary–allowing the big three to go bankrupt would further damage our already-devastated economy. And, like I said, millions of Americans–who had nothing to do with the poor business decisions of these companies–rely on automakers for their livelihoods.
I see the bailout as an opportunity for the federal government to step in and guide the big three back toward better business practices. This is a chance to reform an entire industry in a way that will benefit current and future workers.
And, of course, I’m disgusted at the Republicans for their duplicity–they’re pretending to oppose the bailout on principle, when in reality it’s just about sucking up to potential campaign contributors.
UPDATE II: South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint is also pledging to oppose the bailout.
And where is BMW’s American manufacturing operation located?
UPDATE III: Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is another Republican standing in the way of the bailout.
And who moved into Oklahoma in 2006?
Brien Thorstenberg of the Ardmore, Okla., Chamber of Commerce says he plans to be among the first to buy one of the reborn MG Coupes about to be built in his hometown.
The Chamber’s development authority won the checkered flag by convincing China’s Nanjing Automobile Group to build the fabled MG sports car at southern Oklahoma’s Ardmore Airpark. It will be the first Chinese automotive plant in the United States.
To lure Nanjing, Oklahoma offered incentives, including spending $15 million on the Ardmore Airpark to allow it to land the 747 cargo planes needed to fly in large car parts. The airpark will become a foreign trade zone.
Nanjing knows it will pay a premium to build cars outside its home country. It is going to locate its global headquarters in Oklahoma City. A new research facility will be located in Norman at the University of Oklahoma, and the company expects to soon break ground on the assembly line in Ardmore.
This is somewhat like shooting fish in a barrel.
UPDATE IV: What Digby said:
But let’s be clear what’s going on here. A bunch of Southern-state Republicans (including, amazingly, Diaper Dandy David Vitter), from right-to-work states, want to push GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy to bolster the foreign auto presence in their home states. Kentucky has a Ford factory but they also have a Toyota plant in Georgetown, so [Minority Leader Sen. Mitch] McConnell’s on board.