Democrats back down from bail-out for automakers

November 14th, 2008 - 7:20 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Nov 14 (DPA) Democratic leaders in Congress said Thursday they do not expect to pass an immediate bail-out for the struggling US auto industry, citing opposition from Republican legislators.Christopher Dodd, a Democratic senator from Connecticut who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, said his party did not have the support for legislation to help the nation’s three largest automakers, which are struggling to remain afloat amid a sharp downturn in car sales.

“I want to be careful about bringing up a proposition that might fail,” Dodd told reporters at the US Capitol, adding that they were likely to try again after president-elect Barack Obama takes office on Jan 20.

Democrats have been pushing for a $25-billion rescue and have suggested the money be taken out of the $700-billion bail- out package approved last month to address the financial crisis.

Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson made clear the administration would not support such a move.

Obama last week called the auto industry the “backbone of American manufacturing” and signalled his intentions to help the Detroit-based automakers under his presidency.

President George W Bush’s administration has been in talks for the last month with the so-called “Big Three” of General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC. But the White House and congressional Republicans have been sceptical about bailing out firms not specifically linked to the financial crisis.

“The financial straits that the Big Three find themselves (in) is not the product of our current economic downturn, but instead is the legacy of the uncompetitive structure of its manufacturing and labour force,” said Senator Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Banking Committee.

“The financial situation facing the Big Three is not a national problem, but their problem,” Shelby said.

General Motors and Ford both reported massive quarterly losses last week as consumers struggled to gain access to car loans, part of the fallout from the financial crisis. GM warned it may not have enough capital to continue operations through the end of the year.

Congress is expected to reconvene for an emergency session next week, a rarity between Nov 4 general elections and the inauguration of the next president and Congress on Jan 20. Democrats currently hold only a slim majority in Congress but won a number of extra seats in November’s election.

Democratic leaders are also pushing for a second fiscal stimulus package as part of an effort to revive the sagging US economy, but negotiations with the Republican opposition have also stalled.

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