Senate Republicans kill auto bill, lose Rust Belt for generation


by Jeff Fecke • Evidently the Republican Party likes being a Southern regional party. Because they wouldn’t be doing this if they ever hoped to win Michigan, Ohio, or Pennsylvania ever again.

The Senate on Thursday night abandoned efforts to fashion a government rescue of the American automobile industry, as Senate Republicans refused to support a bill endorsed by the White House and Congressional Democrats.

The failure to reach agreement on Capitol Hill raised a specter of financial collapse for General Motors and Chrysler, which say they may not be able to survive through this month.

Jeff Fecke is a freelance writer who lives in Eagan, Minnesota.In addition to his own blog, Blog of the Moderate Left, he also contributes to Alas, a Blog, Minnesota Campaign Report, and AlterNet. Fecke has appeared as a guest on the “Today” show, the Alan Colmes radio show, and the Mark Heaney Show. Fecke is divorced, and the father of one really terrific daughter. His debut novel, The Valkyrie’s Tale, will available for sale in September.

What was the sticking point? Well, Democrats and the White House had hoped to give employees until 2011 to accept severe cuts in wages and benefits — cuts the UAW had agreed to. Senate Republicans said no, we want those cuts now:

After Senate Republicans balked at supporting a $14 billion auto rescue plan approved by the House on Wednesday, negotiators worked late into Thursday evening to broker a deal, but deadlocked over Republican demands for steep cuts in pay and benefits by the United Automobile Workers union in 2009.

Now, I may have missed it, but back when we passed the financial bailout, do you remember Republicans hand-wringing about how we had to ensure that the companies significantly cut white collar com
pensation at those banks?

Come to think of it, do you see anything here suggesting that the GOP is interested in cutting white collar salaries at GM, Chrysler, or Ford?

Of course not. The GOP saw this as a golden opportunity to screw over unions and blue collar workers, and as such, they’re managing to screw everyone over. If there’s good news, it’s that — and I can’t believe I’m typing these words — the Bush Administration is a good deal more sane than the Senate Republicans:

The proposal to loan $14 billion to Detroit’s struggling automakers collapsed late Thursday night but the Big Three may get some money anyway.

Bush officials warned wavering GOP senators that if they didn’t support the legislation, the White House will likely be forced to tap the Wall Street bailout to lend them money, two Republican congressional officials told CNN earlier.

Of course, that would be money given to the automakers with no strings attached.

So heckuva job, GOP. In one vote, you managed to alienate blue collar workers, damage the economy, and ultimately create a situation in which you get a worse deal for your side than you otherwise would have by being adults. That’s the sort of leadership we’ve come to expect from you.

(Incidentally, if you’re wondering if Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., is going to be a bipartisan, work-across-the-aisle, get-things-done kind of guy or a jerk who puts party over the good of America, the answer is as obvious as it is unsurprising.

Originally published December 12, 2008