Bailout Package Heads to House Floor

Posted December 10, 2008 at 12:04pm

Congressional leaders are charging ahead with a $15 billion auto industry bailout despite vows by Senate Republicans to hold up the package when it surfaces in their chamber.

The House Rules Committee is meeting this afternoon to pass a rule for the bailout, and a senior Democratic aide said the House will “probably” take up the package today.

In the meantime, the White House is stepping up its efforts to win over Senate GOP support for the proposal.

Administration officials said White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten will address the Senate Republican Conference on Wednesday afternoon to try to build support for the package. Additionally, President George W. Bush may personally reach out to individual Republicans over the next couple of days to urge their support.

“I expect you’ll see the president talk to various Members as he thinks it’s necessary or the staff advises him,” White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joel Kaplan said. “This is an important measure, and we’re going to try to get it passed.”

The legislation would empower a car czar appointed by the president with the ability to oversee any major actions by the automakers and force changes, but the bill lays out few specific sacrifices that would be required of the various stakeholders beyond a prohibition on bonuses for executives and dividends for shareholders.

The czar would have effective veto authority over any expenditure of $100 million or more — a provision Democrats insisted on to help prevent bailout money being used to subsidize the shipping of jobs overseas.

The government also would get warrants for a 20 percent equity stake in the companies in addition to preferred stock paying a 5 percent dividend.

Democrats gave up efforts to prohibit the companies from continuing to sue states over emissions standards after the White House objected, and the companies won an antitrust exemption so they could coordinate their restructuring efforts.

Earlier Wednesday, House GOP leaders proposed their own alternative package focused on “firm benchmarks” and “a tight timeline” for restructuring the flailing auto manufacturers.

Kaplan said he hasn’t seen their proposal and would be wiling to look at it. But the reality is that Democratic leaders “have an intention of moving this product we’ve been negotiating to the floor,” he said.

Separately, a group of conservative Senate Republican opponents also held a press conference urging legislation that would force a restructuring along the lines of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan.