A bailout-weary Congress killed a $14 billion package to aid struggling U.S. automakers Thursday night after a partisan dispute over union wage cuts derailed a last-ditch effort to revive the emergency aid before year’s end.
Republicans, breaking sharply withas his term draws to a close, refused to back federal aid for Detroit’s beleaguered Big Three without a guarantee that the would agree by the end of next year to wage cuts to bring their pay into line with Japanese carmakers. The UAW refused to do so before its current contract with the automakers expires in 2011.
The breakdown left the fate of the auto industry — and the 3 million jobs it touches — in limbo at a time of growing economic turmoil. General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC have said they could be weeks from collapse. Ford Motor Co. says it does not need federal help now, but its survival is far from certain.
Democratic leaders called on Bush to immediately tap the $700 billion Wall Street bailout fund for emergency aid to the auto industry.
By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and KEN THOMAS, Associated Press Writer
, D-Nev., called the bill’s collapse “a loss for the country,” adding: “I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow. It’s not going to be a pleasant sight.”
GM said in a statement it was “deeply disappointed” that the bipartisan agreement faltered. “We will assess all of our options to continue our restructuring and to obtain the means to weather the current economic crisis,” the company said. Chrysler, too, said it “will continue to pursue a workable solution to help ensure the future viability of the company.”
The White House said it was evaluating its options in light of the breakdown on Capitol Hill.
GM, Chrysler Could Collapse
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.
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.
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