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MSNBC "Interview With Senator Debbie Stabenow" - Transcript

Interview

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (From video.): Chrysler moved too slowly to adapt to the future, designing and building cars that were less popular, less reliable and less fuel-efficient than foreign competitors. We simply cannot keep this company or any company afloat on an endless supply of tax dollars.

MS. O'DONNELL: Senator Debbie Stabenow is a Democrat from Michigan, and Senator, you know, I was reading today that this is the first automaker to file for bankruptcy since Studebaker in 1933. Studebaker isn't around anymore. What gives you confidence that Chrysler is going to be around after this bankruptcy?

SEN. STABENOW: Well, Norah, obviously, bankruptcy is not my first choice or the choice of people in Michigan, but given the way the auto task force has worked so diligently to bring people to the table, that workers have given so much in management and the large investment banks, we basically have a holdout of three hedge funds as the predominate reason that this bankruptcy happened, and I'm not too happy about that. But the reality is that the way they structured this -- I'm confident Chrysler will come out the other side.

Pensions and health care, I should say also, are protected in this process and they've given money to help them get through this.

MS. O'DONNELL: I was reading online, for instance, The New York Times.com has a great question and answer about what this bankruptcy means.

SEN. STABENOW: Right.

MS. O'DONNELL: There was a specific question: Are pensions and retiree health care benefits protected for these Chrysler employees? And according to The New York Times, companies have the right under bankruptcy law to ask to terminate their pension plans.

So isn't it true that people in your state could lose part of their pensions?

SEN. STABENOW: Well, obviously, that's a major priority for me and has been all along. The good news about retiree health care is there's an agreement with the company for the UAW to assume retiree health care through something called AVEVA, a voluntary employee arrangement and so that is done. So the health care is within that context.

In theory, when you're going through bankruptcy, a judge could do anything, but we are told, there is a strong commitment by everyone to keep the pensions intact and that's absolutely critical as a part of this, it's also critical that those who caused this problem by not being willing to come to the table, being more willing to bet on bankruptcy to make some money through credit default swaps, that they don't sue and keep Chrysler in bankruptcy longer than they should be.

We want them to come in and out within a couple of months and have a partnership with Fiat and go on to employ some terrific people, making terrific cars.

MS. O'DONNELL: Senator, we learned today, of course, that Bob Nardelli who is the CEO is going to step down as a result of this. Do you have any personal assurances that he won't receive a huge compensation package given all these billions of dollars of taxpayer money that have gone to Chrysler?

SEN. STABENOW: Well, I have not specifically asked that question.

MS. O'DONNELL: Don't you think it's a good question?

SEN. STABENOW: I think it's a good question. I know he's been working for $1 a year after having taken public dollars, and certainly, the board and everyone should be mindful of that because that's certainly not something we'd want to have happened.

MS. O'DONNELL: Well, Senator, I know it's tough for your state, now, unemployment at 12.6 percent --

SEN. STABENOW: Right.

MS. O'DONNELL: About four points higher than the national average. You're great to join us. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

SEN. STABENOW: You're welcome.


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