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Lebanon Daily News - Holden Softens Bailout Stance

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Location: Washington, DC

Lebanon Daily News - Holden Softens Bailout Stance

When Congress passed a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry in October, Congressman Tim Holden was in the minority voting against it.

Now, he has reservations about giving the nation's big three automakers $25 billion to help them avoid bankruptcy -- but he is beginning to waiver.

Yesterday, in what has become a Thanksgiving tradition, Holden shared his thoughts on issues during a luncheon at the Lebanon Quality Inn with about 100 community and business leaders, who are members of local service organizations, including Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary and Sertoma clubs.

"The initial response by myself, and I think a lot of members of Congress, was wait a minute, you've caused your own problems," Holden said. "But I'm starting to hear from a lot of other segments of the economy. I'm starting to hear from car dealers. I'm starting to hear from auto-parts suppliers about the trickle-down effect. We really need to look at the big picture. This, as opposed to what was perceived as a Wall Street problem, this really is going to hit Main Street if we are not careful."

Holden said he was not impressed by the performances of Ford, General Motors and Chryslers CEOs when they testified on Capitol Hill last week.

"I think that Congress, before it does anything to benefit the auto industry, is going to have to see a plan that is credible as well as an opportunity to pay it back," he said. "But I gotta tell you, they don't help their credibility when they fly (into Washington) in their own corporate jets. It was just unbelievable -- the arrogance of it."

Holden also spoke at length about President-elect Barack Obama's call this week for an economic stimulus package that would make $500 billion available for infrastructure projects and create an estimated 2.5 million jobs.

As a member of the House Transportation Committee, Holden said he has directed millions of dollars for highway projects in Lebanon County, and he supports Obama's idea even though it will increase the country's growing deficit.

"When we are in these dire times, and people are so concerned about the future -- I think when all the experts are saying we need to make the investment, I think that we need to do that," he said.

Holden also discussed energy. As vice chairman of the Agricultural Committee, Holden noted that the recent farm bill makes $1.2 billion of loan guarantees available for cellulosic-ethanol research.

But that is just one piece of an energy puzzle, he said. Coal is another.

"As a proud son of the coal region, we need to take advantage of our 250-year-plus supply of coal that we have," he said. "The technology to convert waste coal and raw coal into fuel is not new. Some people in the environmental community go crazy when they hear the word coal. But you can't tell me -- if we can put a man on the moon eight years after John F. Kennedy said we were going to do it -- you can't tell me that American ingenuity cannot sequester carbon. We can do it, and we need to make the investment in that."

Holden added that domestic drilling for oil is another aspect of the total energy equation but not a long-term answer.

Referring to a 1995 oil-industry memo that recommended decreasing refining capacity to boost profits, Holden warned not to expect oil companies to always be working in the country's best energy interests.

"You really have to think twice about trusting the oil companies to be true partners in this," he said. "You don't have to be a graduate of the Wharton School to figure out what was really on their mind -- it's making the most money they can for their stockholders."

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