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Newsday - Auto Execs Told Be Specific, Request Too Vague

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Location: Washington, DC

Newsday - Auto Execs Told Be Specific, Request Too Vague

Auto executives couldn't squelch skepticism over a $34-billion federal bailout Friday, with three House Financial Services Committee members from Long Island criticizing the Big Three for their vague answers to pressing questions about how the deal would work.

But with two of Detroit's Big Three on the brink of bankruptcy, Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights) and Peter King (R-Seaford) said they support giving Ford, General Motors and Chrysler enough money to survive the year. Meanwhile Congress would determine the formal guidelines for massive restructuring efforts within the companies.

"There's no doubt this is a crisis. There's no doubt this has a severe impact on the economy," King said during the hearing. "The concern that I have is not whether we should do something, but do we know what we're doing? Do we know exactly what it's going to achieve?"

The three lawmakers said they are unsure that the $34-billion package would ensure long-term financial success for the struggling automakers after hearing testimony Friday from their executives.

The Long Island lawmakers did, however, signal support for a proposal by Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) that would give the auto companies enough money to survive until March.

At this point, Congress has two very stark choices - give the companies money or let them fail, Ackerman said.

"They've come to us very late in the game, and they're drowning," he said. "If you don't rush out and save them, they're dead in the water."

Congress came under fire earlier this year from critics who said they rushed to pass a $700-billion bailout package for struggling financial institutions and failed to put strong enough guidelines on how the money could be used, Ackerman said.

The only way to garner public support for the Big Three is to explain - in specific dollar amounts - the economic impact of letting them fail, McCarthy said.

"The American people don't understand the words you're using," McCarthy said at Friday's hearing. "You've got to learn how to speak to the American people."

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