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Public Statements

The Automobile Industry

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SPECTER. Madam President, I have sought recognition to comment on the cloture vote and to give my reasons for voting in support of cloture. Before I do, however, I wish to comment about where the responsibility lies for failure to invoke cloture to move this bill forward, and my hope that we would avoid fingerpointing and trying to assess blame, each on the other side, as has become the pattern in this body during the course of the last 2 years of the 110th Congress and beyond.

The Senator from Illinois said there were not sufficient votes on the Republican side of the aisle. Well, there were sufficient votes on the Republican side of the aisle, had they been joined with sufficient votes on the Democratic side of the aisle. There were 10 Republican Senators who voted to invoke cloture: Senator Bond, Senator Brownback, Senator Collins, Senator Lugar, Senator Voinovich, Senator Warner, Senator Dole, Senator Domenici, Senator Snowe, and myself.

There are 51 Senators on the other side of the aisle. Had those 51 Senators--or 50 of them joined with the 10 Republican Senators, cloture would have been invoked. But it would be my hope that we would leave this evening without partisan blame and still seek some way to get the kind of economic assistance that would enable the Big Three to continue to operate.

The issue that we face has enormous potential adverse economic consequences. I will read from a portion of a statement I had prepared in a little different direction, but this portion of the statement I had prepared specifies the scope of the economic problem, which is potentially present if the three big automobile manufacturers do not stay in business.

A failure of the automakers could have a cataclysmic impact on the broader economy. The Big Three employ 240,000 workers directly and, more broadly, the U.S. auto industry represents almost 4 percent of the gross domestic product and impacts 1 out of every 10 U.S. jobs in some form, directly or indirectly. These jobs are at part suppliers, dealerships, banks, and many other lines.

According to the Center for Automotive Research, 3 million jobs would be lost if the Big Three were to fail. They estimated that the Government could stand to lose up to $156 billion over 3 years in terms of reductions in Social Security receipts, personal income taxes paid, and an increase in transfer payments.

According to the Anderson Economic Group, if at least two of the three were to file for bankruptcy, it would cost the taxpayers up to four times the amount of the proposed bridge loans in the form of lost income and tax revenue resulting from the massive employment losses. They estimate that more than 1.8 million auto-related jobs would be lost in the first year, and there would be nearly $70 billion less in Federal and State tax revenue over a 2-year period. Credit and related markets would be further disrupted, more U.S. manufacturing would move overseas, and foreign automakers would gain an even greater advantage.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, a bankruptcy of one or more of the Big Three would result in losses of up to 3.3 million jobs. The U.S. trade deficit could rise by at least $110 billion per year as imported vehicles displace domestic brands, increasing the trade deficit by 16 percent and putting additional downward pressure on the U.S. dollar and living standards. An increase in Government payments and tax losses alone would exceed $150 billion in the first 3 years following bankruptcy.

I recite that in some detail to articulate the scope of the potential devastating impact if the three major auto manufacturers in the United States are unsuccessful. In voting to invoke cloture, I think it should be understood that I was not voting in favor of the House bill. I think the House bill needed vast improvement. But had we taken up the bill, that would have given us an opportunity to offer amendments, to debate, and to function as the world's greatest deliberative body. The House bill, in my judgment, didn't give sufficient authority to the so-called car czar. The House bill added to it, beyond what was agreed to by the Democrats in the Senate and the White House, a provision which would have terminated the litigation brought by the automotive industry against the State of California on the issue of toxic emissions.

I do not know who would have prevailed in that suit, but I think there ought not to be congressional action to get off that litigation. That is a matter for the courts. Under our well-established doctrine of separation of powers, that should have been in the bill. At any rate, had the Senate taken up the bill, which is what the cloture motion meant--people may be watching on C-SPAN 2 and don't understand all of the arcane Senate talk, but a cloture motion is a motion to cut off debate on a motion to proceed. It simply means that the Senate will proceed to consider the issue as formulated in the House bill, as formulated in the vehicle laid down by the majority leader, and then the Senate has the opportunity to offer amendments and to debate.

We have been in session, as the distinguished Presiding Officer knows, since 3 o'clock on Monday. We were here a good part of Monday, all day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, and it is now 11:36 p.m. eastern time on Thursday. The first time we came to the floor to have a discussion on this matter was a short time ago. The deliberations were carried on behind closed doors. Well, deliberations ought to be carried on behind closed doors to try to work through and find compromises and have free-wheeling discussion. But it would be appropriate, it seems to me, for the Senate to come to the floor and talk about what has been decided. The discussion started on the Senate floor a little after 9 o'clock and came to a conclusion a little more than an hour later. At 10:45, we had the motion to invoke cloture--that is, to cut off debate.

We pride ourselves in the Senate as being the world's greatest deliberative body. Well, why not deliberate--deliberate in public? There is nobody in the galleries at the present time, but why not deliberate in public? We are now carried on C-SPAN 2, on television across the country, and across the world perhaps. So people can see what we are doing, and they can see what the considerations are.

The Senator from Illinois made a statement that it was required under the proposal of the Republicans to have the concessions made on wages within a little more than 90 days in March. The Senator from Tennessee, who has been applauded in this body for the outstanding work he has done, said any time during the year 2009. Well, had the two Senators been on the floor and been discussing the matter, perhaps we would know exactly what went on behind those closed doors, what the arrangement was.

I compliment my colleagues for the hard work that went into the efforts to try to reach a compromise. They did work hard. But it seems to me that we all ought to be working harder. We have more time. As the Senator from Tennessee outlined the situation, we were very close, as he put it, with three words separating the parties. Perhaps if we debated the issue, somebody would have changed a position a little. Senator Corker was correct that there didn't need to be a very big change. Also, when you make the arguments in public, you are under a little more scrutiny than making them in a back room behind closed doors where very few people can hear what you are saying, a few people can evaluate what you are saying, and there is little room for criticism, as opposed to making it on the floor of the Senate where everybody can see and hear what you are doing and you have to stand behind what you are doing. Or perhaps the parties who could not come to an agreement by tomorrow morning overnight would change their positions.

It seems to me that there would be nothing to be lost by invoking cloture and by debating the matter further and by seeing if we can't come to some compromise and some adjustment. There is simply too much involved as the facts that I have cited earlier in this brief statement reflect on the potential economic destruction and losses.

I concur with the Senator from Illinois about the hardship on the workers and the loss of salary and the loss of opportunity to support their families and pay tuition and monthly payments on the mortgage, et cetera, et cetera. No doubt about that. It is my view that we have a duty to go beyond the cloture vote and to take up the matter. I have not given up hope that something may yet be done. The President had backed--and I think still would--the bill that was submitted for consideration--the House bill--absent the issue with respect to the litigation, and perhaps there will be a way yet to find these bridge loans. Certainly, the amount of money involved, while not unsubstantial, is not

enormous compared to the other bailouts that have occurred, compared to the total amount which the Congress authorized--the $700 billion figure. In supporting the legislation which Senators Levin, Stabenow, Bond, Voinovich, Brown, and I had proposed back on November 20, that was an effort to try to have some deliberation. I was not committed to that bill.

I am certainly not committed to any of the proposals that have yet been offered. But it would have been my hope that in the course of the debate and discussion, and an opportunity by others and myself to offer amendments, that we could have worked the will of the Senate to find our way through to move ahead on a short-term basis, a plan could be constructed that was realistically calculated to succeed.

I am not in favor of throwing good money after bad. I believe philosophically as a matter of public policy that the Government ought not to pick winners and losers. That ought to be the decision of the market. The Government ought to intervene on economic aid or bailout only where the consequences are potentially so disastrous that they would deviate from that principle.

As we conclude this situation, I think this Senate could have done considerably better. I know many of us will continue to work with the administration and with the parties involved.

I convened on December 2 a meeting in Philadelphia with high-ranking executives from Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, and labor leaders in Pennsylvania, the United Auto Workers, the AFL-CIO statewide, and the Philadelphia Labor Council; and auto dealers and suppliers and economists and bankers came together to describe the scope of the problem.

We had a meeting in the Lehigh Valley to grapple with the issue. Certainly, the impact on my State as a microcosm reflects the tremendous potential impact on the Nation as a whole. So we need to continue to work to do our best to find some answer administratively to avoid the potential disastrous consequences which I have enumerated.

I yield the floor.


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