Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-202-216-2706.
MR. SCHULTZ: Joining me now is Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.
Senator, right up front tonight -- thanks for joining us --
SEN. STABENOW: Sure.
MR. SCHULTZ: -- but right up front, are you prepared to ask the president of the United States to step up and say, "Bankruptcy is not an option"? Are you there yet?
SEN. STABENOW: Well, Ed, I have said to our team, to everyone involved, that I do not support bankruptcy as a first, second or third option. With Chrysler, we want to see Chrysler-Fiat come together. We want to see GM be able to make it on their own. I understand all the tough complexities around this. Mainly we need the banks that have gotten TARP money to be willing to stand up and -- I wrote another letter today to them saying they need to step up and do their part to be able to make sure that these companies can be strong.
But what you said at the beginning, I think, is so very important, the ripple effect. I was talking to some folks this week who are involved with a paper and pulp mill, and most of their paper goes to the auto dealers, the auto industry, and they're shutting down. Hospitals that get the benefits from health care from auto workers may close if we see a bankruptcy. This is huge.
MR. SCHULTZ: Senator, I think there's a disconnect with a lot of Americans. Why does Chrysler have to have Fiat management to figure out how to make a car, sell a car and make a dollar?
SEN. STABENOW: Well, you know what? They don't, Ed. And let me back up and say what Chrysler and GM are facing today is being faced by Toyota, Honda, Fiat. Their last quarter they lost money. We're in a global credit crisis -- a global credit crisis. Nobody can get the capital they need to be able to operate, to be able to move forward and invest. Car sales are down all over the place --
MR. SCHULTZ: Yeah.
SEN. STABENOW: -- because of people losing their jobs.
MR. SCHULTZ: It's a perfect storm.
SEN. STABENOW: It is a perfect storm.
MR. SCHULTZ: There's no doubt it's a perfect storm. So why can't we do the same thing for the auto manufacturers that we've done for Wall Street? I mean, throw more at them and just wait for this whole economic thing to turn around. Hey, just extend the terms on the loan, give them a low interest rate, save a bunch of jobs. You won't have the ripple effect. Why don't the Democrats see that, Senator?
SEN. STABENOW: Well, first of all, this administration did extend the loans, and we're very grateful for that, because the Bush presidency put a March 31 deadline on the companies. And President Obama has extended it and is continuing to work with us. They've stepped up to help suppliers. They're now working with the auto dealers. They've set up somebody that will work with us with communities where there are plants closed, where we need to create new jobs. So my beef is not with the administration, because they are working with us. They were handed a real crisis here.
MR. SCHULTZ: Yeah. Senator --
SEN. STABENOW: The reality is we need to make sure these companies stay viable.
MR. SCHULTZ: Do you think that unemployment in Michigan could go to 20 percent if bankruptcy is filed by these two companies?
SEN. STABENOW: Well, first of all, it depends on how it's done. I mean, we're at 12.6 percent right now, but that's statewide. We've got some communities that are already at 20 percent. So it's very serious for us. It depends on how it's done. It depends on whether or not pensions are protected and health care is protected, whether or not it can be short term or long term.
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, what about that? What about pensions being protected? Have you been given any guarantees by the administration that the retirees aren't going to be thrown to the side like road kill?
SEN. STABENOW: Well, I know they're not going to be thrown to the side. But my message to the administration is to remember we have over 700,000 retirees involved, people that have health care. I know they are working diligently on this. And I really believe that their priorities are in the right place.
What I want to see are the TARP banks coming to the table and the institutional bond-holders stepping up to help make this happen.
MR. SCHULTZ: Senator, good to have you on with us. Thanks so much.
SEN. STABENOW: Good to see you.