Automakers at Capitol Armed With Plan


Wednesday, December 3rd 2008, 10:46 pm
By: News 9


Staff and Wire Reports

WASHINGTON -- The heads of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford go before Congress today to ask for $34 billion in loans.

They say government help is necessary to preserve the U.S. auto industry and keep the country out of a depression.

The Big Three submitted their survival plans this week and auto workers have offered to kick in contract changes that could save the companies billions.

"We think we've prepared a comprehensive plan," General Motors President Fritz Henderson said. "People have read it, they're spending time with it to understand it."

Representative Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) is still weary of the bailout plan.

"I'm getting very hesitant about last minute proposals that have to be done overnight or instantaneously," Kanjorski said.

Chastened by their unfriendly reception on Capitol Hill last month, the car execs grounded their private jets this time and drove to Washington. They're also offering to cancel bonuses and work for $1 a year, if taxpayer money is involved.

But it'll likely be another hard sell for the CEOs today. The Democrat in charge of evaluating their aid requests has made clear he's eager to avoid voting on a bailout. Sen. Chris Dodd wrote to the Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke asking him whether there was anything stopping him from using his considerable lending authority to help the automakers.

The Big 3 got a break Wednesday when the United Auto Workers union announced it is willing to make concessions.

"Main Street, Side Street and rural America are all impacted by what the United States Congress does," said Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers.

The UAW announced Wednesday it's willing to adjust its contracts with the big three automakers and make changes to some benefits.

They include allowing the companies to delay payments into a union run health care fund.