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Published: Friday, 12/5/2008

Ohio senators in favor of auto industry help

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Sen. Sherrod Brown says Congress should pass legislation giving aid to the auto industry. He is joined by Sen. George Voinovich and Rep. Marcy Kaptur in supporting the assistance. Sen. Sherrod Brown says Congress should pass legislation giving aid to the auto industry. He is joined by Sen. George Voinovich and Rep. Marcy Kaptur in supporting the assistance.
SUSAN WALSH / AP Enlarge

Ohio's two U.S. senators - one Democrat and one Republican - yesterday renewed their calls for Congressional action to save the Big Three automakers, even as the bailout price tag continued to rise.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) also backed a government bridge loan, while Reps. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) and Tim Walberg (R., Tipton, Mich.) remained uncommitted, and Jim Jordan (R., Urbana) stands opposed.

Sen. Sherrod Brown said Congress has heard enough testimony to make a decision.

"There are no absolute guarantees that their plans will succeed, nor can there be. But based on reasonable assumptions, they will return to profitability and repay the federal loans they are seeking within a few years' time. We have two choices. We can either provide bridge loans to the auto industry, or drive the economy off a bridge," Mr. Brown said.

He said the difference between the way the car and credit companies have been treated is striking.

"The financial companies themselves not only did not appear before Congress, but they have never produced a plan for how they will spend the money, nor have they been asked for one by Congress or the Bush Administration," Mr. Brown said.

Sen. George Voinovich urged passage of the legislation he and a small group of Midwest senators, including Mr. Brown, are backing, which specified a $25 billion assist.

"Time is running out," Mr. Voinovich said. "I strongly believe this legislation should be voted on next week. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to wait any longer."

He said in his prepared statement that he believes the bipartisan legislation would pass if brought up for a vote in the Democratic-controlled House and Senate and would be signed by President Bush.

Ms. Kaptur said she'd support a $34 billion bridge loan and said mishandling of the mortgage crisis put America's auto industry at risk. She voted against the $700 billion credit industry bailout.

"I do not believe that the auto industry would be at this point if it were not for the poor condition of the credit system, because the mortgage foreclosure crisis [was] not being handled properly," she said.

She said the auto industry wasn't "perfect," but was moving forward with new technology.

Mr. Latta hasn't committed to helping the car companies out of their predicament. He noted that one expert told a Senate hearing yesterday that rescuing GM, Ford, and Chrysler could cost $125 billion.

"I think everyone's got to keep their powder dry on this thing. You can't just say I'm going to support something carte blanche, without having any idea what's in the bill," Mr. Latta said.

He also opposed the $700 billion package for the banking system because he thought it was too open-ended.

Lame-duck Rep. Tim Walberg said he can't agree to something that hasn't been detailed yet.

"Certainly I lean toward supporting manufacturing in the state of Michigan. Right to my last vote I'm going to stick to that position, but I'm not going to say yes to a pig in a poke," Mr. Walberg said.

Rep. Jim Jordan said he remains opposed to a bailout.

"Once you start down this road it's tough to turn around," Mr. Jordan said, saying that some of the companies that got money under the $700 billion bailout for the credit industry are back in line for more.

Staff Writer Alex M. Parker contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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