Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate on helping the troubled domestic auto manufacturers. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I can say with certainty that not one of the 100 members of the United States Senate approaches the work ahead of us this week with any sense of glee. The past American century has been defined in no small part by the manufacturing ingenuity, raw power and limitless possibilities embodied by our automobile industry.
“Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are American icons. Yet we now see all three teeter on the brink of collapse, due in no small part to their own ineptitude. And although the blame for this desperate state falls squarely on the shoulders of those who run the Big Three, the consequences of their failures could broadly impact our entire country.
“The jobs of millions of American workers are at stake, along with the financial security of millions of families. So while we take no satisfaction in loaning taxpayer money to these companies, we know it must be done.
“We must act, not to reward the executives of the Big Three for their failures, but to invest in the millions of Americans who could face the consequences of those failures.
“I strongly disagree with the Bush Administration’s refusal to use funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program – TARP – to help the auto industry. Speaker Pelosi, Chairmen Dodd and Frank, and I wrote the President last week urging him to act because of the financial risks of a collapse of one or more of the Big Three. The President’s refusal to do so requires Congress to take legislative action.
“I want to especially thank Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, who worked through the weekend to come up with legislation that will give the automakers the chance to clean house and return to a responsible path toward profitability. There was no personal benefit to Senator Dodd and Congressman Frank for doing what they did. It was simply the right thing to do. And because of their efforts, we now have legislation before us that will provide funds to see the auto companies through to the end of the first quarter of next year.
“But this is no blank check or blind hope. If the companies fail to come up with a plan that will lead to long-term competitiveness and profitability, or if they fail to stick to that plan, the loan can be recalled.
“We require strong oversight, executive pay standards and taxpayer protections, such as warrants and a prohibition on dividends, to ensure that taxpayers stand to benefit if and when this plan succeeds.
“There is no good answer to this problem. No solution would satisfy everyone, and no legislation would be cause for celebration. But if Senators are willing to work together this week, we can pass legislation that represents the best possible compromise.”