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Congress Debates Details of Automaker Rescue Plan

Senate leaders continued to hammer out details of a rescue plan for U.S. automakers Tuesday, including limits on executive compensation and federal oversight of industry restructuring. Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., debate the plan's merits.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And next, the U.S. Senate readies action on a rescue plan for the American auto industry. Gwen Ifill has that story.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Under that plan being considered, two of the big three automakers, General Motors and Chrysler, would receive emergency loans. Among the conditions: limits on executive compensation and a ban on dividend payments; the government could acquire preferred shares in the companies; and the president would appoint a car czar to oversee a restructuring of the auto industry

    For more on the state of the rescue plan, we turn to Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on that committee.

    Gentlemen, welcome.

    SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), Alabama: Thank you.

    SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), Connecticut: Good evening.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Sen. Dodd, as we sit here tonight, can you give us an update? Where do things stand on this plan, on this auto rescue plan?

  • SEN. CHRIS DODD:

    Well, I think they're fairly close, Gwen, as I told — they've been all afternoon working, the White House and the leadership of the House and the Senate, Democratic leadership, to try and fashion a plan. And I gather that they're very, very close.

    The last I heard a few minutes before coming over here to the studio was that they're down to maybe one or two issues. And the prediction is that, by this evening, we'll have a proposal then to offer to our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate, for their consideration, hopefully with White House approval. Without White House approval, this won't go forward.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Sen. Shelby, you have been down on this proposal since the beginning. And Senator Mitch McConnell, your minority leader, has also said today, at least earlier, before whatever has been agreed on tonight has been agreed upon, that maybe this proposal is deeply flawed. Have you seen anything today that changes your mind?

  • SEN. RICHARD SHELBY:

    Absolutely not, Gwen. I think it's flawed in the fundamental way they're approaching this. One, this is the down payment on a bailout that will go probably into next year; they're talking about next spring. It's $15 billion, more or less. It's a lot of money.

    But it's only the beginning. I've said that it's a bridge to nowhere. It's a bridge loan. No bank in the United States, no bank in the world would make this loan. They would summarily dismiss it, the application.

    So you've got to ask yourself, will this solve the big three's basic problems? The answer is no.

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