(CNN) — Senate Democrats and the White House failed to find 60 votes to end debate on a $14 billion auto bailout bill and bring it to a vote Thursday night, killing the measure for the year.
The 52-35 vote followed the collapse of negotiations between Senate Democrats and Republicans seeking a compromise.
[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid acknowledged the bill would not survive the procedural vote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the sticking point was the United Auto Workers’ refusal to set a “date certain” to put employees at U.S. auto manufacturers at “parity pay” with U.S. employees at foreign automakers in the United States.
Currently, analysts estimate the union workers at U.S. automakers make about $3 to $4 per hour more than the non-union U.S. employees of foreign automakers like Toyota and Honda, according to the Center for Automotive Research.
The collapse of negotiations could possibly doom General Motors to a bankruptcy and closure in the coming weeks, with Chrysler potentially following close behind.
The struggling automakers may get some money anyway.
As part of their effort to urge skeptical Republicans to back the deal, Bush officials made clear that if Congress didn’t act, the White House would have to step in to save Detroit from collapse with funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, according to the sources familiar with the conversations.
Democrats pressed the White House from the start to help Detroit by using some of the $700 billion for the financial sector, but the White House and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson refused.
Why are some of the Rethugs so dead-set against the deal? From Freep (the Detroit Free Press, December 10th):
WASHINGTON — Over the last decade, the UAW has spent more than $10 million to elect Democrats and defeat Republicans — some of them the same GOP senators now being asked to rescue the domestic auto industry.
Those Republican senators, who may hold the key to getting the $14-billion lifeline to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC passed through Congress, are clamoring for deeper union concessions as a condition to any kind of support.
Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky represent states where foreign automakers have significant operations and the UAW has less sway than in Michigan or Ohio. Each also has been the target of considerable political support from the automakers’ union flowing to Democrats who have opposed the senators in elections.
Today, Shelby — who once was a Democrat but now leads the forces lining up against the automakers in the Senate — said the most recently unveiled legislation reveals “the influence of the UAW,” as it calls for no specific cuts in health care benefits or wages.
Corker, meanwhile, has demanded that the union accept wage cuts that put it on an even keel with nonunion plants in the South, a provision even the Bush administration didn’t insist upon as a condition to passage.
Against that background is the fact that Shelby, Corker, McConnell and others represent states where foreign automakers have a presence.
Alabama is home to plants for Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota. Tennessee is getting a new Volkswagen plant and is home to Nissan’s North American headquarters and other manufacturing facilities.
Georgetown, Ky., in McConnell’s home state, is the site of Toyota’s biggest plant outside Japan.
On the other side of the aisle, many Democrats said the union already has made more than its share of concessions — on wages, health care and more — during recent contract negotiations. Also, the UAW has signaled it would be willing to suspend its controversial jobs bank, which allows laid-off workers to continue to receive nearly full pay for up to two years.
The union also has argued vigorously that once you drop legacy costs to fund health care and pensions for retirees from the equation, line workers don’t make much more than their counterparts at the foreign automakers’ U.S. plants.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, said there appeared to be a double standard on the part of Republicans focusing on autoworkers’ pay, when they voiced no similar concerns about employee wages or benefits before pproving a $700-billion bailout for the financial industry.
“The average worker at AIG makes more money than an autoworker. The average worker at Citigroup … makes more than an autoworker,” Frank said today. “Does anybody remember Citigroup being told that as a condition of its money, they have to get no more than a community banker gets?”
No upside to supporting this one for Texas GOP politicos. In last night’s vote in the House, which passed 237-170, only one Texas Republican supported the plan to give $14 billion to GM and Chrysler. The defector: Rep. Joe Barton, who has a GM truck plant in his district.
Sen. Cornyn’s office released a statement this afternoon that explained, in part: “He supports the American auto workforce and would like to see a strong domestic auto industry, but he’s not prepared to abdicate his responsibilities to Texas taxpayers at the expense of labor union bosses and corporate executives in Detroit.”