Unable to reach a deal on how to help the ailing auto industry, congressional leaders announced this afternoon they'll try again in a second lame-duck session the week of Dec. 8 -- if auto executives come up with a plan.
"Unless they can show us a plan, we can't show them the money," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged the Big Three automakers to submit a proposal by Dec. 2 to Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who could then hold hearings on the plan before another session.
Reid said it gives automakers "another opportunity to make their case" to Congress and the American people.
He said while lawmakers "worked hard to fashion a bipartisan consensus" this week, the "sad reality" is that no one has come up with a plan that can pass Congress and be signed by President Bush.
Frank said without a plan that specifies how the money would be used and how it would help the industry restructure, he could imagine the headlines of Congress throwing more taxpayer money at a problem with a "barely examined" bill that was akin to leaping "into the abyss."
"It has to be done in a careful way," Frank said.
Dodd said he'd be happy to hold hearings.
The top executives of Chrysler, Ford, and GM spent Tuesday and Wednesday on Capitol Hill, pleading for $25 billion in loans that they argued would provide a "bridge" through the credit crunch until they could start recovering.
But many senators questioned whether the money would be enough and criticized the industry for not moving quickly enough to fuel-efficient vehicles. And some say bankruptcy would be good for the companies, allowing them to get out from under costly labor deals.
In September, Congress approved a $25 billion package to help automakers retool to make more hybrids and energy-efficient vehicles. Some senators wanted to let the auto companies dip into that money, no strings attached.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.