WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats blamed conservative Republicans for rejecting a compromise to lend the Detroit auto industry $14 billion.
But Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, a lead negotiator for Republicans, said the collapse in negotiations occurred because Democrats were unwilling to adopt a 2009 deadline for union worker concessions rather than a 2011 date.
“We are three words — maybe two, maybe four, somewhere in that range — away from having what I believe is a landmark piece of legislation,” Corker said of negotiations that lasted well into Thursday night. Also involved in the Capitol Hill talks were representatives of the United Auto Workers union, General Motors, Chrysler and Ford Motor, and corporate bondholders who participated by telephone.
Democrats said they agreed to the following concessions in an unsuccessful attempt to win enough Senate support for passage of the aid package:
* Changing language in the bill to clarify the bankruptcy option.
* Adopting language sought by the White House that the restructuring plan must require Detroit automakers to meet federal fuel efficiency and emissions laws, not stricter state laws.
* Agreeing to a Republican demand that debt holders of the automakers convert two-thirds of their debt to equity.
* Agreeing to require half of automakers’ contributions to a United Auto Workers trust fund entity be made in stock.
* Agreeing to immediately eliminate the UAW’s jobs bank.
* Agreeing that pay for union workers had to be competitive with that of employees at foreign-owned U.S. auto plants.
Reporting by Julie Vorman; Editing by Eric Walsh