WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged approval of an automobile industry aid package, telling reporters on Tuesday that automakers “contend” they cannot survive the next two months without government help.
Speaking to reporters after House Democrats picked their leadership team for next year, Pelosi said the success of domestic automakers was vital to the U.S. economy overall and to national security.
Her remarks came as Ford Motor Co, General Motors Corp and Chrysler LLC officials testified to a Senate committee about their need for assistance.
Asked by Reuters whether the car companies could wait two more months if Congress failed this week to approve more aid to Detroit, Pelosi responded: “They contend that they cannot and it’s a chance we don’t want to take.”
She added that “failure on their part is harmful to our workforce, to our industrial manufacturing base, to our whole economy.”
Earlier on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters there was a possibility lawmakers could return to Washington in December — after a Thanksgiving Day holiday break — to work on an auto bailout bill if one does not pass this week.
But Pelosi appeared to throw cold water on that idea. “I don’t see any likelihood” of such a session, Pelosi told reporters. She added that a bill would either have to pass this week or early next year when the new Congress, with more Democrats seated, will convene. Also, on January 20, President-elect Barack Obama, a Democrat, takes over from President George W. Bush, who has not shown any interest in using some of the $700 billion financial industry bailout fund to help automakers, as Democrats are urging.
Barring unexpected developments over the next few days, Pelosi’s remarks indicate not much of substance is likely to occur in this short post-election legislative session.
Democrats who take full control of Washington in January, will have to shepherd auto bailout legislation through then — assuming there are the votes to pass such a bill.
Besides calling for auto industry aid, Democrats are also seeking the passage of a broad economic stimulus bill that is being blocked by Senate Republicans and the Bush administration.
Editing by Tim Dobbyn