Today, the New York Times reports that Republicans are balking at a rescue package for the struggling auto industry. The bill would use some of the funds originally appropriated to shore up the banking system. Democrats need 60 votes to move the measure forward, but Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) said, “Right now, I don’t think there are the votes.” Some Republicans who have spoken out against the measure: Reps. John Boehner (R-OH) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
So far, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) hasn’t spoken up. (ThinkProgress contacted his spokesperson, but has yet to receive a reply.) But back in October, when McCain was still running for president, the senator indicated support for this rescue package:
Q: We’re finding out that there may be a possibility of some sort of bail-out or government assistance for the auto industry. Would that be something that you would support?
MCCAIN: Well, we’ve already done that to $25 billion, and we’ve delayed getting them the money. I would do whatever I think needs to be done to help our automotive industry. We’ve got to make this transition to flex fuel, battery powered, hydrogen automobiles. And, obviously — and, also, I would provide tax credits for people who buy these new automobiles. We’ve got to keep this industry alive. There’s no doubt about that.
Shelby has summed up conservatives’ justification for opposing an auto industry rescue bill: “The financial situation facing the Big Three is not a national problem but their problem.” However, as Obama transition co-chair John Podesta has noted, “the auto industry directly employs about 250,000 people” and is “the backbone of our manufacturing economy.” In fact, one in 12 U.S. jobs is tied to car manufacturing.
Other conservatives, such as Boehner, are arguing that there needs to be reform addressing the “root causes crippling automakers’ competitiveness around the world.” Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) agree, saying that “federal aid should come with ’strong conditions,’ such as requirements that car makers build more fuel-efficient vehicles.”
On the campaign trail, McCain made it clear that it’s important to cross party lines on certain issues. Will he now buck the GOP leadership and support an auto industry rescue package?