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Ensign voices opposition to auto bailout

Jeff Munson
Nevada Appeal News Service

Nevada Sen. John Ensign said “not even a handful of Republicans” would support the current automobile bailout bill agreed today by the White House and Senate Democrats.

“A lot of us have serious problems with the way the legislation has been drafted,” Ensign, a Republican, said in a telephone press conference, noting the bill wouldn’t get the 60 votes needed in a filibuster.

Majority Democrats and the Bush White House have finalized a deal to speed $14 billion in emergency loans to struggling U.S. automakers, congressional officials said today.

Strong opposition lingered among Republicans, including Ensign.

The White House did not go as far as to say the deal was final, although it did report “very good progress.” The measure could see a House vote later Wednesday and be enacted by week’s end. Then, money could be disbursed within days to cash-starved General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, while Ford Motor Co. ” which has said it has enough liquidity to stay afloat ” would be eligible for federal aid.

It would create a government “car czar” named by President George W. Bush to dole out the loans, with the power to force the carmakers into bankruptcy next spring if they didn’t cut quick deals with labor unions, creditors and others to restructure their businesses and become viable.

Congressional Republicans, left out of negotiations on the package, expressed grave reservations. A handful in the Senate promised to block the measure, which could delay a final vote for days.

Ensign cited the lack of “structural reform” and a “reorganizational plan” among the automakers for reasons why they may block the bill.

In the case of General Motors, Ensign singled out CEO Rick Wagoner, saying that he has been in the company for 12 years and in those 12 years there have been several “bad decisions” on his part to turn the company around.

Ensign acknowledged Ford Motor Company is in better shape than GM while Chrysler is looking for a buyer.

“This is about jobs. You are not going to save jobs by allowing the companies to continue to operate the way they’ve been operating,” Ensign said.

He added that if proper restructuring is done, such as the restructuring similar to Continental Airlines, then GM would become “a strong and more financially viable company.”

– Contact reporter Jeff Munson at jmunson@tahoedailytribune.com.

” The Associated Press contributed to this report.