Rep. Tom Udall [D-NM]: Madam Speaker, with all of the rhetoric about today's loan package, it is easy to lose track of the decision we have to make. We can, as some have suggested, decide to let two of America's largest businesses go bankrupt in the coming months. If that happens, more than 2 million workers will likely lose their jobs. Communities across this country will be devastated. According to estimates, New Mexico alone stands to lose roughly 10,000 jobs. New Mexicans who ask nothing more than to work hard and provide for their families will be forced to put their dreams on hold.
Or, we can pass this bill.
Nobody disagrees that the auto industry has made mistakes. Car company CEOs have been reckless and short-sighted. While Japanese companies were rushing to produce hybrids, American companies were suing states like New Mexico to stop energy efficiency standards. While other companies were investing in the cars of the future, Big Three executives were trying desperately to turn back the clock. They refused to anticipate rising energy prices. Today, their irresponsibility threatens their companies, their employees and millions of American workers.
But we should not punish 3.3 million American workers and their families for the errors of a few executives. Yes, car company CEOs have been reckless and short-sighted. But that ends today. If this proposal passes, American car companies will trade in their Hummers for hybrids. And in the process, they will build an industry ready to compete in the 21st Century. But all these changes will not be possible unless we act now.
Unlike TARP, which I opposed, this plan tells executives that if they do not change, they will not survive. If the auto industry does not have an acceptable viability plan in three and a half months, they will not see another dime of taxpayer money. Whatever money they have received will have to be repaid immediately.
Today's vote does not spend one additional taxpayer dollar. We have already approved $25 billion to help the American auto industry build energy efficient cars. I supported that because it was necessary to force Detroit to modernize. Today's legislation simply provides some of that money right now to make sure that there is an American auto industry to modernize. More importantly, this bill provides increased oversight to ensure that taxpayer dollars help American workers and drivers, not stockholders or executives. It mandates that our money will not be spent on executive salaries, dividends or corporate jets. It institutes unprecedented controls to protect the people's money from misuse. Most importantly, it ensures that Detroit can no longer continue with business as usual.
Madam Speaker, we face great economic challenges, some of the most difficult in decades. Job reports last week showed half a million jobs lost in November alone. This is not a perfect bill; it is just the best we could get from this president. But given the current climate, we cannot afford to risk another 3 million jobs by refusing to act. That is why today I will be voting yes.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.