Congressional leaders on Sunday reaffirmed their call for the nation's top automakers to restructure their operations if they are to receive billions of dollars in bailout money from the federal government -- and prove that they are "viable" in the long term.
The country's Big Three automakers -- GM, Ford, and Chrysler, which combined employ nearly a quarter-million workers, have been seeking $25 billion in government loans to prevent them from going into bankruptcy.
On Friday, Senate and House leaders temporarily denied the loan until automakers undergo fundamental restructuring, which includes labor give-backs, limits on executive pay and plans for more environmentally friendly vehicles.
The decision to hold off on funding followed two days of disastrous hearings on Capitol Hill by the CEOs of the Big Three, who were told to provide Congress with a detailed accounting by Dec. 2 of their financial condition and short-term cash needs, as well as a plan for viability over the long term.
Hearings are expected the week of Dec. 1. Lawmakers could consider legislation the following week if they are satisfied by the companies' responses.
"What we need is to, A, show how they're going to be accountable. This is a large sum of money they want and need," House Majority leader Steny Hoyer said on "FOX News Sunday."
"Secondly, to show how they're going to be viable in the long term. Those are the two key questions they're going to have to answer," he said.
Appearing with Hoyer, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, agreed on the need for a feasible survival plan.
"I'm not sure that they will have a plan by early December, a real plan. And on behalf of the American taxpayers, they're not interested in investing money that -- it's going to be really thrown away.
"And I think that Detroit has to come back with a plan to -- in terms of how they're going to pursue talks with their employees, their creditors, their shareholders, the other stakeholders," he added. "At the end of the day, it's not about convincing me. It's about convincing the American taxpayer that they're making an investment in a viable corporation."
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who insisted last week that the companies be "accountable and viable," said Congress would not let the companies fall.
"Let's just be very clear. Not helping the auto industry is not an option. It's just a question of how we go forward, and if we're going forward, to be preeminent in the world, and we think that that opportunity is there," she said.
Members of President-elect Barack Obama's incoming administration also called on the automakers to restructure their companies as a pre-condition to getting any government dollars.
"What we can't give is a blank check for an industry that isn't prepared to reform itself, to rationalize itself, and to retool for the markets of today and tomorrow. And if -- and so he expects that they will do that," Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said.
Obama economic advisor Austin Goolsbee criticized the auto industry for granting its executives multi-million dollar paychecks while the companies fell under.
"The fact that these guys flew in private jets to Washington, and it seemed like it was the first they heard of it: "what is your plan to restructure your companies?" They said, you know, "we'll have to get back to you." that was crazy," Goolsbee said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"If they need a bridge it's got to be a bridge to somewhere, not a bridge to nowhere," he said.