Published December 10, 2008
HELP WANTED: Someone who knows how to spend $14 billion.
If a bill to provide $14 billion in emergency loans to the Big Three U.S. automakers is passed by Congress and signed by President Bush, a government "car czar" will given the task of handing out the taxpayers' cash.
The czar will also have the power to force any of the Detroit carmakers into bankruptcy in the spring if they haven't cut quick deals with labor unions, creditors and others to restructure their businesses and become viable.
But some lawmakers think a "czar" should have more power than that.
"The car czar that they put in this bill, first of all, doesn't have a lot power -- has a lot of ability to suggest things -- but doesn't have enough power to cause the restructuring," said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, who opposes an auto bailout and would prefer to see the companies in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
"Plus the fact that a car czar I guess would be better than nothing if the car czar had power, but Chapter 11 bankruptcy judges have the expertise, the courts have the expertise," Ensign told FOX News. "They've been through companies with this to cause the restructuring that would be necessary for the car companies to come out of this healthier in the end."
The House began procedural votes on the package Wednesday, and Democrats are pushing to pass it this week.
If the bill becomes law, the car czar will be required to have expertise in economic stabilization, financial aid to commerce and industry, financial restructuring, energy efficiency, and environmental protection. The czar can also employ, appoint or contract with others who have similar expertise.
Jack Young, founder of Jack Young Personnel Services Inc, an executive search firm that recruits senior level candidates for the automotive industry, said that's not a bad start for a job description. But he said the czar also should have a deep understanding of the automotive industry.
"There's no time for a learning curve here," Young told FOXNews.com. "I think you're rolling the dice that much greater with someone who does not understand the automotive industry."
Young said the ideal candidate would possess the manufacturing skills of Lee Iacocca, former president and CEO of Chrysler, who is credited with reviving the company; have the retail abilities of Michael Jackson, CEO of AutoNation, the largest chain of auto dealerships in the country; and have the diplomatic skills of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to negotiate with the auto unions "to realign and restructure their compensation and benefits package to enable domestic manufactures to be competitive."
"You need a combination of talents to bring all that into one individual who can somehow make all the different factions understand that there is a common goal," Young continued. "To figure out a way for automakers to survive and be competitive. I don't know if you can find that in one person."
The only politician Young believes would qualify is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
But Senate Republicans say they have grave concerns about the $14 billion agreement between congressional Democrats and the Bush White House.
Sen. George V. Voinovich, R-Ohio, a leading supporter of the emergency measure, says the bill doesn't have the Republican votes to get through the Senate.
Administration officials who were dispatched to Capitol Hill to sell the agreement got an earful of criticism from GOP senators during a closed-door luncheon Wednesday.
One senior Republican senator who asked for anonymity to characterize the mood of the private discussions told FOX News, "It was definitely heated. There was hardly a voice of support in the room. If there aren't changes to that bill, there's no way Democrats will have the support they need."
FOX News' Trish Turner, Stephen Clark and The Associated Press contributed to this report.