Senator slows war spending bill to help Chrysler dealers

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, has emerged as a serious broker of a last minute deal to help the 789 Chrysler dealers that must shut down by June 9, per Chrysler, a move that would leave some 40,000 Americans out of work, and the senator says she will slow the emergency war spending bill until she has assurances in writing from the President of Chrysler that something will be done.

GM has given their dealers until the end of 2010 to close, and Hutchison, who is running for governor, says this is not fair.

Chrysler has told its dealers that they wont buy back their vehicles, diagnostic equipment, etc. Hutchison, who has 50 Chrysler dealerships in her state, second only to Pennsylvania, doesn't want to see dealers just axed, says a spokesman --- BUT -- now that it's happening, she's trying to find some middle ground, keeping these dealers from being left holding the bag, as Chrysler heads into a controlled bankruptcy.

Hutchison, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, has been working behind the scenes with Senate leaders, the White House, and Chrysler executives to find a compromise in the form of an amendment added to the emergency war spending bill. The Administration and Chrysler officials, according to Hutchison, are concerned about this affecting the bankruptcy deal.

One senior Republican aide said Hutchison is seeking a three week delay of the closure mandate, a move that has slowed progress on the war funding bill for much of Thursday.

Hutchison is working on various options, according to an aide: a delay so some dealers could have more time to try to stay out of bankruptcy; seeing if Chrysler might buy back some of their cars; among other options.

There's also a possibility that Chrysler could act without legislation, said the aide.

Democrats have been signing onto her amendment all day - Sens Stabenow (MI), Bingaman (NM), Kerry (MA), Klobuchar (MN), Lautenberg (NJ), and more, as Hutchison hopes to get a vote today. It's unclear if this will happen.

As of 5:40pm, Hutchison announced she has 36 co-sponsors, approaching a filibuster proof number, picking up Sens. Specter, D-PA, Collins, R-ME, and Kohl, D-WI. She has many Republican co-sponsors.

Problem is -- she's running out of time. Congress is on recess all next week, and no one ever wants to slow down funding for the troops.