Lawmakers Collide Over Ultimatum to Automakers

The Democratic leadership in Congress has given Detroit's Big Three automakers until Dec. 2 to come up with a recovery plan to save their companies -- a directive that's driving their opponents crazy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that the House and Senate would hold hearings the week after Thanksgiving and move toward a vote on a $25 billion loan package one week later if the Big Three come back with a plan that is logical and ensures that the companies will remain viable.

But their opponents say that throwing more money at the auto companies is a dead-end plan, and it's time to put the brakes on a bailout.

"What we're doing is asking the Speaker of the House and Sen. Reid to decide whether or not these auto companies are viable. That's not the way this ought to work," Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, told FOX News on Friday.

He and other lawmakers are advocating for the auto industry to fall into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows companies to restructure.

"That's the tried and true way to do it, as opposed to having Congress do willy nilly and throw more money at this problem," Price said. "That's not the solution."

At a news conference Friday, Pelosi said she rejects the notion of letting the automakers go bankrupt and then picking up the pieces.

"I think that would be digging the hole far too deep and would just have a devastating impact on the workers, on the economy, on the manufacturing base, and on the confidence of the country," she said.

"And I do think we have much more confidence in the auto industry than an action of that kind would indicate," she said.

Pelosi, D-Calif., laid out her expectations for an auto bailout plan, emphasizing that "it must be innovative, accountable and viable."

The decision to call the House back into session next month does not depend on the quality of the plans offered, she said, but rather on the automakers meeting the deadline.

The Big Three can provide a plan jointly or separately, and they have three options to pursue, she said. They can use the $25 billion for advanced technology assistance; for credit assistance to their finance arms to allow them to sell more cars; or as a cash infusion to free up liquidity.

"Doing nothing ... I don't think is an option," she said, noting that helping the automakers survive is "essential to maintaining our manufacturing and industrial base and that industrial base is essential to our national security."

On Thursday, Reid canceled plans for a vote on a bill to carve $25 billion in new loans out of the $700 billion Wall Street rescue fund. The Bush administration and congressional Republicans oppose that plan.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from car-producing states had said they want to provide the loan from cash that was set aside for a fuel-efficiency loan program already passed by Congress. But it was unclear whether that could draw enough support to pass.