Transcript: Sens. Shelby, Levin on 'FNS'

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace," December 7, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: With the Big Three auto executives driving to Washington this week with their hats in hand and pleading for a bailout, we're joined now by two key senators involved in the debate. Richard Shelby, top Republican on the Banking Committee who opposes a big government handout for Detroit, and Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, who's a leading advocate for the industry.

And Senators, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday." All right, Democratic congressional leaders, as we understand it, are negotiating with the White House this weekend to come up with something around $15 billion to see the U.S. auto makers through March at least.

Senator Levin, do you have a deal?

LEVIN: I think they're very close to a deal. I'm very confident there will be a deal, and that that'll happen within 24 hours. And the reason that that's true is that it will be bipartisan. Not every Democrat or every Republican is on board. But the White House Republican leadership in the Senate, the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate will, I believe — and I'm confident of this — will achieve an — a bill to be introduced in the next couple days.

And the reason I'm so confident of that is that there is, number one, the plans have been produced as requested by the Congress. Secondly, there's a common understanding that this is a global problem that has created the loss of sales by auto industries around the world. This is not just a unique American problem. And every other government that produces automobiles that I know of is providing loans to their auto industries. You can go all the way from Europe, where $50 billion has been requested, to Brazil, where $4.5 billion has been provided. So this is something which is not a uniquely American problem.

WALLACE: And you — and you believe that you have the votes to pass this in Congress?

LEVIN: No, that's a — obviously, that's a much more complicated question as to whether the votes are there. What I'm confident of is that the bill will be introduced, and that the bill — because — I'm confident of this also, Chris, because there's a consensus that there must be conditions attached. This is not something which divides people who support the loan program. Everyone who supports a loan program that I know of believes that there must be conditions attached. There must be an administrator of the program who enforces rules, makes sure that...

WALLACE: Well, let me — let me — let me — let me ask you...

LEVIN: ... make sure that it's a new type of industry...


WALLACE: Let me ask you about a couple of specific things. As part of this $15 billion bridge loan, if you will, is there going to be a car czar appointed who will oversee the efforts of the auto industry to clean up their act and restructure?

LEVIN: There will be an administrator who's selected during the next 60 to 90 days, I believe, who will make sure that the promises that are made in these plans are kept, that the conditions of the money are met, that there will be real oversight going on, that there will be a leaner and a greener industry that comes out of this.

But there's also a consensus among the leaders of this country, including the president, president-elect, that providing those plans lead to viability. We cannot afford to lose the millions of jobs that would be lost if any of the Big Three go under.

WALLACE: Let's bring in Senator Shelby. You've been one of the leading critics of any bailout. From what you're hearing — $15 billion, get them through until March, going to have an administrator who makes sure they keep their promises. Will you support that?

SHELBY: Oh, absolutely not. I think this is a bridge loan to nowhere. This is a down payment on many billions to come. This is not something that happened overnight. This is 30 years in the making. These companies basically are — have failed, are failing. They probably need, according to some people, about 60 percent of the management to go, and about 40 percent downsize of the workers. They've got to compete. They can't compete today. And the question is, will they be able to compete tomorrow?

We would like to save them. But they've got to save themselves. And I don't believe they're willing to save themselves, because they could be restructured the right way. And they don't want to do that.

WALLACE: Are you and other Republicans prepared to filibuster this bill?

SHELBY: Well, I would — I think we need to debate it. And that's what filibuster is about. And this week would be a good time to do it. I hope that we will be able to have an extended debate on it. We'll see what happens.

WALLACE: Do you think you have the votes to sustain a filibuster?

SHELBY: I don't know. It depends what happens, what the — in the meantime, I know people want to get home for Christmas. They want to get out of here and come back, and — but what I fear, Chris, the first...

WALLACE: Sounds like you want to hold Congress hostage here, Senator.

SHELBY: The first — the first down payment is just the beginning. It's an installment plan of billions and billions and billions. And we don't know the end game.

WALLACE: Senator Levin, you said the other day that southern lawmakers, like Senator Shelby — and you specifically mentioned his name - - have an agenda; because they've got foreign, non-union car companies in their states who will benefit if Detroit goes down. You really believe that?

LEVIN: I think there would be some companies that would benefit if Detroit goes down, sure. They're competitors. And a number of them have opened up plans in the South, which they have a right to do. But there will be winners and losers. The big — the big losers, however, will be the American people here, Main Street in America that has the car dealers, 10,000 perhaps car dealers of the Big Three.

These are the suppliers that exist in over half of our 50 states. These are the people who produce the parts, the components, all over this country. The Big Three...


WALLACE: Yes. But a lot of those dealers under this business plan are going to lose their jobs.

LEVIN: They will. That — but a lot more will...

WALLACE: They're going to be shut down.

LEVIN: A lot more would be shut down if the Big Three goes bankrupt. And obviously, the competitors of the Big Three would pick up some of the slack. But the major — the major losers here would be an economy which cannot afford the loss of 3 million jobs minimum. Also we — this is a Main Street issue. Some people say it's just the Big Three. My gosh, this is every — almost every major community that has car dealerships will be severely hit by this.

WALLACE: Let — let — let me bring in Senator Shelby again. Do you have, as Senator Levin has charged, an agenda to help your local foreign auto makers?

SHELBY: I don't have an agenda. But I'll tell you this. In the South, from South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, we have about 124,000 people employed in the automobile industry. They are competing. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler can compete, but not under the model that they have. We don't want General Motors and Chrysler and Ford to go away. But it — with the model, their management and their product, they're going away — this didn't happen overnight — if they don't do something about it. And we can't save people who can't save themselves.

WALLACE: All right. I want to change subjects on you. The Bush Treasury Department, Senator Shelby, is talking about trying to get its hands on the second half of the $700 billion bailout, another $350 billion, and spend it now instead of waiting and leaving it for the Obama administration. What do you think of that?

SHELBY: That'd be a horrible idea. I look at what they've done with the money. There's no accountability. I opposed it to begin with. We don't know who benefited from the first $350 billion. It certainly hasn't been the American people by the banks making loans as we were told that would happen. It has...

WALLACE: So you would oppose giving...

SHELBY: I opposed it to begin with. And I will oppose the — loosening the money up for secretary of treasury. I think his plan's flawed. I think he's — he doesn't know where he's going. And that's shown by the facts.

WALLACE: Senator Levin?

LEVIN: You know, there's been a real double standard here. $350 billion have gone out to the financial industry. We haven't brought their CEOs into Washington for grilling. They should be brought in for a grilling by the way. It's totally appropriate that Congress show greater oversight as they have with the auto industry. They ought to show that oversight with the financial industry prior to any additional funds being appropriated.

WALLACE: But would you — but do you answer my direct question, which is would you agree, if you get that kind of oversight, to give Secretary Paulson the money? Or do you want to save the money and leave it for the Obama administration?

LEVIN: I would consider additional funds only if there is additional oversight hearings. And then I'm satisfied that they have the kind of plans which have been required properly...

WALLACE: You want them to grovel a little?

LEVIN: No, I don't want anyone to grovel. I want them to demonstrate to the American people that the people who live in houses who are being foreclosed are going to benefit, that the small businesses on Main Street are going to benefit. That was required, and properly so, of the auto industry. It ought to be required of the financial industry. And if they come through with those plans, then I would consider it.

WALLACE: All right. We've got less than two minutes left. I want to ask you about one last subject.

Senator Levin, you of course are chairman of Senate Armed Services. President-Elect Obama has named former army chief of staff General Eric Shinseki to be the secretary of veterans' affairs. We see him there. And the famous hearing at which he predicted it would take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion. And after that, he was not so ceremoniously ushered out of office. What do you think of the nomination?

LEVIN: I think it's a wonderful nomination. I happen to be the senator that asked him the question that produced the answer that got him shown the door. I thought it was tragic. It was — it was wrong for the Bush administration to mistreat him the way they did. He gave an honest answer. He spoke truth to power. Obama I believe, the president-elect, will welcome and chose now, by appointing Shinseki, that he will welcome people who disagree with him to express those views to him.

WALLACE: And Senator Shelby, you got the final word on this.

SHELBY: I — I will really support General Shinseki. He's a great soldier. He's a great leader. We should have listened to him when he testified for the appropriations defense as he did armed services. We didn't. And look where we are today.

WALLACE: And you think he'd be good in veterans' affairs.

SHELBY: Absolutely superb.

LEVIN: And by the way, our veterans deserve the kind of hero that we have in Shinseki.

WALLACE: Senator Shelby, Senator Levin, thank you both for coming in.

SHELBY: Thank you, Chris.

LEVIN: Thank you.

WALLACE: As always a pleasure. Please come back.

LEVIN: Chris, thank you.

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