The Big Three Pass the Plate

Representatives of the UAW, Ford, Chrysler and GM met today with Speaker Pelosi to outline their interest in a big new pot of taxpayer money:

Lawmakers jump-started a $25 billion direct loan program for automakers as part of the continuing resolution (PL 110-329) signed into law by President Bush earlier this fall. It remains unclear, however, when those funds will begin to flow, a situation that Michigan lawmakers have been pushing the administration to address.

Some automakers also would like to see lawmakers double the size of the loan program to $50 billion — a move, noted one auto industry source, for which President-elect Barack Obama has expressed support…

Any help for the automakers likely will be separate from a stimulus bill, and may depend on what automakers do with the aid and whether it would be used domestically, according to one House Democratic aide.

As I have said before, this is likely to be the next big fight. A raft of Democratic constituencies are lining up now to get their share of the money that will be doled out in the name of ‘stimulus,’ before lawmakers begin again to worry about deficits. The governors and mayors have made their requests, the public employees unions are asking, and environmental and business groups are pushing for a slice of the pie (as Barack Obama would put it).

No doubt the Obama transition team is hard at work figuring out exactly how much the US Treasury will provide from the $700 billion approved before the election, and how much more will need to come from a new appropriation by Congress. But given all the money that unions pumped into Democratic campaigns this year, their demands will get plenty of attention from their representatives in Congress.