Jim Bunning Makes the UAW Enemy List

Jim Bunning supported bailing out the Big 3:

I have previously said that I would support federal assistance for the companies if they undertake a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring. Federal financing and warranty guarantees would enable the companies to emerge from that restructuring successfully and more quickly than they otherwise could. Senators Shelby and Ensign have an amendment to do just that, and I will support their amendment if they are allowed to have a vote.

However, Chapter 11 bankruptcy is not the ideal solution, and I know just the word bankruptcy causes concern for people whose jobs, retirement, and health care depend on the companies. A similar restructuring that accomplishes significant changes outside of bankruptcy would work as well. Senator Corker has an amendment that would require those significant changes as a condition of the federal assistance provided in the Majority’s bill. If the Majority allows a vote on Senator Corker’s amendment, I will support it. If the amendment is adopted to the Senate version of the bill, I will support passage of the bill. If the Majority blocks any Minority amendments, as they have done for nearly the entire Congress, I will oppose the bill and any cloture motions.

I will go ahead and state for the record that if the Corker amendment passes and the bill becomes law, I will oppose any and all attempts to weaken its requirements. I am very concerned that come January 20, the majority will try to rewrite the requirements so that the companies are not forced to make the painful changes that are necessary for them to survive in the long term. I hope that will not be the case.

For these companies to survive and thrive, there must be painful changes, and some jobs will be lost no matter what happens. However, with a successful restructuring, more jobs will be preserved for the long term than if we just prop up the companies with taxpayer dollars and hope for the best.

So unlike a number of Republicans (and a number of Democrats), Bunning supported a multi-billion bailout for the automakers. But he believes that the companies can’t survive as they are currently structured (in that he agrees with pretty much every analyst who has considered the question).

But the UAW doesn’t want to deal with painful truths, and doesn’t want the Big 3 to become viable in the long term. Instead, they want the taxpayers to give them a blank check to keep wages and benefits where they are now, so any pain suffered by the automakers doesn’t get passed on to their unionized workers. For that reason, the UAW (and their apologists in the media) have to slander Bunning, misrepresent his position, and portray him as wanting to see the Big 3 fail:

He may be losing his marbles, but U.S. senator and ex-Tiger pitching great Jim Bunning still has big brass cojones.

After all, most of the GOP senators conspiring to kill a House rescue package for Detroit’s auto companies wouldn’t have the guts to set foot in Michigan this week, much less hawk their autographs to beleaguered Michiganders at $55 a pop.

But Hall of Famer Bunning — a vocal opponent of the auto loans — will do both of those things Sunday when he journeys to the deepest heart of UAW country.

He’ll sign baseballs ($35), posters ($45) and jerseys or gloves ($55) from noon to 2 p.m. at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Taylor, then head over to Solidarity House to knock back a few cold ones with UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.

I’m kidding about the Gettelfinger part, of course; Bunning more likely will be wheels-up before the sun sets on Metro Airport. I just hope he has the good sense to make the round-trip to Taylor in a Detroit-manufactured vehicle — even if it does cheese off Toyota, whose largest American plant is in Bunning’s home state of Kentucky.

Baseball fans remember Bunning as the former Tigers standout who became the first pitcher to win 100 games and throw 1,000 strikeouts in both leagues. (He also beaned more opposing hitters than nearly anyone in Major League Baseball history.) He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996 and was elected Kentucky’s junior U.S. senator two years later.

Bunning’s political career, alas, has been somewhat less distinguished than his athletic one. In a 2006 survey of academics and current and former senators, Time magazine tagged Bunning as one of the Senate’s five least effective members.

In 2004, when George W. Bush won Kentucky by 20 points over John Kerry, Bunning barely squeaked to a second term, in part because many Kentuckians suspected his elevator no longer went all the way to the top. He likely faces an even tougher re-election fight in 2010, when he will turn 79.

A welcome committee?

But a vote is a vote, and Bunning is one of three dozen or so GOP senators committed to derailing the auto rescue package adopted by the Democratic House. In a conference call with reporters this week, Bunning said he favors a bankruptcy filing that would allow the automakers to rescind labor agreements with the UAW more expeditiously.

Bunning’s press secretary, Mike Reynard, said his boss’ Detroit visit was completely unrelated to his Senate work, adding that Bunning’s tight schedule wouldn’t allow him to visit with the Michigan press.

Taylor Mayor Cameron Priebe, who said he’d written Bunning a personal note imploring him to reconsider his opposition to the auto rescue package, was stunned when I told him Bunning would be in town to sell his signature.

“I doubt he’ll have many takers at $35,” Priebe said. “But as soon as I get off the phone with you, I’m going to call the UAW and see if I can’t arrange for 5,000 of his biggest fans to be there when he arrives.”

Contact BRIAN DICKERSON at 248-351-3697 or [email protected]

Brian Dickerson is a piece of work: he doesn’t let the facts get in the way of the story, doesn’t need to know anything beyond the UAW line, and he doesn’t mind peppering his fiction with some ad hominem attacks.

If supporters of the Big 3 bailout have to resort to stuff like this, it can only be because their argument is pretty weak.