Auto Bailout Deal In the Works?

I got home from work and sat down to write a post congratulating Senate Republicans on holding the line on the United Auto Workers bailout, but I’m afraid the impulse was premature. It now appears there may be a deal in the works:

The top Senate Democrat says a bipartisan group of senators has a tentative agreement on an emergency bailout for U.S. automakers that could see a vote tonight. Majority Leader Harry Reid said the lead Republican architect of the deal was briefing colleagues on the compromise, and Democrats were prepared to move forward on it quickly.

His announcement came after hours of marathon talks at the Capitol between labor, lawmakers and the auto industry to salvage the Big Three rescue. The talks centered on possible wage and benefit concessions from the United Auto Workers union as well as large-scale debt restructuring by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

We can hope it’s a false report, but there isn’t much precedent for optimism. At the end of the day, we never say No to anyone; not, that is, to anyone who is satisfied with taxpayer money.

UPDATE: It sounds like Bob Corker is the “Republican architect of the deal.”

FURTHER UPDATE: It appears that the last-minute compromise has collapsed because the UAW wouldn’t go along with Republicans’ request to “slash wages next year to bring them into line with those of Japanese carmakers.” I’m suspicious of that account; the real problem the carmakers face is not the wages they pay to the people who are actually working for them, it’s the legacy retirement and medical costs they foolishly agreed to bear on behalf of retired workers, decades ago. The UAW represents three times as many retirees and widows as it does auto workers.

Only bankruptcy and a shedding of legacy obligations can, long-term, save the jobs of current Big Three auto workers. Thus, the real conflict is not between auto companies and current workers, it is between current workers and retirees. The UAW can’t represent both.

FINAL UPDATE: The cloture vote failed, 52-35. Thank goodness. Now the auto companies can get about the serious task of preserving their businesses and their employees’ jobs through bankruptcy proceedings.

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