Big Three Automakers Beg for $25 Billion Lifeline

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS | Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Detroit's Big Three automakers pleaded with Congress on Tuesday for a $25 billion lifeline to save their once-proud companies from collapse, warning of broader peril for the national economy as well.

"Our industry ... needs a bridge to span the financial chasm that has opened up before us," General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner told the Senate Banking Committee in prepared testimony. He blamed the industry's predicament not on failures by management but on the global financial crisis.

But the new rescue plan appeared stalled on Capitol Hill, opposed by Republicans and the Bush administration who don't want to dip into the Treasury Department's $700 billion financial bailout program to come up with the $25 billion.

Sympathy was sparse.

Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd told Wagoner and leaders of Ford and Chrysler that the industry was "seeking treatment for wounds that were largely self-inflicted."

Still, he said, "hundreds of thousands would lose their jobs" if the companies were allowed to collapse.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., complained that the larger financial crisis "is not the only reason why the domestic auto industry is in trouble."

He cited "inefficient production" and "costly labor agreements" that put the U.S. automakers at a disadvantage with foreign companies.

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