The bridge loan package for the Big Three automakers (GM, Ford, Chrysler) failed in the Senate on a procedural vote. On top of all the other nothing that the 110th Senate has done since January 2007, this must ensure their position as the biggest waste of taxpayer money in elective government ever. The session is not yet adjourned, so there is a chance they will revisit the issue, but that chance is very small. Members of Michigan’s congressional delegation have proposed asking President Bush to direct some of the Wall Street bailout money to the automakers—we’re only talking $14 billion of the $700 billion, and all three automakers have huge financing arms so it’s not the biggest stretch to do this. President Bush has already indicated support for the automakers, in the face of vehement opposition from Republican senators from southern states. Lest one thinks I’m going to slam Republicans, it must be known that several Democratic senators voted against the procedural motion that killed the deal. Defeat was a bipartisan effort. Edited to add: See this follow-up entry for some voting details.
It has been incredibly frustrating watching the shenanigans of the Senate over the last few years. It seems that almost nothing gets voted on directly. Bills all fail because of procedural votes. What sank the auto bailout was typical: an attempt to invoke cloture (to end debate, or more specifically to kill a filibuster by one or more senators), which must pass with 60 or more votes. The bill itself would need only a simple majority, but because so often this cloture vote must come up in order for things to progress, it’s as if a supermajority is necessary for everything. That’s why, in the recent election, the Democrats were trying so hard to get 60 senators elected—though it’s obvious that they presently can’t even get the 50 they already have in line.
Anyway, the story isn’t over yet. It sure looks pretty bleak, though. It would be nice if some senators hadn’t thought that it might only look bleak in Michigan, and who cares about Michigan. Truth is, the auto industry is a little bigger than three buildings in Wayne and Oakland Counties. But I suppose they’ll have an opportunity to learn that soon enough.