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Ga. legislators split on failed auto bailout

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

The decision by Congress to reject a $14 billion bailout of the automobile industry, has drawn strongly worded responses by Georgia lawmakers on both sides of the issue.

The Senate voted 52-35 Thursday to turn down the proposal, effectively halting the bill's progress.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) was one of the legislators who chose not to support the bailout.

"The automobile industry has ... some tough decisions they are going to have to make, and I don't believe it is the function of the federal government to give ... a blank check," Chambliss said in a written statement issued Friday.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) spoke out, on his Web site earlier this week, prior to voting against what he called a "temporary Band-Aid" for auto makers.

"The only thing this legislation will accomplish is making sure the auto industry comes back in three months to ask for another handout," he said. "There needs to be major restructuring on the part of these companies, and I cannot support using taxpayer money to help the industry at this time."

The Senate vote came on the heels of collective approval of the bailout by the House of Representatives Wednesday. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) did not support the bill, pointing Thursday to a flawed system "bloated salaries and benefits" for auto makers unable to meet consumer demands.

"I don't see how my constituents should be asked to pay ... when so many small businesses in my district are facing very tough times," he said. "There's no federal bailout for them.

U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) voted to support the bill, which he called a "responsible" answer to the auto industry's current financial problems.

"It would be a tragic mistake not to have American car manufacturers making vehicles," he said.

Scott said the government must learn from the lessons of the Great Depression, in an effort to "keep people in their homes and in their jobs."