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WASHINGTON - Sen. Norm Coleman said Tuesday he will vote against a $25 billion rescue package for Detroit's Big Three automakers, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she was "inclined" to vote for it.
"I do see that as giving unconditional dollars to the auto industry without the necessary safeguards, without the necessary fiscal controls, most important, without the necessary demonstration of viability," Coleman, R-Minn., said in a conference call with reporters. "I'm concerned that if we give 25 or 50 billion today, that in six months we may need to give another 25, 50 billion."
Coleman made his comments after meeting with Joe Hinrichs, Ford Motor Co.'s vice president of manufacturing, and as the Big Three automakers warned on Capitol Hill of economic catastrophe for the nation along with their companies if they are denied the loans.
Coleman said he would try to make improvements to the bill.
Klobuchar, D-Minn., who also met with Hinrichs, said they talked about the impact of the industry meltdown on the Ford plant in St. Paul as well as dealerships in Minnesota.
"My concern is that it must not be a blank check, there must be proof that the emergency loans will be put to the best use, and have a maximum positive economic impact," she said in a telephone interview. "A few years ago, it was assumed that what was good for General Motors was good for America; today, that can no longer be an article of faith."
But Klobuchar said "given that we have the Ford plant, and a number of businesses dependent on this," she was inclined to vote for the package.
The St. Paul plant makes the Ranger small pickup. The company had planned to close the plant next year, but announced in July it would remain open through 2011.
In any event, the legislation appeared to be stuck on Capitol Hill, where Republicans and the Bush administration opposed dipping into the Treasury Department's $700 billion financial bailout program to come up with the $25 billion in loans.
"I am still reviewing the details of the various proposals," Klobuchar added, "but it is important to me that there is no new spending and any money comes directly from the financial rescue plan that was already approved by Congress and signed by the president."
"It is a tough call," Coleman conceded, "but in the end these are taxpayer dollars, and I didn't have a sense of comfort" that the automakers wouldn't be coming back for money down the road.