The collapse of legislation in the Senate to help save the Detroit Big 3 may or may not spell the end of emergency aid for the automakers. The White House says it's considering using what's left of the $700 billion TARP financial bailout fund to finance the $14 billion bridge loan that was torpedoed Thursday by GOP senators. The bridge loan would keep the Big 3 alive until a longer-term aid plan was taken up by the new, more Democratic Congress in January.
If the bridge loan fails, Chrysler says it will close all 59 of its plants and lay off 53,000 workers. GM hasn't announced what it would do, but even if it stays alive through Chapter 11 reorganization, it would probably be forced to close plants, adding thousands more to the unemployment rolls.
The impact on the U.S. economy, which has seen job losses totaling nearly 2 million through November, would be devastating. A big plunge in the markets today could concentrate minds, and, one way or another, produce the $14 billion bridge loan for the Big 3.
A not incidental note: The drive by Senate Republicans that killed rescue legislation was led by GOP members from Southern states, where international automakers have non-union production facilities. Heading the Southern opponents was Richard Shelby of Alabama, where the internationals have several major facilities.