How They Voted: The Auto Bailout
All three members of Montana's Congressional delegation voted against a $15 billion proposal to bail out the auto industry in early December, while also endorsing President Bush's plan to use funds from a previously approved financial bailout for the auto companies. In a statement noting his rejection of the plan, Sen. Jon Tester called on automakers to commit to building more dependable, fuel-efficient vehicles, saying the Senate should create jobs "that put middle-class families to work rebuilding infrastructure which will support small businesses, and by investing in education and renewable energy." The Billings Gazette quoted Sen. Tester as calling on the automakers to become leaders in terms of fuel efficiency and reliability, and to make vehicles that get "40, 50 miles to the gallon that can run for 250,000 miles." Tester appealed for broader perspectives in approaching the economic crisis facing the country through consideration of longer-term investments in infrastructure and energy systems.
That same article quoted Sen. Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, as saying he voted against the bill because it contained an unrelated provision allowing investment banks to shield profits from taxes.
Rep. Dennis Rehberg, meanwhile, blamed Republican President Bush and Congressional Democrats for pushing a bill that did not adequately protect taxpayers.
A few weeks before the auto bailout vote, Sen. Tester had grilled automakers at a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on which he sits. In a statement issued at that time, he expressed frustration that many American vehicles are not becoming more fuel efficient. Tester said fuel efficiency is "a very good marketing tool."
Meanwhile, in November, eight organizations in Montana wrote to Senators Baucus and Tester regarding the potential bailout of the auto industry. In the letter, groups asked that any taxpayer-funded relief provided to the companies help reduce reliance on petroleum while meeting strict efficiency and emission standards.